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  • Tags: Tusheti

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Shatili is the capital of Khevsureti and lies several kilometres south of the Georgian-Chechen border. The medieval heart of the village is now UNESCO listed meaning that all restoration must be undertaken under rigid guidelines and modern additions such as electricity are forbidden. Partially for this reason the modern inhabitants of the village live in a series of houses around the ancient heart of the settlement that date from the Soviet period onwards. The site was forcibly cleared in the twentieth century because it was used as a Soviet airbase, but the local population has returned since the fall of communism and taken up residence in the well-built houses left behind by the soldiers as well as having adapted items such as abandoned railway carriages and storage containers for use as homes. Khevsur towers are distinct from those of Svaneti and Tusheti by clustering together and interlocking to form one fortified village rather than being divided into distinct family units. This type of village is closer to the architecture of peoples like the Chechens and the Daghestanis to the north, and indeed Chechen-style towers are interspersed with native forms across both Khevsureti and Tusheti. As with the rest of Khevsureti, Shatili is still largely pagan with a number of sacred enclosures and smaller shrines dotted around the settlement, however there is a new church and a small monastery in the village that witness to the growing influence of the Georgian Orthodox Church in even the remoter regions of the country.

Type: Architecture
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Kvavlo is the name given to the cluster of towers that sits on a rock outcrop over 300 metres above Dartlo. The towers are currently being restored and some of the buildings are now used as restaurants and hostels in the summer months.

Type: Architecture
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Shenakho is one of very few villages in Tusheti to have an old church (19th century) - which is dedicated to St. George. There is a ruined church in Dartlo and a modern (20th cenury) church in Dzveli (old) Omalo, a small chapel in Parsma and a less well-used church in Iliurta, but Shenakho is the sole village that appears to have a relatively continuous and well-established practice of Christianity if the evidence of the well-maintained church is taken into account. However even in this case the nishi (pagan shrine enclosure) of the village stands directly to the north-east of the church.

Type: Architecture
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Abano Pass into Tusheti

This is the only overland route to Tusheti from the rest of Georgia, apart from a hiking trail that leads to Khevsureti. The pass is only open in high summer and is inaccessible for around eight months a year.

Type: Landscape
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Omalo is the largest village in Tusheti and one of very few to be inhabited all year round. It has grown a great deal in the last ten years as it has become the centre for tourism in the Tusheti National Park. Dzveli (Old) Omalo has the largest concentration of guest houses within the park and the visitor centre lies just outside the village. It also boasts a twentieth century church and a pagan ritual enclosure south of the old part of the village. As at Dartlo, the cluster of towers above the village is given a different name to the rest of the settlement. In Omalo the towers are called Keselo.

Type: Architecture
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Dartlo is located above a ford in the valley. The closest building to the river is a ruined stone structure that, on closer investigation possessed the traces of a fresco of an angel. This had obviously been a church in the past and was the only evidence of Christianity encountered on the first visit to Tusheti in 2006. By 2016 the village was more developed and second only in size to Dzveli Omalo for tourist infrastructure.

Type: Architecture
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This village is notable for the shrine at its centre. A large and substantial stone cairn is topped with stag antlers and females in our party were told that we were not to approach the structure. The local belief is that the fertility of the men of the village is damaged should women pass too close to the shrine.

Type: Architecture
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