The Machakheli is a historically and geographically significant valley along the river Machakhlistskal that flows between Turkey and Georgia. Large portions of this remote region were part of the Georgian kingdom until its fragmentation in the late fifteenth century. The valley eventually fell under the rule of the princes of Samtskhe, followed by the Ottoman Sultan, Mehmed II, in 1479. Turkish and British troops temporarily occupied the region between 1918 and 1920, until Soviet Russia signed the Kars Agreement in 1921 with Turkey. The outcome of these negotiations divided the remote Machakheli Valley into two distinct areas, Upper and Lower Machakheli, with Turkey taking control of the upper part comprised of six villages: Düzenli (Zedvake), Efeler (Eprati), Kayalar (Kvabitavi), Maral (Mindieti), and Uğur (Akria). The center of Upper Machakheli, Khertvisi , was renamed (in 1925) Camili (literally, “the place with the mosque”); subsequently, the entire local area is now often referred to as Camili. This remote valley was long protected from the outside world due to its proximity to the sensitive Turkish-Soviet border. Only in 2007 were visitor restrictions lifted on the Turkish side.
Life remains largely unchanged for the local peoples of the valley. Georgian continues to be spoken on both sides of the international border. During the summer months, the majority of the Turkish population drives their livestock high up onto the mountain plateaus, where life follows a natural pace in accordance with generations past. Virgin forests render the valley beautiful and ecologically unique. The area is also famous for its intensive beekeeping practices and the high quality of the honey produced by its Caucasian bees. Camili village was the first area in Turkey to be included in UNESCO’s “Human and Biosphere Reserve Project.”