Visiting a Couple Locked in an 1,800-Year-Old Embrace

A surprise valentine from antiquity in Azerbaijan
Old Gabala, Azerbaijan, 40°53'27" N, 47°42'22" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

The hand is what draws your attention.

It belongs to a man. It rests, gently, on the woman’s face. The couple lie on their sides—the man on the left, the woman on the right—facing each other squarely. The woman’s knees snuggle up above the man’s. Their eyes appear to be locked. It is a gesture at once familiar, universal, and almost painfully intimate. Yet their eye sockets are empty. Their fingertips tumbled ...

Latest Posts

Photograph by Nilesh Bhange, National Geographic Your Shot

Sharing Your Vision of the Human Journey

The Out of Eden Walk project wants to see your photographs.

In the third year of what likely will be a nine-year trek across four continents, I am struck by the persistence of a single question from readers, students, walking partners, barkeeps, shepherds, fellow reporters, baffled police officers in nine countries and, yes, even long-suffering editors demanding my copy: What keeps me motived on a slow foot journey that, at times, seems to have no end?

The answer depends on the day of the week—and the hour of the day—you’re asking.

But at least one reason has grown ever clearer: You.

I’ve described the “Out of Eden Walk” as a 21,000-mile-long conversation with complete strangers, stretching from ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Winter’s Parquet Flooring

Frozen paths in rural Azerbaijan
Gebele, Azerbaijan, 40°58'36" N, 47°51'33" E

Every footfall destroys a masterpiece.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Photograph by Paul Salopek

It’s Always 1989 in a Forgotten Caucasus Village

Time stops at the last Soviet-style collective farm in Azerbaijan
Ivanovka, Azerbaijan, 40°44'38" N, 48°02'09" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

We walk through high, cold mountain sunlight, my guide Rufat Gojayev and I. We drift through evening valleys fogged by smoke from 10,000 wood-burning stoves. We slog into teashops where burly men in black porkpie hats sit, solemn as icebergs. We poke big tin spoons into small bowls of lentil soup. Then we stumble—bewildered—back into 1989.

The time warp has a name: Ivanovka. A farming village in Azerbaijan.

Population: about ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Gods—Old and New—on a Global Walking Trail

Shading up in Azerbaijan
En route to Bum, Azerbaijan, 41°02'53" N, 47°29'52" E

Found on our quest to avoid hellish pavement in Azerbaijan: a colossal druid tree—a methuselah oak. It lorded over the Caspian Plain.

Beside the tree: the ruin of a Christian church, either Armenian or from the vanished Caucasian Albanian culture. Before us: the steel god of a communications tower. Tonight, in a smoky village called Bum, a smaller deity waits: a bowl of lentil soup.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Fading Echoes of Jewish Life in Muslim Azerbaijan

An empty synagogue—and a long Jewish goodbye in the Caucasus
Oğuz, Azerbaijan, 41°04'38" N, 47°27'53" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

He showed up at the corner in a battered four-wheel-drive. It was an old Lada Niva, the workhorse of the former Soviet empire. He fondly patted the worn steering wheel and said, “Russki Jeep!”

He wanted to show off the synagogue. It was built in 1897. When he was young, a thousand Jews lived in Oğuz. Fewer than 60 remain. All his children were in Tel Aviv. His wife ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Walking Where Rhinos Roamed

On the Caspian Plain, breathless in an ocean of space
Şirvan Highlands, Azerbaijan, 40°24'15" N, 48°59'07" E

All downhill to the Caspian Sea—92 feet below sea level—and across a landscape of cold mud volcanoes. Shepherds wrap themselves in plastic against raw winds that tear your hair out. The first humans walked here among mammoths and rhinos.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Trapped in the Loneliest Cafés in the World

Sipping tea in Azerbaijan with victims of a 'frozen war.'
Near Oghuz, Azerbaijan, 41°03'05" N, 47°24'22" E

Paul Salopek is walking the global trail of the first humans who migrated out of Africa in the Stone Age. His continuous 21,000-mile foot journey, called the “Out of Eden Walk,” is recorded in dispatches.

The tables stand by the roadside. All are empty. They are manufactured of plastic, made of tin. Bright oilcloth covers them. They hold: cheap saltshakers, sugar bowls, a dusting of black car exhaust. Their legs sink into mud. These are sidewalk cafés without sidewalks in eastern Azerbaijan. They are run by the homeless for travelers. The waiters and cooks wear rumpled farm clothes.

“This was forest when we arrived,” ...

Photograph by Paul Salopek

Blink: Walking Channel

TV or not TV on a world walk
Oğuz, Azerbaijan, 41°04'59" N, 47°15'29" E

Rufat Gojayev, Azeri guide. An abandoned road. A discarded narcotic against existential dread. All from the analog era.


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."

Salopek-Blink6

Blink: Ceramic Treasures Near the Caspian

Puzzling together Caucasus civilizations—one shard at a time.
Chukhur Gabala, Azerbaijan, 40°53'22" N, 47°42'27" E

Archaeologist Jeyhun Eminli with pottery from medieval settlement. “There are two lifetimes of work here. Three lifetimes. Four.”


Blink is a regular photo feature capturing a random moment along the 21,000-mile trail of the "Out of Eden Walk."