Neville Shulman goes to Azerbaijan to climb eight mountains in ten days - and visit three synagogues


British explorer and mountaineer Neville Shulman has already conquered mountains in India, China, Outer Mongolia, Tibet, Peru and Brazil - to name a few. And now he can add Azerbaijan to the list.

He has recently returned after two weeks climbing in the secular Muslim country to raise money for charities Magen David Adom and Action for Children. In addition to climbing eight mountains in 10 days - the highest being Mt Golden Rock at 3,750 metres - Mr Shulman visited three synagogues in the capital Baku and was called up during the Shabbat morning service to read from the Torah. He says there are around 30,000 Jews in Azerbaijan and tells People: "I was very warmly welcomed and pleased to find that although Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, the locals are very tolerant towards Jews. The Jewish people there are very proud of their roots and the synagogues are well-protected.

"The locals were very easy and relaxed and I didn't have any problems getting around. It is a very secular country. People don't seem to have a problem with either being Jewish or not being Jewish."

Mr Shulman, who was made a CBE four years ago for a combination of his exploring and charity work, is also well-known for his long-standing involvement in the arts. He is director of the British International Theatre Institute. During his time in Azerbaijan, he participated in the inaugural Baku International Theatre Conference, where he delivered a paper titled The Power of Theatre.

As for the climbing, he says: "Prior to me going the weather had been atrocious but it didn't snow while I was there. It was pretty hard work but I enjoyed it and was very pleased to be there."

Mr Shulman undertakes one or two expeditions each year to raise funds for a variety of charities. He has been to the North and South Pole and in 2002/2003, he climbed extensively in the Himalayas. Next up? Armenia. "I am interested in that region and plan to go there in May." An author of several books, Mr Shulman is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, fellow of the Explorers Club, member of the Scientific Exploration Society and of the Bhutan Society. He is vice chair of the UK-UNESCO Culture Committee, vice-president of the Drama Centre, an editor of the Contemporary Theatre Review and chairman of the Theatre Forum.

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