Merv Travel Blog

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Merv is amazing.  It is actually 5 different ancient cities that have been built side by side.   It was founded in the 6th or 5th century BC, and has ruins from all the different time periods and empires that swept through the Central Asian plane. 

We got up early that morning and our friendly driver from the night before picked us up.  The first place we saw was the Abdullah Khan Qalah, which is actually the most recent of the ruins.  It was built in the 16th century, so we only briefly visited this site since there were much more ancient ruins to be seen.

The we proceeded to the Grand Kyz Qala and the Small Kyz Qala, which are two palaces built in the 8th century AD.  One of the most amazing things is that these mud structures have preserved much of their original detail despite 1200 years of rain and wind.  The sides of the Grand Kyz Qala have a beautiful pattern like a series of cigars standing vertically in the desert.  I had no expectation that the ruins would be so well-preserved.

We then headed to the Masoleum of Sultan Sanjar.  This monument was built in the 1100's and was one of the largest domes built at the time.  Even today, it is a gigantic monument that stands proudly in the plain.  The distance between these ruins is considerable, so that you can hardly see one monument from the next.  The Mausoleum of Sultan Ali has been reconstructued, although the basic dome and pillars are all original.  I saw pictures of the structure before reconstruction, and it was remarkably intact.

From the Mausoleum of Sultan Ali we headed to Erk Qala, the oldest of the Merv cities.  This citatel from the 6th century BC still has clearly visible mud walls.  How did these people build mud walls that last 2600 years?  I don't get it.  From the air Erk Qala looks like a crater.  It sits embeded on the north side of the gigantic Gyauy Qala, which is basically a huge circular mud wall, but there is nothing else to see.

We then went to the Shrine complex of Yusuf Hamadani, which was built in the 12th century.  This is one of the more beautiful of the ruins, and the kids loved running around it.  Much of the decor actually looks Timurid, so I suspect that it got a facelift in the 14th century.

In the end, we were all very impressed with Merv.  It was a great place for Gabriel, 3, and Silas, 1, to run around in, and it was a facinating place to spend the morning.  If you get a chance to go to Turkmenistan, Merv is not to be missed. 

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1,184 km (736 miles) traveled
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photo by: TheJohnsons