Day 80 (1): Interesting World Heritage ruins
kunya-urgench Travel Blog› entry 114 of 260 › view all entries
The Karakum Highway had been a perfect smooth road until we reached the town where the people of Darvaza had been relocated. Suddenly everything changed. This town doesn't seem to appear on any maps at all, so I have no idea what the name of the place was. The desert gave way to green irrigated farmland but the road took a turn for the worse.
It was obvious that road traffic from Ashgabat never reaches beyond this village.
About an hour later we reached the settlement of Konye-Urgench. The modern town is nothing to write home about, but between the 12th and 13th century this was the capital of the Khorezem Empire and an important city along the Northern Silk Road.
In Turkmen lore Konye-Urgench is still lovingly remembered as the city which withstood the Mongolian invasion for more than six months. The Mongols, not used to such resistance, eventually diverted the nearby Amu-Darya river and flooded the city, drowning its defenders.
Under Mongolian rule the city flourished once again and remained an important trading post until the city was sacked by the armies of Timur (an Uzbek king with Jengiz Khan aspirations).
Despite Mongolian, Timuroid and Soviet invasion there are surprisingly many buildings left, scattered around the desert.
The most interesting cluster of monuments lies south of the modern town.
Further down there were several more tombs (with strange conical domes) and a large, slightly leaning, minaret, the last remainder of a massive mosque which once stood here.
There were many people visiting the monuments, most of them from Uzbekistan. It was interesting to see how the people reacted to what for them is some kind of pilgrimage.
And they would not just do this with religious buildings either. The Kyrk Molla, the hill where Konye-Urgench's inhabitants held their last stance against the invading Mongols, is now considered a place where women can increase their fertility by rolling down the hill. (I must admit that I didn't see any women rolling down the hill, but quite a few came running down in groups, holding hands as they did so).