Ancient Merv

Due to its size and historical value, the Ancient Merv is the one of the most important sites. It is situated in the lower reaches of the Murgab river. The historians of the past rewarded the Ancient Merv with magnificent epithets like "The Stronghold of the World", "The Dome of Islam", "The Spirits of Kings". Its upsurge took place in XI-XII centuries, at the time of the Great Seldjuks. The Seldjuk's Empire stretched from the Lower Amu-Darya to the Mediterranean sea. Under Seldjuks Merv occupied 640 hectares and was one of the most developed cities of its time. It attracted scientists and merchants from the Moslem world. In 1221 all settlements of Middle Asia were devastated by Mongolian hordes, and Merv was not an exception.

Merv was located at the road crossing of Great Silk Road which became one of the very important & biggest cities of the World. During its 3000 years of history it was built 5 different fortresses/cities next to each other making it at present more than 1200 hectares. Ancient Merv includes: Uly Gyz Gala & Kichi Gyz Gala (VI-VII), Complex of Askhabs (VIII-XIV), Gyaur Gala (IV BC), Erk Gala (VI BC), Soltan Gala (XI), Soltan Sanjar Mausoleum (XII), Ibn Zeid Mausoleum (XII).

In 1999, the monuments of Ancient Merv were included in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO.

Archaeologists came to this area eager to find the mysterious land of Margush. The ancient Greek historians that came to know Central Asia after the Eastern march of Alexander the Great named this country Margiana for easier pronunciation. In the Middle Ages under the influence of the Arabic language the country was called Merv and nowadays this is a Mary administrative region of Turkmenistan. All this different names are derivatives from the word Murg that makes up the basis for the name of the River Murgab (translated as “water of Murg”). The country under investigation was located in the basin of this river. It is of interest that the sacred book of Zoroastrians mentions the country of Mouru, a name which is rather similar to the names discussed above.

The Murgab River starts in the Afghan mountains of Paropamiz ans has a so-called “blind-delta”, which means that is has no connection with any another river or sea but is lost in the sands of one of the biggest deserts of the world, the Garagum. Its bed as well as the beds of many world rivers is gradually moving from East to West. Nowadays the city of Mary is located on its banks and in the Middle Ages, the Merv oasis (the present city of Bayramaly) flourished there. The area that four –to- five thousand years ago was watered by the Murgab River is now lost among the flat plains and desert sands.

In autumn 2006, the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat hosted the International Scientific Conference "Ancient Margiana - new center of the world civilization." Leading experts from the US, Europe, Russia, India and Japan - leading figures in linguistics and the history of Central Asia and the Middle East visited the excavation site of an ancient culture - settlement Gonur depe. Seeing with own eyes, the wealth that thousands of years kept the Turkmen land, including monumental buildings, engineering structures and products of  Margush jewelers, the participants came to the unanimous conclusion that this unknown country - a true phenomenon in the history of the Ancient East and along with Mesopotamia and Egypt, India and China is a fifth center of world civilization.

Koneurgench, called Gurjanj in ancient times, is the most extensive archaeological park in the north of Turkmenistan, on the left bank of the former Amudarya riverbed. It presents a vast landscape zone under protection with a great deal of ruins and relatively intact monuments, adjoining present Koneurgench town. Once great thinkers off the Orient Al-Biruni, Al-Khorezni, and Avicenna created in Gurjanj; main bulwark of opposition to Chengizkhan troops was there. Koneurgench Turkmens have held in remembrance not only a copious folklore, living trades and many traits of a traditional life-style. Some Koneurgench shrines – first of all, the mausoleum of Sufi sheikh Najm addin Al Kubra with an abutting ancient necropolis, which people call “Uch yuz altmysh” (three hundred and sixty), remind of a number of saints buried here and until now serve as a centre attracting Muslim pilgrims from the remotest Asian countries.

The time of Koneurgench foundation hasn’t been defined yet. Excavations on a hill, known today as Kyrkmolla, have disclosed contours of a strong antique fortress, being erected on an earlier cultural stratum with ceramics dated to the V-II centuries B.C. a legend explains the origin of the aforementioned name (forty mullahs): a stupendous beautiful palace located in that place wherein 40 sages were teaching science to 40 000 disciples. Hence, suppositions have aroused that the place could be related to a big madrasah, the so-called Mamun academy or Hivaki library.

During your visit of Koneurgench you will explore:  Portal of Unknown Building  (XI-XIV), Mamun Minaret (X-IX), Il Arslan Mausoleum (XII), Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum (XIII), Academy of Horezm (III-XIII), Kutlug Timur Minaret (XIV)-one of the tallest minarets in Central Asia, Turabek Hanum Mausoleum (XIV), Najm Ed Din Kubra (XIII) & Soltan Ali (XV) Mausoleums, the Local Museum of History & Ethnography located in Dash Metjit/Medrese (XIX).

Koneurgench was included to the UNESCO as World Heritage Site in 2005.

Nissa fortress-the Sanctuary of Parthian Kings. UNESCO declared fortress a World Heritage Site in 2007. Nissa described as one of the first capitals of the Parthians. It was founded by Arsaces I (reigned c. 250 BC – 211BC), and reputedly the royal necropolis of the Parthian Kings, although it has neither been established that the fortress at Nissa was a royal residence or a mausoleum. The ruins of ancient settlement Nissa are located 18 km from Ashgabat at Bagyr village.