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Short review of Tashkent
Sights of Tashkent
Short review of Samarkand
Sights of Samarkand
Short review of Bukhara
Historical Background of Bukhara
Sights of Bukhara
Short review of Khiva
Sights of Khiva
Ferghana Valley
Short review
Historical Background
Outstanding people of Ferghana
Short review of Kokand
Short review of Margilan
Short review of Kuva
Short review of Kokand
Outstanding people of Kokand
Short review of Namangan
Architecture and monuments Namangan
Outstanding people of Namangan
Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Chust
Architecture and monuments of Andijan
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Short review of Ancient settlement of Akhsikent
Ancient Khorezm
Fortress Toprak-Kala (2-3 cc.), (4-6 cc.)
Fortress Ayaz-Kala (4-2 cc. BC)
Koy-Kyrylgan Kala, fortress and temple
Fortress of Kyrk-Kyz Kala (1-2 cc., 12-13 cc. A.D.)
Ancient civilization of thousand fortresses
Lost Khorezm
Site of ancient settlement Mizdahkan
Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve
Natural environment
Ecological and ethnographic tourism
People and social environment
Rules of Ecotourism
Wedding traditions in Bukhara
Wedding traditions in Samarkand

Ancient Khorezm:
Ancient civilization of thousand fortresses in the sands of the Kyzyl-Kum

Khorezm civilization sprang up about the middle of II millennium BC. It happened later than the birth of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and in a very similar natural conditions. Fed by mountain glaciers of the Pamir, the great Amu Darya River in that time, as today, carrying their water for a thousand kilometers to the lower reaches to form a fertile oasis in the outskirts of Kyzyl-Kum desert. A seasonal irrigation related to inland floods, rich with fish and wild fowl coast of the Aral Sea and the endless pastures have made this land the cradle of a unique culture, which left us the grandiose monuments - lost cities and gigantic fortress.

Only in Ellik-kala region of modern Karakalpakstan are located more than two hundred of the settlements, the most famous of which, for example, Toprak-kala or Ayaz-kala, the complexity of the structure and scale of construction is almost not concede the Egyptian pyramids. Alltogether thousand ancient fortresses are in the territory, once occupied by the ancient Khoresm. Most of them are still poorly explored, because they are situated far from the road, among the impassable salt marshes and dunes, in line with long dried up river.

Further researches of these fortresses may change many of the modern views on the history of Central Asia and the Eurasian continent. Not by accident these region has attracted special attention in the middle of last century, when the scouts from the Nazi Society for the Study of Ancestral Heritage "Anenerbe" searched for mythological Asgard, an ancestral home of the Aryans. At the same time Soviet archaeologists were given even a military aircraft to find buried under the sand of fortress’ walls and ancient irrigation canals, as a result of these were found whole "country" of interconnected reinforced structures in the Kyzyl-kum.

The first puzzle faced by researchers is that the large settlements of ancient Khorezm were found far from the fertile floodplains of the Amu Darya, where from 5 th century BC there already were a developed network of irrigation facilities. But agricultural oasis were contiguous with the possessions of the nomadic tribes, with whom in peacetime there were an intensive exchange of grain and crafts for meat and wool. But for holding peace they had to guard their borders from the same nomads.

Moreover, the very great river, the seasonal floods that brought water to the fields of farmers and the fertile silt, not only bestowed life and wealth, but brought death and chaos too. Recalcitrant channel of the Amu Darya, which changes often in our days too, in the past was known for catastrophic inundation. Therefore, the ancient Khorezm constructed their cities not on the bank of the river, but on the desert hills, protecting the palaces of rulers, military barracks, temples of  fire and the sun worshipers and the quaters of artisans by means of the impregnable walls.

Toprak-kala or Earthen city

In 1938, the famous Soviet archaeologist S.P.Tolstov while carrying exploration work in fifty kilometers from the right bank of the Amu Darya discovered the ruins of the ancient city with an area of more than 17 hectares (500 to 350 meters), surrounded by walls whose top may reach 20 meters and a thickness of 12 meters. So Toprak-Kala or Earthen city, considered the capital of the dynasty that ruled in Khorezm II-III centuries AD, was discovered.

According to scientists, the population of Toprak-kala at that time was nearly 2,5-3 thousand persons, not counting women and children. In the fortified with watchtowers palace archaeologists have unearthed the "Hall of Kings" - a dynastic sanctuary with 23 massive clay figures, "Throne Room", "Hall of victories," Hall of deer "," Hall of dancing masks "and" Room of Ladies of Hearts' with female reliefs resembling tarot cards.

"Hall of dark-skinned warriors" is a particular puzzle,because, according to reconstructions of academician Mikhail Gerasimov, Khorezmians were explicitly Caucasoid type of people who have been bright-eyed blond with delicate features, but with a bronze or dark skin.

Near the fortress, in the past surrounded by fruit-bearing vineyards and cultivated fields, are situated country residence and hunting park for a square fence. Such parks the Asian grandees called "Paradise". Splendid rest in the blooming gardens with cool springs and exotic wild fowl, where there is no escape from the hunters for them, was directly connected with the view of paradise - a paradise, which godlike rulers made for themselves in the earthly life.

Unfortunately, most of material finds of Toprak-kala were not preserved till nowadays. At the height of S.P.Tolstov ‘s researches World War II began and the scientist went to the front as volunteer. Only in 50’s he resumed his researches. Till now among local people there is a legend about infinite treasures, allegedly found by Tolstov, but in haste hidden somewhere nearby by order of the Soviet management at the begining of the war.Actually most valuable of finds - sculptures and frescos - have strongly suffered from rains and differences of temperatures, becouse the majority of them were made from the same material - from which were built the majestic constructions - from usual clay.

Unlike the Egyptian pyramids and palaces of Babylon fortresses of ancient Khoresm were built without using stones, as there was no limestone and a granite in vicinity, and wood riparian forests were not fit to manufacture logs and boards. But khorezm people seemingly possessed any unique building secrets, which allowed them to erect very strong constructions from mudbricks and clay. The small stones, which were picked up in desert, served for only strengthening layer in a laying, and the river sand absorbing rain water, provided dryness of internal apartments.

Toprak-kala had been combined from millions huge brick blocks with the size 40х40х12 centimetres. All state machinery had been involved in their manufacturing and delivery into place. Having studied original "trade marks" on each party of bricks, archeologists have come to conclusion, that in those days the state of Khoresm included not less than 15 provinces with the population approximately 30-50 thousand persons in everyone.

Calculations helped to understand why the giant fortress which has staid almost 2000 years, was left by its inhabitants only in two hundred years after its construction. Originally it was considered, that the district could become deserted becouse of the next turn of a channel of Amu Darya left irrigation canals without water, largest of which departed from river coast on 70 kilometres. But now scientists tend to think that Toprak-kala could be abandoned for purely political reasons. In 305 year the founder of new dynasty Аfrig transferred residence to Kas in the territory of the modern city of Biruni, probably, not having wanted to live under the shades of glory of the predecessors.

The fortress of Kyzyl-kala or Red Fortress

The neighbour Kyzyl-Kala fortress, firstly serving only as an additional fortification, outlasted Toprak-kala for ten centuries.Despite rather small sizes (65х65 metres), this fortress had double walls in the thickness of 8 metres everyone. This was made against battering tools of enemies, so that they could not enter into internal premises. Thanks to such defensive power Kyzyl-Kala had served to protection of borders of Khoresm till the invasion of hordes of Genghis Khan in XIII century.

Local residents believe that Kyzyl-Kala and Toprak-kala are still connected with each other by a multikilometer underground course, where evil ghosts of desert live, souls of ancestors wander and infinite riches are hidden.

The fortress on the wind - Ajaz-Kala

The site of ancient settlement Ajaz-Kala or the Fortress on the wind could be called a true miracle of the world. It is located in 20 kilometres to the northeast from the Toprak-kala, between moving sand of Kyzyl Kum and spurs of sacred mountains Sultan Uvajs.

The extensive site of ancient settlement on a tableland, arisen probably in IV century B.C. after five centuries, in days of Kushansky empire, was strengthened by the amazing fortress, which is located on the top of an abrupt hill with height of 60 meters. It is difficult even for a pedestrian with no luggage to overcome lifting to this hill.

Walls of Ajaz-Kala faced to four parts of the world, and the only entrance, forestalled by a smart labyrinth, is arranged from the south so that the southern wind, dominating in this region, blew dust and sweepings out from the city.

According to local legends, in days of the great distemper, when the old governor has died and there was nobody to take its place, priests have foretold to the gathered crowd, that on whose hand the liberated hunting imperial falcon sat down, that should be a new shah. But the bird sat down not on a hand, but directly on the head of a simple soldier .People drove away the falcon, but it returned on the same place again. The people crowned the soldier who personally supervised over construction of the new fortress on the hill, then ascended the throne and ruled long and fairly. For not forgetting his origin, yesterday's fighter - today's king ordered to hang up his old worn out boot on a visible place in front of his throne.

The legend indirectly confirms that new fortresses and palaces in ancient Khoresm in days of its blossoming at the next change of ruling dynasties were constructed with exclusive ease.

From top Ajaz-kala the kind on the lake Ajazkol with the same name opens, water in which so salty, as seems the covered ice crust in the summer. In the north at horizon there is hardly seen the silhouette of next fortress Kyrkkyz-Kala, where archeologists have found a amazing burial place performed  by a rite of ancient fire-worshipers - the part of a human skeleton, cleared by the sun and birds of prey, was placed in a ceramic jug - khum in the form of a female head.

Sacred mountains of Sultan Uvajs

To the northwest from fortresses Ajaz-Kala and the Toprak-kala lasts a low ridge of mountains Sultan Uvajs, well-known for absolutely black colouring of breed. These mountains, unique in all Khoresm, are considered as the sacred. Once upon the time on their slopes there was sanctuary of Anakhits - goddesses of water and fertility. Only the pond has remained up to now, with sacred fishes who till now if they perish from drying of a spring during a drought, bury with cry, covered in white shrouds as people did.

Islam, affirmed in lower reaches of Amu Darya in the Middle Ages to overcome ancient pagan cults, had extended in these places cult of Vais al-Karani - the Yemen shepherd who became one of the first followers of Prophet Mohammed. His necropolis is located in the Hole Sultan Baba, which is visited annually by thousand pilgrims, who consider that Sultan Uvajs lived and was died for religion on the earth of Khoresm.

But in the neighbourhood with national superstitions the cult of Muslim saint, brought from the south of Arabian Peninsula, has got here original lines. So Kazakhs and Turkmans consider him as the patron of camels. In droughty places of Khoresm he is considered the patron of rain and underground sources as Anakhit was considered once.

According to the local legend, Sultan Uvajs always went barefooted, naked and continuously shouted: «Khu! Khu! », what is in Arabic means "He" - meaning under this word Allah. Once companions of the prophet emirs Abu Bakr, Omar, Osman and Ali brought him clothes sent by Mohammed who, as is known, did not approve asceticism and poverty. Having put on a coat and a cap, Uvais has run into ecstasy and has immediately appeared before Supreme, but began to beat itself a stone on a head and to shed tears, asking to give to it all guilty people that it could set them on a way of true and save from a hell. The god has given it only one third.

According to other myth, having learnt, that in the battle with unbelievers the prophet Mohammed lost his tooth, Uvais beat out his all 32 teeth and turned them into stones with which beat hordes of enemies of Islam. From these stones there appeared the sacred mountains.

The national legends which had developed after centuries after the first blossoming of a civilisation of Khoresm, reflect primordial belief of Khoresm people in special, given from above, good fortune by which their earth is endowed. Almost through thousand years after the ancient fortresses filled up by sand on the right coast of Amu Darya became empty, Khoresm went through new blossoming. The state of Khoresmshahs, affirmed on the right coast of the river in the middle Ages, in Gurgandj and Khiva, had extended its influence from Pamir and The Tien-Shan to Persian Gulf and country between rivers of Tiger and Euphrates, having conceded only to an impact of the Mongolian hordes.

Civilisations of ancient Egypt and Babylon were a little known to Europeans before the sensational discoveries made by archeologists in XIX century. Scientists have started to study history of ancient Khoresm only in the middle of the last century, and till now it hides many of surprising secrets.

Source: Informational agency "Fergana.ru"