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Turkmenistan: Izmukshir

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Izmukshir > Turkmenistan > Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

It was not our idea, but that of our compulsory guide: a visit to Izmukshir, just before we would cross into Uzbekistan later that day. An early departure from Dashoguz and a pleasant drive on tree-lined roads quickly took us to the entrance of the ruins of this old settlement. Actually, it is claimed that Izmukshir started out as a fortress before being turned into a city. In fact, back then the city was called Zamakhshar - Izmukshir is the name of a village close to the ruins. First inhabitants moved here around the 3rd or 4th century BCE, but the city apparently suffered from the depression that struck this region around the 4-6th century CE. It was in the mid-Middle Ages that Izmukshir revived, to grow into an important city on the Silk Road.

Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): The city wall of Izmukshir in ruins

From the outside, Izmukshir initially did not look like very impressive. However, when we spotted a beautiful tower at the southern gate, we were curious to enter. We soon discovered a path leading right over the remains of the city wall, and when we reached the top, we got a good impression of the ruins of Izmukshir. In fact, in between the irregularly shaped city wall, there is mostly barren terrain, with trees growing over the ruins. The city wall itself is badly deteriorated in many parts, but somehow, Izmukshir stole our hearts. Was it the emptiness, the fact that we were the only visitors, the great views from the city wall, the nature creeping up all around and inside this Silk Road relic? Most likely, a combination of all those reasons. We walked around the wall, mostly on top of it, which sometimes required some climbing, and sometimes outside it. Like this, I discovered sand dunes on the eastern side, saw a big hare run away, and found several skulls and plenty of bones in or near the wall.

Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Sand dunes at the city wall of Izmukshir

The presence of so many human remains has given rise to speculation as to the end of the city. The richer the city had become in the Middle Ages, it had become more of a target for robberies. Hence, the city was surrounded by city walls and a ditch. Almost inevitably, the feared Genghiz Khan did not miss Izmukshir and the city was razed in 1221. The main claim to fame for the cultural centre of Izmukshir, also known as Zamakhshar, is as the birthplace of a famous 11th century scholar, Az Zamakhshari, who traveled extensively in the region, as far as Mecca, and who studied in Baghdad, Bukhara, and Samarkand. He did not spend much time in Izmukshir, but is still remembered here with fondness and pride - plus: a mausoleum for his remains was constructed right next to the ruins of his native city. After we had visited the ruins and the mausoleum, we realized our time in Turkmenistan was over. In fact, we rushed to the border to be able to cross before lunchbreak. Izmukshir proved a worthy end to our time in amazing Turkmenistan.

Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): The ruins of Izmukshir, partly covered by trees, seen from the city wall
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): City wall and tower of Izmukshir
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): One of the best preserved towers of Izmukshir
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Path leading over the top of the city wall of Izmukshir
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Ruins of the city wall and towers of Izmukshir
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Part of the city wall of Izmukshir with the ruins of the city in the background
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): View of Izmukshir from outside the wall
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Ruins of Izmukshir seen from the city wall
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): The city wall of Izmukshir seen from the inside
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): Tower and wall once defending Izmukshir against attackers
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): The most famous son of the area, Az Zamakshari, is buried in this mausoleum
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): A large amount of bones and skulls in the walls of Izmukshir have led to sinister tales about its fate
Picture of Izmukshir (Turkmenistan): It is easy to find bones in the area around Izmukshir

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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