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Turkmenistan: Nokhur

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Nokhur > Turkmenistan > Asia

[Visited: May 2010]

When we took the turn-off from the highway in southern Turkmenistan, and started driving straight to the mountains we could see in the south, we realized that we were in for a new adventure. There was very little traffic, and quite soon, when we reached the foot of the mountains, the road stopped being straight and curved its way around the rocky mountains. We were always going up, and after a nice drive through the valley, reached the village that we immediately knew was Nokhur. This was different from what we had seen up to then. Instead of the small farmer villages we had seen so far in the plains and deserts below, we now clearly were in an isolated mountain village.

Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Cemetery with horns in Nokhur

While I saw many photogenic places right from the start, our guide told us that taking pictures was very restricted in Nokhur, and at first, we respected her instructions. We put away our stuff and made sure to head to the cemetery, one of the most characteristic areas of the town. It was on the other side of the village, and is noteworthy because of the habit of the Nokhurli to decorate the tombstones with the horns of mountain sheep which they consider sacred. The horns offer protection against evil spirits, much like houses in Nokhur often have a goat skull outside the door. The cemetery is a sight to behold, and we took time to walk around the fence (visitors are not allowed in), to admire the, sometimes painted, horns on the small white tombstones. From here, we walked to Qyz Bibi, a small Muslim shrine and point of pilgrimage. We climbed the stairs leading to the cave where Qyz Bibi, considered a goddess of fertility, is believed to live in this small cave, and an ancient tree just beneath the cave is full of pieces of cloth tied to it by women seeking to become pregnant.

Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Empty road and lonely tree near Nokhur

After seeing the main sights of Nokhur, we walked through part of the village, and noticed indeed that people here looked different from the ones we had seen elsewhere in Turkmenistan. They have brighter eyes, sometimes blue or green, a lighter skin, and are able to maintain their different looks by being a conservative, closed community hardly allowing outsiders to mix with themselves. The Nokhurli claim direct descent from Alexander the Great's soldiers. Indeed, some of the old houses have columns with distinctive Ionic style. Whatever their ancestry, the Nokhurli are now Muslims, and some of them looked with disdain at our modernly clad guide, especially when she went in search for beer. We anyway had a very pleasant evening with a local family, and early next morning, left for an excursion further south, higher up in the mountains towards the border with Iran. Here, we found empty landscapes, and had a great walk to the Khur-Khuri waterfall. On the way to the top of the fall, we saw a pond full of frogs, but were also disturbed about the amount of trash which we then collected. The Khur-Khuri falls proved to have a beautiful setting. Since the water was low, we could walk right inside the river leading to the falls, from where we had a great view over the tree-lined canyon below us. A short walk down gave a good view of the waterfalls themselves. We carried all the trash up to our car, to find that the driver refused to take it in his car. All we could do, was to make piles of trash and hope that someone else would be willing to take them away from this otherwise attractive stretch of untouched nature.

Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): View of a canyon near Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Tombstones with horns in the cemetery of Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Horny tombstones at the cemetery of Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Pieces of cloth tied to ancient tree in Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): River in landscape near Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Khur-Khuri waterfall at the beginning of a tree-filled canyon near Nokhur
Picture of Nokhur (Turkmenistan): Old tree in Nokhur

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