After more than a week of worried thoughts about how to avoid being in Osh, it was strange to end up walking the streets of the plagued city as a visitor. While the atmosphere felt OK given the circumstances, destruction had been widespread and was very visible. Some parts were completely destroyed, eaten by fires, windows smashed, even Jayma Bazaar, supposedly one of the key sights of the city, lay in ruins and was eerily quiet. I ended up deciding to climb Solomon's Throne, the main attraction of the city, which seemed to be beckoning me with its waving Kyrgyz flag. Climbing up in order to escape the destruction, to try and catch the essence of this city with its old history. After all, Osh is claimed to be older than Rome, even though unlike the illustrous eternal city, Osh does not have much to show for it. It is said that the city was founded by either Alexander the Great or Solomon himself - and, no surprises here, destroyed by Genghiz Khan in the 13th century after it had become an important Silk Road city. When, at the end of the 15th century, the 14 year old king of Fergana built himself a small mosque on the eastern side of the hill, the place grew to become a site of pilgrimage for Muslims.
The original site was destroyed by an earthquake in 1853, rebuilt, and destroyed, allegedly by the Communists, in 1960 in their effort to quell Islam. This probably only added to the significance and symbolism of the place, and as soon as Kyrgyzstan reached independence, the site was once again rebuilt. As so many places in Central Asia, also this holy place has special meaning for young women hoping to become pregnant - some say the rock itself resembles a pregnant woman, but I could not see that myself - lack of imagination? In any case, the climb proved very easy, and I had soon reached the small platform under the flag from where I had an undisturbed view over the city which was now literally lying at my feet. From here, I could also see how the destruction was very local: by far the largest parts of the city seemed untouched, at least, from my point of view. I visited Dom Babura, the small shrine founded by the 14 year old king, just behind the same platform, with pieces of cloth hanging from the tree. Now, I had various options, and I chose to walk further around the entire throne.
Solomon's Throne is a hill dominating the city from the western side, and stretching further towards the west. I had climbed on the eastern side, and now walked the southern side towards the sun that was on its way down, towards the west. Below me laid the extensive Muslim cemetery, where I could distinguish only the bigger tombstones from where I was standing. I hoped the path would be winding its way down through the cemetery, but it stayed quite high, and after a while, I reached the museum which was, just like the entrance booth at the foot of Solomon's Throne, closed. Instead, a Kyrgyz TV team was working here, and before I realized, I was being interviewed and was asked to make a statement about Osh in English. I put the thoughts that had been coming to my mind into words, mostly based on the awful image I had had of Osh during the previous weeks. Little could I realize that this little interview would turn me into a known foreigner a week later. I climbed the hill to reach the northern side, and walked back to the foot of the hill from there. Afterwards, I visited the ruins of the small mausoleum of Asaf bin Burhiya before returning to the city. Under the circumstances, it did not seem wise to linger around after darkness.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Solomon Throne (Kyrgyzstan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Solomon Throne.
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