Mary — Asia Travel


That is the fourth largest city in Turkmenistan, located in the south of the country in a big oasis of Murgab River, which is situated in the heart of the Kara-Kum desert. Mary is considered to be the main town of Mary province and one of the most populous in the country. The city’s population by the year 2006 had amounted up to 100 thousand people and had the following ethnic composition: Turkmen, Russian, Tatar, Azeri and Armenian.

The city was founded in 1884 year by the Russian military expedition from 30 kilometres from the territory of the dilapidated ancient city of Merv, precisely at the place of the fortress, named Teke. Initially, the city was named after the deceased Merv town, was conceived to become a military and administrative center. However, over time, military and economic orientation of the region has changed. Therefore, its name also was turned into the different one (from 1937year it is called as Mary).

Nowadays, Mary is the largest cotton-producing center of the country, a huge transportation hub, and the most importantly — the center of the gas industry and main source of income of Turkmenistan.

In addition, the city operates a number of enterprises of different industries: machine building, car repairing, tanneries, chemical plants, as well as the construction materials factory. At the same time, there are clothing, carpet and other factories and some of the food industry enterprises in the city.

Cultural attractions of Mary are presented by a great quantity of interesting places, such as History museum, Drama Theatre named after Kemin, the monuments of modern architecture.

A special pride of the region is supposed to be the manufacturing of handmade carpets, the most famous of which are considered to be Tekin, taking the name from the generic name of the tribe Teke.


The ancient city of Merv.

Margush, Margiana, Margao, Maru, Marae – are indeed very beautiful names, but in the medieval period this city was still called as Shahydzhan, which literally sounds like «The Soul of Kings”. In addition, the ancient Merv was called like the «mother of cities of Khorasan, which the whole world is able to rely on.»

And you should definitely agree, that not so a lot of cities were awarded so flattering epithets.

Merv was just an extremely huge city, even by today’s standards. According to the data from archaeologists, it can be suggested that the city together with rabads (trade suburbs) contained not less than 1 million inhabitants.

During the times of Arab rule it was the exact place, where a fabulously rich Caliph Al – Mamun lived, and the city itself was considered to be the cultural capital of the Arab Caliphate. And even later, in the Middle Ages, Merv was famous for its citizens. Here prominent personalities lived and worked such as a physician, philosopher and pioneer Barzue, musician and singer Barbut, historian Samani, astronomer Habash, a famous poet and philosopher, Omar Khayyam and many others.

In the XI-XII centuries, Merv was the capital of the Seljuks state and later became an important center of the state of Khorezm. This was the time when the city reached its peak. In 1222 year the army of Tatars invaded and completely destroyed Merv. After that, the city was able to revive, but unfortunately, it was unable to reach former heights. By the XIX century the city was full of decay and was abandoned by the last residents.


Historical Places of Merv.


That is a huge citadel with an area of 12 hectares, dated back to the Achaemenid rule (VI century), at which time it was the core of ancient Merv. Under the ruined fort even these days, almost destroyed building on a high platform stands — the remains of the ruler’s palace, surrounded by a fortress wall built of mud brick, which sometimes reach a height of 30 meters.

The fortress was strong round facility, which at first glance did not have a gate. But this impression is deceptive, the only entrance to the building was located on a hill on the southern side of the fortress. In the northern part of the citadel there was a large area designated for the gathering of townspeople. The ancient name of the fortress is actually, Margush, as later the city became known under the same name.



That is a fort that preserved only little, occupying an area of approximately 300 hectares — the most powerful fortification of antiquity. The fortress was surrounded by square walls, up to 2 kilometres, with special guard towers that were situated at an equal distance from each other.

In the ruins of the citadel there is the once beautiful city, called Antioch Margiana, built in the tradition of ancient architecture. Founder of the city was the Seleucid king — Antiochus Soter. During his reign, he ordered to enclose the entire oasis with a high wall, which had a length of nearly 230 kilometres away. After all, it effectively was able to protect the city from the advancing desert sands and was a reliable defensive abroad on the way of warlike tribes of nomads.


That is an ancient settlement, relating to early Parthia period. It is located 32 kilometres from Gjaur-Kala. It is a small-sized town, which is located next to abandoned buildings of Margilan inhabitants, not included into Gjaur-Kala.

Gebekly all along the perimeter was surrounded by walls of the fortress-citadel, which had only one entry in the form of a ramp. During the excavations in the fort numerous fragments of pottery and pieces of jewellery were found. Thus, that confirmed the scientists’ speculations about the high crafts in the dead city.

Sultan Kala.

In the XI-XII centuries Merv was turned into the capital of the Great Seljuks and reached the highest peak. At that time, on the orders of the ruling sultan, the city was surrounded by high ramparts and a moat. The resulting enclosed area nowadays is known as Sultan-Kala — the «Fortress of sultans.»

The citadel, named Shahriar-Ark, was situated in its north-eastern part, which housed the palace buildings, dwellings, servants, administrative buildings, barracks, as well as the military garrison.


The Mausoleum of Muhammad ibn Zayd.

O ne of the greatest monuments of Sultan Kala, the Mausoleum of Muhammad ibn Zayd was not large in size, but at the same time, was very expressive in his architectural solution. The wall inscription in Arabic is of particularly interest in the decoration of the mausoleum, which told who owned the mausoleum.

The letters of calligraphic inscriptions, artfully carved from brick, slightly raised on a background of small-depth vegetation pattern of plaster.

It is known that Muhammad ibn Zayd was a descendant of the Prophet’s family, and accordingly, was the candidate for the Imamate. In the VIII century AD, he led a popular revolution against the Arab Umayyad caliphs. However, the revolution was defeated and Muhammad ibn Zayd himself was killed in that battle. The governors of the Caliph ordered to crucify his body on the cross, and a severed head was due to be sent to the caliph to Damascus.

Initially, the mausoleum was a modest structure, where the head of a martyr rested, but it gradually expanded until it turned into the present beautiful architectural complex, recognized as one of the finest examples of Muslim architecture.


This settlement is located 25 kilometres from the fortress of Gjaur-Kala. The preserved here numerous buildings belong to the IX-XII centuries. However, scientists have determined that the settlement has a much longer history, judging by the coins found here relating to the I-II century.

Once upon a time, exactly at this place the Parthian city was founded that was surrounded by ramparts, which was restored in the Middle Ages. The fortress had an almost rectangular shape, with a ratio of 160×180 meters. Along the perimeter of the walls at regular intervals powerful watchtowers were constructed. The fortress inside is not built up. Only the ruins of a building of unknown purpose lie a little far from the centre.

The fortress was a purely defensive structure, designed in order to shelter inside a large number of people, upon the occurrence of the enemy, as evidenced by the loopholes, which are situated in the walls and towers that are suitable for preventing attacks and firing.


That is the ruins of a medieval castle, located 2 kilometres from Durnali. This is one of the few well-preserved castles of that time.

Time spared the first floor, but the second floor was almost destroyed. Only several fragments of walls left, which have an unusual ripple in the decoration of the outside.

Keshk (castle) has a rectangular shape and is made of mud brick. In the center of the building a square room flaunts that is consisted of the height of two stories. From the right and left sides of the hall five rooms are located on the ground as well as on the second floor.


Gonur Depe.

That is huge necropolis dated to the II-I centuries BC. Once there was probably a capital city with a palace and several temples, which may be able to compete with buildings of Babylon and Assyria.

But the owner of such a brilliant city, was most likely not the ruler of the country, but its high priest. Therefore, Gonur Depe was considered to be both a religious and spiritual center of Margush country, which inhabitants made a pilgrimage to these places, bringing rich gifts. That was the reason, why a great variety of household items were found in the local burial grounds, such as: mirrors, various vessels, ornaments of silver, ceramic vases and others. The age of the found artefacts refers to the III millennium BC.

Mosque of Talhatan-Baba.

On the territory of the medieval village, called Talhatan, which is 30 kilometres from Old Merv, in the local cemetery the unusual mosque stands, which age is related to the XI century. The mosque is of almost regular rectangle shape, there are no any traditional shelters, but the columns. Three sides of a tall building are completely blank walls and only the fourth side, is a fa?ade that is adorned by three arches.

Three arches, large — in the center and two smaller ones on the each side, visually divide the building into three compartments, which makes the somewhat cumbersome structure have a harmony. That reinforces and emphasises the impression of ornamentation of the walls that is quite uniform, both inside and outside. Only burnt bricks were used in order to decorate the building.

Yusuf Hamadani Mosque.

That is a funerary complex, which grew at the burial place of Abu Yaqub Yusuf ibn Ayyub (in the XIII century). Famous dervish was born in Hamadan (western Iran) and at his burial in the Middle Ages, the mausoleum was constructed. Unfortunately, almost nothing left from it until the present time.

The destroyed building was partially restored in the XIX century. Therefore, the extant mausoleum is the tomb of black marble, decorated with floral and calligraphic inscriptions. There is a chapel with aivan in the western corner of the building, which constitutes the main part of the complex.

These days, the burial place of the saint – is considered to be an important Muslim shrine and a popular object of pilgrimage for believers.

The Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar.

That is the most magnificent and one of the highest monuments of Merv (XI century), which is also called as «Dar al-Ahyre» — «Otherworld». This Mausoleum built on the order of Sultan Sanjar Muizeddin, where he was buried in 1157year. However, when Mongolian troops conquered Merv, of the ashes of the Sultan was reburied, though since that time no one knows who did it and where the remains are now.

Grandiose building with all its views reflected the monumental architecture of flowering Seljuk era and fited very well into the medieval building of the ancient city.

Today the mausoleum – is a place of pilgrimage for many thousands of believers and the main tourist sites of Merv.

Very often people come to this place when they heard a beautiful legend, which states: «Once upon a time, the Sultan Sanjar fell in love with the beautiful celestial princess , but in response to a proposal to marry, the witch has put three conditions. They were: never hug her waist, not to look at her bare feet, and the third was – not to present while she combing hair. Sultan agreed, but shortly after the wedding broke once all the conditions — curiosity got the better.

Starting spy on his wife, the governor saw that while combing the hair, she always takes off her head and puts it on the dresser, when walking, does not touch the surface of the earth, and the waist of his wife does not have any bones.

Having realizing that she was exposed, the peri became terribly angry and left her husband, turning into bird. The Sultan missed his beloved wife and implored her to return. But she has refused to return. However, peri agreed to visit the Sultan sometimes, in case he would build the highest and most beautiful building in the city and leave a small opening at the top of the dome – the place she will be able to be looked by him every Friday … »
So thanks to all-consuming love, this architectural masterpiece was created.

Abdullakhan Kala.

Construction of the fortress in the XV century was directly linked with the son of the great conqueror Tamerlane, named Shahrukh. It was his first, completed during record time construction, in the territory of New Merv.

The military fort was very well designed. The thick walls of the citadel were built ledges, there were 44 watchtowers along all around the perimeter of the building, the top of the all fortress walls were covered by galleries and loopholes for firing. Outside a wide and deep moat filled with water was dug. All this made military fortress virtually impregnable.



Big and Small Kiz — Kala – are considered to be the biggest of the surviving ancient feudal estates. These are virtually the same small fortress, located 100 meters from each other, with a corrugated facade from which little is left until nowadays. The city walls were put on low earthen ramps with a slight bow inward. Small windows of these installations were hidden in the folds of the walls, which once ended in teeth and loopholes, but these days, they are almost completely destroyed.

In terms of these constructions, there were two floors, five rooms on each. Room looked out into the courtyard, led to a broad staircase.

These days, one of the fortresses — Big Kizil-Kala is preserved very poorly.

Aivans of Askhabs.

Such a poetic name was given to the so-called mausoleum complexes of so-called Askhabs — Companions of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Hakim ibn ‘Amr Al-Gifari and Bureyda Ibn Al-Huseyb Al-Aslami.

After the death of the saints, their graves have become the object of worship and in the XV century one of the ruler of Timurids dynasty created a big religious ensemble around them. Two tomb of black marble were towering in the centre of the mausoleum, decorated with exquisite carvings, bearing floral design and calligraphic issued citations from the Koran.

There are two restored aivans directly behind the tombs, which are located near each other and oriented due the South. According to surviving photographs of the XIX century, one can understand that aivans’ height was originally 12 meters tall, and their decor consisted of blue and turquoise tiles, partially extant until nowadays.

The middle of the back wall of the mausoleum is decorated with a carved inscription that states: «Allah.»

The monument is still the object of worship of believers. That is why these days, not far from the shrine, special places for the reception of pilgrims were opened.