Osh is one of the largest cities in the Fergana Valley; it is generally accepted as the second (southern) capital of Kyrgyzstan.
The city is located in the eastern part of the Fergana valley in the south of the country; it is 300 kilometers away from Bishkek. It prostrated to an area of about 16 square kilometers at an altitude of 700-1000 meters above sea level, between the spurs of the Alai Range, one of which stands as a 100 meter cliff in the central area of the city and is known as Sulayman Tao.
Osh is a major administrative, economic and cultural center of the homonymous province, the home to 234 thousand people.
The main composition of the population is presented by Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in almost equal proportions of (40%), significantly lower lobes are presented by Russians, Turks and Tatars (2-2.5%), and the city of Osh is home to Koreans, Uighurs, Ukrainians and Germans, but these nations number is shared by less than one percent of the total population of citizens.
The region’s climate is continental with distinct seasons. Winter in mild with frequent thaws, spring usually is early, summers are hot and dry. The hottest month in the city is July, with average temperatures of +24 C and +26 C. The first autumn frosts begin in October. In winter the temperature rarely drops below-10C. Frequent heavy rains in the springs often lead to mudslides.
This area has the moderate seismic activity and it is mudslides-dangerous.
It is believed that the city of Osh is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia, the exact date of its formation is not known, but based on the data of archaeological research we can safely assume that its age is about 3,000 years.
Until now, there are fierce debates about the emergence of the city and its name; many people tend to assume that Alexander of Macedon had ownership of the event, and even the biblical King Solomon.
There is a legend that one day in one of his trips King Solomon (Sulayman), led the army, and drove in front of a yoke of oxen, harnessed to a plow. As soon as the oxen drew level with the famous rock (and the case, as one can understand happened around the city), the king liked the place for a halt, and he shouted to stop the animals: «Hosh» — “That is it! Stop!”, «That is enough!», that exclamation has given the name of the future city.
The legend is really beautiful, but it does not explain either the fact of the city appearance or the etymology of its name, so scientists have a different version about this clue.
The basis of the present Osh was the settlement of the Bronze Age, which was found by the archeologists found on the Mount Sulayman-Tao, in the same place much later came the first city temple of the fire-worshipers dedicated to the cult of the coupled Gods fire-water (Ohsho), exactly by this the scientists explain the etymology of the name of Osh. By the way, on the southern slope of the Sulaiman-Tao, which is from time immemorial considered as sacred mountain, the evidences of religious worship and other periods are being kept, they indicate that the rock was the center of the ancient settlement.
There was almost nothing left from the medieval Osh, but based on the archaeological evidence, one can imagine that the city was walled with three gates, having its center the citadel, surrounded by Shahristan – the little town; a mosque was located near the bazaar, close to the river Ak-Bura.
It was a period of rapid development of Osh, thanks to its advantageous geographical location. The city was very busy at the intersection of routes of the Silk Road, which contributed to the development of its trade, science, culture and crafts.
One of the unforgettable pages in the history of the city is associated with the name of the Timurid dynasty scion — Zahireddin Muhammad Babur (1483-1530).
After the death of his father — Sheikh Omar, the great-grandson of the famous Tamerlane, Babur inherited the possessions of Fergana , so he was often visiting the city of Osh and knew the city very well, as the evidence of this there were written some lines about the city in the immortal work «Babur-Name.»
Since time immemorial, Osh was one of the religious centers of Central Asia; this is largely thanks to its territory located on the Mount Sulayman-Tao, which was conferred by miraculous power to heal the ills of body and soul by some myths and legends. The mountain is so popular among the local Muslims, that it is recognized as holy place, and is equated by importance to Mecca.
After the defeat of the Kokand Khanate by the armies of Tsarist Russia, Osh moved under its protectorate, and in 1878 the Russians came here. On a small hill to the south of the old city, they began to rebuild a new Osh. The town was laid out by military surveyors, and was very beautiful. Large, well-landscaped street, square, divided into sections and districts. From that moment it received the status of the Osh district center.
During the Soviet authority period the city became a major industrial center, and since 1939, it was the chief city of Osh region.
During the last decades tourists, visiting Kyrgyzstan with sure come to Osh and that fact is connected with an incredible amount of attractions — monuments of history and antiquities, as well as the interesting natural sites located in and around the city. In addition the city of Osh is a «transit point» of the movement of tourists across all the directions in the country.
The Mountain of Sulayman-Tao.
The Holy Mountain is located in the city center and is the oldest monument of history and culture of the nation. Until the 16th century it was called the Bara-Kuh, then it was renamed to the Tahty-Sulaiman («The Throne of Solomon»), then it was called Sulayman-Tao.
This mountain since the dawn of civilization here had the nascent religious significance, there is a legend that Zarathustra himself lived in one of its caves and the famous «Avesta» was written exactly over there.
It should be noted that today, this Osh’s combined historical and cultural museum-reserve, in 2009, entered in the UNESCO cultural heritage list.
The length of the mountain spur of Sulayman-Tao is little more than a kilometer, its width is about 560 meters and the highest point is 150 meters above the ground. There, at the very top of the rock adorns the mosque which is being called «Tahty Sulayman» — one of the city’s main shrines.
Since time immemorial, this mosque is closely linked with the name of Babur, a descendant of the famous Tamerlane, the founder of the Mughal Emperor.
According to one of the legends, the Prophet Sulayman prayed one day on a mountaintop, he bent his knees and bowed to the Almighty till the ground, and left traces of his knees and his forehead in the stone for eternity. Since then, this venerated stone is respected among the people and it has the status of sacred and that stone is called «Kadam-Jai» which means in translation the “Traces of Sulayman”.
According to the legend, during a visit the holy place, Babur ordered to construct and build a small beautiful little place with hujra and Mehrabi on that place, that would let people freely come and pray. The years went by eventually the structure was destroyed, then it was rebuilt by the grateful townspeople and it became a complex, making it even more beautiful.
And though the mosque is called «Tahty Sulayman,» the people still used to call it as the «Little house of Babur.»
In 1963, the mosque was destroyed by the orders of the Soviet authorities, however, in 1991, it came possible to restore the mosque by the preserved documentary photography.
Actually there are a great many myths and legends associated with the sacred mountain. They say that many places of this sacred holy mountain have the miraculous powers, and some of the legends even say that on the top of the mountain any woman can ask God and her kind request will be heard by Almighty, but the trouble is that the way leading to the top of the mountain is very tricky and has the «test track», which is never can be passed and overcome by any adulteress wife.
Legends are still legends, but in fact anyone who wishes to see the height of the splendid panorama of the city and surrounding shrines, spread at the feet on the top of the mountain can go up.
Sulayman-Tao foothills are also very rich in historical monuments, for instance among them there are: mosque of Rawat Abdullakhan (which was built in 17th — 18th centuries), the Mosque of Mohammed Yusuf Bayhodzhi-Ogly (it was built in 1909), and the Mausoleum of Asaf ibn Buhriya (which was built in the 11th-17th centuries), which also has its own legend.
According to it, this mythical companion of Sulayman even after his the death longed to rest at the foot sanctuary, which was done.
The huge popularity of Sulayman-Tao in the Muslim world did the city of Osh one of the centers of Islam, a place of pilgrimage, and that was the reason for the construction of numerous religious sites in the vicinity of the holy mountain and all across the town.
The most important of them are: the Mosque of Jami Rawat Abdullakhan, the madrassas (school) of Muhamedboy Tyurk Hal Muratbaev, the madrassas of Alymbek Paravanchi Datka, the madrassas of Hazrat Damulla-Mohammed-Sydyk-Akhund-Aglam and others which represent a remarkable example of the architecture of the Fergana school of architects.
Along with the monuments of Muslim worship, in the heart of the city of Osh in a picturesque park there is a beautiful monument of Orthodox architecture of the early XX century — the church of Archangel Michael, who was lucky enough to survive the hardships of the Soviet period and to return in 1991 in the bosom of the Russian Orthodox Church.
There are also concentrated a great number of interesting historical and cultural sites: the memorial complex of «Evening Fire», with an inscription in Kyrgyz and Russian languages: «Nobody is forgotten, nothing is forgotten»; attractions: to V.I. Lenin (now it is really a rarity in the CIS), Toktogul Satylganov, Abdykadyrov, Orozobekov, Kurmanzhan-Datka (who was also called as the «Southern Queen» known for her resistance to subjugation to Tsarist Russia), Sultan Ibraimov, Alisher Navoi.
The most beautiful places are: the cave of «Echoes of Love» and the main «Swallow’s nest» of Osh settlement; Beshik-Tash, Kol-Tash, Chakka-Tamar, Sylyk-Tash, and the ancient cemetery, rock carvings.
And of course there should be noticed the Osh Bazaar, vociferous, not understandable, confused, with heaps of vegetables and fruits, mountains of different spices, rows of delicious-smelling freshly baked bread, cunning eyes of sellers and buyers traded furiously.
And let someone else may think about it as an uncivilized, but that is the principal of the Oriental Bazaar, such an exotic, interesting and comprehensive. Here you can buy everything, whatever you want, from toothpicks to a secret of the «production of money out of thin air», one will spend time with the benefit, and moreover, he or she will be able to learn many new things and will be charged with good mood for the whole day.
Of course, Osh can not compete with the capital nether by the level of amenities and services, nor by pathos of urban architecture, and global plan, but it certainly fascinates with its extraordinary simplicity and unsophisticated homey feel of the provincial cities, with its people’s smiling, who always ready to arrange you a warm welcome.