Idea #624 – Visiting the lost oasis city of Merv in Turkmenistan
Located in the province of Mary, in Turkmenistan, the National Historical and Cultural Park “Old Merv” is home to the oldest and best preserved oasis city along the Silk Roads in Central Asia. From the 3rd millennium BC, it hosted a series of urban centers and played an important role in the history of the East, linked to the incomparable existence of the cultural landscape and the exceptional variety of cultures. which developed successively and multiplied their exchanges within this oasis of the Mourgab. The city reached its peak in the Muslim era, becoming one of the capitals of the Arab caliphate at the beginning of the ninth century, then, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the capital of the empire of the Great Seljuks. The historic urban center consists of a series of adjacent fortified cities: Erk Kala, Gyaur Kala and the medieval city of Sultan Kala, also called Marv al-Shahijan. The oasis is also home to major monuments from different historical periods.
One can mention the köchks, one of the most characteristic architectural features of the oasis, the fortresses, as well as many splendid mosques and mausoleums.
* Erk Kala (20 ha) is a polygonal site surrounded by walls and moats, with walls still standing some 30 meters long, and which also has an inner citadel.
* Gyaur Kala is approximately square in plan, with walls up to about 2 km long. Inside there are remains of several important structures: the Beni Makhan Central Mosque and its cistern, the Buddhist stupa and monastery, and the “oval building”, which consists of a series of rooms around a courtyard. , on an elevated platform.
* Sultan Kala Medieval was fortified in the eleventh century, with its mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar (1118-57) which was originally part of a large religious complex. The elaborate details of the mausoleum, such as the elegant brickwork, carved stucco and intact wall paintings, make it one of the most remarkable architectural feats of the Seljuk period. The walls (12 km) of the medieval city and those of the citadel (Chahriyar Ark) are unique; they illustrate two consecutive periods of eleventh- and thirteenth-century military architecture, including towers, posterns, stairways, galleries and, in some places, battlements. In addition to these main urban features, there are several important medieval monuments in their immediate vicinity, such as the Mausoleum of Muhammad ibn Zayd.
* The post-medieval city known as Abdullah Khan Kala presents walls of exceptional interest, because they make it possible to follow in a remarkable way the evolution of the military architecture from the 5th century BC to the 15th-16th centuries AD -C.
The “Ancient Merv” is today a vast archaeological park sheltering the remains of centers of the Bronze Age (2500-1200 BC) like Kelleli, Adji Kui, Taip, Gonur Depe and Togoluk, of Iron Age centers (1200-300 BC) such as Yaz / Göbekli Depe and Takhirbaj Depe, as well as the historic urban center and the post-medieval city of Abdullah Khan Kala. The archaeological area covers an area of 353 ha and is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Where is it ?