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Out of beaten tracks

Shakhrisabz - birthplace of Timur, close to Samarkand
Chimgan - "Uzbekistan Alps", mountain resort near Tashkent
Marghilan - capital of Central Asian silk production, Ferghana valley
Rishtan
- capital of Central Asian ceramics, Ferghana valley
Shakhimardan - just a beautiful place in Ferghana valley

Shakhrisabz

Shakrisabz, UzbekistanThe birthplace of Timur is located at the foot of the Zaravshan and Gissar mountain ranges, in the Kashkadarya region. The well maintained road from Samarkand via Karshi or directly to Termez and hopefully again soon further south into Afghanistan passes through the city, along what used to be part of The Great Silk Road, its link to the sea. This is where Alexander the great’ legions and Timur’s troops moved through. The drive from Samarkand over the Takhtakaracha Pass, from where you get a breath-taking view over the oasis valley, is very picturesque.

Shakhrisabz is translated as “green hill” in reference to the lush nature generated by the area’s continental climate. The name was given by the conquering Arabs in the VIII century who renamed the ancient Kesh, first mentioned in Chinese sources as an important trading point of Baktria and the subsequent Kushanstate.

Initially, the center of anti-Arabic rebellion, later part of Chagatai Ulus under Genghis khan’s son, the city came to fame under Timur, who was born and raised not for from today’s city center. Shakhrisabz’s glory further blossomed when the city became a part of Bukhara Sheibanid Empire in the XVI century. Both court and bourgeoisie demanded the best in fabrics for clothing and interior design and Shakhrisabz’s masters were famed for their embroidery.

Sights of Shakhrisabz

Ak-Saray palace, 1380Ak-Saray palace in Shakhrisabz
Timur’s captured Khoresm masters conceived the first Timurid monumental architectural building, Ak-Saray, the white palace, white symbolizing the nobleman’s color. Today the flanks of the entrance arc to what has been described by Clavijo in all its XIV century splendor, still stand tall.
The Arabic inscription on the portal reads: “If you doubt our power and might, take a look at our constructions!”
According to legend, Abdullah Khan, the Bukhara Emir, on an official visit, approached the city. Ak Saray appeared on the horizon. The white palace stood like a gigantic mirage and the Emir, spurring on his best horse, was fooled into thinking he would reach the entrance gate in no time. Having thoroughly exhausted his horse but still not having arrived at his destination, the Emir, enraged, ordered Ak-Saray to be destroyed. Nevertheless, even in ruins the palace is still awe inspiring with its two pylons of 98 meters, formerly connected by a 22 meter arc, the widest in Central Asia.

Fortification wall
Parts of the fortification wall are still preserved today, right behind Ak-Saray. The magnitude of Ak-Saray is best understood after consulting the map in the museum, showing its original closed off palace compound holding “mahallas”, city section allocated the clergy, to different crafts masters and the ruling family.

Kok Gumbaz Mosque, XIV
Ulugbeg himself designed and oversaw the construction of this blue domed mosque, erected in honor of his father Shakhruh. With its 46 meters, the cupola is even higher than that of the Bibi-Khanum mosque in Samarkand.

Shamshiddin Kulol Mausoleum, XIVc.
A small hall with high cupola ceiling holds thew beautiful white marble gravestone. Originally from a potter’s family, Shamshiddin Kulol later became the mentor of Bakhauddin Nakshbandi and the spiritual teacher of emir Taragai, Timur’s father as well as of Timur himself. On the far side of the carved stone pilgrims pore water into an indentation, which, when drunk, will cure men of snoring and women of barrenness.

Gumbazy-Selidan tomb, XV
Under the beauty painted cupola next door lay remains of Timur’s father and other close members of his family. The original door to the mausoleum is displayed in the museum.

Caravanserai Kobu, XV
Today the original wood carved doors are opened to invite you into the small cells occupied by craftsmen of the Hunarmand association. This is where national handicraft and a good map of the area are available.

Dorus-Siadat Complex, XIV
It was in 1376 that Timur’s beloved son Jahangir passed away at the age of 22 after a horse riding accident. It is said that the ruler never smiled again. A mausoleum was built at his grave site and its beautiful cupola ceiling, offset by whitewashed walls; underline the sanctity of the place. Timur ultimately decided to make Dorus-Siadat a vast family burial site. The foundation, if nothing else, of its monumental constructions, combining tombs, commemoration hall and mosque, rooms for clerics and worshipers are still intact and give an impression of the magnitude of the site.

Timur burial vault
Timur had his burial arrangements carefully planned. He himself chose the granite slab, the location of his mausoleum, deep in the ground. For political reasons, however, Timur was laid to rest in Samarkand. When Galina Pugachenkova discovered the site 50 years ago, the remains of a man and woman were found inside the casket.

Friday mosque
If it all possible, Shakhrisabz should be visited on a Friday. To witness the wise old men of the area with their white beards, white turbans and beautiful striped coats approaching the Juma Mosque, is a beautifully privileged moment, when fantasy meets reality.

Malik Adjar mosque, XV
One of the few painted aivan (Uzbek: place for sitting and relaxing) wood ceilings, carried by stalactite wood pillars. According to legend, Malik Adjar was a wealthy man who generously helped those in need. The length of his legs was of such fame, that when mounting a camel, his knees would still touch the ground.

Chorsu covered marked, XIV
The ancient major crossroads bazaar, having parallels only in Samarkand and Bukhara, will serve as an extension of the museum, exhibiting local crafts.

Medival public bath, XIV
Of many bath houses only this one remains. Accessible for men only, it comprises hot and cool bathing rooms, a massage vault and a barber’s room.



Chimgan

ChimganFor heliskiing or trekking, windsurfing or simply a lakeside barbecue, head to the capital’s resort, the foothills of the western Tian-Shan around Chimgan, 80 kilometers northwest of Tashkent. Once the tsarist general-governor had a house here, the social elite also built summer cottages. The Russian love of winter sports and the Soviet addiction to sanatoria guaranteed Chimgan’s growth.

The road from Tashkent to Chimgan follows the Chirchik River past hydroelectric dams and the modern city of Chirchik, famed for its chemical works. A right fork leads straight to Chimgan, or left to the town of Khodjikent, boasting Bronze Age carvings, tea houses and juniper forests. A two-kilometer climb ends at Charvak dam, protected by a statue of Farkhad. Of multiple versions of the romantic Iranian legend Farkhad and Shirin, one account, doing little for inter-ethic relations, describes Shirin as a beautiful queen living beyond Syr-Darya. To choose one of two suitors, an old woman bade Shirin set a difficult task and marry the winner. She commanded a canal be dug through the Hunger Steppe. The honest Uzbek Farkhad took his spade and began digging the canal through the mountains. The crafty Tajic Khosru laid a carpet of reeds upon the steppe to shine like water at dawn. Once the wind bore Farkhad the news of Shirin’s marriage to his deceitful rival, his sorrow turned him into a rock. Shirin soon discovered the truth and melted into a river of tears. Chimgan mountains, UzbekistanDams, hydroelectric power stations and canals throughout his country bear the name of her martyred hero.

The dam holds back the stunning blue of Charvak Reservoir, built in 1982 at the mountain-girdled confluence of Pskem, Koksu and Chatkal rivers. The road skirts high above the water until Bakachur, where villas and chaikhana attract weekend crowds. Russian windsurfers skim past Uzbek matriarchs swimming fully clothed as hang-gliders soar overhead.

Twenty minutes’ drive from Bakachur is Chimgan itself, Uzbekistan’s winter sport center. The name originates in the Turkic for “green slope”, justified by the poplar, maple, acacia and countless fruit trees. When it whitens, skiers flock to the three-kilometer-long Kumbel track. Hire equipment is available for early arrivals. From January to April heli-skiers may drop onto virgin snow at 3,000-plus meters (10,000-plus feet) for 5-10 km (3-6 miles) descents. Whatever the seasons, take the chair-lift part way up Great Chimgan, at 3,309 meters (10,850 feet) the highest summit in the region, for splendid views across to the reservoir. Hiking trails include Aksay and Kyzyljar peaks, the Marble River and Gulkamsay waterfall. Arab visitors are surprised to see their fellow Muslims revive the primitive tree worship of Zoroastrianism, for local festoon railings and tree stumps with strips of cloth making their wishes. Once fulfilled they should return and make an animal sacrifice of thanks.

Beyond Charvak stretch many adventurous possibilities in the Pskem, Chatkal and Ugam ridges. A drive up the Pskem valley reveals the rapids of the Pskem River. If they seem something daunting, try rafting Chatkal’s five canyons or canoeing Koksu to three Saryram lakes. Rafting the Ugam can include caving to underground lakes. Walking routes range from a few hours to a five-day trek to Sary Chelek lake in biosphere reserve, a haven for 35,000 hectares of juniper forest. Petroglyphs on the rocky banks of the Tereksay River confirm that the area’s rich plant and wildlife attracted Stone Age man. Hidden among birch groves and deep gorges are Siberian goats, Bailey’s boars, snow leopards and white-clawed bears.

 

MarghilanMarghilan's silk

Marghilan is one of the ancient city of Central Asia. Marghilan in fact came first by a couple of millennia (1st c. BC). Marghilan’s best known son is Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur founder of India’s Mogul Dynasty in the 16th century.

As legend says the name of Marghilan is linked with the invasion of Alexander the Great to Central Asia in the 4th c. BC. Alexander the Great had passed the way from Khojand to Uzgen and back. During that campaign he visited twice the future Marghilan. Local people having known about the Alexander’s visit to the town got prepared to that meeting. Due to the fact that Romans like chicken they met Alexander with bread and chicken. After that treating Alexander asked about this meal and was answered: “Murginon” which meant “Chicken and bread”. From this memorable day the town was named as “Marghilan”.

Marghilan silk factorySince old days Marghilan was famous by its wonderful silk. Via the Great Silk Road traders brought Marghilanian silk to Baghdad, Egypt and Greece. One of the historians of the 10th c. wrote: “the Marghilanian silk costs all Bukhara’s land.

The population of Marghilan is 165000 people. The territory is about 50 sq. km. Marghilan sets 15 km to the north from Ferghana at an altitude 475 m above sea level. Marghilan is the third city in Ferghana region after Ferghana and Kokand. Marghilan is the silk center of Uzbekistan. There are two silk mills. The silk factory “Khan-Atlas” (“Silk for Kings”) is one of the largest enterprises in the CIS. Every day the factory manufactures more than 25 km of national fabric. The process of production is completely mechanized. More than one thousand employees work at this factory. The souvenir factory “Yodgorlik” is the only in Central Asia where original handmade methods of silk production are reminded. There are 270 employees working at that factory and 70% out of them are young women. This mill is famous for its activities outside Uzbekistan. Silk fabric that is manufactured here became one of the best at the international market. Annually over 2000 foreign tourists have their opportunities to be familiarized with the process of “Khan-Atlas” production.

 

RishtanRishtan ceramics
Rishtan is 50 km to the west of Ferghana City. Rishtan is the administrative center of Rishtan district in Ferghana region.

From ancient times Rishtan was famous for its ceramics. There is a deposit of red clay, natural minerals, and mountainous vegetation that is needed for painting process. Rishtan artisans became famous all over the world for their technology of ceramic production. There were more than 30 ceramic workshops in 1900-1910 in Rishtan where 250 artisans worked.

In 1920 they united into a union of ceramic production and in 1970 the Rishtan Ceramic Plant started functioning.

The production of the ceramic plant was represented at international exhibitions and fairs.

Shakhimardan

Shakhimardan, UzbekistanShakhimardan is a picturesque place of Uzbekistan that is situated 55 km to the south from Ferghana. This settlement sits at an altitude of 1500 meters above sea level in the Alay Mountain ridges. There are two mountain rivers Ok-Su and Kok-Su that merge “Shakhimardansay”. An interesting fact that in order to reach this settlement from Ferghana one have to across this river seven times.

In 1930, as a result of handing over the territory of Kyrgyzstan to Uzbekistan, Shakhimardan became the part of Uzbekistan. That’s why on the way to Shakhimardan one have to pass 12 km of Kadamjai district of Kyrgyzstan.

The history of Shakhimardan is linked with Hazrat Ali visited Shakhimardan settlement and one of his seven graves is possibly situated in this settlement. In Persian Shakhimardan stands for “The commander of People”, this coincides with the name of Hazrat Ali.

In 1920s there was Hazrat Ali Mosque and Mausoleum in the center of Shakhimardan. However, during Soviet Power period it was destroyed. Only after the independence of Uzbekistan in 1993 the Mausoleum of Hazrat Ali was built anew at the same place and its exterior had the same shape.

Shakhimardan during certain period was known as Khamza-Abad, named so in honor of Khamza Khakimzade Niyazi – the poet and the founder of the Uzbek dramatic art. Khamza made a large contribution to the development of the Uzbek poetry, and he devoted his live to the idea of public education. Because of his progressive opinion, Khamza have a lot of enemies among fundamental Islamists. In March of 1929 Khamza at age of 40 was killed in Shakhimardan settlement. In 1960s in his honor the Khamza mausoleum and the museum were built, and in 1989 during the celebration of his 100th birthday a new museum was built and the monument devoted to that talented man opened too.

7 km to the southeast from Shakhimardan, Kullikubon (or Blue Lake) is situated. It arose after a series of big magnitude earthquakes in 1766. The Lake is situated at an altitude of 1724 m above the sea level. The Lake is 170-m long, 60-m wide, and 5-10 m deep. In summer the water temperature rises up to +10+15 degrees Centigrade. A two-km funicular way leads to the Lake. Kullikubon Lake is a beautiful place of nature, and it is a favorite place for recreation of many inhabitants and guests of the Ferghana Valley.

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