Unexplored Turkmenistan: Kunya-Urgench and its historical monuments

Kunya-Urgench or Old Urgench as translated from Turkmen language (there is a modern city of Urgench in Uzbekistan) is located in the Dashoguz region in the northern part of Turkmenistan. It is a composition of ancient buildings on a desert plain.

Why should you visit this city and learn about its history?

This is the former capital of the Khorezmshah empire, which in the XII-XIII centuries became the most extensive and powerful center in the Muslim world. Great thinkers such as Biruni and Avicenna worked here. Once the inhabitants of the city put up powerful resistance to the troops of Genghis Khan, and later on Tamerlane took master architects and builders from here. They had constructed amazing buildings of Samarkand for him. Now, being on the ruins of this ancient city, it is difficult to imagine that all the best minds, the richest people and the most skilled craftsmen of the time flocked here.

Kunya-Urgench used to be called Gurganj and ceramics masters, sculptors, potters, builders knew the secrets of the Gurganj painting technique and amazing, lasting color method. Today, this technique is possessed by a few people who are trying to preserve the wisdom and knowledge of their grandfathers. One of these masters is Bakhtiyar Khodzhaniyazov, a ceramist, potter, sculptor, artist who is engaged in the reconstruction of the Kutlug-Timur Minaret. This minaret is a lighthouse in the desert. This is one of the highest in the world and the highest in Central Asia building of the Middle Ages, which has survived to this day. The minaret of Kutlug-Timur was erected in the 11th-12th centuries and it survived after the destruction of the city by the Mongols in 1221. The trunk of the minaret has a characteristic slope, which looks alike with the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Also, on the territory of Gurganj, another minaret has been preserved – the Minaret of Mamun and the Juma Mosque. The ruins of the building are located near the northern gates of the pre-Mongolian city and represent the oldest monument of Gurganj. The minaret of Mamun served as the cathedral, Friday Mosque of the city.

If you are lucky enough to visit the place, you will be surprised by numerous preserved buildings. Such as the Mausoleum of Tyurabek Khanum. This is the most famous monument of Kunya-Urgench and one of the outstanding examples of the world cultural heritage. This is a tall building that combines a forward-facing portal with a domed vestibule. Finishing and decorative elements are striking in their beauty and the fact that they have survived to this day. It is interesting to note that the higher the architectural elements are located, the smaller they are, which allows the space of the mausoleum to look larger than its actual size. By the way, Tyurabek Khanym was the daughter of Uzbek Khan, the ruler of the Golden Horde, and the wife of the governor in Khorezm, Kutlug-Timur. Today, it is a place of pilgrimage and reverence for many locals.

Among the many buildings of Gurganj, the most unusual and well-preserved is the Mausoleum of Il-Arslan. It is the oldest surviving building in the city and combines unique artistic and technical features. Compared to others, it is not large in size, asceticism is emphasized in the lower part, which contrasts with the luxurious facade. This style can symbolize a philosophical view of the frailty of earthly greatness.

Kunya-Urgench has something to surprise you with! In addition to the buildings described above, it combines a number of unique historical objects that carry historical value, the message of ancestors and the philosophical wisdom of centuries.