Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Flamingos of Lake Sudochye

Karakalpakstan is on the migration route of many transcontinental birds from Siberia and the Tundra, flying to the south and south-east, seeking warmth during the winter months and back. The Sudochye lake system is located in the north-east of the Republic of Karakalpakstan and is formed from several lakes (large and small Sudochye, Karateren, Begdulla Aydin, Omar Salim, Karazhar, Akushpa). This system of lakes serves for nesting of birds, and as a place of rest and feeding before they resume their long flights.

In the Sudochye lakes system, there are 30 out of 40 species of birds listed in Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan and 18 out of 20 species of birds listed in Red Book of Species Endangered by the International Organisation for nature protection. One of these species, listed in the Red Book is flamingos, which have come in the last 10 years.

The Sudochye lakes of Muynak district with its unique nature and views attracts not only local residents but also many foreign bird watchers and tourists. 

Source : Uzbekistan Today


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Monday, March 5, 2018

Babaychiki - Handmade Ceramic Uzbek Figurines



Sources: Various.
Traditional ceramic babaychiki (small figures) reflect the peculiarities of culture and life of Uzbekistan.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Ayaz-kala Fortress

Ayaz-kala fortress  is located in the north-west of Elikkalin district in the south of Karakalpakstan some 70km from Urgench. It consists of a complex of three fortresses, grouped around a hill in the eastern part of Sultan Uiz Dagh Mountains which were built from the 4th cent. BC to the 7th cent. AD. The three sites linked by road and a series of paths and tracks.

The fortresses were part of a series of forts located at the edge of the Kyzyl-Kum Desert, which provided defense against raids by nomads and the Kipchak-speaking nomadic tribes of the Syr-Darya delta.   Ayaz Kala is easily accessible by vehicle from Khiva and Urgench via Biruni and Buston. It is about 70 km from Urgench on a good bitumen road. It is about 32 km from Ayaz Kala to Toprak Kala.

Ayaz Kala I is a fortress dating back to end of the 4th or beginning of the 3rd cent. BC. In this time Khorezm had become independent from Persia. Ayaz Kala I was part of a chain of fortresses protecting the agricultural settlements from attacks invaders from the north (Syrdarya).

The fortress is situated on the top of a high hill, approx. 120 m, providing wide views over the surrounding plains. The fortress is rectangular in plan with sides 182 and 152 m long. The main axis is oriented from South to North. At the southern end of the axis is a square gateway, which is a typical element of frontier fortresses of Khorezm.  The gateway was defended by two rectangular towers that led into a small rectangular chamber. This chamber was overlooked on all sides by high walls from which bowmen could shoot at the enemy in case the first gate was breached.
The enclosure of the fortress consists of an inner and outer wall with a vaulted corridor between them, about 2 m wide. The walls continue above the vaults, forming a protected rampart walk. The walls are up to 10 m high and at their base up to 2.4 m thick. The walls were reinforced in the 3rd cent. BC by 45 watch towers in half elliptical form, at a distance from each other of 11.5 m at the northern and of 14 m at the eastern and western sides. The fortress seems to have been in use until the 1st cent. AD and might have served as a refuge for the locals up until the early medieval period.

There is a legend about this fortress, in ancient time Khoresms king ordered his people to build a fortress for protection of the northern borders of his state from raids of desert nomads. He told that the person who could build such a fortress, would have his beautiful daughters hand in marriage. The shepherd Ayaz, who lived on the border of Khoresm, started to build a fortress, but then found out, that the King had broken his word and married his daughter off to another man. The shepherd stopped work on the fortress immediately on finding this out. It is interesting, that as archaeologists found, that it was really unfinished.
From the fortress there is a fascinating view of surrounding area, to the west you can see other chain links of border defensive buildings – fortresses Mali and Big Kyrk-kyz-kala, and a large brine lake Ayazkala. There is also a picturesque yurt camp Ayaz-kala at the foot of the fortress on the western side, where travellers can have tea or lunch and then rest or go and see or ride the camels.

Ayaz Kala II is a feudal fortress dating from the 6th to 8th cent. AD. Coins of Khoresmian Kings of Afrigid dynasty, specifically coins of King Bravik, were found here. It was built on the top of a conical hill, about 40 m high, situated south west of Ayaz Kala I. The fortress has the shape of a small oval. It is connected by a steep passage to the  open settlement built on level ground to the West of the fortress. You can come inside through the gates from the south-western side, or climb on steep passage, or along the path, enveloping the walls from the northern side. The walls were built from clay press bricks and raised on the base from a mixture of clay and gravel, the upper part of the walls was protected by castellation of archery slits.

During the 6th to 8th cent. AD Khorezm was ruled by the Afrighid dynasty of Khorezmshahs. At this time the "dihqans", a new class of feudal landowners came into existence. They were descendants of the ancient nobility, courtiers or soldiers who had been rewarded for military services. Their agricultural estates were called "rustaq". They lived in "donjons", small square forts surrounded by a defensive wall. An important example calles Yakke Parsan which is situated 10 Km south of Ayaz Kala. 

Ayaz Kala II was built of rectangular mud bricks on a foundation of "paksha" (cob). The upper parts of the outer walls were crenulated. The building was fortified with low battlements and a row of arrow slits. Ayaz Kala II had a 50 m long sloping man-made staircase on the southern side of the fort.

The fort has residential quarters, ceremonial halls with ceilings supported by multiple columns and a fire temple, luxuriously decorated with wall paintings. This building seems to have been the residence of an feudal lord loyal to the  Khorezmshah. The building was built in the 4th cent. AD and destroyed by two separate fires. It was in use during the 6th and 7th cent AD as a domestic dwelling. Ayaz Kala II seems the have been the centre of a small rural community and might have been in use until the Mongol invasion in the 13th cent. The best view of the site is from the top of Ayaz Kala I. The best pictures of Ayaz Kala I and II are taken at sunset.

Ayaz Kala III is a fortified garrison dating from the 1st to 2nd cent. AD. The monumental building in the north east corner may have been founded in the 5th or 4th cent. BC: The site covers an area of about 5 hectares. The enclosure wall is one of the largest fortresses in Karalpakstan.  It has the shape of a parallelogram with sides 260 m and 180 m long. The structure of the external wall is similar to that of Ayaz Kala 1. The external walls are 7.5m wide. The circular watch towers are approx. 8 m in height. The fortress was built with paksha  "cob" and masonry (adobe blocks). The entrance to the fortress on the western side consists of an S-Shaped extension of the external wall. The interior of the fortress is largely empty.

The monumental buildings in the north east corner cover an area of 2,400 square meters. The building has 40 rooms divided into 4 groups by 2 central corridors. There are remains of a narrow corridor on three sides of the buildings. The southern and eastern walls have square watch towers dimension about 2m x 2m. It is supposed that Ayaz Kala III was used in Kushan times as a garrison or as a ruler's residence and refuge for the local farming population and that a small force used Ayaz Kala I as a lookout post. The remains of many farm dwellings and evidence of vineyards were found around walls of the fortress.

Sources: http://www.centralasia-adventures.com/en/sights/ayaz_kala.html


Saturday, December 30, 2017

History of Beruniy (Kat / Kath)

Top of Form

 Beruniy is located on the northern bank of the Amu Darya (Oxus) Urgench. The city is the seat of Beruniy District. It is located 41.69 latitude and 60.75 longitude and it is situated at elevation 101 meters above sea level. It has a population of 50,929 making it the 3rd largest urban area in Karakalpakstan.
Historically, Beruniy was known as Kat or Kath and served as the capital of Khwarezm during the Afrighid dynasty. Kat owed both its glory and demise to the Oxus. While silt deposits from the river made the surrounding land fertile, and its water, through a network of man-made irrigation canals, has aided agricultural growth on vast scales since ancient times, at the same time, the nearly flat alluvial plain on which the lower course of the Oxus flows caused the riverbed and adjoining canals to shift over time, accordingly, Kaṯ has had to be relocated due to flooding at various times. From historical reports that such a natural shift was in progress during the 10th century, when Kaṯ was at the zenith of its history.

According to a Chorasmian tradition related by Abu Rayḥān Al-Biruni's Āṯār, one of the Afrighid kings, whose reign began in AD 616 in the era of Alexander (and the Seleucids)  built his castle at Fir on the outskirts of Kaṯ; this citadel consisted of three concentric forts, in the middle of which rose the royal palace. Fir’s fortifications were so high that they would be visible from a distance of fifteen km or more. The citadel Fir (or Fil) was conquered by the Arabs in AD 712. In terms of size and splendour the capital of Chorasmia rivalled the major urban centres of Central Asia. According to Al Biruni, who eye-witnessed the flooding of his hometown before his emigration at the age of twenty-five (in 998) to Iran, Fir “was broken and shattered by the Oxus, and was swept away piece by piece every year, till the last remains of it had disappeared” in the year 1305 of the Seleucid era (AD 994)

Kat was a commercial hub with a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population. The 10th-century text on geography the Ḥodud al-ʿālam describes Kat as a town with abundant wealth, a “resort of merchants,” and an “emporium of all Transoxiana’. Its major products were cotton cushion covers, quilted garments and felt carpets which suggest that cotton then played an important role in the rural economy of the region, just as it does today. Kat also had many non-Muslim inhabitants. It is reported that Kat was the seat of bishopric of the Christian church in the 8th century (Tolstov). It was probably in Kat that there lived and worked the Christian scholar ʿIsa b. Yaḥyaʾ Masiḥi, a colleague of Abu Rayḥan Al-Biruni, himself a native of  of Kāṯ. There must have also still been a Zoroastrian community in Kaṯ from whom Biruni obtained the rich research data on Zoroastrianism in his Āṯār al-bāqia. The Ḥodud al-ʿālam adds that Kat was the gate of Turkestan and that the townspeople were warlike and active fighters for the faith.

Kat lost its status as the capital of Chorasmia to Gorgānj across the Oxus, synchronous with the dynastic change from Afrighids to Maʾmunids in AD 995. Three centuries later, in AD 1333, Ibn Baṭṭuṭa , on his way from Gorgānj to Bukhara, passed through Kat, which he portrays as a small but prosperous town. Some forty years later, Timurs army devastated Kat but later he had the destroyed walls reconstructed.

The modern history of Kat has been marked by more flooding and population shifts but also by name changes. In the 17th century, another wave of flooding washed out the old canals. As a result, Anusa, the Khan of Khiva (1663-85), ordered he construction of the Yarmis canal and built a fortress on the left side of the Oxus and brought here the remaining population of Kat. Meanwhile, the ruins of old Kat on the right side of the river became known as Sheikh Abbas Wali, after a local mausoleum.

In the 19th century the inhabitants of the new Kat once again were relocated across the river around the mausoleum. In Soviet times the small settlement was known as Sobboz which was renamed Berunyi in 1957 in honour of the medieval scholar and polymath Al-Biruni who was born on its outskirts. It gained the status of city in 1962. In 1969 the Amu Darya River overflew its banks. As a result many buildings in Beruniy were badly damaged. However, the town was quickly repaired.

Beruniy today is the administrative center of Berunyi district (tuman) in the Karakalpakstan Republic within Uzbekistan. It appears on satellite maps as a vast continuum of built environment and farmland, with a network of canals branching out from the Āmu Daryā.

Sources: Wikipedia and YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsHPZ9LB5z8&feature=youtu.be

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nukus Streets




The Turan Tiger

Caspian tiger (P. t. virgata), also known as the Hyrcanian tiger or Turan tiger was found in the sparse forest habitats and riverine corridors south and east of the Black and Caspian Seas, through the Pontic-Caspian steppe into Central Asia, and onto the Takla-Makan desert of Xinjiang.

The Caspian tiger had been recorded in the wild until the early 1970s and is now extinct. The extant Siberian tiger is the genetically closest living relative of this recognised subspecies.

Several reasons for habitat loss, human population increase, clearance of vegetation for agriculture and the rivers were used for irrigation. In other areas reeds cleared to assist  eradicate malaria thus depriving the Caspian Tiger was deprived of its habitat and its prey. In addition soon, the Caspian Tiger became an alien in its own territory and was targeted and hunted down as a menace to human settlements and a threat to livestock. In addition the  pelt was prized for its beauty and fetched a hefty price.