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City — historical reserve

Kunya-Urgench (Konye-Urgench, Gurganj, Köneurgench or Old Urgench), in contrast to the modern city of Urgench in Uzbekistan, is a historical reserve of Turkmenistan with several well-preserved monuments. It is located on the territory of present Dashoguz region, 100 km from the city of Dashoguz, near the old dry riverbed of the Amu Darya river. Being located at the intersection of two major caravan routes leading to China and to the Volga river, in the Middle Ages, Kunya-Urgench was considered the largest city of Central Asian section of Great Silk Road.

Capital of Khwarezm Empire

Due to its extremely favorable geographical position the city in a very short time has gained fame and popularity, and in X-XI centuries became a mighty and prosperous capital of huge Khwarezm (Khorezm) Empire, turned into a real center of civilization, where lived and worked such famous scientists of the East as Avicenna and Abu Rayhan Beruni, as well as numerous poets and philosophers. No wonder why Kunya-Urgench (Gurganj) was called "a city of thousand wise men".

Rise and fall of Kunya-Urgench

At the beginning of the XII century in terms of wealth, population and fame in whole Central Asia Kunya-Urgench became third after Samarkand and Bukhara. At the second half of the XII century it threw in the shade even these famous cities; the glory of Kunya-Urgench came near to the glory of Baghdad (at that time — the capital of the Islamic world). But in the XIII century, a big war happened in Central Asia between Khwarezm Empire and the Mongols; and Kunya-Urgench like many other cities in the region was captured by the troops of Genghis Khan and devastated. In around a century the city, that just started to recover, was captured again (at that time by Tamerlane) and totally destroyed. In place of the once thriving capital of a vast empire were only left abandoned mosques, old minarets, dilapidated walls and irrigation system. In the sixteenth century since Amu Darya river changed its streambed, the last city inhabitants of Kunya-Urgench left the city. Kunya-Urgench never totally recovered after the blows of fate, the historical part of the city turned into a grand necropolis, and only a few architectural monuments survived to present days. People returned to the city only in the mid-nineteenth century.

Architectural masterpieces of Kunya-Urgench

In 2005 the survived monuments of Kunya-Urgench were added to UNESCO World Heritage List. Here towers the highest in Central Asia 60-meter high minaret of Kutlug-Timur (XIV c). Other well-preserved monuments are: the mausoleum of Il-Arslan (XII c), Sufi mausoleum of Najmiddin Kubro (XIII c), the mausoleum of shah Tekesh (XIII c), etc.

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