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Merv was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary. The city was controlled by a succession of Persian, Greek, Turkish and Central Asian rulers and governors. From the archeological excavations appears to have been founded by Cyrus the Great(559-530), however this is not the earliest period of occupation in the Merv oasis however other archaeological surveys in the northern part of the oasis have revealed remains of urban life beginning in the third millennium BC.
Probably, the best period of Merv was under the Seljuks who established it as an eastern capital from 1037 to 1157. The golden age of this period was the reign of Sultan Sanjar, whose tomb still dominates the centre of the medieval city site of Sultan Kala. It is believed that Merv was the largest city in the world from 1145 to 1153 with a population of 200,000.
In 1221 Merv was occupied by Tule, son of Genghis Khan, chief of the Mongols, on which occasion most of the inhabitants are said to have been killed. Some experts believe that over 1.3 million people died in the aftermath of the city's capture.
On the death of the grandson of Genghis Khan, Merv was included (1380) in the possessions of Tamerlane, Turk-Persian prince of Samarkand.
In 1505 the city was occupied by the Uzbeks, who five years later were expelled by Ismail Khan, the founder of the Safavid dynasty of Persia. In 1727 Nadir, the future khan of Iran, evicted all the people of Merv to Mashhad. Ten years later he himself began to restore the deserted city to prepare an arsenal for a war campaign against China. After Nadirshah's death, the town was being devastated by Afghan and Bukhara troops. They destroyed the irrigation system and ravaged the Murghab oasis. In 1882 Turkmens drove the Bukhara emirs out and soon built a fortress on the new banks of the Murghab, which had changed its bed. So the present town of Mary was built, unconnected with the sites of ancient Merv. Merv is a group of sites of the ancient town of different periods: Bairamalikhan-kala, Abdullakhan-kala, Sultan-kala, Erk-kala (the fortress-citadel), and Gyaur-kala.

On the present photo you can see two old structures:
- in the fg. the fortress of Great Kyz-kala with it's high corrugated walls made of clay. Kyz-Kala, is an unusual windowless castle outside the city wall, was nicknamed "the house of maidens tears" when Sultan Sanjar started using it for intimate gatherings in which all the guests were men and all the women were slaves.
- in the far bg. is Sultan Sanjar Mausoleum. Completed in 1140 AD it is an impressive building of nice brickwork.

The oasis is situated on the southern edge of the Kara-kum Desert and has a dry, hot climate in summer and a cold in winter. The heat of summer is most oppressive, I know something about it.

The site of ancient Merv has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Sites.

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Additional Photos by Attila Szili (atus) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2071 W: 207 N: 4539] (15868)
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