Next Stop Nukus (NSN) is a tourism and English language improvement project initiated through the Small Grants Program by the U.S. Embassy Tashkent Public Affairs Section (PAS) of the U.S. Department of State. The aim of NSN is to increase English language skills of university students and help develop the tourism industry within Karakalpakstan. Students visit certain points of cultural or historical interest, and then post written reviews on websites like Google Maps, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Currently, the project has two members: Shawn Singh, Founder, and Ayzada Uzakhbaeva, Project Coordinator. This article was written by Aynura Muratbaeva.
Let me tell you about how I spent my last Sunday and give information about Mizdakhan- a sight that will definitely blow your mind.
I have always been into history and wanted to explore ancient cities, so Mizdakhan was on top of my itinerary lists as this place has tons of sites that single out it from other tourist attractions.
We met at Cinnamon cafe with the rest of the students and two of our teachers. We had an opportunity to have a bit of a chit-chat with foreigners. That was great! Then we had lunch and we headed to Khojeli where the ancient and mythical city of Mizdarhan is located. It takes around 20 minutes to get there and on the way you can enjoy the scenery and take photos of picturesque nature. There is a place at the entrance to Khojeli where you can see the map of the city on a big wall. That was very unusual because the whole information about the city was crammed there. In fact, it was just the tip of the iceberg because when we reached our destination we were bowled over its real size. By the way, females visiting this place need to consider having an over headscarf because it is a cemetery and regarded as a holy place, having an over headscarf is an intact and preserved tradition of Muslim countries.
Having visited Mizdakhan the first time, I was both down in the dumps and eternally grateful. I thought deeply about what life would be like after death, about the purpose of living.
The first place we visited was the Mausoleum of Shamun Nabi which was erected in the XVIII century. “He was a preacher and man with unique power. During the war, when he cut off his leg the blood was spilling out for 30 meters. When he died, blood spilled so long that people were not able to step on his body. His tomb is very huge with a width of 1.40 cm and 30 meters in length. The mausoleum has 7 domes according to the number of his daughters. It means that daughters will cover their father’s soul after his death.” said Kenes Ilyasov who is caretaker and responsible for the cleanliness of the mausoleum and reads the Quran there.
It is said that the tomb of Adam Alaihissalam was erected there in the XIV century, even though it is situated in Jerusalem. Adam Alaihissalam lived and taught children in houses made of clay. It was only in the 1950 s when buildings made of bricks were constructed. Kenes Ilyasov says that it always rains during fast days- in Ramadan, so it will be easy for people who are fasting to visit this place. This is the reason why Mizdakhan is considered as an extraordinary and holy place. Unfortunately, he was the only person who we could talk to and he spoke only in the Russian language apart from his native language. One thing that I should mention is that there are no tour guides so I highly recommend you to have one if you do not know the local language. You can donate a little amount of money if you wish, in our case it was 7000 soums, as this number is regarded as a lucky number and in most places in Central Asian countries it’s preferable to donate 7000 soums.
Next, we had a glimpse of the World Death Clock. According to the legend, every year a brick falls out from buildings and when the latest brick disappears the Day of the judgment will come. Mind that, some people say that it is only a legend and it is just to remind us to appreciate the time we have.
One more religious building that will grab your attention is named after Caliph Erejep and it dates back to the XI century. Erejep was a down-to-earth man and he taught people. Even, he could tell the personality of little children at first sight, and it is written in some books that his spirit continued teaching people after his death.
The most magnificent sight is the mausoleum of Mazlum Khan Sulu that dates back to the XIII-XIV centuries. It is a far cry from other sites in Mizdakhan, everywhere is steeped in mysticism and history. What makes it different is- its division into two parts, above ground and underground. The building is spacious and cross -shaped, covered with turquoise blue tiles. When the sun shines on the mosaic walls with blue streams the building is much more attractive. Also, it is well-known for the legend about a princess and an architect. Beautiful Mazlum Khan was the daughter of khan( ruler) and many rich people loved her, but she was in love with a simple architect who could not expect to marry her. The princess refused all the suitors and her father’s patience was pushed to the limit. Finally, he said that he would marry his daughter to someone who would build a high tower in a night. The architect was very inspired and satisfied the ruler’s condition but could not get his consent. Being driven round the bend, the architect jumped off the minaret he had built himself and Mazlum whose heart was broken followed him. The repentant governor ordered the tower be destroyed and two lovers be buried together.
The last and the most adventurous site in Mizdakhan is Gyaur kala which is situated in the northern part of the city, between Nukus and the border with Turkmenistan. Gaur kala means citadel of the infidel. It was built in IVth century BC when Zoroastrianism was still ruling and is believed as the center of this religion because some of the Avesta texts were written there and gathered in 21 books during III century BC. According to the remains of craft workshops, and Islamic mosques people lived there during XII and XIV centuries too. There is a wall in the shape of five fingers but only three of them have remained. The vanished castle is located on top of high hills, so you will be bouncing off the walls when you visit it once.
On a final note, I would mention that there are several inconveniences of visiting this city too. For example, the climate in Karakalpakstan is dusty but Mizdakhan is much more undusted as it is a historical place. Therefore, it is better to go there during dry seasons like September or October and have on comfortable clothes. One more drawback is, there are no facilities for travelers such as shops or toilets. But you can find all of these facilities within 30 minutes walking distance from our tourist attraction. There are really nice cafes at the center of Khojeli where you can have lunch and you have to taste a patir which is inexpensive and very delicious.
All in all, history is of paramount importance. By learning about the causes and effects of different events in history, people can learn better ways to deal with conflict and I personally think that it is much better to learn from the mistakes of others, not from ours, therefore people can choose more positive courses of action among nations and individuals. Moreover, it teaches us to be satisfied and thankful for whatever we have now. If only we look back at the way our ancestors lived, we will stop complaining about our lives and start appreciating everything we have. So, there are a number of things that could be done to change the state of disrepair of the historical sites written above.