Uzbekistan is beautiful. There are places with unimaginable views of the majestic red mountains. No wonder they say that the best doctor is nature, and the best medicine is the sun and the purest mountain air!
Far beyond the fields, high behind the mountains, in the southernmost part of Uzbekistan, in Surkhandarya there is one of the most amazing wonders of the world – Kyzyl Canyon, that is, the “Red Canyon”.
The canyon is 30 km long. The place is special not only because of the natural landscape but also because of the inexplicable anomalous phenomena, which you can only be convinced of after visiting it yourself.
The formation of the unique closed ecosystem of the canyon took place over several millennia. This is how stone labyrinths appeared and with them hundreds of gorges and precipices. Water and wind have left their mark on the harsh rocky desert. The highest point of the canyon is Mount Buritakht, whose height reaches 1218 meters.
For several millennia, the mysterious Surkhandarya has been attracting the attention of conquerors, travelers, and researchers. The southernmost region of Uzbekistan enchants with its ancient monuments, natural attractions, and cultural heritage. One of the most mysterious places, perhaps in all of Central Asia, is the famous Iron Gate pass, located in the Boysun district in the north of the historical region of Bactria, also known as Tokharistan.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, the passage occupied an important strategic place, as numerous trade caravans and troops followed through it. This was the shortest route from Bukhara, Samarkand, and Chach (Shash) to Bactria and India and back from India and Bactria to the cities of Central Asia. The iron gates have been repeatedly mentioned in written sources of Chinese, Central Asian, and Arab historians and geographers.
In 630, the Chinese scholar, traveler, and translator Xuanzang, in his notes, described the gorge as a defensive passage, covered with iron and locked with two-winged gates.
Another Chinese chronicle tells of a city, a temple, and the Iron Gate, which got their name from the color and material from which they were made.
The famous Arab geographer Al-Ya’qubi talks about the IX century city in Sughd and also mentions this passage.
The Arab writer and historian Ibn-Arabshah called the gates Kagalgar. He, in particular, tells in some detail about the battle of Amir Timur with the Emir Hussein in this territory.
In his two poems, Alisher Navoi mentioned the gates of Sogdiana, as did Babur in his work “Baburnama”.
The Spanish diplomat and traveler Rui Gonzalez de Clavijo also passed through the gate. Following to Maverannahr for an appointment with Amir Timur, in his “Diary of a trip to Samarkand to the court of Timur” (1403-1406), he gave a detailed description of his journey through the gate:
“The next day, Monday, we rested at the foot of a high mountain, on top of which stood a beautiful cruciform building, skillfully made of bricks, with many patterns made up of multicolored tiles. This mountain is very high, but it has a passage through which you can cross it along a crevasse, which seems to have been made by human hands: high mountains rise on both sides, and it is flat and very deep. In the middle of this passage, there is a village, and a high mountain piles up above it. This passage in the mountains is called the Iron Gate, and in this whole area, there is no other passage other than this. He protects the Samarkand kingdom from the side of India Minor. And there is no other way to penetrate the Samarkand lands, except through it; similarly, the inhabitants of the Samarkand empire cannot get into the lands of India except through this passage. This Iron Gate is owned by Senor Tamurbek. And they bring him a lot of income every year .”
In addition, Rui Gonzalez de Clavijo mentioned another Iron Gate, which was located closer to the village of Derbent. Later, academician Eduard Rtveladze concluded that the Iron Gates is the general name for a whole complex of defensive structures formed from both natural and artificial structures, and they occupied the territory between the Buzgalakhan gorge and the present village of Derbent.
Historians, geologists, and even writers have been studying the gorge. Archaeologists have carried out excavations and discovered such monuments as ancient settlements, the foundation of the medieval caravanserai, and the defensive wall of the Kushan kingdom.
One of the most curious conclusions made by the historian Eduard Rtveladze is the conclusion about the place of refuge in this territory of Roksana’s father, wife of Alexander the Great – Oxyartes. In the “Sogdian rock” he hid during the capture of the impregnable natural fortresses in Sogdiana by the Macedonian.
It is also believed that it was in Derbent that Alexander played his wedding with Roxana, the Bactrian princess. She was described as a beautiful and blooming girl, whom the commander fell in love with during a feast when she danced a round dance.
The largest finds discovered on the territory of the ancient Surkhandarya oasis can be seen in the Termez Archaeological Museum.
The Termez Archaeological Museum, founded on April 2, 2002, in honor of the 2500th anniversary of Termez next year, is one of the main museums in the country.
The exposition of the museum, presented in 10 rooms, is considered one of the richest in all of Central Asia. There are 5,500 exhibits in the exhibition halls of the museum. More than 50,000 people visit the museum annually.
The local library contains over 17 thousand books, including handwritten works in many languages.
Among the most outstanding exhibits are the following 1st century AD Bodhisattva statues. This find is proof of the existence of Buddhism in the region. The statue of the Bactrian camel, made of salt, is vivid proof of the wide distribution of this animal in the territory of ancient Surkhandarya.
The ancestors of the local people considered chess a popular game and played chess in the 2nd century AD. This is evidenced by the chess pieces found in Dalvanzintepa, as well as the pieces found in the Kumkurgan region in the 15th century AD.
The handicrafts of the people of the Surkhan oasis, used during various khan dynasties, were discovered as a result of archaeological research carried out in in several locations: ancient Termez, on the territory of the Khatynrabad archaeological site in the Termez region, in the Sherabad fortress, in Kultepa in Jarkurgan, on the territory of the historical monument Yoni Kalon, located in the lower reaches of the Tupalang River, in the village of Kofrun, Baysun region, as well as on the site of the Mazorattepa monuments.
This evidence is important when studying the history of the country. In particular, it represents the cultural and practical foundations of the history of the Uzbek statehood and the place of the Bactrian-Takharistan culture in world civilization. The Bronze Age, which includes the III-I millennium BC, is a period of radical changes in the oasis. Many finds from this period can be found in the exhibition halls of the museum, as well as items found in the Teshiktash cave, one of the oldest in Central Asia.
The rare finds of the first Iron and Hellenic eras are especially attractive. One of the most important periods in the history of the peoples of the Surkhan oasis is the culture of the Kushan kingdom. Handicraft tools, as well as household items of noble and religious people, found on the territory of the monuments Holchaion, Dalvarzintepa, Old Termez, Zartepa, and Ayritam, are distinguished by their uniqueness.
There is also a workshop for the restoration of antiques.
Every year, new finds are added to the museum fund thanks to the archaeological expeditions conducted in Boysun, Zharkutan, and the ancient monuments of the Surkhandarya oasis.
Anyone who is interested in the history of Surkhandarya will wonder who ruled this territory and whether any information about these rulers has survived. It is reliably known that ancient Termez and its environs were part of the territory ruled by the Termezshah dynasty. The first information about the palace of Termezshahs appeared in 1980.
The palace of Termezshakhs was built on this place in the XI century. The entire territory occupied more than 10 hectares and was located in the eastern part of the city, among green gardens. The palace was rectangular in shape and was surrounded by a special protective wall. The palace of Termezshakhs was built on this place in the XI century. The entire territory occupied more than 10 hectares and was located in the eastern part of the city, among green gardens. The palace was rectangular in shape and was surrounded by a special protective wall.
The outside walls were fortified with towers. In particular, 17 towers were located on the north wall and 7 towers on the east wall. Special strikers were erected on the walls. On the western wall, there were two gates of fired raw brick. The same gate was on the east and north sides.
Two-story structures were built to guard the gates.
In the southern part, there were three large buildings, but only one of them was discovered by archaeologists. The rest of the sites were less explored.
The main parts of the buildings were destroyed during the seizure of land in the following years.
The reception room of the Termez rulers was built in the 11th century. The base of the building was built of raw bricks, while the interior and exterior walls were decorated with trimmings.
The reception building had a rectangular shape, the length of the hall was 13.5 meters, and the width was 11.5 meters. Eleven brick columns divided the hall into three parts. The middle part of the hall was arched.
In the center of the hall was the Shah’s throne.
The only entrance to the hall was through a large gate built on the west wall. In front of the hall, there was a terrace decorated with columns.
The floor of the terrace was paved with baked bricks with various geometric patterns. The terrace could be accessed by stairs. In front of the terrace, there was an open courtyard with a swimming pool in the middle.
A separate building was also erected, which was located 40 meters from the reception area. Terraces were located along the north and south walls of the courtyard. These terraces were not decorated like the reception hall.
The receiving complex was 100 meters long and 75 meters wide. These figures show that the reception complex was very big.
By this, the rulers of Termez wanted to show their guests their power.
In the 12th century, the reception hall of the palace and the corridor of the hall were restored and painted with bright colors.
The preserved carvings can also be seen on the inside of the hall. Ornaments were usually geometric. The compositions in the hall were selected with great skill and taste. Each pattern is unique.
In many places, geometric patterns are found in combination with others, such as plants or bunches of grapes.
Visitors to the reception hall can also see images of unusual animals found on the south wall of the building. Such images are unique in that it was not customary to depict animals in the architecture of Central Asia until the XIV century.
Moreover, the light above the roof of the hall was more laconic than the hall decorated with glasses of different colors. It is impossible not to admire the immortal art of unknown masters who adorned the hall with such beautiful ornaments.
At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Surkhandarya culture was distinguished by a high level of development. The Sherabad district is one of the most important monuments of this period. The remains of the walls of the Tavka fortress are distinguished by their originality. They say that once there was a guard.
The Tavka fortress was also the residence of the Kuftan rulers in the 5th and 6th centuries.
Archaeologists discovered that the building had 2 hallways, hallways, and corridors.
On the walls of the fortress were found images of wealthy people who hunted wild animals, as well as a horse-riding ceremony, which brilliantly captures a hare trying to survive among galloping horses.
Drawings have also survived, in which you can distinguish the girls watching this process.
The wall paintings of the Tavka fortress show that the traditions of Kushan art are becoming more colorful and developed in a new direction.
The murals on the walls of the Tavka fortress testify to the fact that the history of the Uzbek statehood dates back to ancient times.
The first information about the historical monument is contained in the reports of the regional museum of local lore for 1933-1938.
Then it was rediscovered in the 80s of the 20th century as a result of an artistic expedition of Uzbekistan.
The total area of the Tavka fortress is 1 hectare, including outbuildings.
The exit from the fortress starts from the riverbank, leads 110 meters in the north-east direction, and then another 100 meters in the north-west direction to the central building.
The building consists of pentagonal areas, some of which still have remnants of walls.
Among the Buddhist buildings of Old Termez, one can name the Zurmala Stupa, dating back to the II century. It was discovered as a result of research carried out by historians, according to which it was found that the building was a stupa of the Buddhist period of the Kushan Empire. Indeed, in the 1st and 3rd centuries AD, Termez, located in Central Asia, was also one of the centers of Buddhism. That is why so many Buddhist temples have been built here.
For the construction of the Zurmala Stupa, 1,200,000 raw bricks of 40x40x10 cm were used. In addition, there is a limestone kiln outside. It is faced with dark red solid brick. Although the coverings have not survived, the height of the structure is still 13 m, and its diameter is 14.5 m. There is reason to believe that in the past its height was at least 16 meters.
The top of the stupa is domed, and the remains of a large cylinder are striking in their magnificence.
The many stone blocks of limestone, architectural decorations, and objects near the monument are grounds for the assumption that the Zurmala Stupa at one time had a stone and relief coating.
Holy books, statues, and Buddhist figurines were kept under the dome.
The Surkhandarya region serves as a repository not only for Islamic and Buddhist shrines. There is also a Christian church on its territory.
The construction of the Turkestan Church of the 9th Rifle Regiment was approved by the Construction Commission in 1901. According to the military model project, the church was built and consecrated in the name of the holy prince Alexander Nevsky.
Three years later, since the church could not accommodate the officers of the regiment, the Ministry of War provided financial assistance for the construction of a stone church according to a standard design that had been approved earlier.
A new church, built of gray bricks, was opened in 1904 in honor of St. Alexis. The construction was supervised by the architect Fyodor Mikhailovich Verzhbitsky. The new church was consecrated on November 19, 1905.
The new church had a capacity of 1,500 people.
By 1917, about 64 such churches were built in the Russian Empire. In 1909-1911, in Samarkand, a cathedral was built, named in honor of St. Alexy of Moscow. Until 1910, the cathedral, headed by the holy high priest Vasily Pavlovich Blagoveshchensky, belonged to the 9th rifle regiment. Many churches of this period in Turkestan had the same construction project.
In 1910, the church was taken over by the 10th Infantry Regiment, which was transferred to Termez and named after St. Alexander Nevsky.
From September 3, 1910, Vasily Nikiforovich Orlinsky was the priest of the church.
Since then, in addition to the officials of the said regiment, the artillerymen of the Termez regiment and the students of the Turkestan regiment, who were three miles from it, also prayed in the temple.
The church was built of baked bricks. It also had a large bell tower and an altar. Inner dimensions of the churches were 24×16 meters. There were also many icons and church accessories inside.
After the church was closed, icons and church instruments were distributed to different churches.
Sometime later, in 1927, when the church was closed, the bell tower was destroyed. Later, the church building was used as an armory, a military hospital, and even a gym.
In 1990, the building of the temple was returned to the Russian Orthodox Church and consecrated in the name of St. Alexander Nevsky.
In the 2000s, the upper part of the altar was restored and part of the roof was restored.
Today the church is constantly open to visitors and can be visited by pilgrims.
Surkhandarya is also rich in Muslim shrines. The mausoleum of Sufi Oloyor is also located in the Surkhandarya region.
Sufi Oloyor, a scientist and philosopher, lived in the 17th and 18th centuries. The mosque was built by this great man in 1713 in the village of Vakhshivor. After the death of Sufi Oloyor, local residents built a mausoleum on the site of his grave.
It is necessary to mention one more famous, revered person who lived on the territory of Surkhandarya. This man is Khoja Alauddin Attor, whose real name is Muhammad ibn Muhammad al-Bukhari.
After the death of his father, he passed on his part of the inheritance to his brothers Sharofiddin and Mubarak, and he himself went to study with Bahauddin Naqshbandi.
He successfully passed all the exams and immediately attracted the attention of his teacher with knowledge and good manners.
At that time, Alauddin Attor had already studied various sciences in the madrasah and went to Khoja Naqshbandi to study the secrets of spiritual enlightenment and the sciences of the inner world.
Although Khoja Bahouddin Naqshbandi was still full of strength, he handed over the task of teaching his students to Khoja Alauddin. In gratitude to his deputy, Naqshbandi said about him: “My task has become easier. Thanks to his excellent teaching, many of our students broadened their horizons.”
Having received spiritual blessings from Khoja Naqshbandi, Alauddin Attor helped many people find the right path. In the course of his fruitful and meaningful conversations, many people achieved spiritual enlightenment and perfection.
The great Attor had a strong ability to influence others through his spiritual excellence.
Here are a few words of the Sheikh: “Everyone should control their desires and dreams and avoid events that can become obstacles on the right path. When a person can refuse things that connect him to the world at any time, then they will not be an obstacle in their path.
Seven years after the death of Khoja Naqshbandi, Khoja Alauddin, together with other followers, visited the grave of his teacher and said the following: “The purpose of visiting the grave of a scientist or saint is to be closer to Allah. That is, remembering great people and gaining the consent of the Creator. It is useful to visit the graves of great people.”
The grave of Khoja Alouddin himself is located in the city of Denov, Surkhandarya region. A small mosque was built on the north side of the grave.
Another famous person, a hadith collector, Abu Isa Al-Tirmidhi, was born into a small family in the village of Bug near Termez. Al-Tirmidhi in childhood was extremely diligent, intelligent, and reasonable. He also showed a great interest in science, to which he devoted most of his time and the study of hadith.
Al-Tirmidhi visited many foreign countries to improve his knowledge. He walked through the deserts to collect the hadiths that he heard from the narrators.
Al-Tirmidhi, who at that time was more than forty years old, was educated in different countries and was well known as a scientist during the time of Imam al-Bukhari. Scientific discussions and friendly meetings were held among the two scientists in 863-868 in the city of Nishapur. Al-Tirmidhi wrote that he received a lot of useful information for his works during his meetings with Al-Bukhari.
The works of Abu Isa Al-Tirmidhi have never lost their value. His works are exemplary teachings that play a crucial role in educating society, especially the younger generation. The works of Al-Tirmidhi are not only a collection of religious sciences but also a wealth of knowledge of secular sciences.
Modern scholars also argue that the works of Al-Tirmidhi are very unique for the study of the Arabic language.
Imam Al-Tirmidhi died in 892 in the village of Bug near Termez.
A tomb was erected on the burial ground of Imam Abu Isa Al-Tirmidhi in the XI-XII centuries. This grave is located in the Sherabad district of the Surkhandarya region.
In 1990, the monument was restored and turned into a pilgrimage for the 1200th anniversary of Imam Al-Tirmidhi. In 1996, the mausoleum was renovated in connection with the 660th anniversary of Amir Temur. The grave and decorative fences were restored. Today the monument consists of three rooms intersecting with each other.
Said Otalik Madrasah is one of 16 madrasahs and the largest architectural monument in Denau. It is a two-story building with 114 rooms.
According to the 17th-century geographer Mahmoud ibn Wali, Denau at that time was a large city with a fortress, a market, a large madrasah, and a mansion.
Local residents say that the madrasah was built 200-300 years ago by the order of Said Otalik. According to available data, the madrasah related to the ascetic of Naqshbandi, Khoja Alauddin Attar, was built for 26 years by his descendants.
The construction master was Ahmad Mamat Bukhari.
The depth of the foundation of the madrasah is 5.5 meters, and the building is a square of 46×64 m.
There is a two-story pavilion on both sides of the building. There is a mosque nearby.
The yard 40×29.5 m is surrounded by two-story buildings with flat roofs. The lower floors measure 4.75 x 2.75 meters, while the upper rooms have a large dome of 2.75 x 2.25 meters.
The madrasah was studied in 1956-60 and 1972-73. Now it is being repaired.
Another historical and architectural monument on the territory of the Surkhandarya region is the Balalyk Tepe, which is a large estate of the 5th-7th centuries. It is located 2 km northeast of the Tashkent-Termez highway.
This is one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites in the territory of Uzbekistan. For the first time, Balalyk Tepe was investigated in 1953-1956.
This is how murals depicting various ceremonies were discovered on the wall in the central part of the building from the late 5th century to the beginning of the 6th century, which was a courtyard.
At the beginning of the 7th century, the owners of the estate completely abandoned it after a severe fire.
Some of the premises of Balalyk Tepe were also used in the 15th century.
On the walls of this historical monument, you can find 47 portraits of the nobility of the early Middle Ages. Wind instruments, jewelry, fans of the people depicted in the picture were painted with great skill. The earrings in the ears were painted with gold dyes, which suggests that they were gold jewelry.
The images of people in the drawings resemble in their appearance the local population of Turkic origin.
Among the ancient fortresses built in the Bronze Age in the Sherabad region, the settlement of Jarkutan, the first city of the 15-14 centuries BC, occupies a worthy place with its style of construction. There are about 3000 graves, 2 villages, fortresses, workshops, cellars, and the palace itself.
The rear part of the preserved part of the settlement has a quadrangular shape and is surrounded by an external wall about 5 meters high. The outer wall was guarded by fortress guards.
The interior of the palace was predominantly residential. In particular, long hall columns, sanctuaries, and large squares were found in the ruins of the Dzharkutan fortress.
Numerous valuable finds were found in the ruins of the Dzharkutan fortress. These include jewelry, household items, bronze and stone weapons, deities. In particular, the objects found in the graves were carefully studied, as they can tell a lot about the way of life of people of that time.
Surkhandarya region has its own traditions. For example, they celebrate their own national holidays here.
The traditional folklore festival “Boysun Bahori” (Boysun spring) is held in April in the picturesque village of Padang, Boysun district. Boysun Spring Festival is a unique celebration of local culture and tradition.
Its goal is to collect and show the heritage of the past, carefully preserved not only in Boysun but also in other regions of Uzbekistan. In spring, the Bоysun district fascinates with its landscapes – the mountains are covered with greenery, and the meadows are strewn with flowers.
The cultivation of pomegranates has become widespread in countries with hot climates, to which Uzbekistan fully belongs. There are a lot of pomegranate orchards here.
Until recently, the pomegranates grown in the Surkhandarya region were famous in the gardens of the Shirkat farms of the Dashnobod in Sariasi district, Khalkobod in Termez, and on personal plots. The pomegranates which are grown here attract attention with their beautiful appearance, purity of color, and, of course, the sweetness of the dark red grains. Today, fruits grown in the gardens of the Sherabad region are in special demand. Some of them weigh 1.5-1.7 kilograms. Currently, the area of pomegranate plantations in the region is 1225 hectares.
The Anor Sayli festival, held in the Surkhandarya region, gathers lovers of these fabulous fruits from all over the country and guests from other parts of the world.
Viticulture and winemaking on the territory of modern Uzbekistan have been developed since ancient times. Sweet grapes and the medicinal properties of wine are mentioned in the Avesta, as well as in the travel notes of many travelers and conquerors.
Currently, the overall area of vineyards in the region is 35031 hectares. The largest farms of Uzbekistan, specializing in viticulture, are located in the Surkhandarya region. The Grape Festival in Surkhandarya region is a famous autumn festival dedicated to the harvest of grapes in the region.
Speaking about the culture and traditions of Surkhandarya, it is impossible not to mention the national clothes of the people inhabiting this territory.
A national costume can tell us about age-old traditions, customs, and aesthetic priorities inherent in every regional culture.
The clothes of Uzbekistan are special and each region of the country has its own. The clothes of the Surkhandarya people, and first of all the Kungrats, are especially interesting.
Women’s clothing is highly complex and has been shaped over the centuries by local conditions, climate, and occupation.
This includes underwear and dress, trousers (lozim), outerwear, hats, and shoes. But it all depends on the age of the women, so the standard suit can be changed and freely decorated to make it even more interesting.
In the second half of the 19th century, married women wore a straight, wide dress with long sleeves. Under the influence of Russian fashion, dresses with stand-up collars became popular.