Nadezhda Dukhovny
Nadezhda Dukhovny

Ancient and Unique Uzbekistan: The Jizzakh Region I

Jizzakh region is a land of healing nature. The Jizzakh oasis has a long history, and the nature of the region fascinates at first sight.

The Farish district. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The city of Jizzakh is the administrative center of the region, with a population of 141 thousand people. It is located at an altitude of 450 meters above sea level, on the Sangzor River. The Tashkent-Samarkand railway and a large Uzbek highway pass through the city. In Jizzakh, at the beginning of the 20th century, there were enterprises of bread growing, sheep breeding, blacksmithing, and pottery.

The city of Jizzakh. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

In the Bakhmal and Gallaaral districts, you can see amazing underground paths called “Temir Darvoza” – “The Iron Gate”.

The Iron Gate. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

At the foot of the Turkestan ridge, there are separate peaks, which are its continuation. Here, on the western side of the peaks, there is a foothill called Morguzar. It is separated from the Nurata Mountains by the valley of the Sangzor River, where there are many gorges. The narrowest of the gorges is the 120-130 m wide gorge, popularly called The Tamerlane Gate.

The Iron Gate. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

According to legend, while walking along the terrain of the ruler of the Timurid empire Jahangir, Timur’s great-grandson, showed his army a mountain pass, after which this gorge was called by the name of Amir Temur. There is an ancient cave in the gorge. Stone images engraved on the eastern side of the monument at a height of two and a half meters indicate that people inhabited this area as early as the Bronze Age.

It is known for certain that the iron gates of Amir Timur are the strategic location of a system of fortifications and fortresses located on the Great Silk Road. The place is mentioned in the work of Babur – “Baburname”. This gorge was also known as the Jizzakh Pass.

There are ancient inscriptions made at different times, one in Persian, made by order of Mirzo Ulugbek, the second belongs to the ruler Abdulalakhan and was made after the victory over Dashti Kipchak. The third inscription was written by Nicholas II at the end of the XIX century. Later this inscription was removed from the stone.

Now there is a road, a railway, a concrete road, and an ancient river. The area of ​​this natural monument is 10 hectares.

Sanzar is the main river of the Jizzakh region. Sanzar takes its origins at the top of Chumkartau. The tributaries Guralash and Dzhantyke feed the Sanzar. The length of the river is 123 km, bypassing the Malguzar ridge and turning to the east, the river creates the Jizzakh oasis. Sanzar flows through the Jizzakh region and then flows into Lake Tuzkan, the channels of which are connected with two other picturesque lakes Aydarkul and Arnasai lake.

On the southeastern edge of the Kyzylkum desert in the Jizzakh region, the Aydarkul lake amazes with its splendor, on the shore of which a yurt camp is located.

The Aydarkul lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

For its beautiful color and impressive size, the picturesque lake is often called “the turquoise sea in the sands”.

On the shores of Aydarkul, no more than two thousand people live, so the surroundings of the lake remain wild and untouched.

The Aydarkul lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The shores of the nature of the lake stretch from the Nurata region of the Navoi region to the Farish and Mirzachul regions of the Jizzakh region.

There are no underwater currents on the lake and the content in the water is not quite high, which has a beneficial effect on the development of flora and fauna in the area. It is home to a huge number of fish spieces.

The Aydarkul lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Over the surface of the lake, you can often see soaring pink pelicans, graceful swans, and egrets. Birds listed in the Red Book – the curly pelican, cormorant, red-breasted goose, white-eyed duck, steppe harrier, white-tailed eagle, black vulture – also found shelter here.

The Aydarkul lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

In addition to the wide variety of flora and fauna of the lake, Aydarkul is considered one of the best places for recreation. Many kilometers of beaches with amazingly soft and clean sand, pristine cleanliness of coastal thickets, as well as the peace and quiet of the coastal zone, will leave a lot of positive impressions and unforgettable sensations.

Yurt camping at Aydarkul. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Fans of outdoor activities and local lore are happy to take part in ethnographic excursions to the Jura camps on the banks of Aydarkul.

Yurt camping at Aydarkul. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Taking care of your health can also be combined with a visit to some of the amazing religious sites in the region.

A yurt tent at the Aydarkul. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Lake Tuzkan is one of the three large closed-drainage lakes of the Aydar-Arnasay system of lakes. It is located in the Farish district of the Jizzakh region. The lake was of natural origin and was smaller in size. But with the overflow of the Chardarya reservoir a few kilometers away, Lake Tuzkan joined the water runoff in the Arnasay lowland.

The Tuzkan lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Now it is a brackish drainless lake, located on the territory of Farish district of Jizzakh region. Tuzkan is the second largest lake in Uzbekistan after Aydarkul. It is part of the Arnasai system of lakes and occupies the eastern part of the Kyzyl Kum desert.

The Tuzkan lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Tuzkan is one of the most beautiful places in Uzbekistan, ideal for a “wild” vacation when you want to escape from large and dusty cities. Here you can sit in a tent on the shore, make a fire and watch the orange sunset, and at night see the Milky Way, as if descending from heaven to Earth.

The Tuzkan lake. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Zaamin is a very interesting place for nature lovers. This small town is the center of the mountainous region of the Jizzakh region, and believe me, you will not find a better place for a trip to nature! The natural beauty of this place will not leave you indifferent. The mountain air is so transparent and clear that sometimes, out of habit, one gets dizzy.

Zaamin sanatorium. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The aromas of various flowers and herbs will not leave you throughout the trip, changing aromas with such frequency that you do not have time to enjoy all the notes of these amazing scents.

Zaamin. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

But besides all the natural beauty that can be found, this area is also famous for its ancient history. Here you can find the ruins of fortresses and monuments from different eras. But the most important attraction is the reserve, created in 1960 to preserve the unique nature of this place. The area of ​​this park reaches 10.5 hectares and most of it is occupied by forests.

Waterfall in Zaamin. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Also, in the reserve, you can find mountain ranges, gorges, and hills. The highest part of the mountain range is Mount Shaukartau with an altitude of over 4000 meters.

Bobo-Yongok, an ancient nut tree, which, according to rough estimates, is about 700 years old, can be attributed to the iconic places of this park. Its height is 20 meters, and in diameter, it reaches almost 3 meters.

Bobo Yongok. The iconic 750-year-old tree. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Not far from the reserve, in a local village, a very interesting cave was found.

Inside the cave. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

In its depths, archaeologists have found tools of labor of primitive people, and the walls of the cave are decorated with drawings.

Drawings of animals. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The Zaamin sanatorium and several other boarding houses and children’s camps are also located on the territory of the reserve.

The region is called the Central Asian oasis because there are so many healing springs, national parks, reserves, as well as beautiful gardens with numerous fruit and walnut trees.

Many types of tourism develop at an average of 5% per year, while ecotourism is growing at an average of 20-30% per year. Despite the fact that ecotourism is a new and young destination, its popularity is growing 2-3 times faster than that of other tourist destinations. It should be noted that the nature of the Jizzakh region has won the love of many local and foreign tourists.

Zaamin sanatorium. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The Zaamin State Reserve is located on a vast territory that includes the Bakhmal forestry, the Zaamin forestry, the Zaamin national natural park, the total area of ​​which is 26840 hectares. The reserve itself covers an area of ​​8,770 hectares.

Zaamin sanatorium. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The Zaamin State Reserve was created back in 1928 on the mountain range of Turkestan in order to ensure the preservation of the unique juniper forests in this region and the fauna in their natural state. The protected areas mainly include mountain ranges.

Zaamin sanatorium. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

This reserve, located in the Zaamin and Bakhmal regions, has an altitude of 1670 to 4200 meters above sea level, the climate is sharply continental, the maximum temperature is 30 degrees. About 700 species of higher plants grow on the territory of the reserve.

The Zaamin reserve. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Of these, 13 species are listed in the Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan, 48 are endemic. The fauna of the reserve is diverse, 286 species of invertebrates, 29 species of mammals, 101 species of birds, 14 species of reptiles, 2 species of amphibians, 1 species of fish made this area their own. It should be noted that among them 13 species are included in the Red Book of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Zaamin reserve inhabitants. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Currently, the staff of the reserve is carrying out scientific work to study and preserve the flora and fauna of this territory. Also, together with professors, researchers, and graduate students of the Faculty of Natural Sciences of the Jizzakh State Pedagogical Institute, many events, round tables on nature protection, ecology, and environmental education in the scientific and spiritual-educational direction are jointly organized. We can also see this from their published scientific articles, brochures, and media publications on the nature of the reserve and its conservation.

Zaamin reserve inhabitants. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Bakhmal State Forestry is known for its beautiful nature and fresh air among a huge number of visitors. The total area of the territory is 68 425 hectares, including woodlands – 16 678.6 hectares, light forests – 718.5 hectares, barren lands – 9404.5 hectares, arable land – 538 hectares, pastures – 20640.6 hectares, garden areas – 224.9 hectares, other lands – 1377.4 hectares.

There are so few places in the world where you can find all the wonders and beauties of nature and antiquity in one place. Among these is the Nurata Nature Reserve. It is located in the central part of the Nurata ridge in the Jizzakh region. The total area of ​​the reserve is 17,800 hectares. The Nurata Nature Reserve was created in the 70s of the last century to preserve the population of a special subspecies of argali – Severtsev’s ram, listed in the International Red Book (IUCN) and the Red Book of Uzbekistan. It also protects the genetic variety of the mountain walnut and the special fruit varieties grown here.

Nurata Nature Reserve. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The reserve has a dry and warm continental climate with 300-400 millimeters of precipitation per year. The average annual temperature is 14 degrees, in January the average temperature is 19 degrees below zero, and in July -30 degrees. It is worth noting that the absolutely high temperature recorded in the territory is 47 degrees Celsius, and the absolutely low temperature is 32 degrees below zero.

Nurata Nature Reserve. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Besides the unique nature and diversity of fauna, the Nurata ridge itself, ancient rock paintings, a thousand-year-old tree – Eastern Biota near Majrum, Lake Fazilman, exotic mountain villages, the Khonbandi dam, are of great interest among tourists. The rich and varied fauna of the Nurata Reserve is represented by more than 30 species of mammals. The Turkestan rat, stone marten, and Ovis severtzovi live in the mountains. There is also a long-eared hedgehog and a long-spined hedgehog. Among the predators, the karaganka fox and marten live here, in the mountain gorges there are wolves and steppe cats, badger and steppe ferret. From the foothills to the high mountains, wild boars can be found here. Generous nature has created all the conditions for the survival of these animals. Among the reptiles, the gray monitor lizard, the striped wolf tooth, and the Central Asian cobra live here. These three species are included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan.

Ovis severtzovi. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The lower belt of the mountains is inhabited by the steppe agama, the Central Asian tortoise, and the lizard. Here and there you can find various snakes: yellow snake, cross-striped, multi-colored and patterned snakes, gyurza. It is interesting that one of the migratory routes of birds passes through the reserve. At special times of the year, the entire territory of the Nurata Reserve literally rings from the polyphonic singing of birds. Here in the reserve, you can often find a black stork, black vulture, griffon vulture, golden eagle, snake eagle, balaban, dwarf eagle and bearded vulture, jack – all of them are included in the Red Book of Uzbekistan.

It should be especially noted that it is on this territory that there is a natural monument in the Majrum forestry, a giant thousand-year-old platycladus tree (Biota Orientalis – Eastern Biota). Since ancient times, this tree has been revered by local residents as sacred and majestic with special reverence and is considered a valuable historical and cultural object of the region. The diameter of the giant tree is about 8 meters, and the circumference of its central trunk is 12 meters, due to the weight of its lower branches scattered on all sides, it lies almost on the ground. The roots of the tree can accommodate 4-5 people.

1 000-year-old platycladus tree. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

It should be noted that the territory of the Nurata Reserve attracts the attention of the general public not only with beautiful mountain landscapes, unique flora, and fauna but also with numerous historical and cultural monuments. In particular, various archaeological monuments, petroglyphs, graves, and megaliths found on the territory, historical monuments of the Middle Ages, cultural landscapes, ancient agricultural structures represent a huge thousand-year history.

It is here that tourists come to heal, gain strength, and restore health. Wonderful mountain air, purest mineral water, healthy fruits, and vegetables will create a miracle.

The national pride of Uzbekistan and the main health resort of the country, recently nicknamed “Uzbek Switzerland”, is the Zaamin National Natural Park. This area has long been famous for its unique nature and healing air.

Zaamin sanatorium. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Not far from the park is the Zaamin sanatorium complex. In the recreational zone, there are many boarding houses, sanatoriums, rest homes, and children’s camps, which have become a favorite vacation spot for all Uzbeks for several decades.

The Nurata mountains are a great place for lovers of ecological and rural tourism, hiking, equestrian, bicycle, motorcycle, and auto tourism.

Nurata mountains. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

This picturesque green area is located far from big cities and densely populated areas on the very border of the Kyzyl Kum Desert.

Hayatsay valley. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The region is perfect for ecological tours: botanical, bird watching, photo-safari, and other types of active tourism.

Mountain biking. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Family guesthouses in the mountain villages of Farish district invite for rest and tours.

Guesthouse Shiringul. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

New vivid impressions, unforgettable rest in the cool of a shady garden filled with the singing of nightingales and the murmur of a mountain stream, the wonderful world of wildlife and ancient mountain villages, where everything bears the imprint of centuries-old history and original culture, await guests.

Nurata tours. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

Guesthouses in the Farish district are located 3-4 hours by car from Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara and can serve as an excellent place to stop for 1-4 days on a trip to the ancient cities of Uzbekistan or for a weekend getaway.

Guesthouses in the Farish district. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

The guest houses are located in a picturesque mountain landscape, and in their vicinity, there are interesting sights – mazars, ancient ruins, petroglyphs, water mills.

Ancient ruins. This photo is courtesy of the Press Service of the Tourism and Sports Department of the Jizzakh Region.

You can choose from routes of various difficulty levels, from 3-4-hour easy walks to 3-4-day horseback riding tours, hiking in the mountains, car excursions to Aydarkul lake, visiting the unique natural monument “Eastern Biota”, ancient rock paintings, traditional equestrian games “Kupkari”.

About the Author
Nadezhda Dukhovny was born and raised in Uzbekistan and made aliya in 2005. She holds an MA in Linguistics from Tel Aviv University and works in translation. She has a true interest about her motherland and would like to tell more about that fascinating country to make Israeli readers familiar with another culture from other part of the globe.
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