19 October 2013
Arrived in Termez yesterday coated in dust. 10km from the border, Uzbekistan and Afghanistan are naturally separated by the river Amu Darya. Watched football (Uzbekistan v. Panama 2-0) with Uzbeks, Azerbaijanis and Russians in Soviet-era hotel that used to house German soldiers. In the bazaar, a flurry of different languages float in the air. This little soviet style city and its mini united nations of people and languages, is endearing with much character. I am glad I overcame others’ skepticism in coming here.
Surrounding sights in Termez include:
Al Hakim al Termezi mausoleum – the main holy place of Termez. Sufi Abu Abdullah Mohammed ibn Ali al Termezi, nicknamed ‘al Hakkim’ (the wise), was a ninth century Sufic, jurist, mystic and author who lived and received his pupils in Old Termez. Nearby are some Chilakhona (sufis underground praying cave) which are thought to be first used by Buddhists.
Fayaz Tepe. Many many years before Islam’s spread, Buddhism passed through this part of the world. It is said that ancient Termez was once the largest centre for Buddhism in Central Asia. Fayaz Tepe is thought to be a monastery that is 2 millenium old (what we see in the picture is a reconstruction on the actual site). The monastery was looted in the 5th century by Sassanid troops and later used as a burial ground and retreat for Sufic mystics. Excavation works and research are today currently undertaken by Uzbek and Japanese researchers. From here faintly visible in the distance and facing the Amu Darya river and Afghanistan are the remains of Kara Tepe, said to be one of the largest Buddhist complexes in ancient Termez. It was closed to visitors.
Zurmala stupa. Situated in the middle of a present-day plantation, this is thought to be the remains of a 26 meter Buddhist stupa.
Kirk-Kiz (forty maidens) Palace. It is said a princess and her forty handmaidens stayed here. Surrounding this old ruins are villages and local residences. The fortress is the local children’s playground.
Mausoleum of Sultan Saodat aka Hassan al Amir said to be descendent of the prophet Mohammad.
Back in Termez city, there is a pretty interesting Archaelogical Museum, featuring some of the Buddhist reliefs that were excavated or reconstructed from remains. Strangely, the museum was rather poorly lit. So I asked what happen to the lights. The response I got was “It’s autumn and everyone is out to pick cotton, and there is nobody around to fix the lights.”
More about cotton-picking season in Uzbekistan in my later posts.
In the evening, I took a walk in the park and spotted a ferris wheel. Took a ride into the skies to soak in dusk, my favourite time of the day.