UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Turkmenistan
By: The PH Team
Turkmenistan is a secretive ex-Soviet state in Central Asia. Because of this secretive nature, the country is often called by travellers 'Central Asia's Hermit Kingdom, a reference to its likeness with North Korea.
The area of today's Turkmenistan was not always so closed-off however. The region was once a crucial stop on the ancient 'Silk Road' located at the crossroads between difference civilizations and continents.
This long and important history has left some of the world's important cultural and historical relics, which are open for curious travellers to come and explore.
UNESCO is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Paris, France. The organizations recognizes various cultural and historical sites around the world as important to world heritage - including a few in Turkmenistan.
Merv, located in Turkmenistan, is the oldest and best-preserved of the oasis-cities along the ancient 'Silk Road' in Central Asia.
The remains of ancient Merv are as old as 4,000 years old and give us a unique insight into human history. A number of monuments are still visible, particularly from the last two millennia and tourists are able to come and see this piece of history for themselves.
Mary has supported a series of urban centres since the 3rd millennium BC and played an important role in the history of Central Asia and the East as a whole.
It reached its peak during the Muslim epoch and became a capital of the Arabic Caliphate at the beginning of 9th century and as a capital of the Great Seljuks Empire during the 11th-12th centuries.
Today “Ancient Merv” is a large archaeological park which includes the well-reserved remains of Bronze Age centres.
"The historic urban centre consists of a series of adjacent walled cities: Erk Kala, Gyaur Kala and the medieval Sultan Kala or Marv al-Shahijan.
In addition, there are a number of other important medieval monuments in their immediate vicinity such as the Mausoleum of Muhammad ibn Zayd.
The walls of the post medieval city are of exceptional historical and academic significance. They are known to display the remarkable record of the evolution of military architecture from the 5th century BC to the 15th-16th centuries AD.
Kunya-Urgench is situated in north-western Turkmenistan, on the left bank of the Amu Daria River. Urgench was the capital of the Khorezm region, part of the Achaemenid Empire.
The old town contains a series of monuments mainly from the 11th to 16th centuries, including a mosque, the gates of a caravanserai, fortresses, mausoleums and a 60m high minaret.
The monuments testify to outstanding achievements in architecture and craftsmanship whose influence reached Iran and Afghanistan, and later the architecture of the Mogul Empire of 16th-century India.
On the sample of Kunya-Urgench monuments, one can see all variety of methods and décor of Islamic architecture in Central Asia.
The Islamic sacred objects concentrated in this city are exceptionally popular places for pilgrims and serve as attractive sites for international tourists to Turkmenistan.
Fortresses of Nisa
The Parthian Fortresses of Nisa consist of two tells (biblical hills) of Old and New Nisa, indicating the site of one of the earliest and most important cities of the Parthian Empire, a major power from the mid 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD.
They conserve the unexcavated remains of an ancient civilization, which skilfully combined its own traditional cultural elements with those of the Hellenistic and Roman west.
Nisa was the capital of the Parthian Empire, which dominated this region of central Asia from the mid 3rd century BCE to the early 3rd century CE.
Situated at the crossroads of important commercial and strategic axes, this powerful empire formed a barrier to Roman expansion while serving as an important communication and trading centre between east and west, north and south.
The Parthian Empire was one of the most powerful and influential civilizations of the ancient world, and a rival of Rome.
Nisa is one of the 1,300 historical and cultural monuments of Turkmenistan. Nisa is also one of the eight State Historical and Cultural Parks (SHCP) that have been created to protect the most significant sites in Turkmenistan.
Since Turkmenistan is one of the least-visited countries in the world, these unbelievable historical and cultural sites are quite possibly the most off-the-beaten-path UNESCO sites in the world and a must for adventure travellers!
UNESCO World Heritage. “State Historical and Cultural Park ‘Ancient Merv.’” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/886.
Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Kunya-Urgench.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/1199.
Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. “Parthian Fortresses of Nisa.” UNESCO World Heritage Centre, whc.unesco.org/en/list/1242.