The administrative center of the Khorezm region, Urgench, is located near the banks of the Amu Darya river. Urgench is also called the most mysterious city of Uzbekistan. Scientists have not established the exact date of its appearance yet, because Urgench is found in the ancient chronicles as Gurganj, Gurganch, and in some of the periods even Dzhurdjania.
In ancient times, Urgench was a place of a lively trade, a lot of caravans traveled here along the Great Silk Road. Avicenna lived in this city. However, the fate of this city had both greatness of victories, and cruelty of defeats. Urgench was destroyed twice. The first time, it was Genghis Khan, who destroyed the city in 1221. The Mongols destroyed the dams holding the Amu Darya, the river waters swallowed up the entire city.
After the liberation of Khorezm from the power of the Golden Horde, the city was revived and even acquired the title of the capital again. But in 1388, Tamerlane came to power and ordered to destroy the city. However even after these events, the grains of the former greatness were still preserved. In the 17th century Urgench completely ceased to exist, the inhabitants left the city due to the change in the channel of the Amu Darya river.
However, in the same century, a new city with the same name was built on the territory of Uzbekistan, it bears the name Kunya-Urgench in translation from the Turkmen “Old Urgench”. Modern Urgench does not only preserve ancient architecture, legends and monuments, but also a cozy city with hospitable residents. The peculiarity of the city is that the territory of Urgench is a kind of entrance to the historical city of Khiva, and you can get there just in 30 minutes.
The main attraction of Urgench was created by nature itself – the Amu Darya river. Its length is more than 1400 kilometers – it is the most turbulent river in Central Asia, formed due to the mixing of the Vakhsh and Pyanji rivers. No one who loves fishing can leave this place unattended. At the lower reaches of the river, in the suburban area, there are fish farms and small farms, where they will gladly provide all the fishing equipment at the disposal of tourists in Urgench.
The ancient monuments of Kunya-Urgench reflect the whole variety of methods of Islamic architecture. The city has buildings made of baked bricks, simple single-dome structures, as well as buildings with complex compositions with a long history, renovation and reconstruction. The most outstanding monuments of this city are distinguished by a high degree of beauty and details. In the ancient city, there are buildings related mainly to the period of the XI-XVI centuries AD. This desert area with some remains of ancient settlements includes a mosque, a caravanserai gate and a fortress. Also, there is a mausoleum of amazing beauty of Il-Arslan. It is crowned with a twelve-sided conical, faced with glazed dome. The 60-meter minaret of Kutlug-Timur, built in the 14th century, is still the tallest brick minaret in Central Asia.
The ancient settlement Toprak Kala is located a few kilometers from Urgench towards the city of Khiva, where the palace of the Khorezmshahs was located in the III-IV centuries. Today the ancient fortress is a rectangular structure, and its dimensions are 350 * 500 meters. Despite numerous destructions, the height of the fortress walls in some places is 10 meters. Even from the preserved parts of the structure, one can estimate the entire scale of the ancient structure.
To the north of the city there is a vast medieval necropolis “Uch yuz oltmysh mukaddas”, which is translated from Turkmen as “Three hundred and sixty saints”. According to legend, the bodies of 360 Islamic saints are buried there, mostly disciples of the Prophet Muhammad, who were sent to all corners of the world to preach Islam. According to another legend, these bodies belong to the saints who were martyred during the destruction of the city by the troops of Genghis Khan. The architecture of our time is also an integral part of the city. The majestic monument dedicated to the Avesta, the ancient book of Zoroastrianism, the complex dedicated to Jalaliddin Manguberdy, the valiant warrior and defender of the city, the museum of the history of Zoroastrianism.
These iconic Islamic sites and other revered monuments are popular sites for pilgrims and also attract tourists from all over the world. Since 2005, the architectural masterpieces and monuments of Kunya-Urgench have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.