NURATA & YURT CAMP

NURATA
To the north of the featureless Samarkand–Bukhara "Royal Road", the Pamir-Alay Mountains produce one final blip on the map before fading unceremoniously into desertified insignificance. The Nuratau Mountains, which top out at 2169 m, are the focus of Uzbekistan’s modest ecotourism movement.
Today, thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to Nurata to visit the famous Asian cult complex, the center of which is the Holy spring ("Chashma"). Also, a town known for its incredible nature, Suzanne (hand-embroidered wall carpet), and that its foundation was promoted by Alexander the Great himself. On the hill were the ruins of the fortress built on his orders.
Alexander the Great also established Kariz, an underground water-pipeline system which connects the holy source of the spring water with several wells and places where it is needed. Kariz underground water-pipeline systems are widespread in many cities in Central Asia and Northwest China.
 
The sacred Chashma complex
One of the legends about the source says that when a meteorite fell on the earth, radiating light, in the place of the fall, a spring filled with water that had healing properties. Hence the name of the area "Nur", which means "Light" in Arabic. The wonderful spring is rich in trace elements, scientists have discovered 15 chemical elements, including gold, silver, bromine, iodine, etc. It is not surprising that the water is considered healing, but it is strictly forbidden to eat local fish. According to legend, anyone who eats fish from a sacred spring will get sick and die in a hurry. They absorb the microelements contained in the water, so it is also not recommended to feed the fish.
This is not the end of the wonders of the spring, the water temperature does not change all year round, keeps at 19.5 C, and at night there is an abnormal glow of water. 
Near the source there is a well, about 6 meters deep. The shape of the bottom of the well resembles a human palm, which is reflected in the name "Besh Panja". Water from this source flows through the entire complex, thanks to a system of submarine mines Kariz.
 
Alexander the Great fortress
Not far from the source are the ruins of the fortress "Nur", founded by Alexander the great in the IV century BC. The ruins of the fortress are still of great interest to scientists, as it is one of the oldest monuments on the territory of Uzbekistan. During the excavations, archaeologists found that the fortress was located on a hill and was surrounded by a fortress wall. One of the features of the fortress was the water supply system, which was ordered to be dug by Alexander the great. This was a necessary measure, since in ancient times the fortress was of strategic importance and was located on the border between the agricultural settlement of Marakanda (Samarkand) and the territory of wild nomads who attacked the settlement from the North. In the event of an attack, the defenders had to have free access to water.
 
Sarmishsay
For ancient-history lovers, there’s no better place to go in Uzbekistan than Sarmishsay. In this gorge in the Karatau Mountains is an art gallery with items dating back to the Stone Age. The 4,000 surviving petroglyphs (rock carvings) offer a record of ancient wildlife, plus sacred symbols and humans hunting and dancing. The gorge has always been on the migration routes of people and animals, which is why the limestone and sandstone rocks were such an obvious canvas on which early artists could make their marks.
The oldest find dates back to the stone age and dates back 9,000 years BC. Petroglyphs of this era give quite a comprehensive picture of local fauna thousands of years ago. Today most of the animals they portray have disappeared. Also they represent images silhouettes of people, scenes of hunting and daily labor.
The youngest petroglyphs  belong to the middle ages, it is about 600-700 years old.They contain not only drawings, but also records in Arabic script telling about the life of the dervishes (the Muslim equivalent of a monk).
Sarmishsay is also an important natural site: 650 plant species have been registered on its territory, of which 27 are endemic. Among the animals found in Sarmishsay, the Central Asian Cobra, black vulture and Kyzylkum mountain sheep are listed in the Red book of Uzbekistan.


 

 

Yurt Camp & Lake Aydarkul
Get a taste of traditional nomadic life by staying a night or two in a desert yurt. The Safari Yurt Camp at Aydarkul offers simple but comfortable accommodation, decorated in Kazakh style with colourful textiles, including intricate suzani embroidery. Come nightfall, you will want to be outside for stargazing – a once-in-a-lifetime experience by virtue of the almost total absence of light pollution – accompanied by folk music around the campfire.
There are up to 25 species of plants in the vicinity of the camp, and the animal world is also diverse: turtles, lizards, pigeons, desert partridges, and hares. You can often see a giant monitor lizard and, of course, camels. Camels here are domesticated and trained for riding. Camels are double-humped and are called Bactrians. They are distributed in Central Asia, China, and Mongolia.
At night, near the fire, you can enjoy a folklore presentation. Akyn, the same musician, will light a fire and sing a heroic epic. If you look up at the serene sky for a moment, you will be lost in the extraordinarily bright stars and the Milky Way.
The camp is about 10km away from the Lake Aydarkul. The closed lake Aydarkul is called the “Sea in the sands” for its sandy beaches and clear salty water. Aydarkul is located away from human settlements, and therefore there is a ringing silence and an atmosphere of solitude with nature. To the lake you can either drive or take a camel ride from the yurt camp. Nice sunbath and picnic lunch with local fried fish will be a good compliment before you proceed to your next historical destination.  
 


 

 
Suzanne - silk and wool embroidery
Suzanne is a wall carpet, in Farsi "Suzani" can mean "needle". Suzanne is embroidered in silk or malinovoe thread with a special type of hem, so-called “kandhmal”. Suzanne is designed in such a way that it has a beginning, but no end. According to a very ancient tradition, there is always a small unfinished ornamental fragment in embroidery.
In ancient times, brides were chosen based on Suzanne's embroidery skills. Over time, the tradition disappeared, but art remained. Perfection in this art is not achieved.
Amazing fact: in 2014, four ancient Uzbek suzans were immediately sold for 43,875 pounds at Sotheby's auction in London. These works of decorative and applied art were four times more expensive than their original cost.

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