The State Historical and Cultural Park “Ancient Merv” is the oldest and most completely preserved of the oasis cities along the Silk Roads in Central Asia.
It is located in the territory of Mary velayat of Turkmenistan. It has supported a series of urban centres since the 3rd millennium BC and played an important role in the history of the East connected with the unparalleled existence of cultural landscape and exceptional variety of cultures which existed within the Murgab river oasis being in continually interactions and successive development. It reached its apogee 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 at the 11th-12th centuries.
Today “Ancient Merv” is a large archaeological park which includes remains of Bronze Age centres (2500-1200 BC) such as Kelleli, Adji Kui, Taip, Gonur, and Togoluk; Iron Age centres (1200-300 BC) such as Yaz/Gobekli Depes and Takhirbaj Depe; the historic urban centre and the post-medieval city, Abdullah Khan Kala. The inscribed property covers the area of 353 ha with a buffer zone of 883 ha.
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. Erk Kala (20ha), is a walled and moated polygonal site with walls surviving to some 30 m and an internal citadel. Gyaur Kala, is roughly square in plan, with walls about 2 km long. In the interior are the remains of a number of important structures: the central Beni Makhan mosque and its cistern; the Buddhist stupa and monastery; and the “Oval Building” consisting in a series of rooms around a courtyard on an elevated platform.
Medieval Sultan Kala was walled in the 11th century, with its Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar (1118-57) which originally formed part of a large religious complex; the fine details of the Mausoleum such as the elegant brickwork, the carved stucco, and the surviving mural paintings, make it one of the most outstanding architectural achievements of the Seljuk period.
The walls (12 km) of the medieval city and of the citadel (Shahriyar Ark) are unique and represent two consecutive periods of 11th-13th centuries military architecture, including towers, posterns, stairways, galleries, and in places, crenellation. In addition to these main urban features, there are a number of important medieval monuments in their immediate vicinity such as the Mausoleum of Muhammad ibn Zayd.
During the Iron Age, Ancient Merv was a major center of the Achaemenid Empire, with important trade connections to Persia and India. The city continued to flourish under the Parthians and Sassanids, and later became a major center of Islamic culture and scholarship.
Today, visitors can explore the ruins of this once-great city, including the impressive defensive walls and gates, the remains of palaces and mosques, and the intricate tilework and carvings that adorn many of the buildings.
In addition to its historical significance, Ancient Merv is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular destination for ecotourism, with a range of hiking and biking trails that wind through the surrounding desert landscape.
So if you’re looking for a truly unique travel experience, consider adding Ancient Merv to your itinerary. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and breathtaking natural beauty, it’s sure to be a trip you’ll never forget.