Sarahs - oasis city of the ancient Silk Road

Sarahs – oasis city of the ancient Silk Road

Sarahs is an oasis city in the Ahal velayat (province) of Turkmenistan, the administrative center of the Sarahs etrap (district). In the early Middle Ages, it was one of the oases of the ancient Silk Road, lying between Mashhad in the west and Merv in the east. The city’s population now is about 10,000 people.


The modern pronunciation of Sarahs in Turkmen is [θɑˈrɑχθ]. The city’s name can be also written as Saraghs, Serahs, Sarakhs, Saragt or Serakhs .The origin of the name Sarahs is unknown. Some experts in the history of the Middle Ages argue that this was the name of a person.


According to archaeological excavations, the Saras oasis has been inhabited since the 2nd millennium BC. The main administrative and commercial center of the oasis at that time was Old Serakhs. Its remains are located on a hill slightly south of the modern city. Several brick fragments of the former fortress remain at the original site.

There is a version that the city was founded in 507 BC. No reliable evidence confirming this particular date currently exists. However, in 1993, Sarahs celebrated its 2500th anniversary. In 1997, Polish archaeologists from the University of Warsaw excavated a nearby Zoroastrian fire temple, which is located about 15 km east of the city.

The city retained its importance after the spread of Islam in Central Asia. During the Seljuk era, Sarahs housed a famous school of architects, as well as a mausoleum dedicated to the 11th-century Sufi Abul Fazl, popularly known as Sarahs Baba. In 1089, the mausoleum of Yarta Gumbez was built 8 km south of the city. It is believed to be the burial place of Sheikh Ahmed Al Hadi.

The modern settlement from which the modern city of Sarahs grew was founded in 1884, when the Sarakhs oasis was annexed to the Russian Empire. It served as a Russian military post on the Iranian border. It was inhabited mainly by settlers of Russian and Polish origin. An Orthodox church was built in the city, which has no longer survived.

Historical sights of Sarahs

In 2010, the monuments of Saras, including the archaeological complex of Old Serakhs, the mausoleum of Abul Fazl and the temple complex of Mele Khayram, were inscribed by the Turkmen government on the Tentative List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as part of the Silk Road Sites in Turkmenistan program.

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