Ashgabat was first mentioned in the 2nd century BC. In those times it was a small town within the Parsian Empire and they were said to be producing very good vine. The capital of the Parsian Empire was Nissa (its ruins are found about 18 km west of the preset capital). In the first century BC Ashgabat was completely destroyed by the earthquake. But due to its location on the main trade routes is was gradually rebuilt and became prosperous again known under the name of Konjikala. Konjikala had been destroyed by Mongols and till the Russians invasion in the late 19th century it existed only as a small village. Russians decided to make Ashgabat the regional center. By the end of the 19th century it was very popular and well-developed with predominantly European architecture. There was Russian majority with some Armenians, Persians and Jews. Even today Ashgabat has a large non-Turkmen population. In 1948 the city was completely destroyed by the earthquake which was measured nine on the Richter scale. Over two thirds of the city's population was killed in the disaster. And for about five years this place was closed for the visitors. During that period the bodies were recovered and the construction of a new city began. Nowadays it is a modern city with precisely laid-out streets and avenues. There is a 75-meter high arch with the gilded statue of the President Niyazov on the top called the Arch of Neutrality. There is also an Earthquake Memorial presenting pictures of 1948 once forbidden. The Palace of Turkmenbashi is made of white marble and gold mirrored glass mixing classical columns with dome decorated by Islamic motifs. Other monuments and places to see are Majilis, the War Memorial, the Old Presidential Palace, the Azadi mosque, the mosque of Khezrety Omer, futuristic Iranian mosque and of course Tolkuchka bazaar. Among museums there are the National Museum of Turkmenistan, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Carpet Museum and the Gallery Ensi. The National Museum of Turkmenistan has the halls dedicated to the history of the country. The expositions present different ancient objects of art including Neolithic tools and relics from the Bronze Age civilizations as well as collections of jewelry, ammunition etc.
Margush was a prosperous ancient kingdom in Mary region. Using the material of the recent excavations archeologists proved that this kingdom existed 5 thousands years ago. People there had been good in different handicrafts and arts, had been involved in agriculture, and had built palaces. They also had had a written language. Thus word historians proved the existence of this 5th center of ancient civilization, together with India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and China.
Merv is another ancient center of Turkmenistan and one of the most ancient towns in central Asia. The oldest part of this town existed already in the 1st century BC. The history of Merv is rather complicated as different invaders occupied it several times. It was mostly prosperous and important in the 11-12th centuries being governed by Arabs. But in 1222 Merv was occupied and almost completely destroyed by Mongols. The town recovered but has never been an important center since. By the 19th century it declined very much so that the center moved to the neighboring town Mary. Nowadays in Merv there are excavations and one may see the remains of streets, temples, mosques, and other buildings.
Caspian Sea is often considered as the greatest lake on the earth, with the surface of 371 thousands square km. It is also famous for its 'law' location, as its absolute altitude is 28 meters below the level of the World Ocean. The maximum depth of the Sea is 1025 meters. The famous Kara-Bogaz-Gol Gulf being a part of the Caspian Sea is although completely separated form it by a thin stripe. And there is only one narrow (from 200 meters to 21 km wide) channel, which links the Sea and the Gulf. The level of the gulf is 4,5 meters lower than the level of the Caspian Sea. Strong evaporation from the Gulf's surface makes its waters very salty.
Dekhistan is a historical region in the west of Turkmenistan famous for the Great Mashad cemetery with Shir-Khabir Mausoleum (10-th century) and the ruins of Messarian town (10-15 centuries).These lands where known as the lands of Dakhs. So comes the name Dekhistan. Messarian, the central town, appeared between 9 - 10 centuries and very soon became an extremely vivid and prosperous town, as it was one of the points on the Great Silk Road. But by the 15th century it has completely disappeared. Nowadays there are two ancient minarets, remains of the city walls and gates, mosques and other buildings, some of which still keep the spirits of the ancient lifestyle. Excursion with the visit of Messarian, and Mashad.
Nokhur is known for its very extraordinary culture. Having almost Indian Indo-European features and very entrepreneurial life-style this tribe has managed to preserve unique traditions of handicrafts and architecture in their villages. These hillside villages set amidst picturesque pomegranate and almond orchards have very particular and unusual stone-houses along tiny twisting alleys. And their carpentry is world-famous.
There are two architectural and archeological monuments- the sites of Old and New Nissa. Old Nissa was the capital of the Parthinians existing and prospering over 2000 years ago (from the 3rd century BC till the 3rd century AD). It was rivaling with Rome to gain power in the Middle East. In those times Nissa was a strong pentagonal fortress situated on a hill with 8-meters thick walls and 43 towers surrounding the royal palace and the temples. Nearby there was a busy commercial city located right on the main trade routes. While the Old Nissa existed only till the 3rd century AD, when the territory was occupied by Persian dynasty of Sasanids, the New Nissa was inhabited later. The place had been prosperous and had played an important role for the region until the 13th century when the Mongols arrived. The city was completely ruined in a fortnight. Nowadays there are excavations presenting different aspects of the ancient architecture. One might need some imagination to see how it looked like centuries ago. But still there are several houses and other buildings including the partly rebuilt tower building and a large circular chamber supposed to be a Zoroastrian Temple. Many objects found during the excavations are passed to the National Museum in Ashgabat. The main buildings of Old Nissa are grouped in two ensembles: the Northern one and the Central (sometimes called the Southern). The treasury and vine storage, workshops and household buildings were in the Northern part of the fortress. The monumental temples and Throne Hall were grouped in the Center. Fired brick was the material for columns and semi columns, terracotta architectural details were used for the decoration of the Throne Hall. The Round Hall (17 meters in diameter) is enclosed into a legible quadrate of surrounding corridors. The massive Tower occupied the area of about 400 square meters and was 8 meters high. To the north of the Square Hall a big group of various buildings and a large yard were located, where the multi column porticos were found. This part is likely to have been dwelled and served for household purposes. The Northern part is quite different. The constructions are more utilized. The most important is the a Square House which consisted of 12 rectangular chambers surrounding a big yard with 3 chambers alongside. In each room there were found the items of great artistic value as marble statues, ivory rythons, silver and bronze vessels etc. Surrounding The main treasury was surrounded by numerous constructions, among them being a large vine storage, where there had been huge clay vessels (khums). Each khum was accompanied by a document written on a clay a broken piece of a jug.
Kunya-Urgench is situated in the northeastern part of Turkmenistan, on the territory of the Sate Historical Reserve - Cultural Museum. The town is famous for its magnificent monuments dating back to the 13-14th centuries AD including the number of common buildings of the Middle Ages as madrasahs, mausoleums, fortresses and one of the tallest minarets in Central Asia. The remains of an ancient capital that had prospered thousands of years ago are found there. It also was the ancient capital of Khorezm, a historical region first mentioned in the famous Behistun legend of Tsar Dary I (the 6th - 5th centuries AD) and also in the "Avesta" - Zoroastrians' sacred book. No one knows when Kunya-Urgench was founded. During the recent excavations of a barrow, called Kyrkmolla, there were found the contours of a powerful ancient fortress dating back to the 6 -7th centuries AD. Arabs invaded the Khorezm in 712 and Kunya-Urgench was given its Arabic name Djurdjaniya (or Gurgandj). Due to its location on the main trade routes from the South to the North and from the West to the Volga River, to the East Mongolia and China, the city soon became a prosperous center. So it became the capital of Khorezm state and the second largest city in Central Asia after Bukhara. Many wonderful monuments of that era have survived. Among them there are mausoleums of Khorezmshakhs II - Arslan and Tekesh, built in the 12th century. The city was surrounded by the walls, some fragments are still preserved. Besides there are many beautiful monuments such as Turabek - Khanum palace, dating back to the 12th century and being considered a mausoleum of the Sufi Dynasty; Kutlug - Timur minaret; Mamun II minaret; Sultan Ali mausoleum; Ibn - Khadgib mausoleum (14th century); Ali Ar - Ramitany mausoleum (Ezizdgan); Seyid Akhmed mausoleum; portal of an unknown monument ("Peshtak" of Caravansaray - 14th century); Nadgmetdin al - Kubr khanaka; burial building - Mukhamad Karim - Ishan mausoleum (1886 - 89); medressa "Dash - masque" (1907-1908). Numerous archeological and architectural monuments of great cultural and scientific importance are preserved in Kunya-Urgench. Kunya-Urgench has had various names, as Avesta-Urva in the 6th century BC, Hangrid-Hanjird between 7-8th centuries AD, Gurgench-Djurdjaniya during 9-12th centuries AD. After the Mongol invasion, the town got the name Urgench and since l646 AD it was called Kunya-Urgench. Ancient Kunya-Urgench was considered to be one of the major cities of the East. Having studied the town's topography scientists considered that during the 10-14th centuries AD its territory was about 1000 hectares. Nowadays this place is protected by the Government.