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Published: October 2nd 2014
Sept 27 - 28 Mary/Merv
This morning we were set to visit Gonur Depe, an ancient settlement that dates back to 7000BC !!! A two hour journey from Mary in a 4WD vehicle, to Gonur regarded by the Russian archaeologist Sarianidi who discovered the site in 1971 as 'one of the greatest civilisations on the world', this site was the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. There is evidence of four fire temples on this huge site which is surrounded by city walls. There is some limited excavation going on which has revealed an astonishing scale of housing, temples, palaces, kitchens, pottery firing ovens. By 3000BC, this civilisation had moved they think because of the changed river direction which left the area barren. We were amazed at the lack of protection as it was possible for us to walk over and on top of walls that were 5000 yrs old, see and touch all the pottery remnants that probably should have been in museums. We saw Bronze Age skeletons of horses and chariots. Probably the most amazing antiquity site we have seen on the trip.
That night, we attended a performance of comedy theatre - all in Turkmen language- in
the impressive Mary theatre house. We didn't understand a word of course, but we laughed when ever the audience did !
Destination today was the border crossing at Farab between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on our way to Bukhara. But first we visited the ancient city ruins of Old Merv, about 45 mins drive from Mary. (New Merv is actually Mary). Dating from 5000BC, this too was an impressive size of nearly 400 hectares surrounded by huge city walls of varying states of repair. Many impressive forts, mausoleums, mosques, ice houses and water cisterns were scattered over the site - several restored to some degree, but some substantially original. These ancient cities have been covered by sand for thousands of years, and only by the slow removal of the layers, are we able to see the remains of the city. Due to the size of this place, we had to drive between the buildings around the site for about two hrs. Eventually, time to go, so we hit the highway to Farab.
Pretty boring road trip thru mile after mile of desert. After three hrs, we arrived at Turkmenabat, the 2nd largest
city in Turkmenistan. Straight thru the city on to Farab, and then finally the border. We timed our arrival to avoid the 2hr lunch break 12-2 and that worked well. We had no hassles either leaving Turkmenistan, or entering Uzbekistan. This time the hardest questions we got were "are you carrying any Viagra ? " and in a hushed furtive tone "do you have any porno ? ". Having satisfied the customs officer that we had neither, we passed thru without further incident !!
Next challenge was to negotiate a reasonable taxi fare from the border to Bukhara, and soon we were off on the 90 min trip into the city.
Arrived in Bukhara about 1730, and having figured out that our hotel - the Sarrafon B&B - was in a pedestrian only area, we dragged our bags on foot thru a few streets and finally checked in . O/N Bukhara.
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