Karakalpakstan - in the shadow of a disappearing sea


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June 28th 2007
Published: June 28th 2007
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After having left Turkmenistan, I found myself in a quite deserted spot in Uzbekistan: Konye Urgench in the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan, which covers the North Western part of the country.
Its capital is Nukus, a quite unimpressive town with an extraordinary art museum and an omnipresent heritage of the Soviet Union.
The city was an outpost of the Union where biological warfare was developped and the fish, which came from Aral Sea, was processed.
The only reason for tourists to enter this city today is the mentioned art museum and the fact that it is on the way to the former shore of the Aral Sea.

The Aral Sea, once the fourth biggest sweet water lake in the world is going to be distinguished from the map in not less than a decade (after ecologists in Nukus). All which will be left are two "small" lakes which are deep enough to withstand the evaporation and insufficient water supply.
Today, the shore of the lake drifted some 150km away from its former main harbors, Aralsk in Kazakhstan and Moynaq in Uzbekistan.

That was where my journey led me. After a night in the huge and impressive, yet declined Hotel Tashkent in Nukus (it was built only 20 years ago as I read in a book I bought in Nukus) I took an overfull bus to the former harbor Moynaq.
Once a flaroushing town with a mild climate and a biug fish industry, it seems now like the image of a dstroyed world after a nuclear war.
Destroyed and declined buildings everywhere, dusty and hot, no tab water (and the water available for shower and drinking is really salty) and a sad atmosphere completed with drunkards and ill children.
This is the result of an avoidable tragedy imposed upon the people by a totalitarian government. If you want to get some ore infos about the case I strongly recommend "The Aral Sea Tragedy" of Grigori Reznichenko, where he describes the outcome of an expedition to see if the Aral Sea can still be saved undertaken at the end of the 80s.
It is sad and nearly impossible to imagine that this village was a nice town next to a fresh water lake when you walk past the relicts of its fishing fleet which is rotting in the sand which was the former ground of Aral Sea.
I couldn't find much amusement during my stay there and all I saw left a quite unpleasant taste when I left Moynaq in the morning to go back to Nukus.
There I decided to saty overnight again in the Hotel Tashkent before proceeding to the more glorious past of Uzbekistan, the reminescents of the Silk Road:
Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.
Now I am sitting in an internet cafe in Khiva and all the beautiful buildings in this city museum make me feel yesterday so long ago.


Additional photos below
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in the academy of science in Nukusin the academy of science in Nukus
in the academy of science in Nukus

that's where the most intelligent people of Nukus take their shit :-)


28th June 2007

sad pictures
What a contrast between turkmenistan (and its incredible building dedicated to the glory of one man) and the aral sea (which seems very.... empty). I loved your picture in Turkmenistan clothes, very fun (like the beautiful pictures of the WC, you do not need to travel so far to see that, believe me). Perhaps I am wrong but you know, you seem "older" on the pictures. Travelling and discovering the world change people (in the good way).
29th June 2007

it's very real isn't it :)
Hey! Well, as I read your adventures, it's really after your taste, isn't it? Real and rough! I'm happy for you and thanks for your post card :)!
2nd July 2010

shared experience
the picture of the toilet brings back memories. That is one of the better toilets in Nukus! I also enjoyed the Art gallery. I think I must have been the only person in the entire gallery and so I had a security lady watching my every move throughout the building...Good times!
31st October 2010

nice toilette
While surfing in the net, I hit on your blog...Started laughing loud as I saw your toilett-pics in Hotel Tashkent. In February 2007 I 've almost made the same picture....:-P http://img229.imageshack.us/i/img0809o.jpg/ just mirror-invertred..

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