Termez Travel Guide

Termez is one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its vast ruins are situated among sandy deserts and consist of the remains of fortresses, minarets, mosques, walls and piles of bricks preserved from ancient times. The population of Termez is approximately 115 000. Founded on the crossroad of caravan paths of the Great Silk Road, old Termez for centuries had been one of the leading towns of the Bactrian kingdom and Kushan Empire. Termez suffered greatly from the devastating raids of Genghis-khan in 1220, but it managed to revive as a trade town while it produced numerous commodities for export. The architectural monuments preserved on the territory of old Termez testify to the past grandeur of the city. Today Termez offers visitors and tourists alike multiple architectural monuments from different epochs in the town itself and in the outlying regions. It is a modern town and the center of the Surhandarya region with a concentration of the largest industrial and cultural establishments.

Main points of interest in Termez

termeziKhakim at-Termezi necropolis is one of the most honored monuments of the Muslim world. It was a theologian, spiritual patron of the town. This architectural complex of the 9th century consists mainly of mausoleums, covered mosques and a khanaka (guest-house for travelers).  The interior of the building is decorated with luxurious symbols and drawings. In Arabic script, there was written an inscription about perishable nature of the world’s existence. Today the grave and mausoleum erected above the Khakim at-Termezi necropolis has become not only one of the functioning holy places of Islam, but also the distinctive “tourist Mecca”.

Sultan-Saodat Complex (10-11-17th centuries) is the family sepulcher of the Termez sayyids and a saodatdirect descendant of the prophet Muhammad according to history. This influential dynasty originated from here and its representatives played an important role in the courts of many different rulers. The founder of this complex is considered to be Khasan al-Emir, a representative of the fifth generation of Imam Khusein and grandson of the prophet Muhammad. Sultan-Saodat is an architectural ensemble which was constructed at different times but made of the same type mausoleums arranged around the 70 meter long yard, which stretched from west to east. The main attractions of this complex are its ancient structures  – two one-chambered domed mausoleums united by the arch of a mosque.

kirkkizKyrk-Kiz. The castle of the 9th century with the romantic name Kyrk-Kiz, or Forty Girls was the patrimony of the famous Samanid dynasty. According to folklore the courageous queen, Gulyaim, together with her companions-in-arms from Kyrk-Kiz resisted a siege from attackers beyond those walls. Historical data indicates that the architectural design of the castle, with strong angled towers, was created by with a diverse technique of laid mural niches and window openings, mainly in triple combinations.

Termez Archaeological Museum was opened for visitors in 2002 in honor of the 2500th anniversary museumof Termez. This museum houses over 27 000 items of art and the cultural artifacts of the region. The Termez Archaeological Museum is considered the only specialized museum in Central Asia and consists of one entrance hall and nine principal halls and galleries. Unique stone and plaster statues, a stone pool and large ceramic vessels (khums) belonging to differenthistorical epochs are set in the entrance hall of the museum. A relief map of the region with indexes of 20 archaeological monuments reflecting different periods of the region’s history is also exhibited here.  The exhibits discovered in Surkhandarya’s territory, beginning with primeval stone tools of Termez’s primitive ancestors and ending with pieces of art made by the hands of skillful present day masters, are displayed in the nine principal halls.         

Ancient cities

dalvDalverzintepa. An outstanding event in world history and culture was the discovery 60 km from Termez of the ancient city site of Dalverzintepa. On this site is located the unique archaeological monument from the Kushan Kingdom epoch.  In antiquity, Dalverzintepa had been the main city of the region. The ancient city site is surrounded by a security wall which is 10 meters thick and towers. The central part of the city was occupied with large houses comprised of well-to-do city dwellers. Workshops of artisans were located in the southern part and a Muslim cemetery was located on northeastern part of Dalverzintepa. The city gates were located in the southeastern part of the city, which was very important for city defense. During excavation works of the rural zone behind the northern ditch, cult and memorial ruins had been discovered. A Buddhist temple was found. It was through the city of Termez, which introduced Buddhism to Central Asia. The figures of Buddha, a special spot for kindling fire around a sculpture allows one to make this conclusion. The temple contained mortars, a worship area and a so-called hall of kings, which was richly decorated with sculptures representing cult and secular Buddhist and Hellenist images. One of the most remarkable findings is a sculpture that depicts the head of the Kushan ruler in pointed headwear.  The discovery of a Buddhist temple at Dalverzintepa also has important meaning. It supports the notion of Buddhism spreading throughout the northern areas of the Kushan kingdom in the first century AD. The huge statue of a sitting Buddha stood in the central niche of Dalverzintepa; almost three meters in height, statues of standing bodhisattvas rose above and along the walls. During expeditions in the ancient city site of Dalverzintepa, a number of various monuments of art had been discovered including sculptures, paintings, jewelry and terracotta. Figures of musicians and musical instruments of those times are of great interest.  A single burial ground in Sarcophagus was also found here. The second Buddhist complex with Buddha and Bodhisattva statues and a Bactrian temple with mural painting depicting priests and infants were also discovered on this territory. Numerous archaeological finds testify to the fact that Dalverzintepa had been standing on one of the most animated sections of the Great Silk Road. The brightest monument of that epoch is the “golden” hidden treasure, which weighs 36 kilograms and was found during an excavation. The “golden” treasure consisted of gold jewelry, silver and precious stones. Rings, bracelets, necklaces, signet rings, male necklaces (pectoral) found also indicated the developed artistry of ancient jewelers.

Karatepa was an important center of Buddhism in Uzbekistan. Excavations on the northern hill of Karatepakaratepa resulted in the discovery of a Buddhist monastery surface similarly planned as other typical Buddhist sanctuaries of the Kushan Empire: a central courtyard with a vault in the perimeter, a by-pass corridor with an over-head cover that surrounded the courtyard. The living quarters of the monks were located along the northern and eastern corridors. The principal sanctuary was located in the south portion of the courtyard. From the north, a mortar adjoins the monastery, initially being rounded. This mortar was built late in the second century AD. It is one of the earliest erections on the northern hill. A rectangular platform including early mortar work was also made of raw bricks. According to the discovered fragments of stone décor, the initial monumental mortar had been richly decorated.  The décor included Buddha, bodhisattvas, devattas and depictions of donators. In the second half of the 3rd century, this structure experienced wild destruction. However, it was restored and stayed in tact until the end of the 4th century. In the 5th – 6th centuries, the deserted and neglected premises of the monastery served as a necropolis.

kampirKampyrtepa. Uzbek scientists made a sensational discovery during archaeological excavations in the site of the ancient city of Kampyrtepa (or Kifirkala – the Fortress of the Unfaithful), which is associated with the legendary Alexandria-Oxiana (located in Amudarya). Here, near the gates of the city citadel, the ruins of the Kushan Buddhist sanctuary were found. Terracotta (burned clay) sculptures of Buddha sitting in yoga pose from the first half of the second century AD were extracted from one of the wall’s bases. It is notable that this structure is practically the only erection of its kind in this ancient city. Presently the site has been completely excavated (over a 20 year period) to find ritual structures connected with the practice of Zoroastrian and local cults. Research showed the presence of a whole system of defensive constructions that had peculiar significance, as the fortress was located on the main road from Bactria to Sogd. These constructions protected the roads leading to the Bactrian capital – Bactry (modern Balkh). Among discovered artifacts in Kampyrtepa there are Greek inscriptions – graphite markings on fragments of small ceramic vases that testify to the presence of a Greek population in this area. A copper coin of the first century BC with a depiction of the ruler in a diadem with the inscription “Geliokolus” was also discovered. Other interesting finds are ceramic jugs and crockery with vegetation and geometrical symbols similar to Greek amphora. This in turn made the epoch Kampyrtepa a very significant ancient site in regards to the monuments discovered.

Fayaztepa is another Buddhist complex that lies to the northwest from the outskirts of Termez. Fayaztepa fayazwas built in second century AD.  The Termez archaeological group had investigated this spot from 1968 till 1976 and as a result an accurate scheme of planning was discovered. The Fayaztepa complex is rectangular with measurements of 34×113 meters stretched from northwest to southeast. It is divided into three sections with each section having an inner courtyard on the premises (traditional Bactrian style). The Fayaztepa complex as a whole was built in the same period with some insignificant reconstructions being carried out in different periods. Ritual structures were usually built in the central part of the complex with refectory rooms located in other parts of the complex followed by living premises. In the Surkhandarya territory, archaeologists excavated several ancient cities including Khaltchayan, Zartepa and Airtam, which testify to the wealth of the material and spiritual culture of the people who inhabited this area in the past.

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