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Destination Details

Turkmenistan
Tags : Devkesen

Due west from Konye-Urgench, around 50 km along the main road , lie the atmospheric ruins of Devkesen. This place features in the publicity handouts of several Turkmen travel agents, and tourists were certainly visiting the site until late 2003, but more recent would-be visitors report being turned back by Turkmen border guards at one of the checkpoints along the way, with the explanation that the track crosses Uzbek territory, and is out of bounds for tourists. If you arc interested in visiting the site, you should check the current position with a Turkmen travel agent when applying for your tourist visa.

Devkesen seems to have first been settled around the 4th century BC. The site is almost certainly the medieval settlement of Vazir, visited by the Elizabethan merchant Anthony Jenkinson in 1558. Jenkinson was particularly impressed by the melons of Vazir, reporting that here grew 'many good fruites among which there is one called a Dynie of great bignesse and full of moysture'. But Jenkinson also reported that the river waters on which the town depended were failing, and Vazir was soon to be abandoned, the victim of changes in the course of the Amu Darya. Soltan Ali, the Khorezm Khan whose mausoleum (possibly) lies in Konye-Urgench, was based here, but his successor moved to Urgench around 1573.

The site of Devkesen is dramatic. The city stands at the edge of a 30m escarpment, on a southern tip of the Ust Urt Plateau, protected by a moat and walls on the sides facing the plateau. A citadel, overlooking the escarpment, has distinctive corrugated walls. Within the city site are three ruined mausolea, dating to around the 15th century, and the remains of a mosque. One of these mausolea is popularly believed to be the final resting place of Farhad and Shirin, the doomed young lovers who were the subject of a popular poem by the 15th-century Timurid writer Navoi.

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