Discovery Central AsiaDiscovery Central Asia
  Current Issue:
Discovery Central Asia #29
Discovery Central Asia

Home | About us | Links | Subscribe | Advertising | Our Team | Support


South Kyrgyzstan

be Radiy Bakayev

Nowadays geopolitically independent Kyrgyzstan is separated into the North and South divided by the Fergana, Chatkal, and Talass mountain ridges.
                                        In this article we describe South Kyrgyzstan.
In the territory of South Kyrgyzstan, between the fertile eastern part of the Fergana valley and the mountainous Alay valley lies three regions of the Kyrgyz Republic: Osh, Djalalabad, and Batkent. Osh, the so called south capital, is the largest of them and the second city in Kyrgyzstan, and is over 3000 years old. Its unique geographic position made it one of the most important and strategic cities on the Fergana branch of the Silk Road. For many millennia caravans, loaded with silk, porcelain, gems, cotton, tea and other goods, crossed the lifeless Taklamakan desert and inhospitable passes of the Karakorum, from China and India to Osh. From here they left for Europe through Hudjand, Samarqand, Merv, Bukhara, Khiva.

Some legends connect the foundation of Osh with the name of Alexander Macedon, others with the Bible's King Solomon. According to one of them the Prophet Suleiman led his troops to a forbidding mountain when he stopped and said “Hosh!” (“That's enough!”). So he gave this name to the city and its mountain at its centre became known as Suleiman-Too.
One of the pages from Osh's great history is connected with the name of Zahiretdin Mukhammad Babur (1483  1530), one of the representatives of the Timurids' dynasty. Sheikh Omar, the grandson of the great Timur (Tamerlane), was the ruler of the Fergana districts of Maverannakh. When Omar died, 12-year old Babur came to the throne and inherited his Fergana possessions. In his literary work “Baburname”, which became a valuable source of the history of Central Asian people at the end of the fifteenth centuries, he detailed and authentically described Osh. Babur visited Osh many times and knew the city very well.
Osh is one of the larger Muslim centers of Central Asia. It is still closely connected with the legend of the Suleiman-Too mountain where it is claimed that a pilgrim may be cured of any ailment if he should climb to the top and pray. From the tenth to the eleventh centuries to the twentieth century, many religious buildings such as mazars (cemeteries) and mosques were raised by Moslems on the slopes, feet, and even at its summit.

   But Suleiman-Too is not the only interesting historical memorial in Osh, there are plenty of others: The mausoleum of Asaf-ibn-Burhiya (XI  XVII cent.), the Ravat-Abdullakhan mosque (XVII  XVIII cent.), the Mohammed Yusuf Baykhodji-Ogly mosque (1909), the Michael-Archangelsk temple; the V.I.Lenin and Kurmandjan-Datka monuments.   

Since ancient times Osh was famous for its bazaars and caravanserais. On the left bank of Ak-Bura river there is its main bazaar, which is a classical pattern of an eastern covered market  tima. For more than two thousand years the bazaar has existed with its noisy and vivid life. The buildings and borders may have changed, but nevertheless it remains in the same place, chosen in those ancient times.


If Osh is considered by right the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan, then “the gate” of Central Asia is the Irkeshtam pass. It is the very place where the caravan roads of the Silk Road which came from China towards the Fergana and Alay valleys and went through the Mountain Badakhshan to Persia. Not so long ago the only way between China and Kyrgyzstan was via the road from Kashghar through the frontier pass “Torugart”. Nowadays the situation is slowly changing.
Twelve years ago the author of these lines was the first foreign tourist to come from Osh to Kashghar through the Irkeshtam border: “I remember frontier guards bursting out in laughter when I appeared at the recently opened post with my suitcase! Though the pass functioned only for goods traffic, my tourist visa produced an effect and that very evening, having traversed a further 300 km of practically impassable roads, we were in Kashghar…”
Nowadays this branch of the Silk Road is undergoing its second birth. The modern motor highway has already been laid from Kashghar. The reconstruction of the road to Osh continues intensively and a regular bus also drives there. In the future the reconstruction of the road from Saritash  Daraut  Kurgan  Djirghital  Dushanbe will begin. The building of yurt camps, guest houses, hotels, cafés and chaykhanas continues.     
The frontier pass “Kulma” (previously only for goods traffic) between China and Tajikistan has already been opened. That will be new incentives for the development of tourism near the Badakhshan mountain. The tourist route Osh/Irkeshtam  Kyzylart  Murgab  Horog  Dushanbe is also active nowadays.
Now we are the witnesses of a new era in South Kyrgyzstan.
The potential of South Kyrgyzstan is enormous: it has historical, cultural and architectural vestiges. It has numerous natural landscapes, cognitive-ethnographic routes, and exciting tourist programs for active people and those who enjoy extreme sports.
Here are but a few of these natural wonders:
Peak of Lenin (7134 m)  the highest crest in South Kyrgyzstan, situated in the Zaalay ridge, surrounded by the Alay valley to the south. It was and is still the place for mountain tourists and mountaineers come here on pilgrimage from all over the world. Based camps, providing mountaineers' with a warm reception and service, are situated in Achiktash, at the height of 3200 m above sea level.

Kichik-Alay  the eastern spur of Alay ridge dividing Fergana and Alay valleys. The tracking routes from Osh to the foot of Peak of Lenin, which were unknown before are gaining increasing popularity.
The picturesque routes are along the ancient Khodjo-Kelen (the place of burying the Holy “Khodja”-Kelen), Abshirsay waterfalls, glaciers and passes near the peak Skobelev (5051 m), the highest crest of Kichik-Alay.
The lake Sarichelek  this is a high mountain lake, situated at the height of 1800 m above sea level in the spurs of Chatkal ridge.
                No one can remain indifferent to the beauty of Sara-Chelesk reservation with the lakes Iri-Kel, Kara-Kamish, Koro-Toko, nor to the crystal clearness of the rivers Aflatun, Utur or Kara-su. But the most important feature is the openness and hospitality of the local people.
Saymali-Tash, a place in the spurs of the Fergana ridges, is the biggest gallery of petroglyphs  in the world. About 91900 (!) rock carvings from the second millennium B.C. have been discovered there. Near the Kergart pass another15000 petroglyphs have been found.

Welcome to the south of Kyrgyzstan and see you soon

Discovery Central Asia #23

Copyright © 2007 - Discovery Central Asia - All Rights Reserved