East of Ashgabat, Mary can be reached by car in five hours or by plane, twice a day, in one hour. If driving you will have to stay overnight, the best hotel being the 2-star Sanjour Hotel. The hotel receives mixed reviews so if you crave your creature comforts make it a day trip or do not go at all. There are two things to visit, Merv & the United Museum of History in Mary displaying archaeological finds (beads, pottery, figures) from nearby Merv. Merv is actually a number of towns spread over hundreds of hectares. Nobody is able to pinpoint its exact beginnings with some arguing that it was founded in the 7c BC whilst others believe it began 300 years later. It is unusual because unlike many new settlements that are built on top of existing ones these grew up along side adjacent old towns. Today one can see ramparts, mausoleums, remains of sophisticated underground pipe networks &, if you"re lucky, digs being carried out by the few archaeologists that work at the site.
Historical and Ethnographical Museum, 1 Komsomol"Skaya Street, city of Mary open daily 1000-1700, tel: 3 70 22, 3 27 22.
Merv oasis is one of the most ancient historic-cultural regions of the Central Asia. For many centuries, the civilization at ancient Merv (40km/25m from Mary near Bairam-Ali), was regarded as one of richest, most highly cultured centres of the Ancient East. Today, the ruins at Merv reveal several settlements of the area which arose and perished with visible remains of the ancient towns of Erk-Kala, Gyaur-Kala, Sultan-Kala, Abdullakhan-Kala and Bairamalikhan-Kala. You can also see the ruins of the Kyz-Kala fortress (6th-7th centuries).
In the mid-12th century, the main achievement was the mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar.
An ideal way out of the country if proceeding to Uzbekistan for sightseeing in the east. There are several flights a day to Dashhovus from where one can continue by road to Urgench in Uzbekistan. Between Dashhovus & the Uzbek border near modern-day Kunya Urgench lie the remains of old Kunya Urgench once known as Gurganj. Scattered over a large area are mausolea & the tallest minaret in Central Asia. It is a fascinating site & well worth a visit. Can also be done as a day trip from Ashgabat. Additional options include horse riding & trips in to the Kara-Kum Desert. In the UK, Steppes East (Tel: 01285 810267, Fax: 01285 810693, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org), a tour operator that specialises in Central Asia, can assist with arrangements in the country. In Turkmenistan, talk to AMADO (Tel: 993 12 397368, Fax: 993 12 510412, e-mail email@example.com) The heart of ancient Khorezm, 100km/75m from Dashkhowuz Fortunately, several outstanding architectural structures have survived in Kunya-Urgench ('old Urgench'). Visit the mausoleums of Fahr-ad-din Razi (13th century), Tekesh Khorezmshakh (13th century), Turabek-khanum (14th century), the fortress of Ak-Kala and the minaret of the mosque (62m). The ruins are a brilliant testament to the extraordinary skills of the Urgench school of architecture and construction. The 10th century historian Istakhry wrote that "Urgench is the largest in Khoresm after its capital (Kyata), is the place of guzars' trade, and caravans come of it to Djurdjan (Gurgan), Khasar and Khorasan". The country was divided in two parts: Kyata is the capital of the Southern Khoresm, Urgench of the Northern Khoresm.
Dekhistan is considered the most important oasis in southwest Turkmenistan. Located in the Kizilatrek region, village of Madau (about seven hours by car from Ashgabat). On this site the city of Misrian reached its peak when it belonged to the Shahs of Khoresm (end of the 15th century). Only a few ruins remain.
Tourists companies have worked about 20 routes which embraced from seeing the civilizations of Parthia, Merv to an excurcion along the tempestuos river of Amu-Darya. Going on horseback of the famous Akhaltekin racers and travelling on self-conceited camels are also possible near Kara-Kum artifical channel, the biggest in the world, along, visiting caves, and even viewing an ancient plateau of dinosaurs.
P.S The State Tourism Corporation of Turkmenistan "Turkmensiyakhat", 17 Pushkin Street, Ashgabat, (Tel: 993 12 35 47 77, Fax: 993 12 39 75 37). This corporation is controlled Folklore Center, Sheraton Grand Hotel, Four Points Ak Altyn Hotel.
Private tourists companies: - "Amado", (Tel: 993 12 397368, Fax: 993 12 510412, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org), - "Elkhan- Syiakhat", (Tel: 993 12 35 65 03, Fax: 993 12 35 49 63), - "Latif", (Tel: 993 12 4191 64, Fax: 41 90 39, web site http// turkmenistan-travel.com), - "DN TOURS", Tel: 993 12 47 92 17, Fax: 993 12 51 16 60, web site http//wild-ox.com/dntour.
N.B//maps from http://www.taryh.8m.com/