Konya-Urgench, Old Urgench or Urganj (Turkmen: Köneürgenç, Russian: Куня Ургенч, Persian Kuhna Gurgānj) lies some 43km west southwest of No'kis, just across the border in Turkmenistan. The city contains the largely unexcavated ruins of the once famed 12th century AD capital of Khwarezm. Today it is the capital of a district of the same name with some 30,000 inhabitants. Since 2005, the ruins of Old Urgench have been protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Formerly situated on the Amu-Darya River, Konya-Urgench (the Urgench) was one of the greatest cities on the Silk Road. Its foundation date is uncertain, but the extant ruins of the Kyrkmolla fortress have been dated to the Achaemenid period. The 12th and early 13th centuries were the golden age of Urgench with it surpassed in population and fame all other Central Asian cities barring Holy Bukhara.
Also of note is the Il-Arslan Mausoleum - the city's oldest standing monument: a conical dome (with 12 facets) housing the tomb of Mohammed II (the ruler of the Khwarezmid Empire from 1200 to 1220) and three other smaller mausoleums dating from the 12th century including the elaborate 14th-century Törebeg Hanym Mausoleum, which was restored in the 1990s. Somewhat to the north of the old city sprawls a vast medieval necropolis that is also well worth visiting.
FROM LONLEY PLANET
The modern town of Konye-Urgench (from Persian ‘Old Urgench’) is a rural backwater with empty plazas, wandering livestock and back roads that end in agricultural fields. Yet centuries ago, this was the centre of the Islamic world, not the end of it.
The ancient state of Khorezm, located on a northerly Silk Road branch that leads to the Caspian Sea and Russia, was an important oasis of civilisation in the Central Asian deserts for thousands of years.
Khorezm fell to the all-conquering Seljuq Turks, but rose in the 12th century, under a Seljuq dynasty known as the Khorezmshahs, to shape its own far-reaching empire. With its mosques, medressa, libraries and flourishing bazaars, Gurganj became a centre of the Muslim world, until Khorezmshah Mohammed II moved his capital to Samarkand after capturing that city in 1210.
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