Saturday, December 30, 2017

History of Beruniy (Kat / Kath)

Top of Form Beruniy is located on the northern bank of the Amu Darya (Oxus) and is the administrative seat of Beruniy District. It is located 41.69 latitude and 60.75 longitude and it is situated at elevation 101 meters above sea level. It has a population of 50,929 making it the 3rd largest urban area within Karakalpakstan.
Historically, Beruniy was known as Kat or Kath and served as the capital of Khwarezm during the Afrighid dynasty and owed both its glory and demise to the Amu Darya (Oxus).Silt deposits from the river made the surrounding land fertile, and its water, through a network of man-made irrigation canals, has aided agricultural growth on vast scales since ancient times, at the same time, the nearly flat alluvial plain on which the lower course of the Amu Darya (oxus) flows has caused the riverbed and adjoining canals to shift over time, accordingly, Kaṯ has had to be relocated due to flooding at various times.
From historical reports that such a natural shift was in progress during the 10th century, when Kaṯ was at the zenith of its prestige. According to a Chorasmian tradition related by Abu Rayḥān Al-Biruni's Āṯār, one of the Afrighid Kings, whose reign began in AD 616 in the era of Alexander (and the Seleucids) built his castle at Fir on the outskirts of Kaṯ; this citadel consisted of three concentric forts, in the middle of which rose the royal palace. Fir’s fortifications were so high that they would be visible from a distance of fifteen km or more. The citadel Fir (or Fil) was conquered by the Arabs in AD 712. In terms of size and splendour the capital of Chorasmia rivalled the other major urban centres of Central Asia. According to Al Biruni, who eye-witnessed the flooding of his hometown before his emigration at the age of twenty-five (in 998) to Iran, Fir “was broken and shattered by the Oxus, and was swept away piece by piece every year, till the last remains of it had disappeared” in the year 1305 of the Seleucid era (AD 994).

Kat was a commercial hub with a multi-ethnic and multi-confessional population. The 10th-century text on geography the Ḥodud al-ʿālam describes Kat as a town with abundant wealth, a “resort of merchants,” and an “emporium of all Transoxiana’. Its major products were cotton cushion covers, quilted garments and felt carpets which suggest that cotton then played an important role in the rural economy of the region, just as it does today. Kat also had many non-Muslim inhabitants. It is reported that Kat was the seat of bishopric of the Christian church in the 8th century (Tolstov). It was probably in Kat that there lived and worked the Christian scholar ʿIsa b. Yaḥyaʾ Masiḥi, a colleague of Abu Rayḥan Al-Biruni, himself a native of  of Kāṯ. There must have also still been a Zoroastrian community in Kat from whom Biruni obtained the rich research data on Zoroastrianism in his Āṯār al-bāqia. The Ḥodud al-ʿālam adds that Kat was the gate of Turkestan and that the townspeople were warlike and active fighters for the faith.

In AD 995 Kat lost its status as the capital of Chorasmia to Gorgānj across the Oxus, synchronous with the dynastic change from Afrighids to Maʾmunids. Three centuries later, in AD 1333, Ibn Baṭṭuṭa , on his way from Gorgānj to Bukhara, passed through Kat, which he portrays as a small but prosperous town. Some forty years later, Timurs army devastated the town (and most of Khorezm) but later he had the destroyed walls reconstructed.
The modern history of Kat has been marked by more flooding and population shifts but also by name changes. In the 17th century, another wave of flooding washed out the old canals. As a result, Anusa, the Khan of Khiva (1663-85), ordered he construction of the Yarmis canal and built a fortress on the left side of the Oxus to which he transferred the remaining population. Meanwhile, the ruins of old Kat on the right side of the river became known as Sheikh Abbas Wali, after a local mausoleum.

In the 19th century the inhabitants of the new Kat once again were relocated across the river around the mausoleum the settlement becoming known as Sobboz (being) renamed Berunyi in 1957 in honour of the medieval scholar and polymath Al-Biruni who was born on its outskirts. It gained the status of city in 1962. In 1969 the Amu Darya River overflew its banks. As a result many buildings in Beruniy were badly damaged. However, the town was quickly repaired and continues as an important centre.

Beruniy today is the administrative center of Berunyi district (tuman) which appears on satellite maps as a vast continuum of built environment and farmland, with a network of canals branching out from the Amu Darya.

Sources: Wikipedia and YouTube (

Monday, November 6, 2017

Nukus Streets




El Canal de Karakum

El canal de Karakum (Karakum Canal, Kara Kum Canal, Garagum Canal; (ruso: Каракумский канал), Karakumsky Kanal) en Turkmenistán, es el más extenso canal de irrigación y suministro de agua del mundo. Su construcción comenzó en 1954, y fue concluido en 1988, es navegable a lo largo de toda su extensión de 1,375 km, y transporta 13 km³ de agua anualmente desde el río Amu-Darya a través del desierto de Karakum en Turkmenistán. El canal permitió el desarrollo de la agricultura en grandes extensiones de tierra, especialmente el monocultivo del algodón muy promocionado por la Unión Soviética, y es una fuente de agua muy importante para Ashgabat.
Desafortunadamente, por deficiencias en su método de construcción casi el 50% del agua se pierde durante el transporte a través de fisuras en el canal, generando lagos y lagunas a su paso, y una elevación del nivel de la napa de agua lo que ha generado grandes problemas por salinización de la tierra. El canal es un factor importante en lo que se conoce como el desastre ambiental del mar de Aral. El actual canal de Karakum no fue el primer intento de llevar agua desde el Amu-Darya a los Karakums. A comienzos de la década de 1950, se comenzó la construcción del Canal Principal de Turkmen, cuyo inicio estaba planificado para una ubicación mucho más al norte (cerca de Nukus), y correría en dirección suroeste hacia Krasnovodsk. El canal utilizaría aproximadamente el 25% del agua del Amu-Darya.


Sunday, November 5, 2017

Djanpik-Qala (IX-XI, XIII-XIV centuries AD)

The outstanding Soviet archaeologist S.P.Tolstov, who was the head of Khoresm archaeological and ethnographic expedition in Karakalpakstan, called Dzhanpik-Kala (Djanpik-Qala) the most beautiful fortress in Khoresm.

Located 6 km to the South-East of the town Karatau some six km off the Nukus to Urgench highway (50 km from Nukus) not far from the banks of Amudarya, on the border of the Baday-Tugay biosphere reserve not far from the south western edge of the Sailtan Uvays Mountains it can be accessed by a winding dirt road (7Km) from Gayur Qala or (6 Km) off a turning on the main road.

The fortress was built on the ruins of a much early settlement dating from the 4th century BC. The towering external walls, which are seen today, date from the medieval period, the fortress itself largely built between the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The vast Djanpik Qala is irregularly shaped and protected by a double wall with an archers gallery on the second floor. A rectangular citadel is located on the highest point of settlement. Five towers located around the perimeter are still visible. From the 10th to the 14th century it became a residential zone with many workshops and stores.

 It was first sacked by the Mongols (along with most of Khoresm) in the years 1220-1.  After the invaders left there was further construction  residential and workshop zones within the fortress and once again became an important centre of craft production and trade with workshops for glass makers, weavers, blacksmiths, potters and stone carvers. Silver and copper coins and many other items indicate that it must have been and important port and trading post on the river. Artefacts indicate that the town had a sophisticated water supply and drainage system. After Amir Timur conquered and destroyed the Khorezm State in 1388, the fortress was abandoned.
On the north-western side of fortress there is a palace or a citadel with walls with elegant façade stucco moldings, typically of the medieval architecture of Khoresm. The layout of the settlement is complex extending over a large area with large level difference following the landform.

On the top of fortifications were open slots for archers protected by a low wall in the front. It is possible to walk up the stairs, located inside the wall. Five towers have survived each located about seventy (70) meters from each other. Only one tower on the eastern wall has an inner room, other towers are monolithic. There were two entrances. One entrance on the northern wall comes to an cemetery, and another on the bend in a wall from the southern side.

There are still traces of a break on southern wall, which were made during the invasion which led to the collapse of the settlement.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Lower Amu Darya River

The photo below shows the dense series of irrigation canals of the delta of the Amu Darya which are visible due to the reflection of sunlight off the surface of the water. The river provides life-giving water to crops on the Amu Darya Delta (dark green). The river originates thousand of kilometers to the southeast in the Pamir Mountains (Tajikistan/Afghanistan)  and flows across the arid Turanian plain and eventually deposits into the Aral Sea, an inland drainage basin. Before entering the Aral it forms a vast delta (see image below). The primary crops produced on the Amu Darya Delta is cotton and rice both water-intensive. The lower Amu Darya irrigated agriculture and relatively dense population. It is an ethnically mixed population being inhabited by Uzbeks, Karakalpaks, Kazakhs and Turkmen.

Photo: A satellite image of part of the Lower Amu Darya (River),