Scattered across the vast Karakalpakstan region in the north-western part of Uzbekistan are the remains of many fortified settlements. These fortified settlements or qalas extend into the Khorezm Province in western Uzbekistan as well and also into the neighbouring country of Turkmenistan.
Archaeologists say that these fortified settlements were built over a 1,000 year period with the earliest fortifications making an appearance around 7th century BCE. The qalas, which were constructed from compressed mud or clay bricks, were built in the fertile region created by the Amu Darya delta. It is believed that the number of qalas in the region run into hundreds; however, only about 80 or so have been documented.
I visited 2 qalas in the region — Toprak and Ayaz — and saw a third (Gyaur) from a distance, after visiting Mizdakhan and on my way to Khiva. I also made an arduous climb (my knees are still protesting after 3 months) to see the Chilpyk dakhma or Tower of Silence, but more on that later.
To travel through a vast area in a single day, see these intriguing bits of history scattered about in a desolate and barren land was quite an experience. Continue reading