Mizdakhan Necropolis in Uzbekistan and the World Clock

Mizdakhan by the world clock

Mizdakhan is a whole complex of historical and archeological monuments. The top of western hill is topped with ruins of Gyaur-kala fortress built in IV century B.C.

Mizdakhan is a former ancient town, now an archeological and architectural complex. The major sites are concentrated on 3 hills and the plain between them. Of historical value are the Gyaur-kala fortress, the “world clock” and numerous mausoleums, one of which belongs to semi-mythical hero and magician Shamun-Nabi.

Where is Mizdakhan

Fortress and an ancient cemetery are located in the Republic of Karakalpakstan. The latter is part of Uzbekistan. The necropolis is located 4 km south of the town of Khojeily. It neighbors with the capital of the republic – Nukus. In close vicinity (about 5 km) from Khojeyli stretches the border with Turkmenistan.

Interesting! Khojeyli is the Russian interpretation of the town’s name. The local authorities use a variant of the name “Khuzhayli. Literally the name is translated as “the land of pilgrims.

How to get to the city

You can fly from Moscow to Tashkent (the capital of Uzbekistan) in 5 hours (direct flight). The ticket price starts at 8000 RUR. From Moscow there is a train in the same direction. The trip will take 2 days. The ticket prices range from 9000 to 18000 RUR.

From Tashkent to Nukus you can also take a train. The duration of the journey is 19:00 hours. Tickets cost from 1500 RUR to 5000 RUR.

A shuttle bus runs from Nukus to Khojeyli (a small change is made in Old Town). Travel time is less than 1 hour.

City Mazdan

The city arose in the II-IV centuries B.C. near the settlements of the fire worshippers. In the sacred book of Zoroastrians it is said that the city was named after the solar god Ahuramazda. His followers did not commit the bodies of the dead to the ground, as burial was considered an act of desecration of the element they worshipped. They carried people’s remains to the burial towers, placing them on special planks. Birds of prey would find bodies and nibble them to the bone. Zoroastrians placed the bones of the dead in vessels, which were then installed in crypts.

One of the oldest buildings in Mazdan is the fortress of Gyaur Kala (4th century B.C.). After the Arab conquest of Khorezm, the Zoroastrian necropolis was replenished with Muslim burials. The most revered and mysterious mausoleum is considered to be Yerezhep Khalifa. Muslims believe that the first Islamic preacher of these parts lies here. Others believe that Adam, the forefather of all men, found rest here.

Interesting! The tomb of Nazlymkhon-sulu with a round dome and an underground hall is a hymn to lovers who were not destined to be reunited in life, but they met in the afterlife. She is a princess. He is the court architect. A sort of Central Asian Romeo and Juliet. It is said that in the tomb lonely people ask for love and soon find their soulmate.

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World Clock or Apocalypse Clock

“The Clock of the Apocalypse” is the name given to the mausoleum on the supposed tomb of the first man. The structure dates back to the ninth century. The roof has long since fallen off, and one of the walls is also missing. The building is gradually crumbling: according to the legend, every year one brick drops out of the construction. The same legend says that as soon as the last stone falls from the mausoleum, the Earth will experience chaos and destruction, and the Apocalypse will come.

To postpone the coming of the End of the World, locals and tourists return the fallen bricks in the gaping holes in the walls of the structure. Pilgrims erect small pyramids from the pieces of bricks that had broken off around the mausoleum. There should be seven stones in each such construction, the number of heavenly angels or the number of domes that tower over the tomb of the wizard Shamun-Nabi. Making a pyramid you must make a wish and ask the Almighty to fulfill it.

Interesting! People build pyramids in free space around stone “World clock”, trying not to touch pyramids which have already been built by other people. The principle is the same: you cannot build your own on somebody else’s happiness. It is taboo to take away a pebble from the sacred place. It is considered a bad omen to take such a “souvenir”.

The riddle of Shamun-Nabi

Shamun-Nabi was a legendary preacher, magician and fearless warrior. He came to the lands of Khorezm (the most ancient region of Central Asia) to preach to the local people about the One God. The hero of the legends possessed shamanistic abilities: he was able to control forces of nature, speak the language of the animal world, and heal ailments.

It is still unknown what religion was Shamun. Only one thing is clear: this semi-historical character appeared long before Islam came to this area. The tomb of the bogatyr has a high portal and extends 25 meters in length. Interestingly, when the posthumous tomb was opened by archaeologists, no human remains were found. The scientists found out that the structure was erected at the end of the XVIII century on the ruins of an older building of the XVI century.

There are rumors that in the mausoleum of Shamun-Nabi rest the bones of a dinosaur or other large prehistoric predator, which is unknown to science.

A more truthful version of the erection of the stone burial ground is the hypothesis of local historian Nurzhanov. The monument is a silent witness and chronicler of the natural disaster of the XV century, when the Amudarya River, for unknown reasons, changed its course and flooded the land around Khorezm, dooming others to desiccation. At that time, many people suffered: some drowned, others starved. All this led to a mass migration of the population in search of a better life.

Mizdakhan is a history frozen in stone. Everyone can touch it, without intermediaries and prying eyes, if they want to!

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Mizdakhan Necropolis in Uzbekistan and the World Clock

Vasily Dyatlov, Andrey Zamakhin (photo)

There is an unusual structure in Uzbekistan, called the “world clock”. It is believed that once a year one brick falls from the walls of this building. And when the last one falls, there’s no more life on Earth. The correspondents of “Itogi” decided to count the time left till the end of the world. Today the outlines of Gyaur-Kala are barely discernible, but once it was one of the largest settlements in the east

Since ancient times, man has tried to comprehend two sacred mysteries: how much time fate has measured for him in this world and when the end of all things will come. In the West, these ideas inspired the author of the Apocalypse and Nostradamus, made the adherents of medieval heretical sects go to the bonfire and led to the heights of power mystically inclined ideologues of Nazism. And the East, which, as you know, is a delicate matter, so it is permeated with mysticism. Here you have fire worshipers waiting for the last battle of good and evil, and Sufis who know the “ultimate truth”, and dervishes predicting the future, and the tomb of Tamerlane, where “the spirit of world war” is buried. And the biblical place Armageddon, where the final battle between the forces of good and evil is to be fought, is not located anywhere, but in Western Asia. Everything here is shrouded in such a dense fog of fairy tales, legends and mysteries that it is often difficult to determine where the historical truth and where – beautiful fiction. In a word, there are not one or two places in the East where all the mysteries of the universe are allegedly concentrated. There are dozens of them. Take for example the place near Nukus, forgotten by Allah, where, according to legend, there is a “countdown” of the existence of all things on earth. Here, blown about by the hot winds for many centuries stands a dilapidated building, either a temple or a mausoleum. The Uzbeks call this place “the world clock”. They claim that it counts down the days of human life on the planet, and that at some point it is bound to stop. The correspondents of “Itogi” were able to visit the walls of this mysterious building.

Until a brick falls.

“World Clock at Mizdakhan near Nukus, Uzbekistan

What kind of “world clock” is this? Frankly speaking, when we first heard about their existence, we immediately imagined a clock in its usual sense – a dial, hands, gears. In general, the typical approach of a person living in the post-industrial era. But we did not take into account one very important nuance – we are in the East, where time seems to run differently, not in a hurry, and is measured not in seconds and minutes, as in the frantic West, but in centuries.

What’s a hundred years for the East? The aksakals live longer here. But fortresses, palaces, mosques, minarets and mausoleums keep quite a different account of their existence, sometimes for thousands of years. Unknown architects have created creations that are timeless. So where, if not in the East, should the “world clock” be ticking? How do they count time? Very simply. It is believed that every year the walls of this unusual structure “shrink” exactly by one brick, which one day falls out of the masonry. They say that when the last brick falls out, life on Earth will end. Would you say that’s fiction? Who’s going to risk checking it out? No one! Even the local educated intelligentsia treats this place with reverence. How about the peasants? The legend of Tamerlane’s curse is cited as a “weighty argument. Dying, the mighty commander said that a terrible punishment would befall mankind if his crypt was disturbed. Historical fact: June 21, 1941 Soviet archaeologists opened Amir Temur’s tomb in Samarkand, and a few hours later the Great Patriotic War began. So it is with the “world clock.” Even in Soviet times, when mosques and minarets were blown up, no one dared not only to demolish the ancient construction, but even to begin its restoration. It should be noted that this ancient and revered by the people cultural monument is protected by the state, but there are no warning signs and guards near it. You can come, look, and at the same time, no one comes to mind to take away even one pebble. They say it’s very bad luck…

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The City of Infidels

The place where the mysterious clock is “ticking” is not quite usual either. Several kilometers from Nukus lies the Mizdakhan historical and archeological complex: on an area of about one hundred hectares stretches an ancient cemetery, which, according to historians, is at least two thousand years old. It is considered to be one of the most ancient cemeteries in all Asia.

Earlier, according to the chronicles, there was a large city in its place. Its original name is unknown, but with the advent of Islam, it was called Gyaur-kala, the “city of infidels”. Who were these “infidels”?

Uzbek scientists believe that the city was home to fire worshipers – adherents of Zoroastrianism and it was from here that the spread of this religion across the globe began. This assertion is disputable, because along with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan are vying for the right to be called the birthplace of Zoroastrianism. For example, near the city of Bairam-Ali in Turkmenistan there is another ancient settlement of Gyaur-Kala, also considered to be the birthplace of Zoroastrianism.

Nevertheless, according to some Uzbek historians, the forefather of mankind Gayomard (or Gayamaretan) – the first man in the Zoroastrian mythological tradition – is buried here, in Mizdakkhan, just within the walls of the building we already know as the “world clock”. Since no legends have reached our days that this burial place is protected by the spell (as it was with Tamerlane’s tomb), the scientists decided to check who really rests under the vaults of the mysterious building. And they found out… But about that later.

It is curious that from time immemorial the walls of the “world clock” have attracted masses of pilgrims of various faiths. The fact that there were really many pilgrims to this place is indirectly indicated by the name of the nearby town of Hodjeli – “pilgrim country”. Its age is also more than two thousand years. Even today, Muslims, Christians and Buddhists come here to Mizdakkhan. It is not so much the desire to see the “world clock” that brings them here, as the ancient belief that anyone who puts here a column of seven fallen bricks and make a cherished wish, can certainly count on it to come true. There are a lot of such brick columns around the walls of the “world clock. And in order that a person coming here for the first time could lay his/her own pillar, one could destroy the one that was built before. Old-timers do not forbid it.

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The seventh feeling

Why in the “masonry of happiness” should be exactly seven bricks? The explanation is simple, though, it does not tie in with the Zoroastrianism period, when the building of the “world clock” was allegedly erected. The point is that the unique seven-domed mazar (pilgrimage site) of Shamun-Nabi, a highly revered saint in Central Asia, is located nearby. The seven domes are believed to have been erected in honor of his seven beautiful daughters. Shamun-Nabi himself became famous as a skilled magician, to whom people came for different kinds of help. He helped many, and therefore it is possible that, when stacking brick columns of wishes, people should address their cherished thoughts to him. In that case one could assume that the remains of Shamun-Nabi, not the Zoroastrian first man, rest in the walls of the “world clock”. So who is buried in such an honorable place? In the mazar of Shamun-Nabi there is a 25-meter-long tomb in which, logically, the remains of the saint should remain. A few years ago scientists opened the tomb. It was found to be empty. Then it was suggested that Shamun-Nabi could be buried in the walls of the “world clock”. They carried out excavations and at a shallow depth did indeed come across some remains. After some time, anthropologists determined that they belonged to an unknown woman aged 30-35 years who was buried here in the XIV century. Historians are finally confused, trying to figure out who, in fact, people come here to worship. Although, on the other hand, it is not so important. If the people’s path to the “world clock” has been broken, the process cannot be reversed.

As they say in Asia, “you must worship your own shadow, as long as it brings happiness”. For instance, in the neighborhood of the World Clock pilgrims took a fancy to another place that became a cult object, well known even outside of Uzbekistan. We are talking about the Zhomard Kassap hill. Every Thursday at dawn women who are desperate to have a baby come here. Then they perform the following ritual. The woman climbs to the top of the hill (quite steep), turns toward the “world clock” and rolls down, flipping seven times (notice the number 7 again) over her head. Mizdakhan’s staff assures us that there has never been a Thursday in their memory when women did not come here.

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Historians believe that there seems to be a very direct connection between the “world clock” and the hill of Jomard Kassap. There is an opinion that this hill was also poured in the Zoroastrian era and was named after some Zhomard. Compare: Jomard – Gayomard. It is essentially the same name, only adapted to the Turkic sounding.

With the last beat of the clock.

Let’s leave legend aside and return to a strange building in the suburbs of Nukus. So, if we hypothetically assume that the “world clock” on this planet is counting down the time given to mankind, then according to the logic we can count how much time remains to us till the end of the world.

The correspondents of “Itogi” carefully studied the walls of the mysterious structure in order to understand how strong the foundations of our universe are. What can we say? To date, according to estimates of historians and architects, the building is destroyed by 35-40 percent. The northern portal is completely lost and there is no dome. The cupola part is made of burnt brick and looks quite good. But the western wall is cut through by a deep crack, but purely visually the integrity of the wall does not look broken. The remaining two walls, facing south and east and made of rough bricks, seem to be able to stand for more than a hundred years.

A simple arithmetic calculation gives us this result. If during two thousand years of its existence (let us assume that this is the age of the “world clock”) the structure was less than half destroyed, it means that this building will stay calm for another two or even three thousand years. This is on the assumption that one brick will fall from it every year. Unfortunately, even if they wanted to, the correspondents of “Itogi” were powerless to count the number of bricks remaining in the walls. Neither was it possible to find out on what day of the year the “world brick falls out”.

Do historians have versions about whether the building of the “world clock” could have a functional purpose? Scientists believe that the building was used for some time as an educational institution – a madrasah. This is indicated, for example, by the remains of an inner wall dividing the room in two. Such a division may indicate that one half was used for teaching boys and the other for teaching girls.

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