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The Ancient Iranian City of Magiana (Merv), Registered as one of the World 100 Endangered World Heritage Site



Sunday, 26 November 2001



For more than 2,000 years, the ancient oasis of Merv in the vast Karakum Desert of Central Asia played a vital role in Silk Road commerce. 


First mentioned by fifth-century Persian Emperor Darias the Great, Merv was strategically located in the north of the Persian Empire, where the eastern empire of China met those of the west, the Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Persian, and during Islamic times the Ottoman. 


Over the centuries, what had begun as little more than a caravan encampment sometime in the second millennium BCE would serve as the regional capital of a succession of empires, the largest being that of the Persianized Seljuk Turks in the eleventh century, which solidified power in the area. 


Merv became the largest city after invasion of Iran by Arabs and in the Islamic world, attracting numerous scholars to its two libraries. Merv's fortunes declined after invasion of Iran, which was sacked by the Mongols in CE 1221. 


Iranian government lost this territories to Russians, which was separated since nineteen century CE (please see the note).


The site was all but abandoned in wake of the opening of worldwide sea routes in the sixteenth century. The city of Merv is actually a collection of cities built side by side by waves of immigrants and conquerors.


A number of religious and secular monuments still stand, among them the twelfth-century Mausoleum of the Iranian king Sultan Sanjar, military fortifications, and numerous mud-brick structures that range from simple dwellings to palaces.


Although Merv is for modern occupants principal cultural asset, the recently independent nation has only limited funds to preserve its structures, which have been weakened not only from the passage of time, but from a rising water table, the result of the building of the Karakum Canal in the 1950s.


Merv is on the World Heritage List, listed in 2000, 2002.




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