26 November 2001
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.
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.
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.
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.
government lost this territories to Russians,
which was separated since nineteen century CE (please
see the note).
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
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.
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.
is on the World Heritage List, listed
in 2000, 2002.