Nuratau Mountains

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The Nuratau Mountains. An old chap protected wildlife sanctuary.

Here, the time slows down the ragged jogging,
And do they know who live in the world,
How does snow lightened by sun smell like,
What breathes wind clinging the pass.

V.L. Belilovsky

If this place was not on the Earth, it would be better to dream up such one...


Nuratau Mountains

To the east of the city of Jizzakh till the city of Navoi in western, in the direction of north-west of Samarkand, on the border with the Kyzyl-Kum desert, more than 170 kilometers stretches a mountain range - the mountains of Nuratau.

This massif combined three ranges: Karatau – in the south, Aktau – in the center and Nuratau – in the north. Nuratau much bigger and longer than its brothers and the highest point - is the top Hayatbashi (2169 meters) is situated there. Actually the Nuratau mountains and the region itself were named after that range.

Near Jizzakh Nuratau is crossed by the river of Sanzar – which is a beautiful mountain stream and form the most picturesque valley, which got the name and popularly known as the “Gate of Tamerlane”.

In the west range steadily decrease and gradually passes into the plain, at the same time the southern rocky slopes form the right bank of the river Zarafshan. To the north of Samarkand range is spread, almost parallel to the man-made lake of Aydarkul.

Nuratau Mountains

The heart of the mountain range is Nuratau Reserve established in 1975, which was created specifically for the restoration of the population almost exterminated Severtsov’s sheep (argali) and protection of rare species of walnut.

Today the collection of protected flora includes about 600 species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. The reserve is very rich and famous for its feathery - 179 species, which is mostly notable in spring and autumn when the air is just filled with their polyphony. That is not surprise because it is here the main migratory routes of birds from Africa to Europe.

Numerous representatives of fauna are common in the mountains and foothills: jackals, wolves, wild boars, foxes, rabbits, several species of bats. Reptiles in contrast, are broad and diverse, including many species of snakes, lizards, turtles, toads and frogs. There are also species listed in the Red Book (the gray lizard, striated wolf teeth and Central Asian cobra).

Nuratau MountainsToday the reserve represents wild life of forest garden which appeared without human intervention (main trees: ancient apple, walnut, jiddah, hawthorn), beautiful in its wild, unspoiled beauty.

Nomadic Turkic peoples came here before the heyday of the Silk Road. Later, this region was settled and populated by ethnic Tadjiks, who make up the bulk of the population till this day. These are their highland villages of houses which were built of rock, sometimes resembling a fortress, very interesting for tourists coming here. All of these are their way of life and lifestyles that are saved from the ancient times - undoubtedly can be called the wealth of this region.

For the tourists reception guesthouses were created in the villages of Hayat, Uhum, Asraf and Madzherum of Farish district in Jizzakh region and in the countryside of Sentyab. Houses were built in traditional style and equipped with the necessary conditions for living. For the most complete immersion in the environment, visitors are invited to try themselves in the folk crafts like: spinning, manufacturing of felt carpets, musical instruments and distinctive folk crafts.

Nuratau MountainsA few days spent away from civilization, the simple lessons of rural labor, hiking and horseback riding through the mountains, chatting with artless and generous people, healthy food and good sleep, that is what we exactly need – people of gassy cities. That is it what can return strength and confidence, will make believe again in humans kindness and decency, meanwhile the desire to come back here again and again will settle down in the grateful heart for a long time.

Nuratau Mountains

What one can see.

1. Eastern Biota (Madzherum village) - a centuries-old tree is from a giant family of Archa. The girth of the trunk – 24 meters, girth of the central branch-12 meters. There are at least 5 people can be placed in the existing hollow. Some believe that it was planted by Alexander the Great on the grave of one of the military chiefs. According to the legends of the local population, the tree is endowed with miraculous powers, to fulfill dreams come true. One needs to bypass around the tree and tie on the branches of colored scrap to make a wish to come true. Almost there is a hundred percent in help for childless women in the request for child's birth (that is belief).

2. Destroyed Mosque (Madzherum village) - is close to miraculous tree. The date of construction is- end of XIX - early XX century. Also considered a miraculous place, the locals still bring offerings here.

3. Fortress Madzherum Kala (Madzherum village) - a small ruined castle, situated a hundred meters above the village. According to unconfirmed reports fortress for many centuries was the center of an ancient village and served as a refuge from the nomads. Dug topsoil exposes pottery, bones, and utensils. At a depth of 3 meters, age of the findings dated to III-IV centuries, and above IX-XII centuries AD.

4. Mosque (Uhum village) - end of the XIX century. Destroyed during the Soviet era, it is gradually being restored at the insistence of the elders in the 90’s of the last century. It is working nowadays.

5. Mosque (Hayat village) - the ancient destroyed mosque at the border of the reserve it is located on the ruins of an abandoned village.

6. Petroglyphs (tracts of Saedan, Novi Daroz, Pichak, Fargu) - the ancient cave paintings depicting scenes of hunting. Not investigated totally.

Nuratau Mountains

This is interesting:

1. If one is lucky, there is an opportunity to see how small herds of Severtsov’s relic sheep feed on the slopes of the protected mountains early in the morning or watch them in captivity, make an excursion to the aviary with the views of Nurata reserve.

2. In springs and autumns one can be a witness or take part in folk festivals belonging to Navruz, harvest or wedding. Typically, these events are accompanied by equestrian contest called "kup-kari" or in Russian – “skinning the goat”. The meaning of the competition - is taking away the goat carcass and being the first to deliver it to the finish. The game is very catchy and gambling, despite the rather strict rules. The prize at the stake which are exhibited: camels, oxen, goats, carpets, appliances, and sometimes cars.

Severtsov’s Sheep (argali)

Severtsov’s (Kyzylkum) sheep – are dwindling all the time, it is in the Red Book of Uzbekistan and the World Red List of subspecies. Today’s habitat is just west of the Nuratau ridge and remnants of Aktau. On the other territories species have not been preserved.

Place of living are middle and upper floors of the Mountains (1000 2000 above the sea level). During winters descend to the valley.

Lifestyle. Seasonal migrations of herds happen in search of pastures with herbaceous vegetation.

Amount. Till today the amount remained is about 2500 heads, 1500 of them in Nuratau reserve.

To save the subspecies and restore the population size in Nuratau an attempt to preserve Severtsov’s sheep in the way of artificial breeding was made. Today there are 13 goals of these subspecies living in the enclosure conditions.