Merv is an ancient settlement near the city of Mary. It is situated at the edge of the Karakum desert. Merv was one of the most significant oasis cities on the Great Silk Road. With its 4000 year-old-history, it served as a capital for many kingdoms and empires. Merv's population reached up to 500.000 people during the 12-13th century.
UNESCO declared Merv as a World Heritage Site in 1999, which was the first site in Turkmenistan to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
It is not just one or two monuments, it is a huge archaeological site and below you can get to know some of the archaeological landmarks of the area:
Abdullah-Khan Kala: A fortress built by Timur's son Shahrukh in the 15th century. The walls enclose 44 watch towers including the citadel-home of the city's ruler, which makes it the smallest of the cities.
Erk-Kala: Erk-Kala marks the site of the earliest civilization in the area. It dates back to the 6th century BC. The modern ruins show signs of it being later used as a sacred Islamic place of safety, where the surviving walls are about 30 meters high.
Gonur Depe: A worthwhile three-hour journey from Mary is the archaeological site of Gonur Depe, the place of the first agricultural settlement in the oasis by the Murghab river. Here a vast dig was undertaken to discover monumental temples and castles dating back millennia.
Giaur Kala: When Alexander the Great conquered Mary in the 4th century BC, it was turned into the city of Antiochia. The remains of the city fortress walls are known today as Giaur Kala and include ancient Buddhist stupa and monastery, worshipping places for Buddhists and Christians. there was also a mosque in the centre, which is hardly recognizable.
Sultan Kala: The largest of Merv's cities dating back to the 11th century, Sultan Kala became the central core of medieval Merv. The name means "fortress of the sultans". This fortress or kala is situated west of Giaur Kala. In this Kala, archaeologists have discovered building types unique to Central Asia including mausoleums and citadels bearing centuries of occupation and history.
The forts of Big and Little Kyz-Kalas: The two kalas were built over three centuries, from 600 to 900 AD, the large and small kalas of Kyz are characteristic of the pre-Arabian era and feature rectangular wall structures enclosing the ruins of the interconnecting rooms.
To visit these places you will need a car to drive around and most probably a local guide as it won't be easy to find the locations on your own.