This city of Ashgabat has been planted with more trees than you can imagine. They are planted in groups all over the city and outlying areas. The terrain is hilly and nearly every valley that comes into view has been planted with trees.
There are so many trees here now that it has changed the climate. There is more rain here than in the past.
There is an army of people who’s only job is to keep the trees happy and healthy.
We are going to visit Merv today, but not by bus. We are taking a forty minute internal flight, instead. I am not keen on flying and less so on internal flights in countries that I have little knowledge of. I have taken many such flights in many countries, but that doesn’t mean that I like to.
Are they good at airplane maintenance and repair. Do they even do airplane maintenance and repair. Well, of course they do. Their mothers and grandmothers fly on these plans, so let’s go.
We landed safely at the airport in the new city. The airport is tidy and modern. The new city is called Mary. The old city had many names over the centuries.
Margina was one name used. In classical Roman times and Greek times, it was called Merv. It is 22 miles form the airport in Mary to the ruins of the old city of Merv.
We took a van out to the old city. Before you enter, the van stops and we go into a small building. It contains a model of the city as it changed over time. There were really three cities that grew up next to each other and even overlapping each other at times.
The oasis of Merv has supported human life for for over 4,000 years. The city sat at the mouth of the Murghab River.
Merv was an early Bronze age settlement at this time.
The river flowed out into the KaraKum Desert.
The earliest of the cities to come and go was created by Cyrus the Great in the 6th century.
Merv was the site of many succeeding trading centers. It was an important city from the 2nd century until the 13th century when it was sacked by the Mongols.
I walked up to the top of the tall, circular dirt mound that was once the city wall. I could look down into what was once the great city of Merv. It is just a wide blank space now, covered in dirt and grass.
There is a lagoon outside of the walls and it is filled with wildlife and plenty of water. The land around us goes on for ever. It is silent now except for the calls of the birds who think they protect the old city.
It’s hard to imagine that this was one of the most important cities in the world. Is this the fate that awaits all cities and the people who live in them. I wonder.
One more day to go and some commentary tomorrow.
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