Konye Urgench was built on the crossing of two major caravan routes from the south to the Volga in the northwest and from the west to China in the east. From the 1st century AD onwards Konye Urgench was an important trade centre on the Northern branch of the Silk Road leading to the Caspian Sea and Russia. Around 1000 Emir Mamun unified the country of Khwarezm and made Konye Urgench its capital. In the 10th cent. Urgench was the capital of the powerful Khwarezm state which occupied the whole area of the Amu Darya delta in Northern Turkmenistan and Western Uzbekistan.
Konye Urgench became one of the centres of the Islamic world and was called "the heart of Islam" and "the capital of thousand wise men". Great scholars as Al Biruni (Abu Reikhan Biruni) and Avicenna (Abu Ali Ibn Sina) lived here. After its conquest by the Mongols in the 13th century, the city became an important trade centre again. The Arabic traveller of the 1300s, Ibn Batuta, described Konye Urgench as the 'biggest among the Turkish cities with broad streets and splendid bazaars'. The main part of the magnificent monuments in Konye Urgench were built during the reign of Kutlug Timur and his wife Tyurabek-khanym. In the 14th century the city was destroyed by the troops of Timur.
Konye Urgench was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
By bus or taxi
There are frequent buses and marschrutki from Ashgabat (US$4, 10 to 12 hours) and from Dashogus (US$ 0.50, 2 hours). Taxis from Ashgabat cost about US$6 per seat or US$ 24 for the whole car, from Dashogus US$ 0.75 per seat or US$ 3.50 for the whole car. The bus station is outside town, near the Gürgenc Hotel. From there you will need a taxi to the town centre.
There is no public transport in Konye Urgench. The sights of Konye Urgench are spread over the town. A taxi to the most distant monuments (Turabeg Khanym Mausoleum, Sultan Tekesh Mausoleum, Kyrk Molla and Il-Arslan Mausoleum) and back will cost about US$2 including waiting time.
- Nedjameddin Kubra Mausoleum was built in the 14th century It is considered as the holiest place in Konye Urgench. Nedjameddin Kubra lived in the 12th/13th centuries. He was born in Khiva and became a famous religious teacher known as 'designer of saints'. He left several treatises on mystic experiences, founded an important Sufic order and was killed by the Mongols.
- Konye Urgench Museum in the modern Dash mosque ( US$1, 8AM to 1PM, 2PM to 4PM closed Tue). Some rooms contain ethnographic exhibits including a pottery workshop and carpet looms.
The most interesting monuments are on both sides the Ashgabat road about 1 km south of the town. Admission is US$ 1, camera US§ 0.70, open from 08:00 to 18:00.
- Turabeg Khanum Mausoleum is one of Central Asia's most beautiful buildings. It was built in the 14th cent by Kutlug Timur for his wife Turabeg Khanum. It's portal with a height of 21 metres high and a breadth of 14 metres is richly decorated with majolicas. The central building measuring about 100 square metres is also ornamented with colourful tiles. The interior of the dome (height: 20 metres) shows 365 stars symbolizing the days of the year, 12 open and 12 closed arches symbolize the hours of day and night, 12 bigger arches symbolize the 12 months and 4 big windows the four seasons.
- Kutlug Timur Mínaret was begun in the 11th century and finished in the 14th century unter Kutlug Timur. It was the minaret of the main mosque in Konye Urgench. With a height of 60 metres, it is the highest minaret in Central Asia. The minaret is divided by 18 belts with an ornament and 3 belts with Kufi inscriptions.
- Sultan Tekish Mausoleum is the mausoleum of Sultan Tekish, shah of Khorezm in the 12th century, who conquered a huge territory from the Aral Sea the Persian Gulf and from what is today Iran to the Pamir. This mausoleum is one of the few monuments in Konye Urgench surviving from pre-Mongol times. The dome was richly decorated with blue tiles and geometrical patterns. The mausoleum was 30 metres high and serves both as a lighthouse in the desert and as a symbol of authority (as it stood high above ordinary houses).
- Kerk Mollah (Hill of the 40 mullahs) is one of the best known places of pilgrimage in Turkmenistan.
- Il-Arshan Mausoleum is Konye Urgench's oldest surviving monument. It contains the grave of Il Arslan, the father of Sultan Tekish. The dome in the form of a tent and the facade of the monument with a pattern of bricks are the first of this type and were the prototype for similar buildings in Samarkand.
- Minaret of Mamum. The minaret of the 10th to 11th cent. collapsed about 100 years ago. The foundation slab was found indicating that the minaret was constructed by order of Shah Mamun.
- Ib-Khadzhib Madrasa. 14th to 16th cent.
- Mausoleum of Fakhr ad-Din Razi. 13th cent.
- Mausoleum of Azizan Al-Ramatani. 13th to 14th cent.
- Mausoleum of Seid Ahmed. 12th to 14th cent.
- Mausoleum of Piryarveli. 13th cent.
- Mausoleum of Gulidergan. 12th cent.
- Mauseoleum of Khorezimbag. 13th to 18th cent.
- Mausoleum of Dashgala. 14th to 16th cent.
- Mausoleum of Matkarim Ishan. 19th to 20th cent.
- Mausoleum of Sultan Ali. 16th cent.
- Mausoleum of Dashmedzhet. 20th cent.
- Ak Kala Fortress. 1st to 13th cent.
- Izmukshir. The ancient city of Zamakshar with magnificent fortress ruins was the birthplace of the great 10th cent. philosopher Az-Zamakshari
- Dashmechet Madrasah (80 m East of the Nadzhimetdin Kuvra Mausoleum). The Madrasah was erected in the beginning of the 20th cent. It is a one storey brick building with a high portal, 4 towers and 19 living rooms for the students.
- Bedev Cafe, Azadi köcesi, ☎ 21044. 07:00 to 21:00. US$ 3.
- Gürgench Hotel, Dashogus Köcesi (out of town). no running water, pit toilets outside US$ 6.
- Chapayev Guesthouse (on the road between the town and the Uzbekistan border post, not signposted), ☎ no phone. only recommended if you have your own transport US$ 2.50.
There is no comfortable hotel in Konye Urgench. It is better to stay overnight at Dashoguz.
By bus or taxi
The bus station is outside town, near the Gürgenc Hotel. You will need a taxi from the town centre to the bus station.
There are frequent buses and marschrutki to Ashgabat (US$4, 10 to 12 hours) and to Dashoguz (US$ 0.50, 2 hours). Taxis to Ashgabat cost about US$6 per seat or US$ 24 for the whole car, to Dashoguz US$ 0.75 per seat or US$ 3.50 for the whole car.