Ayaz Qala. The Desert Forts of Khorezm

Ayaz Qala II. Dominating the surrounding desert
The forts rise majestically out of the Kyzyl Kum desert. All were built on the edges of the ancient kingdom of Khorezm, whose capital was Gurganj (which is now in modern day Turkmenistan). They were constructed to protect Khorezm from attack by foreign armies and Uzbek nomads. Their remoteness, on the very edge of Karakalpakstan, and the aridity of the desert, has helped preserve their mud and clay walls. I visited Ayaz Qala, a set of three forts about three hours from Khiva, and five hours from Nukus.

Walking on the Aral Sea

This is the Aral Sea. The photo above was taken from Moynak  harbour wall, where you can now see the local fishing fleet stranded. It was a fishing village once home to over 10,000 people, their boats and a canning factory. The drying up happened here so quickly that many owners were unable to move their boats in time. It is now a place of immense sadness and dereliction. The drying up of the vast Aral sea has destroyed the local economy.

Moynak. The death of a Fishing Village

This is the statue of a fisherman that stood proudly outside the Moynak fish canning factory in Karakalpakstan on the Aral Sea. The canning factory was one of the most profitable in the Soviet Union, producing fish and caviar that was served at the tables of the Kremlin.

Where the Hell is Karakalpakstan?

Leaving Turkmenistan was a lot easier than arriving in it. Sort of. My guide was panicking as the borders were closed between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, some sort of tiff as far as I could understand. Having been in Central Asia for two weeks I was less concerned, these crazy things tend to sort themselves out, all you need is patience.