Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Discovery Kyrgyzstan travel guide #10/2008

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Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and is sometimes called the “Southern Capital” of the country.
If the claim that the city is 3000 years old is correct, then it would also be the oldest city in Kyrgyzstan.  Archaeologists have found artefacts dating back to about the fifth century B.C. One claim that is often heard is that Osh is “Older than Rome”.  In fact, there are several legends about the origin of the city – including claims to having been founded by Solomon or Alexander the Great. Even if such a grand personage did not establish Osh, its position at a crossroads along the ancient trading routes that became known as the Silk Road almost guaranteed that it would become a major settlement. Now, it is the administrative centre of the Osh oblast, at the head of the Ferghana valley and lies close to the border with Uzbekistan, and the road south to Sary Tash leads to China, over the Irkeshtam Pass, and Tajikistan, over the Kyzyl Art Pass.   
In the centre of the city is Sulaiman Too (“Solomon’s mountain”), which dominates the city skyline. Up until the sixteenth century it was known as “Bara Kuch” – or “Nice Mountain”. It was given its new name because the Muslim prophet Suleyman Sheikh was buried at the foot of it, and since that time it assumed a Holy significance and many believers make a pilgrimage here. Also, some Muslims apparently think that Muhammad is supposed to have once prayed here. 
There is a path walkway around the mountain, which makes an interesting walk. Along the way you will probably see pilgrims praying at a little cave. Inside the cave, water droplets drip from the roof, and it is said that these are the tears of Suleyman. Pilgrims come to pray to relief from illnesses and for help in solving problems.
For some reason (apparently, in profile some people think it resembles a pregnant woman lying down – but you have to be some distance away and in the direction to see this), it is also revered by many women who have been unable to bear children. 
At the top of a short (30 minute climb) is a flagpole and a mosque built in 1497 by the 14 year old Babur who had been recently crowned the King of the Ferghana Valley – and later went on to become the founder of the Mogul dynasty in India – destroyed and rebuilt twice it is another centre for pilgrimage.  In later life Babur abdicated and wrote his memoirs in which he mentions the Suleyman mount (and his building projects on it); the river, overlooked from both banks by gardens and a red and white stone which was used as handles for knives.  He also tells of a mosque built by a meadow with a wide stream flowing through it, and apparently it was a standing joke to carry people who fell asleep in the meadow across three streams to the other side.  
There is also a small archaeological-cultural museum here with many of the ancient artefacts discovered in the city environs. An historical-ethnographic museum called the Great Silk Road Museum, on Kurmanjan Datka, has well-done exhibitions which focus on South Kyrgyzstan and cover the Silk Road days; Kyrgyz immigration from South Siberia; the Kokand khanate; Russian annexation in 1865 and the Bolshevik takeover after 1917. One interesting exhibit is a map dating from 1953 that shows the different Kyrgyz tribes and clans (still a very important factor in Kyrgyz society today). 
Many guidebooks to the region refer to the bazaar as one of the most picturesque in all of Asia, stretching for about a kilometre along the bank of the river Ak Buura, which runs through the city from North to South. Near the bazaar is the largest mosque in Kyrgyzstan – The Said Tepa Mosque. The original wooden building was built between 1908 and 1910, but was closed by the Soviets, when it served as a stables and blacksmiths. It was reopened in 1943 in a surprising act of religious tolerance by the then Soviet government. Recently it has been renovated with financial support from Saudi Arabia and has space for some 5000 worshippers.  
Also worth visiting are the Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque – but apparently only if you are a suitably dressed man – and the Russian Orthodox Church.  
From the city it is possible to visit the Kara Shoro National Park, the Caves of Chil Ustin and the petroglyphs of Avaran.
The mountain ranges that criss-cross the country effectively divide the North from the South and many say that the Kyrgyz in the South are quite different from those in the North – more independent and proud than those they as Russified Northerners.  There are really only two North-South routes of which the main Bishkek-Osh is one, offering a spectacular journey through the mountains and along the northern flanks of the Ferghana valley.  In addition, there are several flights a day between Bishkek and Osh.

Discovery Kyrgyzstan
Travel guide#10/2008

Discovery Kyrgyzstan Travel guide #10/2008

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