The Mizdakh Khan cemetery in the Qaraqalpaq desert

 Mizdakh Khan cemetery

During our research trip for the new edition of our Uzbekistan guidebook we finally found the time to visit the Mizdakh Khan cemetery near Nukus. Mizdakh Khan was once the second largest city in Khorezm and an important center of handicrafts. But in the 13th century Gengis Khan razed the town to the ground. Indeed, he did so with most towns of Central Asia. Even after the destruction people continued to bury their dead in the area. They also built mosques and mausoleums in what became Mizdakh Khan cemetery.

 Mizdakh Khan cemetery

Origins of the Mizdakh Khan cemetery

The large Mizdakh Khan cemetery in the vicinity of Nukus has been in constant use for many centuries, probably from long before the Arab invasion of Central Asia. Indeed, pre-Islamic traditions of grave decoration survive until today.

 Mizdakh Khan cemetery

The ladders you will see in the tombs were originally in use as stretchers to carry the dead to the cemetery. They also symbolize the passage of the dead into heaven.

The Mausoleum of Mazlum Khan Sulu

P1010348 Mizdakhan Masdumxan Suli Mausoleum

One of the oldest tombs on the Mizdakh Khan cemetery, that of Mazlum Khan Sulu, dates from the 13th century. It has recently been beautifully restored. The elegant brickwork patterns are combined with occasional turquoise-blue glazed bricks. The decorations relate to Seljuk buildings as far as Anatolia, and to Mongol mausoleums constructed in Iran.

The Mausoleum of Shamun Nabi

The Mausoleum of Shamun Nabi was built in the 13th or 14th century. It has a very unusual architecture with seven domes making up the roof. Even more unusual ist the sarcophagus inside, which is 25 meters long and said to be still growing. Buried here is the miracle-performer and mystic Shamun Nabi. Although when Russian archeologists opened the tomb they did not find any body remains.

P1010397 Mizdakhan Shamun Nabi

How to visit the Mizdakh Khan cemetery

The cemetery lies in the desert near the village of Khojayli, between Nukus and the Turkmen border. If you go from Nukus, it is best to negotiate a taxi with waiting time at the cemetery. If you go on to Turkmenistan do not forget to stop at the Turabeg Khanum mausoleum in Kunya Urgench. It has one of the most beautiful domes we have seen! Nukus is the largest city in the North of Uzbekistan. It is famous for its art museum, but also the starting point for trips to the disappearing Aral Sea.

NB: This travel blog article about Mizdakh Khan was not sponsored. We paid all expenses ourselves.

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  1. I know so little about Uzbekistan but what a beautiful find you discovered in The Mizdakh Khan cemetery in the Qaraqalpaq desert. I loved learning about the history and despite the effort of Ghengis Khan how the people saved their cemetary.

  2. Wow, this is amazing! The ‘Stans’ are still a rather undiscovered region for the common traveller, I’d say, and I would love to visit. Right now is probably not a good moment to go – apart from the pandemic, however, these places that the SU used to basically hide from the world have so much undiscovered culture. Also congrats to your photo skills – these pictures are just beautiful – technically and from an artistic point of view 🙂

    1. Dear Renata, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyztan are the easier countries to travel in the region. Both have a tourist infrastructure and see group tours as well as individual travellers. So I would suggest to start with this countries.

  3. I found the Mizdakh Khan Cemetery history is very interesting. I wonder if people still buried their loved ones there until today. And it’s also interesting about there’s no body remained found inside the Shamun Nabi tomb. What’s the story that goes with it?

    1. Dear Umiko, yes the Mizdakh Khan cemetery is still in use. However, today there are only some villages nearby, so not many people get buried there.

  4. This has to be the most fascinating cemetery in the world! I’ve never heard of it, but the structure is striking and so unique. So interesting to read about these lesser known places in the world.

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