Nohur Mountain Village

Nohur Mountain Village



Nohur is a mountainous area in the Kopetdag mountains of Turkmenistan. Unlike many believe, Nohur is not a single village. It is a set of villages with different names. There are upper, middle and lower settlements. In total three major villages: Garry Nohur, Garagul Gala, Kone Gummez, and two satellite settlements Sowutli and Patma Yurt.

Local residents tell the story of the area saying that this was the last frontier between Turkmen tribes and Persians who tried conquering the territory of southern Turkmenistan. Some believe that the place received its name from “Noh” (Prophet Noah) and “Ur” (to swim), which means the place where Prophet Noah landed after surviving the Great Flood. Residents of Nohur valley are also called the descendants of the Alexander the Great who left his injured soldiers in Nohur and ordered them to settle in this area.

Another oral story says that the tribe originates from “those who arrived on nine donkeys. “No” in Persian is “nine” and “hur” is “donkey”. In Safavid Albeniya, nine people were put on donkeys and sent far away from the country for committed crimes. They arrived in Nohur area and settled down on this territory.

There is a 2000-year-old Chynara tree a symbol of wisdom and prosperity in Turkmen culture. Nobody remembers when this tree was planted here, but it attracts many visitors from abroad and from around Turkmenistan.

Traditionally, Nohurs were involved into cattle breeding and partly in agriculture. As local aksakals (respected elders) recall, about 40 years ago, Nohur area supplied Ashgabat with potatoes and fruits. Today, residents supply mostly tomatoes and pomegranates. They also produce goat cheese and milk, but not in the amounts for export or even supply to the city.

What to see: The cemetery of Nokhur is the obvious sight in this mountain village. Its graves, marked by the horns of mountain goats, point to burial rites steeped in animism, sprinkled with Zoroastrianism. The goat horns are there to fight off evil spirits, while the stones are marked with steps, to help the deceased ascend to heaven.

Just beyond is the pilgrimage site of Kyz Bibi. A fat-trunked plane tree, surrounded by a small metal fence, is covered with small scraps of cloth representing wishes. From here, a flight of concrete steps leads up to a tiny cave, just a few centimetres across, in the side of the hill. The cave is surrounded by more pieces of material, some of which have been fashioned into tiny cribs, suggesting the nature of the wishes made here. The site is one of several in Turkmenistan dedicated to Kyz Bibi: the legends surrounding this female figure of great purity usually involve her being swallowed up by the mountainside to protect her from either heathen invaders or an unwanted marriage. Qyz Bibi was the pre-Islamic patroness of women and the goddess of fertility. She is believed to dwell in the cave (the entrance of which is just 30cm to 40cm in diameter) at the end of a winding pathway that passes a huge, ancient tree where pilgrims tie colourful material in the hopes of conceiving a child.

Beyond Nohur, the villages of Garawul and Konyegummez stand in fine upland settings. Unlike settlements of lowland Turkmenistan, whose houses focus inwards around family courtyards, the buildings here look out, with large glass-panelled verandas facing south, to capture the warming sunlight in this frequently chilly environment. Among the natural attractions around which to base walks is the Khur-Khuri Waterfall, 5km from the Chandybil Tourist Centre, below which lies an attractive tree-filled gorge. The Ai Dere Canyon, 7km from Chandybil, is punctuated with small waterfalls, some of which offer fine bathing opportunities in their plunge pools. The stream at the base of this canyon is a tributary of the Sumbar River, its waters making a long westward journey to the Caspian. Abandoned water-mills in the Ai Dere Canyon are evidence that this valley once supported a thriving rural population.

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