Some 25km southwest of Dashoguz, beyond the airport, sit the ruins of the town of Zamakhshar, now known locally as Izmukshir.

The place was probably settled from ancient times, and became a significant regional town of medieval Khorezm. The site is roughly oval in form, its longest diameter some 650m. The walls are degraded, but a number of towers can be discerned. The main southern gate remains impressive, with a tall round mud-brick tower still attempting to stand menacingly against would-be invaders. There is another gate in the north wall: the main street of Zamakhshar would have run between them. But of the buildings inside the walls, their location is simply suggested by elevated areas of ground. The large number of pieces of human skeleton all too visibly protruding from the external walls have given rise to many sinister tales about the place, which many locals believe to be haunted.

Zamakhshar is best known by virtue of its most famous son: the scholar Az Zamakhshari, who wrote more than 50 works on a prodigious range of subjects, though less than half have survived. Az Zamakhshari was born here in 1074, though he spent much of his working life in more cosmopolitan Gurganj. His reputation as a great man of learning was such that he received the nickname ‘Fakhri Khorezm’ (‘Pride of Khorezm’). In the cemetery abutting the walled city is a recently rebuilt brick mausoleum, with two low domes. A plaque identifies the occupant as Az Zamakhshari. The long cenotaph lies in the second of the two rooms within. Outside the mausoleum, trees display the small strips of material representing the prayers that have been made here.

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