Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country and often referred to as the "capital of the south". It is the oldest city in the country (estimated to be more than 3000 years old), and has served as the administrative center of Osh Province since 1939. The city has an ethnically mixed population of about 255,800 (in 2012), comprising Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, Tajiks, and other smaller ethnic groups.
Osh is a lively place, with the largest and most crowded outdoor market in all of Central Asia, now named as the Great Silk Road Bazar (since it used to operate as a market during the Great Silk Road period). The city's industrial base, established during the Soviet period, largely collapsed after the break-up of the Soviet Union and has started to revive only gradually. The proximity of the Uzbekistani border, which cuts through historically linked territories and settlements, deprives Osh of much of its former hinterland and presents a serious obstacle to trade and economic development. Daily flights from Osh Airport link Osh - and hence the southern part of Kyrgyzstan - to Bishkek and the north. Like most of Kyrgyzstan, Osh has no railway connections, although the recent upgrading of the long and arduous road through the mountains to Bishkek has greatly improved communications.
The city has several monuments, including one to the southern Kyrgyz "queen" Kurmanjan Datka and one of the few remaining statues of Lenin. A Russian Orthodox church, reopened after the demise of the Soviet Union, the largest mosque in the country (situated beside the bazaar) and the 16th-century Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque can be found here. The only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan, the Sulayman Mountain, offers a splendid view of Osh and its environs. The National Historical and Archaeological Museum Complex Sulayman is carved in the mountain, containing a collection of archaeological, geological and historical finds and information about local flora and fauna.
The city is among the oldest settlements in Central Asia. Osh was known as early as the 8th century as a center for silk production along the Silk Road. The famous trading route crossed Alay Mountains to reach Kashgar to the east. In modern times, Osh has become also the starting point of the Pamir Highway crossing the Pamir Mountains to end in Khorog, Tajikistan.
Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire and descendant of Tamerlane, was born in nearby Andijan, in the Fergana Valley, pondered his future on Sulayman Mountain and even constructed a mosque atop of the mountain. Babur somehow concludes that the confines of the Fergana would cramp his aspirations as a descendant of famous conquering warrior princes. He wrote of the city:
"There are many sayings about the excellence of Osh. On the southeastern side of the Osh fortress is a well-proportioned mountain called Bara-Koh, where, on its summit, Sultan Mahmud Khan built a pavilion. Farther down, on a spur of the same mountain, I had a porticoed pavilion built in 902 (1496-7)"