Trans Eurasia travel

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The next main town south, 30 km from Jilikul, is Kabodion. The name comes from Kaboti Shah nor or Kabot the Builder, a mythological king in Firdousi's Shahnameh, who is claimed to have lived here. The town is well laid-out, surrounded by irrigated fields, with a range of hills to the east. The main place of interest is the Mir Kalai, a fortress with origins going back to Achaemenid times. It can be seen clearly from the main road coming into the town. There is no problem of access. One way in is to scramble up the short slope behind the Cafe Takht-i Sangin, on the left from the road entering the town. The fortress covers several hectares and some of the walls and gatehouses remain. There are some holes leading down to dungeons. The fortress was the seat of the local beks for centuries. It was attacked by the Red army, and the last bek disappeared, probably in Afghanistan, in 1921. Russian archaeologists excavated the site in the 1950s, with most of the finds going to St Petersburg.

Opposite the Cafe Takht-i Sangin is a house with a small field, next to a garage. By the side of the house is a lane, with a blue door after 20 m leading to the house and field. This is a private house thought to be the birthplace of the great medieval poet, theologian and traveller, Nasir Khusraw. The owner is the elderly and courteous Nusratulo Khakimov, who will show you the ancient tree, supposedly there when Nasir Khusraw was born on this plot in 1004.

Nearby is a building used as a barn with thick walls. Soviet archaeologists thought it could have been part of a royal palace dating from Khusraw's time. Nuratullo's friend and neighbour Said Gholigov can show you the remains of what remains of a gumbaz, with some ancient plasterwork.

There is an interesting museum of four rooms, with exhibits from the Kala-i Mir, Takht-i Sangin, one devoted to Nasir Khusraw, and one to local daily life. The staff are helpful and pleased to see visitors.