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Dash Gala

The above itinerary covers the most impressive sights of Konye-Urgench. But if you have the time, and Khorezm fatigue has not set in, the path continues southwards to more monuments of interest. The remains of moated walls here enclose Dash Gala, the pre-Mongol settlement which may later have formed the citadel of the larger city of Urgench. Inside Dash Gala, not far from the site of its north gate, is the stump of the Ma'mun Minaret. It was built in 1011, making it the oldest structure in Gurganj of which anything is standing, but probably collapsed during an earthquake at the start of the 13th century. A new, taller minaret, believed to have been some 55m high, was built around the remains of the old one, but this in turn was brought down by an earthquake, although not until 1895. Archaeologists in the 1950s unearthed around the site evidence of the Friday Mosque of which the minaret would have been part. According to tradition, the mosque in its heyday could accommodate 40,000 worshippers.

Continuing further south along the main path, you reach the most substantial standing monument within the Dash Gala site. This is a heavily restored arched gate, leading nowhere. Traditionally known as the Caravansaray Gate, the structure, with elegant blue and turquoise tile-work decorating the underside of the arch, seems rather too grand to have been built as the entrance to a caravansaray. Researchers have suggested that it might have formed part of an important madrasa, or a palace of the Khorezmshahs.