Osh is the
second largest city in Kyrgyzstan and is sometimes called the
“Southern Capital” of the country.
the claim that the city is 3000 years old is correct, then it would
also be the oldest city in Kyrgyzstan. Archaeologists have
found artefacts dating back to about the fifth century B.C. One claim
that is often heard is that Osh is “Older than
Rome”. In fact, there are several legends about the
origin of the city – including claims to having been founded
by Solomon or Alexander the Great. Even if such a grand personage did
not establish Osh, its position at a crossroads along the ancient
trading routes that became known as the Silk Road almost guaranteed
that it would become a major settlement. Now, it is the administrative
centre of the Osh oblast, at the head of the Ferghana valley and lies
close to the border with Uzbekistan, and the road south to Sary Tash
leads to China, over the Irkeshtam Pass, and Tajikistan, over the Kyzyl
In the centre of the city is Sulaiman Too
(“Solomon’s mountain”), which dominates
the city skyline. Up until the sixteenth century it was known as
“Bara Kuch” – or “Nice
Mountain”. It was given its new name because the Muslim
prophet Suleyman Sheikh was buried at the foot of it, and since that
time it assumed a Holy significance and many believers make a
pilgrimage here. Also, some Muslims apparently think that Muhammad is
supposed to have once prayed here.
There is a path walkway around the mountain, which makes an interesting
walk. Along the way you will probably see pilgrims praying at a little
cave. Inside the cave, water droplets drip from the roof, and it is
said that these are the tears of Suleyman. Pilgrims come to pray to
relief from illnesses and for help in solving problems.
some reason (apparently, in profile some people think it resembles a
pregnant woman lying down – but you have to be some distance
away and in the direction to see this), it is also revered by many
women who have been unable to bear children.
At the top of a short (30 minute climb) is a flagpole and a mosque
built in 1497 by the 14 year old Babur who had been recently crowned
the King of the Ferghana Valley – and later went on to become
the founder of the Mogul dynasty in India – destroyed and
rebuilt twice it is another centre for pilgrimage. In later
life Babur abdicated and wrote his memoirs in which he
mentions the Suleyman mount (and his building projects on it);
the river, overlooked from both banks by gardens and a red and white
stone which was used as handles for
knives. He also tells of a mosque built by a meadow
with a wide stream flowing through it, and apparently it was a standing
joke to carry people who fell asleep in the meadow across three streams
to the other side.
is also a small archaeological-cultural museum here with many of the
ancient artefacts discovered in the city environs. An
historical-ethnographic museum called the Great Silk Road Museum, on
Kurmanjan Datka, has well-done exhibitions which focus on South
Kyrgyzstan and cover the Silk Road days; Kyrgyz immigration from South
Siberia; the Kokand khanate; Russian annexation in 1865 and the
Bolshevik takeover after 1917. One interesting exhibit is a map dating
from 1953 that shows the different Kyrgyz tribes and clans (still a
very important factor in Kyrgyz society today).
Many guidebooks to the region refer to the bazaar as one of the most
picturesque in all of Asia, stretching for about a kilometre along the
bank of the river Ak Buura, which runs through the city from North to
South. Near the bazaar is the largest mosque in Kyrgyzstan – The
Said Tepa Mosque. The original wooden building was built between 1908
and 1910, but was closed by the Soviets, when it served as a stables
and blacksmiths. It was reopened in 1943 in a surprising act of
religious tolerance by the then Soviet government. Recently it has been
renovated with financial support from Saudi Arabia and has space for
some 5000 worshippers.
Also worth visiting are the Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque – but
apparently only if you are a suitably dressed man – and the
Russian Orthodox Church.
From the city it is possible to visit the Kara Shoro National Park, the
Caves of Chil Ustin and the petroglyphs of Avaran.
mountain ranges that criss-cross the country effectively divide the
North from the South and many say that the Kyrgyz in the South are
quite different from those in the North – more independent
and proud than those they as Russified Northerners. There are
really only two North-South routes of which the main Bishkek-Osh is
one, offering a spectacular journey through the mountains and along the
northern flanks of the Ferghana valley. In addition, there
are several flights a day between Bishkek and Osh.