The Surkhandarya region in southern Uzbekistan (right across the Amu Darya- nee Oxus River- from Afghanistan) is way off the beaten path even for those who've traveled in the Uzbek republic. It does, however, have a fascination all its own with some remarkable tombs and mausoleum complexes (like that of Sultan Saodat, shown above) in Termez, a classic minaret in Jarkurgan township, a wonderful market in Derbent, ruined fortresses and "sacred" mineral springs in Baisun. Most of present-day Uzbekistan lies in ancient Sogdiana but Surkhandarya was considered part of Bactria, and lying right near the Amu Darya- in plain sight of Afghanistan- are a pair of 1st Century A.D. stupas, possibly the westernmost of all ancient Buddhist monuments. Not much to do in the evenings, however, and only one passable hotel in Termez.
By stu freeman
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