Exploring Tourism in Uzbekistan
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Buddhist Sites

Termez, Uzbekistan

Islam’s influence on Central Asia for over a millennium is so pervasive that it is difficult for the modern-day traveller to envisage a time when nomadic shamanism, Persian Zoroastrianism and Indian Buddhism predated the monotheism of Islam. A visit to the archeological remains of Kara Tepe and Fayaz Tepe, however, requires from the visitor just such a leap of faith.
Fayaz Tepe is located two kilometers north of the Imam Termezi mausoleum and it consists of the archaeological remains of a two-millenniums old Buddhist temple and monastery complex, whose impact is perhaps more intellectual than visual. The large central courtyard, the heart of the Buddhist temple, is flanked to the west by the main living quarters of the monastery and to the east by the main refectory. The brick stupa to the north of the temple dates from the first century ВС and is only the inner section of a much larger construction that rose from the cross shaped foundations. Clay and gypsum statues of Buddha, a series of murals depicting various adorants in Kushan dress and fragments of pottery containing Brahmi, Punjabi, Kharoshti and Bactrian scripts have all been found on the site, underlining its essentially Eastern orientation. Remains have also been discovered of a two-kilometre aqueduct that supplied the monastery with water from the Amu Darya. UNESCO and the Japanese government plan to connect Kara and Fayaz Tepe with a road, shore up their walls and build a visitor centre, handicrafts shop and display of Kushan architecture.
The monastery was looted in the 5th century by Sassanid troops and later used as a burial ground and retreat for Sufic mystics of a rather different religious persuasion.
The trio of Buddhist archaeological memorabilia is completed by the sixteen metre high Zurmala Tower, situated three kilometres southeast of Old Termez and visible from l he main M-39. This sixteen-metre-high brick tower is the remnant of the largest Ikiddhist stupa in the area and is possibly the oldest construction still standing in Uzbekistan. Back in the third and fourth centuries AD, at the height of Buddhist influence, the base of the stupa would have been covered with white limestone slabs below red brick decoration and would have housed a collection of sacred Buddhist relics.

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