Hulbuk fortress

Palace of the Governor of Khulbuk

Hulbuk Fortress also known as the Palace of the Governor of Khulbuk is a medieval fortress, a palace of the ruler, and fragments of an ancient fortification. In 1999, it was included in the list of nominees for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Hulbuk fortress has a long history and is a symbol of the history of the civilization of the Tajik nation. Hulbuk fortress lies 30 km southwest of Kulob in the small town of Kurbon Shahid. The fortress was reconstructed as part of the 2,700th anniversary of the supposed founding of Kulob. It is a model of the fortress displaying how it looked before, however, nobody exactly knows how it precisely was, anyway the current shape is still a prototype. Alike to Hissor fortress and Mug Tepe which also heavily restored. Although, at least it gives you an idea about the size and appearance. 

Archaeologists and cartographers first started to study southern Tajikistan in the 1870s, and they began to link physical territories and historical sites with ancient Buddhist texts. The 4th century AD Bactrian Kingdom of Khuttal (also known as Takhristan) was mentioned in the writings of Chinese pilgrim Sjuan-Tszjan when he visited Central Asia in 630. Its boundaries were initially determined by the Amu Darya and Vakhsh rivers, but by the 10th century, rulers were seeking alliances as far south as Balkh in Afghanistan. Several famous cities within the kingdom have been identified, but the center of regional power was Hulbek or Khulbuk. Khuttal reached the peak of its power between the 9th and 11th centuries when it was the fourth largest city in Central Asia. It flourished under the Samanid dynasty. Hulbek was strategically important and grew wealthy on the back of trade; both of these things required the construction of strong defenses to protect the town against attack from the south. Hulbek’s fortunes changed in the 11th century with the fall of the Samanids. Khuttal became a buffer state and was pillaged from both sides but particularly by the Karakhanids. Hulbek was ravaged and never recovered.

Hulbuk prospered due to its strategic position, the fertile land surrounding it, and deposits of gold, copper, and salt. From the 9th to 12th centuries, Hulbuk was one of the largest cities in Central Asia.  It guarded the western entrance of the Pamir Highway and the nearby salt mines of Khoja Mumin. Inside of the fortress two palaces were built, the lower palace in the ninth and 10th centuries and the upper in the 11th and 12th centuries. However, the citadel collapsed along with the kingdom. It was invaded by Mongols and Turkish tribes. In the centuries afterward, a new market town, Kulob, was founded nearby. The citadel of two square hectares is only the center of a city, which had an inner wall and an outer one of 10km. The brick walls were originally coated with adobe plaster, and in the room that later became the palace mosque, this plaster was highly decorated with an ornate mihrab. In places, it is still possible to see the Kufic script and original paving slabs. The Hulbek museum is immediately in front of the fortress, it holds many artifacts excavated from the site.

Kurbon Shahid is situated on the main road midway between Dangara and Kulob, so it makes a good break stop when driving between Dushanbe and Kulob or between Kulob and Kurgan Teppa. If you are traveling by minibus, take one of the main intercity routes. 

tajikistan, hulbuk, citadel

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