Serahs

Serahs

Serahs (or Serahks) town is the closest Turkmen town to the Iranian border at the eastern edge of the Ahal Region. Serakhs is the border crossing point for a railway link and road between Tejen and Mashhad in Iran. The Turkmen officials often call this railway a meeting point of the Silk Route links and Serakhs in its heyday was indeed an important Silk Road town due position along the route between Nishapur and Merv. Located in an oasis along the Tejen River, Serakhs has been occupied since at least Achaemenid times , celebrating its 2 500th anniversary in 1993. Serahs was at its peak under the Seljuks when the town occupied an area of 120 ha and was home to a famous school of architects responsible for some of the finest constructions of the region, including the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar in Merv and the Ribat-i Sharaf Caravanserai on the road to Nishapur in present-day Iran.

Serakhas fell into decline following the death of the Seljuks, but had a temporary recovery under the Khorezmshahs at the end of the 12th century until the the Mongol invasion reached also this place. After this the once-powerful trading town became an increasingly rural backwater. By the time of the arrival of Russians, they built their new administrative center 2 km to the north of Old Serakhs, which now has the status of a state historical reserve.

If you wish to visit Seraks, note that a special permit is required as it is a border town. Furthermore, it appears that the town doesn’t offer much accommodation, though Turkmen travel agents may be able to book a guesthouses

Abul Fazl  Mausoleum

The 11th century mausoleum of Abul Fazl is the main sight of the Serakhs. It is located southeast from the modern town. A highly respected Sufi Sheik and mentor of Abu Said Meikhene, a mausoleum was built over the grave of Abul Fazl soon after his death in 1023. The mausoleum is a fine example of the skills of the architects of Serakhs during the Seljuk period. Known locally as Serakhs Baba, the mausoleum consists of a square chamber, its walls are some 15 m in length, above which is a double dome atop of a 12-sided drum.

The external walls of the building, which were restored in the 1980s, each contain five blind-arched niches, with decoration provided by the alternations between vertically and horizontally placed bricks. The tall portal, with scalloped decoration beneath the arch, dates from a 15th-century reconstruction under the Timurids. In the interior, the transition between walls and dome are marked with four squinches, separated by niches. The cenotaph of Abul Fazl lies in the center of the room, covered with sheets. It is possible to climb onto the roof of the mausoleum via a steep spiral stairway. This offers a good view of the site, including the citadel ruins to the north. Some of the tiles on the roof display a handprint; possibly simply to make the tiles easier to be laid.

To the north of the mausoleum, the long low hill covered with pieces of pottery and red brick is the old citadel. On the eastern side of this hill there is a section of wall, including a bastion, has been reconstructed. The main residential areas of Serakhs in its heyday stretched out east of the citadel and were in turn surrounded by mud-brick walls, whose lines can be still recognized from the vantage point of the citadel.

Ruins of Yarty Gumbez Mausoleum

This ruined mausoleum is located in the middle of a site that appears to be an old fortress city, further southeast from Serahs, on the other side of the airport. It is known as Yarty Gumbez (‘Half Dome’). The name is somewhat misleading, as none of the domes have survived. Another casualty of recent decay is an inscription on the east wall of the building, clearly visible in photos taken here in the 1970s, whose text dated the mausoleum to 1098. The north wall is almost entirely absent and the only remnants of the drum beneath the dome are two elegant squinches, occupying the inside corners of the south wall. Scholars have suggested that this may be the mausoleum of one Sheikh Ahmed Al Khady, based on a 12th-century account which records that Al Khady was buried in one of the villages of the Serakhs Oasis.

Sights near Serahs

Page updated 8.3.2021

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