Mary

Mary

Mary is the third-largest city of Turkmenistan and regional capital as well as the heir to the city Ancient city of Merv standing 30km to the east, as the administrative capital of the oasis. The capital of the Mary region resembles a Soviet cake packed with administrative buildings and large gardens excessive to the size of the city. Mary is also the center of the major cotton growing belt, which gives the city an air of prosperity for the population of around 120,000. 

If you in Mary you can take a walk along the Murgab River, check out the regional museum, and taste the local food. The city has good transport links and a variety of accommodation. There are not many outstanding attractions that Mary offers apart from the excellent regional museum, therefore you may go check out the nearest ancient cities like Gonur and Merv. 

History

The history of Maty dates back to the 1820s when the Tekke Turkmen erected a fortress here, alongside the new banks of the Murgab, favoring the site to ancient Merv, 30 km east. Merv as a new city was taken without a fight in 1884 by a Russian soldier named Alikhanov, who persuaded the local Tekke Turkmen leaders to accept tsarist authority rather than lose their city and perhaps their lives. The Russians set a new administrative center, erected buildings and the city got the name Mary in the 1930s. Cotton production quickly picked up and the guarantee of continued wealth came in 1968 when huge natural gas reserves were found 20 km west of the city.

How to Get to Mary

Plane

From Ashgabat, there are two flights daily by Boeing 717 to Mary, the flight time is 40 minutes. Since one flight makes the round trip in the early morning, the second in the early evening so you can visit Mary on a day trip from Ashgabat. The airport lies 8 km east of the center of town, off the road to Bayramaly. You can get to the city center by taxi that awaits the incoming flights.

Train

The railway station is a white-tiled building in the center of town. There trains daily head west to Ashgabat (7h – 8h the slow one 12h). Two trains go east, through Turkmenabat (one to Atamurat, the other to Dashoguz(17h), and one south, to Serhetabat on the Afghan border. There is a further train to Turkmenabat (14h and slow train 17h), on Tuesdays only.

Bus / Taxi

There are three a day to Ashgabat, two to Serhetabat and two to Tejen, and much more regular service to Bayramaly (the first departing at 06.30, the last at 18.10). There is more activity open area immediately to the west of the bus terminal. There are various private vehicles depart from here and frequent departures of both minibusses and taxis for Ashgabat, Turkmenabat and Tejen, and options for most towns in the region.

The bus terminal is located next to a deserted-looking building from which the public buses depart 

Mary Sights

Mary’s main street is Mollanepes street, where you can find the decaying seven storey Hotel Sanjar and the train station at the heart of the Soviet town. Further southeast of Mollanepes is the modern town, replete with vast white marble buildings. There you will find the Zelyony (Green) Bazaar and the Murgab River. Passing the river en route to Merv you’ll see the huge Turkmenbashi Hajji mosque and the new Mary Regional Museum building.

Niyazov Central Park is located on the eastern part of the Mary Regional Museum. There is a statue here of Major General Yaqub Kulievich Kuliev, who died at Stalingrad. Behind this hero of the Great Patriotic War is the amusement park highlighting a ropey-looking big wheel and a riverside pavilion packed with arcade games. Walking a few meters away you will be next to the  October Cinema. It stands as one of the most vivid Soviet-era monuments still surviving in Turkmenistan.  

War Memorial is a well dark monument to those who died in World War II, holding a stylized stone flower, with an eternal flame at its base, in front of which stand male and female figures.

Regional Museum of History

Mary Regional Museum perhaps the highlight of the city holding an excellent collection. Previously the museum building was a 100-year-old mansion built by a Russian brick baron next to the river. However, a new white-marble palace was recently completed to house the museum next to the Hotel Margush. Possibly this is Turkmenistan’s best museum outside Ashgabat, whose ground-floor archaeological displays present an excellent introduction to both Ancient Merv and the Bronze Age sites of the northern part of the oasis. A tour is included in the ticket price with some English-speaking guides. 

There’s a large ethnography section, including a vast collection of Turkmen jewelry, carpets, stuffed animals, a fully decorated yurt and pottery from the time of the Mongol occupation. However best of all is the archaeological section, drawing together artifacts found at both Merv and Margush, including pottery, weapons, household implements and jewelry. The excellent quality and design of household items from Margiana is striking and rivals the collection of the National Museum in Ashgabat. A skeleton of a Margiana priestess was once also on display, though a series of deaths and misfortunes among museum staff persuaded them to have the original returned to where it was found.

Orthodox Pokrovskaya Church

Russian Orthodox Pokrovskaya Church at the end of Seydi Kochesi (street) a couple of blocks further east. It is a redbrick Russian Orthodox church, founded in 1900. Inside, every spare piece of wall is covered by framed icons and other religious works. The church is surrounded by pleasant parkland. The part of town through which you have been walking contains some nice single-story brick buildings dating from the tsarist era.

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