Urgut is a well-known town or large village among the tourist as it’s a cradle of traditions and national crafts and a great day trip destination from the city heat of Samarkand. The Urgut town is situated 40 km southeast of Samarkand at the foothills of the Zeravshan Range, at an altitude of 1,000 m above sea level, close to the border with Kashkadarya province.
In Urgut town a large portion of the residents is ethnic Urgutlik that are spread throughout Central Asia and speak a mix of Uzbek and Tajik languages. They identify their ancestry to this place especially. Urgut is also not far from Tajikistan and can be easily visited when traveling between Penjikent and Samarkand.
Urgut market (bazaar)
From medieval times Urgut has been a major center of traditional crafts and its main bazaar is the largest oriental bazaar of Samarkand area that attracts the most tourists. On Sundays, people all over the nearest cities come to buy various goods, including national clothes, shoes, fabrics, household items, and much more that are produced by local craftsmen of traditional crafts. Stands are filled up with antiques, or rather old jewelry, dressing gowns and chapans (traditional coat). Shoes made of genuine leather, decor and household items, richly decorated chests and other elements of the culture and life of Uzbekistan are sold here.
In Urgut, crafts are passed down from generation to generation, for instance, the Oblakulovs’ surname is a whole pottery dynasty that has been producing ceramics of amazing beauty for 17 generations.
At the neighboring “maize bazaar” you can get local dried fruits – raisins, prunes, dried apricots. Also, the famous “Urgut kishmish” (a sweet raisin) is a popular local product here. Here you can see meet diverse and mixed locals typical of Central Asia – women and grandmothers dressing in traditional clothes, grandfathers in turbans with luxurious beards. You can also try here some local delicacies, the national Uzbek cuisine can be prepared and you can taste real oriental pilaf or hearty manti.
Chor Chinor Garden
Chor Chinor is a garden is located about three kilometers south of the Urgut center towards the mountains. The garden consists of about 50 old-time oriental plane trees, which are fed by the water of a holy spring. The ages of the trees vary from 800 to 1200 years and the most ancient oriental plane trees have a circumference of more than 10 meters. The oldest one of the trees has a room dug under with a typical Uzbek-style wooden door leading into what used to be a room for prayer and later as a schoolroom.
Inside the garden stands two mosques that are popular destinations for pilgrimage together with several graves. It is suspected that this place is originally a place of worship, a sacred grove for the pagan religions that thrived in the region before the major religions started to gain a foothold.
Nestorian monastery ruins
Ruins of a Christian monastery were found near Urgut by chance in 1997. It had been known for a long time from the literature that one should exist somewhere in the area.
In order to find the ruins that are merely blocks of old bricks and signs of archeological digs one needs to venture about two kilometers towards Chon Chinor from Urgut and turn towards Chor Chinor along the Urgutsay (small mountainous river) and the place would be somewhere about two kilometers from Chor-Chinar. At one of the mahallas, you will need to take a turn and go on foot on the rough terrain – along the path between the hilly vegetable gardens. In one of these plots, in the midst of vegetable gardens, vacant lots and rare houses are the so-called Suleimantepe hill. More tangible traces of the past can be seen at the site of Jar Tepe northeast of Urgut, an early medieval Zoroastrian temple, where a number of murals were found during archeological excavations. Somewhere nearby there should be a Buddhist temple in the Urgut district, mentioned in the literature.
Devil's helmet (Shaytan Jiga)
Devil’s helmet is a plateau in the mountains near Urgut having reportedly strange rock formations that resemble heads of different animals and even giant human figures. Reports tell that the plateau is located between the springs of Mirankul and the village of Karatepe, be we have not been able to confirm this information. It is best to as your tour operator for the possibility to visit while you are there.
Govsul Azam Mosque & Mausoleum
Another site of pilgrimage in the area is the Govsul Azam mosque & mausoleum in the village of Gus which is just east from Urgut. Gus is a smaller village where one can see Uzbek rural area lifestyle. The mausoleum and mosque themselves are fairly new but are located in a nice are with greenery around. The location is at the southeast corner of Gus at a hillside little bit higher than rest of the village. The main road in the valley does not come to Gus and not many tourists wander here either so it is a considerably more quiet place to visit after Urgut.