Merv oasis (40 km from Mary) is one of the most ancient territories of Central Asia. There irrigation was first introduced. So it's not surprising that it was there that one of the largest cities of ancient world - Merv ( Margush, Margiana, Mary) was built on that territory. The origin of Merv is shrouded in mysteries. One fact is known for sure, though - the first written references to this city were found in Avestian chronicles of approximately the 8th - the 6th centuries B.C. The chroniclers widely used bright epithets naming it "a soul of a king, a mother of Khurasan cities, and, finally, the city on which the Universe rests. Omar Khayyam, As - Samani, Imamaddin - Isphakhani and other great thinkers of the Middle Ages used to live there.
The modern ruins comprise at least five ancient settlements - Erk-Kala, Gyaur-Kala, Sultan-Kala, Abdullakhan-Kala and Bairamalikhan-Kala. The most part of them is heavily destroyed, some of them remind sagged hills but nevertheless Merv remain s one of the most unique historical monuments.
Among the most interesting historical monuments is the mausoleum of Sultan Sandzhar Dar-al-Akhir (1, 140 A.D.) whose name is connect ed to the prosperous period of the g reat Seljuk Empire. This amazing landmark is a lmost 40 m high. This medieval skyscraper's originality is highlighted by its legendary dome constructed from two thin brick shells.
Other well-known Merv landmarks are: Sultan-Kala, Shazriar-Ark Citadel, the ruins of Abdillakhan-Kala fortifications (the 15th century), the ruins of Bairamalikhan-Kala fortress and its towers, the ruins of Kyz-Kala fortress (the 6th - 7th centuries), the mausoleums of Al-Khakim ibn Amir al-Jafari and Buraid ibn al-Khusein al-Islami (the 15th century, a place of pilgrimage), Mukhammad ibn Zeid mausoleum (the 12th century), Talkhatan - Baba complex with the mausoleums of Talkhatan-Baba, imam Kasim, imam Shafi and imam Bakr of Seljuk epoch, the mosque of Jusuf Khamadani (the 13th century, reconstruct ed in the 19th century), the ruins of Erk-Kala fortress (the 6th century), the ruins of a Christian temple and a Buddhist monastery in Gyaur-Kala (ancient Antiokhia Margiana), the ruins of Beni-Makhan mosque (the 7th -12th centuries), the high walls of fortress - like structures Big and Small Kyz-Kala, Kyz-Bibi mausoleum as well as numerous remains of baths, palaces, main halls and others.
Other attractive landmarks are mosques of Dandankan and Talkhatan-Baba (the 12th century), a keshk (a fortified house) Akuili-Koushuk (the 9th - 13th centuries), Kharas- Keshk Castle (the 9th -13th centuries), Durnali ancient settlements (the 1st - the 2nd), Gebekly ancient settlement. Many archeological finds discovered during excavation s of ancient cities can be seen at Merv Historical Museum.
Today Merv is entered into the list of the World Legacy of UNESCO as a well-preserved ancient center of the Great Silk Road.