Merv oasis (40 km from Mary) is one of the most ancient territories of Central Asia that introduced irrigation system among the first. It lead to the formation of one of the largest cities of ancient world - Merv (Margush, Margiana, Mary). 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 8-6th centuries B.C. The chroniclers widely used bright epithets naming it "a soul of a king, a mother of Khurasan cities, and, the city that helds the Universe. Omar Khayyam, As - Samani, Imamaddin-Isphakhani and other great thinkers of the Middle Ages lived 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 remains one of the most unique historical monuments.
Among the most interesting historical monuments is the mausoleum of Sultan Sandzhar Dar-al-Akhir (1140 A.D.) whose name is connected to the prosperous period of the great Seljuk Empire. This amazing landmark is almost 40 m high. Legendary dome constructed from two thin brick shells makes the medieval skyscraper unique.
Other well-known Merv landmarks are: Sultan-Kala, Shazriar-Ark Citadel, the ruins of Abdillakhan-Kala fortifications (15th century), the ruins of Bairamalikhan-Kala fortress and its towers, the ruins of Kyz-Kala fortress (6-7th centuries), the mausoleums of Al-Khakim ibn Amir al-Jafari and Buraid ibn al-Khusein al-Islami (15th century, a place of pilgrimage), Mukhammad ibn Zeid mausoleum (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 (13th century, reconstructed in the 19th century), ruins of Erk-Kala fortress (6th century), ruins of a Christian temple and a Buddhist monastery in Gyaur-Kala (ancient Antiokhia Margiana), ruins of Beni-Makhan mosque (7-12th centuries), high walls of fortress - like 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 (12th century), keshk (a fortified house) Akuili-Koushuk (9-13th centuries), Kharas-Keshk Castle (9-13th 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.