Situated in an oasis in the Karakum Desert in the southwest of the country, Mary is the third largest city in Turkmenistan. An important centre for both the cotton and gas industries, the city itself is unremarkable. However, a short distance from Mary lie some of the world’s most spectacular ancient ruins, including the remarkable city of Merv and the Bronze-age archeological site at Gonur Depe.
The city of Mary is a centre of industry rising out of the desert sands, and is the gateway to the ruins at Merv and Gonur Depe. The ancient city of Merv was once a cornerstone of the Islamic world, existing as a great centre of learning from the 7th century BC until after the Medieval period. Having been razed to the ground by invading hordes in the 18th century, the foundations of this former metropolis lie amongst the dusty landscape, waiting to be explored. Slightly further from Mary lies the necropolis of and royal palace of Gonur Depe, considered to be one of the greatest civilisations of the ancient world.