28 september 2020

Central Asia news

Kyrgyzstan, Osh: Mount Suleiman needs protection

27.07.2007 14:03 msk

Ferghana.Ru news agency

Ferghana Valley Kyrgyzstan

The Kyrgyz authorities have been trying to get UNESCO put the unique Mount Suleiman in central Osh on its World Heritage List for years - to no avail. The new construction project in the meantime may make Mount Suleiman ineligible because UNESCO permits no construction sites on the territories of objects under its protection.

A new mosque is being built at the root of the mountain which is known as the main attraction in Osh, the southern capital of Kyrgyzstan. The project is financed by Said Muhammed Bajumi, the international organization that promised to cover 70% of the cost on the condition that local Moslems would raise the remaining sum. Two mosques already built near the mountain are large enough to accommodate the faithful. Some of them suspect that the project was put into motion by some people resolved to have "their own" mosque built and functioning.

Ferghana.Ru ran a story on the conflict between Osh city fathers and the regional administration. The former want a cable way to the pinnacle (as an additional source of income, of course) while the latter insist on leaving the mountain alone.

Leaving the historic and cultural spot located in the center of Osh is unfortunately no longer an option. Pilgrimage to the roots of the mountain has taken its toll.

Autographs left by vandals on the rocks of the sacred mountain did not even spare ancient Arab inscriptions and petroglyphs. Some young men come equipped with special tools and leave their messages for posterity on the rocks and metal pipes used to bring water up to the trees on the slopes. Regrettably, there is nobody to try and stop them.

Vast cemetery at the foot of Mount Suleiman was abandoned long ago. Fires caused by scorching heat every summer leave colossal patches of blackened earth and ashes.

The last episode of estate maintenance here occurred in the first years of the new millennium when Osh was being prepared for celebration of its 3,000th jubilee. Walkways were made near the cemetery. The stairs to the pinnacle of the mountain was repaired. The Emergency Ministry planned some explosions to do away with the rocks hanging above the residential area at the foot of the mountain but geologists warned that explosions would badly damage all of Mount Suleiman. The problem was left unsolved.

Legend associates Mount Suleiman with the names of Prophet Solomon and Zahriddin Babur, ruler of all of the Ferghana Valley in the 15th century. Babur's House and a museum are located on Mount Suleiman. Communist Party bosses had Babur's House torn down in the 1960s when the faithful from all over the region started coming here to worship and pray. The faithful rebuilt it again in the early 1990s. Another conflict between worshippers and the authorities broke out at approximately the same time. It concerned a restaurant in a mountain cave nearby. This neighborhood offended the faithful and the authorities were forced to close the restaurant and convert the cave into a museum.

Mount Suleiman is a center of never-ending activity in summer. Entrance tickets are cheap but they are not actually necessary because the slopes offer another convenient way up, a route where one is not to be bothered by box offices or controllers. People from all over the Ferghana Valley visit Mount Suleiman - both pilgrims and those who wish recovery from health problems. People tie small pieces of cloth to bushes here (as if leaving their maladies behind) and rub against special rocks that supposedly cure pain. Students from nearby schools visit Mount Suleiman to take photos and buy all sorts of souvenirs.

State flag of Kyrgyzstan is hoisted near Babur's House every morning and hauled down evenings. The building itself shelters mullahs who pray for pilgrims. The latter are encouraged - and actually expected - to leave a donation.

Babur, warlord and founder of the Grand Mogul dynasty, poet and memoirist, the lord of Ferghana (which once included Osh) at one point, wrote in his work titled Baburnama, "The air is heavenly, lots of stream water here, and springs are just perfect. In all of Ferghana there is no city matching Osh in cleanliness and air transparency." Babur even mentioned his own house from which all of the city was clearly seen.

What would have Babur written about Osh and Mount Suleiman now?