Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor (Uzbekistan)

Date of Submission: 18/01/2021
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
National Commission of the Republic of Uzbekistan for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Samarkand, Navoi and Bukhara regions
Ref.: 6497
Other States Parties participating

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


The Silk Roads extended over 6500 km and connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world and served as historical network of interlinking trade routes, intercultural dialogue, exchange of traditions, sciences, art, religions, languages and human values.

The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” is located along the Zarafshan river, its wider hydrological basin and the Karakum desert. It was identified in the Silk Roads ICOMOS Thematic Study as the 4th and 5th corridors out of 54. It is linked to the Tien-Shan corridor in the North, the Fergana Valley corridor in the East, the Amudarya corridor in the South and via the Southern Aral Sea to the Caspian corridor in the West, as well as from Merv to the Khorasan corridor (once called Great Khorasan Road in early Islamic period.

The corridor starts from Khisorak in Sogd province in the Republic of Tajikistan and ends in Kushmeihan in Mary province in Turkmenistan. The length of the corridor is about 866 km and it lies in the three Central Asian countries Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. It crosses geographical zones such as the highland zone, piedmont zone, plains zone, artificial irrigation zone, oases zone, wormwood-steppe zone and desert zone.

The corridor consists of 31 component parts: Khisorak, Castle on Mount Mugh, Kum settlement, Gardani-Khisor, Tali-Khamtuda, MukhammadBashoro Mausoleum, Toksankoriz, Sanjarshakh, Ancient Town of Penjikent (Tajikistan); Jartepa II Temple, Suleimantepa, Kafirkala settlement, Dabusiya settlement, Qosim Shaikh Complex, Mir-SayidBakhrom Mausoleum, Rabati Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba, Deggaron Mosque, Chasma-I AyubKhazira, Vardanze settlement, Vobkent Minaret, BahouddinNaqshband Architectural Complex, Chor Bakr Necropolis, Varakhsha settlement, Paikend settlement (Uzbekistan) and Amul settlement, Mansaf Caravanserai, Konegala Caravanserai, Tahmalaj, Akja Gala Caravanserai, Gyzylja Gala Caravanserai and Kushmeihan (Turkmenistan). In addition, there are three World Heritage properties, the Samarkand-Crossroad of Cultures, the Historic Centre of Bukhara and Ancient Merv State Historical and Cultural Park, situated along the corridor. Samarkand and Bukhara have been the major cities in this region from the 6th century BC and Merv from the 3rd century BC onwards. All three of them possess significant archaeological remains from pre-Islamic period as well as outstanding architectural monuments of the Muslim time. In addition, the world heritage property Historic Centre of Shakhrisyabz, medieval Kesh, is located somewhat to the south, but it is also profoundly related to the corridor. Although there are not included as component parts of this World Heritage nomination their attributes and relevance are highlighted throughout the nomination dossier.

From the 2nd century BC to the end of the 16th century the Corridor had three important periods of prosperity. First, during the blossom of pre-Islamic Sogdian culture, from the 5th to 8th century, under Hepthalite, Turk, Chinese and Arab rule, when the role of Central Asian merchants increased significantly, especially of the Sogdians, who were the main intermediaries in international silk trade called the “Phoenicians of the Silk Road” by 20th century scholars, but also developed a unique developed culture in their motherland in and near Zarafshan valley. Second, during the 10th century, the period of the Samanids and later pre-Mongol dynasties, when cities and urban culture in Maverannahr (Transoxiana) actively developed and trade activities within Muslim ecumene and outside, are well documented by archaeological findings and written sources. Lastly, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the time of the Timurids, when science, culture, urban planning and economics significantly developed.

Along the “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” urban centers, trade, architectural elements, dynamic development, infrastructure and intangible associations, served in further distribution and interaction of different religions and spiritual traditions. These include Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Maverannahr was origin or second home to various Sufi shaikhs who, like BahauddinNaqshband, influenced deeply cultures of Middle East, the Indian Subcontinent and Northern Eurasia, the religious cult of Sufism (Islamic mysticism) developed widely. The Jartepa II Temple represents the role of extramural pan-Sogdian Zoroastrian sanctuaries along the Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor, whereas Suleimantepa monastery reflects the spread of Eastern Syriac Christianity in the Central Asia along the Silk Roads.

Starting from the 5th to 8th century, to the 3rd century BCE to the 11th century. The sites of Kafirkala, Varakhsha, Vardanze, Sanjar-shah, Khisorak demonstrate the highly developed Sogdian palatial architecture. The temple of Jartepa and fortress of Khamtuda are witnesses to the emergence of Sogdian cultural complex, and the deep cultural strata of the cities such as Paikend, Vardanze, Dabusiya, Amul, Kushmeihan show the continuity of urban lifestyle through two millennia.

The sites of ancient water management system, as Raboti Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba and Toksankoriz, are unique and outstanding example of human interaction with the environment in terms of advances in infrastructure and technology. The fortresses and settlements in the highland part of Zarafshan valley (Kum, GardaniKhisor, Mugh) and especially the significant town of Khisorak at the elevation of 2250 m above the sea level, show the efforts made my ancient people to make hostile environment available to civilized human lifestyle. The development and prosperity of the sites on the outskirts of Merv oasis was totally dependent on ancient and medieval sophisticated water supply technologies.

Architectural elements of Muslim religious monuments of both pre-Mongol – Chashma-i Ayyub, Deggaron mosque, Mir-Sayyid Bakhrom, Vobkent Minaret - and post Mongol - Muhammad Bashoro, Qosim Shaikh, BahouddinNaqshband, Chor Bakr - periods show that superb architectural monuments were limited not to capital cities but were found in the rural area and even remote places. They demonstrated new stages in architecture development and later influenced other monuments and integrated widely in Islamic architecture. The site of Suleimantepa is a proof for tolerance towards Christians in the early Muslim Maverannahr. The sites of infrastructure, including fortifications as Castle on Mount Mugh, TaliKhamtuda as well as the remains of caravanserais, Raboti Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba, Mansaf and Konegala along the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor demonstrate the evidence of the comprehensive system that conditioned the functioning of the Silk Roads over a span of time.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

UZ-01 Jartepa II Temple N 39° 31' 57,048",E 67° 20' 27,766"

UZ-02 Suleimantepa N 39° 22' 50,205",E 67° 20' 27,766"

UZ-03 Kafirkala Settlement N 39° 22' 50,205",E 67° 20' 27,766"

UZ-04 Dabusiya Settlement N 39° 34' 19,668",E 65° 46' 0,750"

UZ-05 Qosim Shaikh Architectural Complex N 40° 7' 59,913",E 65° 22' 2,667"

UZ-06 MirSayidBakhrom Mausoleum N 40° 8' 34,405",E 65° 21' 40,524"

UZ-07 Raboti Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba N 40° 7' 23,080",E 65° 8' 53,370"

UZ-08 Deggaron Mosque N 40° 9' 18,137",E 65° 0' 41,251"

UZ-09 Chasma-iAyubKhazira N 39° 58' 13,280",E 64° 38' 11,290"

UZ-10 Vardanze Settlement N 40° 9' 30,360",E 64° 26' 1,483"

UZ-11 Vobkent Minaret N 40° 1' 10,893",E 64° 31' 4,738"

UZ-12 BahouddinNaqshband Architectural Complex N 39° 48' 8,572",E 64° 32' 14,023"

UZ-13 Chor Bakr Necropolis N 39° 46' 28,200",E 64° 20' 4,860"

UZ-14 Varakhsha Settlement N 39° 51' 48,337",E 64° 4' 23,172"

UZ-15 Paikend Settlement N 39° 35' 7,736",E 64° 0' 40,903"

Description of the component part(s)

UZ-01 Jartepa II Temple
The Jartepa II archaeological site is an example of a Zoroastrian temple on the Silk Roads and an extramural pan-Sogdian sanctuary erected the 5th century but functioning for a longer period, not attached to any significant settlement. Due to its location (one day route from both Samarkand and Penjikent), close to the head of the principal canal, Dargham, it was attended by travelers, merchants and pilgrims, functioning as a ‘station’ on the Silk Roads. It was probably connected to the establishment of the cult of Nana and was a part of a network of Zoroastrian sacred places emerged on the Silk Roads in the 5thcentury. The temple possessed rich artistic program, including many murals of the early Sogdian style.Before the 5th century, the site functioned as a typical fortress connected to the river, the canal and the irrigation system.

UZ-02 Suleimantepa
Suleimantepa archaeological site is an example of a Christian monastery of the ‘Church of the East’ on the Silk Roads and is a testimony of the spread of Eastern Syriac Christianity on the Silk Roads in the 5th century and its further development until the 14th century (when Christianity vanished from the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor). The monastery of 9th - early 13th century is documented in written sources; its architectural planning as basilica shows identical developments and cultural contacts of Christians from Near East to Semirechye through Zarafshan Corridor along the Silk Roads.

UZ-03 Kafirkala Settlement
Kafirkala archaeological site was a strategic fortified settlement that in the 1st - 9th centuries controlled the south-north passages along the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads that connected Samarkand and Penjikent on the shore of important Dargham canal. It was an administrative and economic center and probably a royal residence of the ikhshids (pre-Islamic rulers) of Samarkand (Rewdad) with unique planning and fortifications, many outstanding examples of carved wood decoration, other important finds such as coin hoards and variety of sealings of now lost documents. It represents the early Islamization of the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads, as the settlement retained its economic role after the Arab conquest, while the fire that destroyed citadel is surely dated to Qutayba’s campaign of 710 (Begmatov, 2018). It is an example of use of water resources in irrigation and fortification system. It is a prominent production center on the Silk Road, especially with its kilns, the origin of late Sogdian pottery production with mica imitating silver, which has many similarities in metal and pottery vessels traded along the Silk Roads in the 7th and 8th centuries.

UZ-04 Dabusiya Settlement
Dabusiya archaeological site was an Antique and Medieval urban center controlling a narrow strip of irrigated area of the Silk Roads connecting Samarkand with Bukhara, as well as Nur-ata oasis on the north. It is an example of continuity of inhabitance and urbanism that lasted from 6thcentury BC to 19thcentury. It was a fortified urban and production center: its development and prosperity were conditioned by surrounding natural resources, the Zarafshan river and Karnab mountains. It was a resilient economic and strategic center along the Silk Roads, which survived through numerous invasions associated with Arab, Mongol, Timurid and Shaibanid periods. Moreover, it was also a proto-industrial and crafts production center, its metal and textile products were distributed along the Silk Roads. As a scientific center, Dabusiya settlement is associated with numerous scholars in philosophy, linguistics, Islamic law and theology.

UZ-05 Qosim Shaikh Architectural Complex
It is the only sample of sacral architecture built in the 16thcentury, which bears a unique testimony of religious and burial traditions that were and still are associated with Central Asian Islam and Sufism. Distinctive types of architectural structures and their ensembles of Kasim Sheikh Architectural Complex determined the existence of new methods and technological solutions in construction, monumental arts, town-planning and landscape planning. The spatial composition of the courtyard with the placement of the structures of a Khonako and Dakhmas are an example of these traditions. Special of this complex is the original existence of a namozgoh mosque.

UZ-06 MirSayidBakhrom Mausoleum
Mir-SayidBakhrom Mausoleum is the only mausoleum in this region that belongs to 10th-11thcenturies. The mausoleum and its portal with rich monochrome decorations reflect an early stage in the history of Muslim mausoleums and their decorations. It was the first mausoleum of a very successful style of mausoleums (one call with dome and peshtak) that became the prototype for other mausoleums such as ShakhiZinda and later in Timurids time.

UZ-07 Raboti Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba
Architectural and functional design solutions of the Raboti Malik Complex, as an integral part of infrastructure and the only local water source, reflect the impact of the integration process with active cultural and commercial exchanges on the Silk Roads. The caravanserai with its function as a royal place (residence) marks a significant development from the original caravanserais as stations for fighters for faiths to fortifications serving as hotels and caravanserais. The structure of both, the Sardoba and Caravanserai, is an outstanding example of human creativity to find sophisticated architectural and planning solutions in land-use allowing the necessary living conditions in the dry-steppe environment. Raboti Malik complex is an outstanding example of the type of structures that appeared only to maintain communication on the caravan trade routes, illustrating an important stage in the development of human history. The complex planning solutions of Raboti Malik, functioned for the protection of convoys in the extreme climatic conditions is a unique example human relationship with the environment. The Sardoba contributed to the full functioning of the caravan connections on the road in extreme climatic conditions.

UZ-08 Deggaron Mosque
The Deggaron mosque architectural complex is an example of an extramural station-mosque located in the frontier zone between the Bukhara oasis and the Steppe. It has been functioning in the Samarkand-Bukhara section of the Silk Roads since the 11thcentury. Its preserved architectural layout and interior design contains pre-Islamic elements inspired by Zoroastrian or Nestorian temples, which reflects the cultural exchanges and interfaith dialogue along the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads. Constructed as a commemorative to a WaliOrifDeggaroni, a protector of Medieval potters, the Deggaron Mosque has preserved its religious value throughout the history and functions as a pilgrimage destination for the Muslim community.

UZ-09 Chasma-iAyubKhazira
The mausoleum ChashmaAyub reflects the dynamics of Central Asian architecture. First as a mutual succession of religious values, representing the cult of Ayub and his story that is known in early Christian and Jewish sources as Jove (Job). Second, it was a representative type of mausoleum and architectural decorative art of the period from the reign of the Karakhanids in the 11thcentury until the middle of the 15thcentury. At that time, it was a unique form of mausoleum and no other khazira had such a portal. The significant original décor of carved monochrome terracotta tinted with golden ocher is very unique for pre-Mongolian times (the 12th-13th centuries). The accents of turquoise glaze are one of the first examples of employment of color and mark. It reflects an important step in the ceramics technology that, in later times, became prevalent along the entire Silk Roads corridor.

UZ-10 Vardanze Settlement
Vardanze archaeological site represent the remains of a Medieval fortified town of Vardana, which controlled the territories along Samarkand-Bukhara (Shāhrāh) section of the Silk Roads. It was one of the political centers of Western Sogd: in the 4th-8thcenturies, it was the capital of an ancient agricultural land of Bukhara, which cultivation was based on the water resources of Shafirkan, a medieval canal leading from the Zarafshan river. It was the residence of Vardan-Khudats (Kings of Vardana), competing for the supremacy in this area during Hephthalites, the Turkish Khaganates, and the Arabs in the 4th-8thcenturies; they were the rulers of the whole of Bukhara oasis in the early 8thcentury; their palace with traces of decoration is being excavated on the Citadel. Vardanze settlement was also a strategic trading and production point in the frontier between the steppe and the territories along the Silk Roads, which ensured the export and import of goods with nomads in the 4th-13thcenturies.

UZ-11 Vobkent Minaret
This is a very important monument for studying the genesis and development of the Central Asia’s minarets. The Minaret mirrors the stage when ornaments with masonry of baked bricks is supplemented and later replaced by glazed tiles. Its breathtaking height of luxury and architectural decoration were purely ideological purpose - to symbolize the power of rulers. Its location in the ancient Vobkent, major center of Silk Roads on a caravan route, makes it particularly exceptional with two functions: calling for prayers and as a lighthouse for travelling caravans.

UZ-12 BahouddinNaqshband Architectural Complex
The complex bears a unique testimony to the local Muslim’s burial tradition of building necropolises for rulers, their families, saints and important clergy. The most unique structure of the complexes, the Khonako, is a building specifically designed for the needs of Sufi monks and wandering dervishes alike that were coming to honor Saints. In particular, the ribbed dome, of the khonako, is a unique masterpiece of Central Asian Islamic architecture of the 16thcentury.

UZ-13 Chor Bakr Necropolis
The architectural complex is a testimony of a religious tradition of late Islamic period of Central Asia and an example of the process of local logically continuation of it, starting in a late period of the ancient Silk Roads. At those times mausoleums and necropolises were being built for revered people, and ever since people have wanted to be buried next to them. It is the biggest Necropolis complex in Bukhara region and has a unique planning of internal space.

UZ-14 Varakhsha Settlement
The archaeological site of Varakhsha represents a trading settlement and a palace on the Silk Roads before Arab conquest. It was a Sogdian political center and the outdoor residence of BukharKhudats, bearing highly fortified citadel and the palace of rare planning with outstanding murals of the “Red” and “Blue” halls and alabaster carved decoration (8thcentury), which combines Sogdian traditions with Indian, Sasanian, Umayyad motives. Varakhsha settlement was a key military outpost on the western border of the oasis as well as a considerable trade center situated on the road between Bukhara and Khorezm and in the contact zone between the nomads and sedentary population a center of a large agricultural area irrigated by the canals not far from the western wall of the Bukhara oasis.Varakhsha also has associative values related to its exceptional role in the traditional pre-Islamic calendar of Bukhara and during the period of Arab conquest. The site also has a scientific potential to reveal the features of urban-planning, architecture, and arts typical for this type of settlements.

UZ-15 Paikend Settlement
Paikend reflects the impact of the integration of comprehensive relations, the exchange of social values on the Silk Road, to urban development, architecture and cultural traditions. Exceptional example of Sogdian town planning and architecture transformed according to Islamic traditions in its later period of occupancy. It greatly contributed to the development and sustainability of trade culture, through serving, not only as the points for trading, but also as the living land of merchants. Unlike other petty Sogdian city-states Paikend was not a monarchy but a republic. The large-scale excavations at Paikend make it exceptional source of information on pre-Islamic and Moslem Transoxiana. The economy of the city was sustained not only through trade but also manufacturing: it contains the remains of the workshops of glassblowers and potters as well as remains of chemicals, Central Asia’s oldest known pharmacy. It was found as a fortress in the 3rdcentury BC and later was transformed into a small town since 5th century CE, developing with the course of time and reaching the area of 20 ha in the 9th -11th centuries before being abandoned due to shortage of water. Paikend is a unique example of urban art formed at the junction zones Irrigation and extreme natural landscape (sandy Kyzylkum desert), but also reflects the impact of an active cultural interaction and exchange of goods on the Silk Road. Paikend is a unique example of urban planning, architectural creativity, and the predetermined nature of settlement, as a major commercial and cultural center on a busy trade route. This is confirmed by the large palace with wall paintings in the interior, Zoroastrian temple, mosque and minaret on the citadel; other neighborhood mosques with carved gypsum prayer niches have been excavated in the shakhristan and suburb, there are solid fortifications, handicraft shops, residential buildings and well-studied street planning. Huge rabats or caravanserais in the neighborhood of Paykend are good witness to trade between Transoxiana and Khorasan in the centuries of early Islam. Although being outside the Kampyrduval wall surrounding Bukhara oasis, Paikend was an important defensive unit in the system of border fortifications of Sogdian Bukhara.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (ii): The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” is an exceptional integral system of interchange of goods, human values and influences among the people of East and West of the Silk Roads between the 2nd BC and 16th centuries. The cultural heritage of the people of Central Asia reflect high achievements of urban planning, architecture, monumental arts, science, technology and decorative arts as a result of active cooperation and dialogue along the Silk Roads.

Criterion (iii):  The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” is an exceptional testimony of cultural traditions, with comprehensive exchange between the 2nd BC and 16th centuries. Unique urban structure, architecture, monumental art and spiritual values appeared in the process of mutual exchange reflecting the achievements in three historic periods: Sogdian, Samanid-Karakhanid, and Temurid-Shaybanid, when the route was flourishing.

Criterion (iv): The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” is a unique example of urban planning, architectural art and technological process counteracting the harsh living conditions in the dry-steppe, rocky highland and arid desert zones. The ancient urban planning structures influenced the development of urban planning ideas and the formation of medieval urban structures in Central Asia.

Criterion (v): The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” reflects the unique example of human interaction with the natural environment of the highland, piedmont, dry-steppe, oases and fertile valleys, and arid-desert zones.

Criterion (vi): The “Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor” has played a relevant role in the spread of various faiths and religious beliefs. Coexistence of different religious communities, such as Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Buddhist, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic, as well as their cult objects, can be found all along the Corridor. This is an example of the interaction, of cultural dialogue and tolerance of society, which is still inherent in modern Central Asia. The remnants of ancient beliefs and practices, clearly indicating the continuity of the living cultural traditions of the region, can be encountered in the customs and traditions of modern people - music culture, folk festivals, religious and ritual practices.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The authenticity of the "Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor" fully reflects its individual attributes in relationship to the Outstanding Universal Value and the contribution of these sites into the cultural traditions, beliefs, ideas, infrastructure and socio-economic success of the Silk Roads. All nominated component parts are well-documented and connected with the period of prosperity of the Silk Roads from the 2nd century B.C. to the late 16th century A.D. mainly during its three flourishing periods, namely, the 5th-6th centuries during the Turkic Khaganate; the 10th century during the Samanids period and the 14th-15th centuries during the Timurid period. Architectural complexes have exceptional attributes such as: initial space-planning solution and individual ornamental and artistic elements. Archaeological sites preserve their original layout as well as integral parts. The monuments preserve partially the original brick materials and construction techniques. Earthen constructions materials, mud bricks and pakhsa, maintained the traditional production technique and massively used today. The function and use still remains in the same manner, in particular, for transportation, trade, passage between regions, religious use and pilgrimage. The route has been transformed into the modern traffic road and retained the use for transportation. The geographic outlet of the corridor is authentic and spread alone the diversity of environmental zones such piedmont, plain, artificial irrigation, oases and wormwood-steppe zones following the stream of the Zarafshan River. With the time development the corridor has been dynamically changed in terms of city growth, land-use and infrastructure at the same time it retained its original values.

The integrity of the "Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor" is related to the presence of all the attributes and dynamic functions, including four different geographical zones, namely, piedmont, plain, artificial irrigation, oases and wormwood-steppe zones and well retained at mausoleums, sardobas, settlements, caravanserais, minarets, mosques, religious complexes and archaeological sites. Sites retained component structures partially, the location and architectural forms remained unchanged and preserved and main attributes retained. Architectural planning, decoration elements, remaining of walls, functional features reflect the values representing the integrity of the component parts. The remnants of ruins are sufficient to fully understand the functional features and processes reflecting the values of the component parts. Boundaries and buffer zones of the component parts are clear and defined as well as under the state protection. Although development pressure affects some component parts in terms of urbanization, tourism development and new technologies, it is controlled by relevant governmental organizations in charge of preservation and utilization of cultural heritage in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Moreover, state laws on the protection of cultural heritage are well organized and integrated in all development processes in local, regional and national levels, ensuring the intactness of the component parts, in particular, and the overall corridor, in general.

Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole

The internal comparative analysis in Uzbekistan included 133 archaeological sites and architectural monuments in Samarkand (40), Navoi (43) and Bukhara (50) provinces selected in accordance with the chronological and geographical framework of the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads.

The geographical distribution of the compared sites is the following: 6 sites located in piedmont, 18 in dry-steppe, 103 in fertile valleys and oases and 6 in arid desert zones. 127 sites were attributed to one of the following functional types: 20 religious sites (including mausolea, cemeteries and burial sites, minarets, mosques, khanakas, medrese, remains of Zoroastrian and Christian temples); 16 infrastructure sites (including trading infrastructure, caravanserais, sardobas, fortifications and defense facilities); 80 trading settlements (archaeological sites) and 11central towns. The functional attribution of 6 sites is not clear, due to the low availability of information sources on these archaeological sites. The majority of the compared sites represent at least one relevant value of the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor of the Silk Roads, whereas 44 sites are reflecting multiple values.

The detailed assessment of the state of conservation integrity and authenticity of the compared sites based on the passports of sites as well as on field monitoring and expert views as well as the analysis of the research works available on each of the sites revealed the final selection of sites from Uzbekistan for the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum corridor World Heritage nomination. The final selection of the sites is constituted by 9 religious sites (BahouddinNaqshband Complex (mosque, medrese), Qosim Shaikh Complex (khanaka), Mir-SayidBakhrom Mausoleum, Deggaron Mosque, Chor Bakr Necropolis, Vobkent Minaret, Chashma-i-Ayub Mausoleum, Suleimantepa (Nestorian monastery) and Jartepa (Zoroastrian temple), 1 infrastructure site (Rabati Malik Caravanserai and Sardoba (caravanserai and sardoba), 2 trading settlements (Dabusiya and Kafirkala) and 3 central towns (Varakhsha, Poykent and Vardanze). The final selection includes the most representative, in terms of the OUV values, sites with a high level of integrity and authenticity and enhanced by the Historical Center of Bukhara and Samarkand – Crossroad of Cultures World Heritage sites located along the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor.

Comparison with other similar properties

As of 2020, 11 cultural routes have been inscribed to the World Heritage List, including the Silk Roads: Initial Section of the Silk Roads, the Routes Network of Tian-shan Corridor (2014), which is the first inscribed corridor of the Silk Roads Transnational Serial World Heritage nomination as well as the Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern Spain (1993); Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France (1998); Land of Frankincense (2000); Quebrada de Humahuaca (2003); Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range (2004); Incense Route-Desert Cities in the Negev (2005); Mount Wutai (2009); Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (2010); Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem (2012) and QhapaqÑan, Andean Road System (2014).

The comparative analysis with the existing World Heritage cultural routes was based on the following values: influences (criterion ii); testimony (criterion iii); typology (criterion iv); land-use (criterion v) and associations (criterion vi).

The value of interchange is characteristic for the majority of the World Heritage cultural routes. At the same time, the content of interchange (including human values, actors as well as geocultural region and chronological framework) differs significantly from site to site. For instance, the Routes of Santiago de Compostela (in Spain and France) reflect the exchange of cultural and religious values between European pilgrims and the communities of the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages.  The Quebrada de Humahuaca has shaped the interaction between the peoples of highlands and lowlands of the Andes from Prehistory until the present day. The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range bear the evidence of the interchange of several religious cultures of Japan from the 9th century to the present day, whereas the Mount Wutai represents the interchange of ideas on developments of Buddhist architecture from the 1st AD until early 20th century. The value of interchange of cultural and religious ideas also resides in the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro that functioned as a communication channel and colonial silver mining industry route in Mesoamerica from mid 16th to 19th centuries.

The diversity and large geographical extent of interchange are characteristic both to the QhapaqÑan and the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor. However, the content of exchange as well as the physical features of QhapaqÑan, connecting Andean communities from 15th century until the present day, differs significantly: its 137 component areas and 308 associated sites represent communication, trade and defense network of roads that conditioned movement of labor and exchange of social, political and cultural values of the Inca Empire. Therefore, the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor belonging to different geocultural and chronological framework represents a unique complex interchange of both human values and influences, encompassing trade, social and economic values, architecture and urban planning, culture and arts, science and technology, between the peoples of East and the West from the  2nd BC to 16th century AD.

As regards the World Heritage cultural routes, inscribed to the World Heritage List under the criterion (iii), both the Land of Frankincense and the Incense Route – Desert Cities in the Negev are the exceptional testimonies of frankincense trade in the Antiquity. The Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range and the Mount Wutai bear exceptional testimony to religious traditions (Japanese religious culture and pilgrimage to mountains, respectively); the QhapaqÑan is a unique testimony of the Inca civilization. In this light, the outstanding heritage of the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor serves as an exceptional testimony to several cultural traditions that go beyond trade and religion, encompassing complex cultural phenomena of Sogdian, Samanid-Karakhanid, and Timurid-Shaybanid civilizations.

The cultural routes inscribed to the World Heritage List are outstanding and the most preserved examples of:

  • pilgrimage routes (Christian pilgrimage routes in both cases of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and France)
  • settlements (Medieval fortified settlements of Southern Arabia in the case of the Land of Frankincense; Pre-Hispanic settlements and Pre-Incan Settlements in the case of the Quebrada de Humahuaca)
  • networks of routes / infrastructure (the South Andean system of communication and social, economic and cultural coordination routes in the case of Quebrada de Humahuaca; the technological ensemble of the Spanish colonial exploitation of silver in the case of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro; the complex technological ensemble and the state infrastructure of the Inca Empire in the case of QhapaqÑan)
  • architecture (Japanese wooden religious architecture in the case of the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range; Chinese early timber architecture in the case of the Mount Wutai; the architecture of Spanish colonial exploitation of silver in the case of the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro; the Church of the Nativity as an outstanding Christian church in the case of the Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem)

In comparison, the Silk Roads: Zarafshan-Karakum Corridor bears the unique example of urban planning, architecture and technological ensembles evolved based on the use of water resources in medieval Central Asia.

Although, the human-nature interaction resides in the essence of the cultural routes, currently, only 3 of them are inscribed to the World Heritage List under the criterion (v): the pre-Hispanic and pre-Incan pucaras and the field system of the Quebrada de Humahuaca are the outstanding examples of the human settlement and land-use in high mountains developed in South America; the remains of the Incense Route-Desert Cities in the Negev are the evidence of the human response to harsh desert conditions and its adaptation for trade and agriculture through water collection and irrigation systems. The latter is also characteristic to the Silk Roads, both Tian-Shan and Zarafshan-Karakum corridors, presenting the example of human interaction not only with deserts, but also with piedmont, dry-steppe, oases and fertile valleys, and arid-desert zones. However, in the case of the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor, the interaction was centered around the water resources of the river of Zarafshan. Therefore, the corridor represents the role of elaborate hydraulic management and irrigation systems in the development of the Silk Roads.

The majority of the World Heritage cultural routes has a direct association with such living religious traditions as Christian pilgrimage (the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in Spain and France; Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem; Birthplace of Jesus: the Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem) or Buddhism pilgrimage (the Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range and the Mount Wutai).

The Zarafshan-Karakum corridor has a direct association with several faiths and religious beliefs, Zoroastrism, Manicheanism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, peacefully coexisted along the Silk roads. Moreover, the Zarafshan-Karakum corridor reflects the contribution of the Silk Roads to the development of Islam and, particularly, the spread of Sufism. Similar to the QhapaqÑan, the intangible dimension of the heritage of the Silk Roads, goes beyond the religious associations and encompasses the richness of the living traditions and cultural dialogue in modern Central Asia reflected in music culture, festivals, ritual practices and others.