Geographical coordinates: 38°52'00" N 65°48'00" E
Former Name: Hamzaabad Village
Population: approximately 10,000
Time Zone: UTC + 5
Shakhimardan, Uzbekistan is one of the strangest and most spectacular enclaves in the region. The village is located 55 kilometers south of Ferghana Valley in the Alai Mountain Range, situated at an altitude of 1,500 meters above sea level. Shakhimardan is bordered on either side by the Oks-su and Kok-su Rivers, which eventually merge into one river, the winding Shakhimardan-Sai. On the way from Ferghana, it is necessary to cross the Shakhimardan-sai river seven times just to reach the village.
In the 1930s, as a result of the exchange of territories between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, Shakhimardan was annexed to Uzbekistan. It thus became an enclave of Uzbekistan territory that remains surrounded by the Batken region of Kyrgyzstan and separated from the rest of Uzbekistan by a distance of 17 kilometers.
The name of Hazrat Ali, the fourth caliph and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad, is largely associated with the history of Shakhimardan. Uzbekistan attracted many scholars and devout men in historical times, and according to one theory, Hazrat Ali visited the village of Shakhimardan during his travels in Central Asia in the seventh century. While this claim has been neither proved nor denied, the village now holds one of his seven possible graves. "Shakhimardan" also means "Lord of the people" in Persian, which curiously corresponds to the name of Hazrat-Ali.
In the 1920s a mosque and a mausoleum of Hazrat Ali existed in the center of Shakhimardan, and believers would often come here to pray. In the era of religious persecution under Soviet rule, however, the authorities destroyed the Hazrat Ali Mausoleum. It was only after Uzbekistan gained independence in 1993 that the Hazrat Ali mausoleum was rebuilt on the same site, with its exterior resembling its original form. Shakhimardan was called Hamzaabad for some time, in honor of the poet and author of the Uzbek drama “Hamza Hakim-zade Niyazi”. In the 1960s, a museum and mausoleum were built in Shakhimardan in Hamzaabad’s honor.
Seven kilometers southeast of Shakhimardan is Kulikubbon Lake (Blue Lake), which formed after a series of earthquakes in 1766. The lake, which is located at an altitude of 1724 meters above sea level, is 170 meters long, 60 meters wide and 5-10 meters deep. In the summer, the water temperature rises to 10-15 degrees Celsius. The lake, which may be accessed by a two-kilometer-long cable car, is admired by all who visit.
Historical attractions on Shakhimardan include the Hazrat Ali Mausoleum and the Hamzaabad Mausoleum, mentioned above.
How to Get There
Unfortunately, entering Shakhimardan is not an easy task for tourists, as it’s practically inaccessible from Kyrgyzstan and will require a double-entry visa from Uzbekistan in order to travel there and back from the Fergana Valley in western Uzbekistan. At this time OrexCA is unable to arrange travel to Shakhimardan.
If you are interested in a day trip to this region, we recommend that you contact larger tourist hotels in the Fergana Valley to inquire about occasional pre-arranged bus tours. When doing so, be sure to specify your nationality to ensure that they are equipped for handling foreign visitors as well as local tourists to the village.