The most important town in the Kyzylkum, Nurata, was founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC (the remains of the fortress he built can, amazingly, still be seen on the south side of town). Long an important caravanserai on the road between Samarkand and Bukhara, it is centered on a spring-fed oasis, the Chashma, said to have been created by the brother of the Prophet Mohammed. Dating from between the 9th and 15th centuries, a complex of beautiful domed mosques, wells and bathhouses nowadays attract Shia pilgrims from across the region – an exotic spectacle against the backdrop of desert mountains to the south.
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