AFCP Completes Restorations of Ancient Sardobas at Shahrislam

May 22, 2023

The United States Embassy in Turkmenistan, in conjunction with the Institute of History and Archeology of the Academy of Sciences of Turkmenistan and the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs of Turkmenistan, successfully conducted a closing ceremony of the 27th U.S. Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) project in Turkmenistan focused on the restoration and preservation of 11th century water reservoirs (sardobas) and walls of the caravanserai at the Shahrislam historical site in Ahal province.

Known as the Fortress of Tak Yazyr in medieval written sources, the Shahrislam historical monument is located 20 kilometers north of the city of Baherden. Shahrislam was once an important stop along the Great Silk Road. It was a trade and crafts hub for the surrounding region and occupied 100 hectares at the peak of its development. Shahrislam also possessed a system of water conduits that were made of 60 by 80-centimeter baked bricks. This system used to bring water to the town from springs located in the Kopetdag Mountains (more than 20 kilometers away from the town) through irrigation tunnels and other brick-built conduits.

As part of this AFCP project, the Institute of History removed sand from the sardobas, restored the sardobas’ portals, fortified the sardobas’ walls and dome, and restored the surrounding caravanserai fortress walls. Remains of architectural facilities and archeological findings continue to be unearthed at Shahrislam and are an invaluable source of information for studies of architecture, economy, and culture of the cities along the Great Silk Road. What is most impressive is that the Institute of History and the Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, via their public-private partnership, finished the project ahead of schedule.

U.S. Ambassador to Turkmenistan Matthew S. Klimow spoke at the closing and remarked that, “We fully believe Shahrislam (as well as the other 29 projects) which reflects Turkmenistan’s rich cultural heritage will inspire partnerships between American and Turkmen scholars and organizations through AFCP and other cultural programs. Turkmenistan has truly set the standard for AFCP projects worldwide!” Ambassador Klimow also unveiled the new AFCP signage that will help bring greater attention to Shahrislam and the U.S.-Turkmenistan partnership.

Since its inception in 2001, AFCP has supported over 1,000 cultural preservation projects in more than 130 countries worldwide. To date, the AFCP has funded 30 projects in Turkmenistan worth over two million U.S. dollars, which makes Turkmenistan the leading recipient in AFCP awards worldwide.

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