For many centuries, the Ustyurt has been a crossroads of civilizations, retained traces of the Scythians, Mongols and ancient people. The way of great migrations laid through its deserted roads. Ustyurt Plateau is located on the territory of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, between Mangyshlak and the Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Gol in the west, the Aral Sea and Amudarya River delta in the east. The plateau covers an area of approximately 200,000 km ² which is clay and clay-gravelly desert. There is also a land of sandy desert. Very often the Ustyurt is called as boundary separating Asia and Europe. Ustyurt plateau occupies a vast space between the Aral and Caspian Seas, and has a distinctive feature: the chink – a cool hard-to-break height of about 150-500 meters.
The main landscape is a desert plateau with almost no vegetation and water. Ground water, which are found in these deposits, salty and undrinkable, but there are a few well-known wells. Here severe (up to – 40 degrees) winters and scorching, summer heat searing all living things. And constantly blowing wind in different directions. Once upon a time in ancient times, this place was the Tethys Sea. On the plateau, you can see the accumulation of shells. Reminiscent of the sea and the stone balls – iron-manganese concretions formed once at the bottom of the sea, and found on the lower level of relief. Limestone and chalk slopes of the plateau are a truly fascinating spectacle as the fantasy world of a different reality. Ustyurt is especially beautiful during sunrises and sunsets. The chalk cliffs at sunrise and sunset are spectacular picture when the white rocks painted in crimson color.
The flora and fauna. On the territory of Ustyurt plateau you can see colonies of gerbils, squirrels and jerboas. It is home to a large number of birds of prey – eagles and vultures. You can also see the saiga and Ustyurt argali in their natural habitat. What is most surprising is the presence on the Ustyurt wild horses. This is explained by the fact that before there were farms nomads – Kazakhs, but the horses have run wild and settled down on the plateau, where live so far. Previously, animal and plant life of Ustyurt no one was guarding. Many plant and animal species listed in the Red Book. The basis of the herpetofauna are lizards and snakes, turtles are one species – the Central Asian tortoise. Bird fauna of Ustiurt is pretty poor – it’s mostly passerines and birds of prey. Rodents – the largest group of mammals in Ustyurt. Ustyurt fauna of wild animals is very interesting, among which it is worth mentioning the cheetah. Caracal is the second rare cat inscribed as well as the cheetah in the IUCN Red List. There Ustyurt wolf, fox, corsac and jackal. A badger finds appropriate conditions at the foot of the escarpment, electing more wetlands with thickets of shrubs. The Ustyurt flora is quite poor. The most common shrubs here – different types of polynyas, Anabasis salsa, sarsazan. Many of the plants of the Aral Sea and Ustiurt have medicinal properties, is widely used in medicine since ancient times, they are used in the manufacture of medicines today.
Ustyurt Resources. The natural wealth especially oil and gas reserves are huge and are not fully known. Ustyurt oil and gas region is the largest in Uzbekistan and poorly investigated. As a result, oil and gas exploration about 25 oil and gas fields were opened here.
Ustiurt attractions are archaeological sites. In ancient times, through the plateau ancient caravan routes lied, such as Khorezm Shahs the road that connected Khiva with the lower reaches of the Emba and Volga. The ancient city of Shahr-e-Wazir, a caravan-seray Beleuli and Allan fortress situated along that very road. Old cemeteries with majestic mausoleums-Mazar scattered across the Plateau. About 60 Neolithic sites were found on the Ustyurt Plateau.
Ustyurt Plateau Arrows. In 1986, scientists from the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, during the examination of medieval Ustyurt monuments from the air, discovered strange patterns in the area between the villages Sayotesh and Beineu. Arrows, as scientists call them, almost continuous chain stretched from Duan Cape in the Aral Sea deeper to Ustyurt. They are little different from each other with contours and sizes, and are deployed to the north. The whole system of drawings-arrows on the Ustyurt is observed in an area of 100 km, but scientists believe that it is much more. On the ground, an arrow can be identified by a faint ridge of rock in which the traces of a binding solution. On the inside of the bag was a trench dug earth, the earth from which a shaft, which has been installed and stone ridge. All along the pit grows wildly greenish grass, which can be clearly seen against the background of withered grass on the plateau. For this green grass easily define the outlines of the arrow. There are two hypotheses of the arrows occurance. The first holds that the arrows represent the ancient watering facilities. Another theory, that the boom – are ancient corrals.
In 1983 – ancient stone sculptures of an unknown civilization were found in the area of Beyte wells- the west Ustyurt. For centuries, the Ustyurt plateau remained traces of many civilizations, the Great Silk Road passed through this area, an ancient caravan route – Khorezm Shahs road that connected the ancient city of Khiva with the lower reaches of the Volga, it affected the great migration of peoples, the Mongol conquest, Scythian campaign . A set of ancient cemeteries, mausoleums with minarets and underground temples scattered across the plateau, discovered 60 sites of primitive man to the Neolithic period, the ruins of ancient cities Shahir-i-Wazir and the remains of the fortress Allan and even more ancient sites of unknown civilizations.
The statues were different – some reaching almost four-meter high, the other – a little more than two meters, and the smallest – about one meter. Here layed the stone heads, broad male torsos with a narrow waist, semi-finished limestone slabs. The statues stood in a certain “U” shape order. At the Beyte wells all ancient monuments are located at higher elevations at a distance of 1 to 4 km from each other, and from religious complex can be seen the next one. In the area of Beyte were found three sets of hillocks stretched out from north-east to south-west. In this area you can see the sculptures of ancient warriors, places for ceremonies of sacrifice, and the remains of the ancient constructions. According to weapons and ornaments depicted in sculptures scientists believed that these buildings belong Massagets who lived in the IV – III centuries BC.
The red sands of the Kyzylkum desert have settled astride the edges of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. On both sides of the border, Kazakhs shepherd in this sublime, inhospitable landscape, scourged by icy winters and scorching summers. A stay in the desert combines well with a visit to the Nuratau Mountains, for those travelers interested in seeing a different side of Uzbekistan as an alternative to the standard route between Bukhara and Samarkand. Staying in a yurt or doing a camel trek is a memorable experience, but time it right. March to May and September to October are the only times when the weather is bearable and the camps are closed the rest of the year. Spring is best, as the desert lights up with colourful tulips and poppies, and animals like the Central Asian tortoise are active.
There are 4 camps in all, 2 close to Yangikazgan, the other 2 close to Dongalik (see map). They are all quite similar, really, but we prefer the Kizilkum Safari camp for its location close to the lake, its friendly staff, slightly lower prices and tasty dinners (vegetarian options not bad either).
Desert has an area of about 115,000 square miles (about 300,000 square km) and lies between the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya (rivers), southeast of the Aral Sea. It consists of a plain sloping down toward the northwest, with a number of isolated bare mountains rising to 3,025 feet (922 m) and several large enclosed basins. Precipitation, 4–8 inches (100–200 mm) annually, occurs mainly in winter and spring. Mostly covered with sand ridges on which desert plants grow, the desert serves as pasture for Karakul sheep, horses, and camels, and there are several small oasis settlements. Important natural-gas deposits are exploited at Gazli in the southeast, and gold is mined at Muruntow in the centre.