In medieval times, Merv was one of the great cities of the Islamic world and an important stop on the Silk Road, a caravan route used for trade with China until the mid-15th century.
In Turkmenistan there are over two thousand historical and cultural sites. These include open-air museums that are testimony to ancient settlements such as Old Nisa, Kunya Urgench, Atamyrat, Ancient Dehistan, Old Sarakhs, Abiverd and Geoktepe fortress. All of them have become a place of cultural pilgrimage for many tourists and scientists from around the world.
There are eight protected historical sites in Turkmenistan compromising the most important archaeological and architectural monuments, three of which have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. These are Ancient Merv (included in 1999), Kunyaurgench (2005) and the Parthian Fortresses of Nisa (2007).
Ancient Merv State Historical and Cultural Reserve is a vast complex of ancient settlements and remains of the city. This is one of the largest centers of ancient and medieval civilization in the East. The monuments still existing in Ancient Merv are up to 2500 years old and represent important landmarks of Turkmen history.
Another unique outdoor museum is Ancient Kunya Urgench which was linked to outstanding scientists of medieval East. Great encyclopedist Biruni lived and worked there, and the legendary philosopher East Abu Ali Ibn Sina is also native of the city. To this day, pearls of medieval architecture as the minaret of Kutlug Timur (XIV c.) and mausoleum of Tyurabek Khanum are still preserved.
Old Nisa was residence of Parthian kings, and today its remains are testimony the the power and prosperity of the Parthian state, who have been main rivals of the Roman Empire for world domination for centuries.