Iron Gate (Sogdiana)

For several thousand years now, the mysterious Surkhandarya has been attracting the attention of conquerors, travelers and explorers. The southernmost region of Uzbekistan captures its ancient monuments, natural sights and cultural heritage. One of the most mysterious places, perhaps, in the whole Central Asia is the famous mountain pass of Iron Gate, located in Baysun district on the territory of Derbent village.

In ancient and medieval times, the passage occupied an important strategic place, as numerous trade caravans and armies passed through it. It was the shortest way to get from Bukhara, Samarkand and Chach (Shash) to Bactria and India, and back from India and Bactria to the central cities of Central Asia. Iron Gate was repeatedly mentioned in written sources of Chinese, Central Asian and Arab historians and geographers. In 630, in his notes, traveler Xuanzang described the gorge as a defensive passage covered with iron and locked with a double-leaf gate. The famous Arabic geographer al-Yaqubi tells of a 9th century city in Sughd and also mentions this passage. Another Chinese chronicle tells of a city, a temple, and an Iron Gate, which got its name because of its color and iron. The Arab writer and historian Ibn Arabshah called the gate “Kagalgar,” specifically recounting in some detail Amir Timur’s battle with Emir Hussein in this area. In his two poems about the Sogdiana Gate, Alisher Navoi and Babur mentioned it in his work “Babur-name”.

The Spanish diplomat and traveler Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo passed through the gate. On his way to Maverannahr to receive Amir Timur, in his “Diary of a Journey to Samarkand to the Court of Timur” (1403-1406) he gave a detailed description of his journey through the gate: “On the next day, Monday, we rested at the foot of a high mountain, on top of which stood a beautiful cross-shaped building, skillfully made of bricks, with many patterns made of multicolored tiles. This mountain is very high, but t there is a passage through it which is possible to cross it by a cleft, which seems to have been made by human hands: high mountains rise on both sides, and it is level and very deep. In the middle of this passage there is a village, and above it a high mountain rumbles up. And this passageway in the mountains is called the Iron Gate, and there is no other passageway in this whole area but only this one. It protects the kingdom of Samarkand from India Minor. And there is no other passage to enter the lands of Samarqand except through it; neither can the inhabitants of the Samarqand Empire enter the lands of India except through this passage. This Iron Gate is owned by Senor Tamurbek. And they bring him a lot of income every year.

In addition, Rui Gonzalez de Clavijo mentioned another Iron Gate, which was located closer to the village of Derbent. Later, Academician Eduard Rtveladze concluded that the Iron Gate is the common name for the whole complex of defensive constructions, formed of both natural and man-made structures, and they occupied the territory between the Buzgalakhan Gorge and the present settlement of Derbent.

Al-Yakubi tells about a 9th century city in Sogd and also mentions this passage. Another Chinese chronicle tells about the city, the temple and the Iron Gate, which got its name because of its color and iron. The Arab writer and historian Ibn Arabshah called the gate “Kagalgar”, in particular, he tells in some detail about the battle of Amir Timur with Emir Hussein in this territory. The study of the gorge was engaged in by historians, geologists and writers. Archaeologists have conducted excavations and uncovered such monuments as ancient settlements, foundations of a medieval caravanserai and a defensive wall of the Kushan kingdom.

One of the most curious conclusions made by the historian Eduard Rtveladze can be considered a conclusion about the place of refuge in this territory of the father of Roxana, the wife of Alexander the Great – Oxyart. In the “Sogdian Rock” he hid during the capture by Macedonian capture of impregnable natural fortresses in Sogdiana. There is also an opinion that it was in Derbent that Alexander played his wedding with Roxana, a Bactrian princess. She was described as a beautiful and blooming girl, whom the commander fell in love with during the feast, when she was dancing in a round dance.