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Valley of Markansu.

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not” 

Murghab Pamir tours.

This valley is located over 4000 meters above sea level. Starting from the Zaalaysky ridge, which locks it from the north, it is the beginning of the Pamir Highlands and stretches widely and smoothly to the south for almost 30 kilometers.
From the west it is protected by the spurs of the Zulum-Art and Zaalai ridges, and from the east - by the Sarykol ridge. Such a geographical position of the valley and the Kyzyl-Art pass in the Zaalai ridge formed a convenient opportunity to climb the highland and move along it.
That is why a caravan path was laid along the Markansu valley in ancient times, which in our time has been replaced by the canvas of the Pamir tract. The valley opens to the eye from the Kyzyl-Art pass and immediately creates an unpleasant impression: gloomy lifeless side slopes, gray, rugged, in places flat bottom of the valley, completely covered with pebbles mixed with sand, nowhere is there a bush or a blade of grass.
Much has been written about the Markansu Valley and its harsh climate. All those who were there unanimously say that in it, like in a giant wind tunnel, winds that reach storm force constantly blow, dusty and sandy tornadoes arise, even small pebbles rise into the air, which is why a section of the ancient path along the valley Markansu was considered one of the most difficult and dangerous.
Eyewitnesses write that along the former path there were many piles of old bones and skeletons, as well as the mummified remains of the dead beasts of burden from the caravans passing here. It is not wise that all this over the centuries has firmly anchored the gloomy glory behind the valley of Markans.
Probably for the same reason, her name was interpreted as "Valley of tornadoes", and more often - "Valley of Death". Nobody expressed any doubts about such an interpretation. But if we ignore the psychological pressure of the ominous authority of the valley, then doubts about the correctness of the translation of its name will arise immediately.
First of all, because the name contains the word "su" ("water"), indicating that the name refers to the river and the information contained in the first part of the name, the word "markan", as it happens in toponyms, describe some features of the same river.
The Markansu valley itself is waterless, but the river exists and flows through its own gorge. She is born near the eastern side of the valley, approximately in its middle part, where the river gorge at a right angle joins the Markansu valley.
From here the river flows directly to the east and through a hole in the Sarykol ridge rushes into the so-called Tarim depression in China. Interpretation of the name of the river on the basis of the characteristics of the Markansu valley as "Death river" is difficult to explain, because the river does not cause such associations.
On the contrary, destructive winds do not rage in its gorge and gradually teresken bushes appear on the slopes, and strips of green grass appear along the water. One involuntarily begins to think that the first part of the name of the valley - "mar-kan" has a different meaning than "death" or "tornado".
The dictionaries of local languages ​​do not clarify its meaning either. It remains to look for the meaning of the name based on the characteristics of the river, which, by the way, are quite remarkable. Immediately attention is drawn to the fact that the river is formed in a small space from the confluence of many streams flowing from under the gravel of the left edge of the Markansu valley.
The sources of the Markansu river are the Osh-khona, Uy-Su and several nameless rivulets flowing from the gorges of the western side of the Markansu valley. All of them, flow to the mouths of their gorges, go under moraine and pebble accumulations and then get out onto the surface on the other side of the valley in the form of streams giving birth to the Markansu River.
In connection with this peculiarity, the name of the large Altai lake Markakol ("Mark of the lake") is of great interest. Here, in addition to the almost complete coincidence of the first part of the name, the same geographical features are also found.
The lake is fed by many cold springs and five mountain streams, and only the Kaldzhir river flows out of it, flowing into the Irtysh. It seems that the words "mark" and "markan" just reflect the unusual fact of the formation of a river and a lake from the confluence of a large number of streams. In this case, we can already assume with some certainty that “Markakol” means “accumulated, collected lake”, and “Markansu” - “composed, gathered, united river”, meaning its emergence from the confluence of waters many sources.
It turns out that the Markansu Valley took its name from the river, and its own unbridled character was not reflected in the name, although it deserved it. To its southern end, the Markansu valley gently rises and ends at a low bend - the Uy-Bulak pass (“bulak” means “spring, source”).
Geographic coordinates of the Markansu Valley: N39 ° 11'56.25 "E73 ° 15'11.05"

S. Alimov. "Pamir Highway: a journey into the world of names." Almanac "Wind of wanderings", №23

Photos by
Alexander Petrov.