Moynak – once a thriving town (Uzbekistan)

From a tourist point of view there is nothing much to do in Moynak, however the town is home to one of the most catastrophic environmental disasters of the 20th century. Moynak is situated in the north of Uzbekistan about 200 kilometers from Nukus. It was once a thriving fishing port on the banks of the Aral Sea. A picture at the museum from days gone by.

The Aral Sea was once the 4th largest inland sea in the world. The name Aral translates to “Sea of Islands” and derives from the fact that the sea was scattered with more than 1500 islands.  In the 1950’s the size of the sea was 68 thousand square kilometers with an average depth of 16 meters. It provided the town of Moynak with its livelihood, not only in terms of fishing but also.with a large fish packing factory where much of the town was employed. A picture from the museum from when the factory was in full production.

The fishing boats which once left for the days catch stand rusted in what was once the banks of the sea.

The factory tried to keep going but was forced to close in the early 2000’s. Its fate is plain to see.

Today the Aral Sea, due to the former Soviet Union policies of diverting water to grow cotton, has receded almost 200 kilometers from the town. This has not only brought about a drastic change in local weather conditions, but because of the use of pesticides used to grow the cotton, has brought diseases.. The town which once had a population of  tens of thousands has now been reduced to several thousand of mostly children and elderly people.

Anyone able bodied has had to seek work elsewhere.  The town has one very long and rather sad main street where you will find a monument of what a fishing boat once looked like. . You can also visit a small museum

There are no hotels to speak off, although you may be able to find a homestay. People don’t come here to see the town. They come here to understand what happened to it and the devastating effect it had on this once thriving town. Most people come here on an organized day trip from Nukus. I paid $150 (shared with another lady I found at my hotel the night before) arranged for me by the Igor Savitsky Museum in Nukus. This will include an English speaking guide and a driver. Despite the tragedy it was one of the highlights of my trip to Uzbekistan.