Muynak, Uzbekistan

Town-disaster that was destroyed by cotton is Muynak. Muynak used to be major seaside town of Uzbekistan. In sixties Muynak was known for the largest fish factory in Central Asia and a popular vacation destination. This town-disaster is extremely remoted; to get there a traveler will have to make it to the capital of Karakalpakstan – Nukus and from there drive 250 km through the desert with grazing camels.

Muynak is called town-disaster because of rapid disappearance of the Aral Sea. Hard to imagine 4th largest inland sea in the world to disappear within a few decades, but that’s exactly what happened and caused decline of Muynak. Being the largest port of the Aral Sea, well-being of Muynak depended on the Aral Sea. Fishing was the main source of income for citizens, 10,000 fisherman lost their jobs. In the middle of 20th century there were 38 species of fish, today there are only 6.

Muynak became a victim of Soviet plans on promoting agriculture, especially production of cotton. Soviet government used two main water sources of the Aral Sea to irrigate cotton-fields. This decision led to one of the biggest man-made disasters of 20th century. Everything what’s left about marine past of Muynak is crest with afish on it and a ship near administrative center of the town.

The main sightseeing place of Muynak are 11 rusty ships that stand where shore of the Aral Sea used to be. The water is now 200 km away. To make it to remnants of the sea will take 4 hours of driving through the desert. Parts of dried up sea are now the Aralkum desert. The desert is dangerous for people because it distributes 75 million tons of dust and poisonous salt.  T

oday there’re no sandy beaches, big catches of fish, tourists, or even a lot of people in Muynak. Almost half of the population left the town in the last 20 years. There’s very little hope that Muynak will be as prosperous as it used to be. The sea keeps drying up, economy is trying to adjust to new existence, and Muynak is continuously turning into nightmarish, deserted town. 

Tours, where you will visit Muynak, Uzbekistan: