Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan

Jalal-Abad is Jalal-Abad province’s administrative centre in southern Kyrgyzstan. Jalal Abad, which is located on the river Kogart, on the edge of the Fergana Valley on the Uzbikan border, has nearby 100,000 inhabitants.

Jalal-Abad grew initially as a market town on the Silk Road and as a stop. The suffix -abad is usual in Persian and refers to the person who established the group. Jalal-Abad was allegedly named after Jalal-ad-Din who founded caravansares to accommodate traders and pilgrims traveling around the village. A little fortress was established in the early 1800s, with Russian settlers beginning to arrive in the 1870s.

Nearby is Safed Bulan village, named after Bulan, an African lady. About a thousand years ago she came to the city with Arab warriors. Warriors conquested the region, but when they put their arms for Friday prayers, many were beheaded, while some of them fled to Arabia. Bulan defied instruction to purchase no one’s dead fighters, washing the leaders of all 2,700 guerrillas and burying them. For burying the warriors she was blessed and became white, so her name was called Safed Bulan, the white woman (though some say her hair turned white from shock).

The burial site of Safed Bulan is a mazar, or a sacred mausoleum. Safed Bulan is indicated by a rock near the mazar’s door and nearby is a fertility rock, which women fighting for pregnancy have been stated to support. The complex has another mausoleum: Shakh Fazil, who in the 11th and 12th centuries dominated the Fergana Valley. Mausoleum itself, an outstanding building monument in the UNESCO World Heritage Register, has ornamental scripts and typical islámica artistic styles.

A wellness resort near Jalal-Abad is known for its curative waters. The nearby spring of Azreti-Ayup-Paygambar is renowned for its healing powers, and mineral water is distilled and sold. The resort was established in 1886, but today’s buildings date from the Soviet era.

Experience the nature of the area a little more on a day trip out of the city to the National Parks of Besh-Aral, and Padyshata. There are lots of sights nearby Jalal-Abad, between Uzgen and Arslanbob (and along the Sary Chelek roads).