Reminding of the brave traders who pioneered the Silk Road and would spend weeks to cross it in ancient time and known as the 15th largest desert in the world, Kyzylkum Desert is located mostly in Uzbekistan (Little Portion in Kazakhstan) between Amudarya and Syrdarya Rivers.
The name of desert is Kyzylkum where‘Kyzyl’ means ‘Red’ and ‘Kum’ mean ‘sand’ or “Red Sand”. Most of the part of desert lies in Uzbekistan where the small portion goes in the territory of Kazakhstan
Historially known as Transoxania or Sogdiana, the region was the home of Andronovo people dating back to 2100 BC as per the archaeologists. The region was majorly dominated by nomadic tribes which results the livestock on the open plains.
Kyzylkum Desert has been the path for the traders passing on old Silk Road. Also, it has witnessed the conquerors from Alexander the Great, Chengiz Khan and Emir Taimur to Soviet Union.
The territory of Kyzylkum Desert has an altitude up to 300 m (980 ft) above and mainly an extensive plain with a number of depressions and highlands such as Sultanuizdag and Bukantau. Most of the area is covered with dunes while northwest large areas are covered with clay coatings or takirs with some oasis; there are also some oases. The agricultural settlement can be seen along the rivers and oasis.
The weather of Kyzylkum desert is sharply continental with the temperature in between 26 °C to 29 °C and maximum of 51°C in hot summer and the temperature varies in the range between 0 °C to –9 °C in cold and winter seasons.
Flora and Fauna of Kyzylkum Desert
The desert is not lifeless. Here herbs – Selin, ilak, a sedge grow. From bushes are most widespread a saxaul, kandy, cherkez. During the spring period a colourful carpet of the blossoming plants covers KyzylKum.
Desert wildlife includes the Russian tortoise (Testudo horsfieldii) and large lizards known as the Transcaspian monitor or desert monitor lizard (Varanus griseus), which can reach 1.6 m (5.2 ft) in length. Saiga antelopes (Saiga tatarica) may also migrate north of the desert.
The KzylKum Nature Reserve in the Bukhara region is located in the floodplain (Tugai) drained by the Amudarya River near the Dargan Atta settlement. Fauna includes Bactrian Deer (Cervus elaphus bactrianus), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Pheasant (Phasianuscolchicus) and Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetus). Jelan Reserve is located 40 km (25 miles) south of Bukhara. The reserve has a total area of 51,450 km2 (19,860 square miles). It is a breeding ground for rare species such as the goiter’s gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), the Przewalski horse (Equus ferus przewalskii), the Turkmen buffalo (Equus hemionus kulan) and the McQueen bustard (Chlamydotis macqueenii). The reserve was established in 1977 on an enclosed area of 5,131 hectares (19.81 square miles).
Between March and May, and September to October, you can trek a circuit on foot or by camel from the village of Yangi Kazgan, just west of Lake Aidarkul; camel treks of two days or more include accommodation in the camel-hair yurts belonging to local Kazakh nomads.
Expect to enjoy the best of local hospitality, from homemade bread dipped in still-steaming camel milk, to hunks of camel meat. Beds are made up on the floor from piles of rainbow-coloured blankets and rugs, and you’ll often sleep cheek-by-jowl with other guests. You’ll never forget the experience, and certainly won’t get cold at night.
If you wander into the dunes around the camps you may see ground squirrels, skinks, hares and tortoises among the scrubby saxaul bushes, along with birds such as warblers, whitethroats, shrikes, sparrows, coveys of partridges, and with some luck the Turkestan ground-jay, and raptors such as snake-eagles and long-legged buzzards.
In spring and autumn, you may see migratory species such as demoiselle cranes, bustards and black vultures. It’s a short drive down to the lake (your camp will be able to take you), where over 100 species of waterbird can be seen, and there’s commercial fishing for species such as catfish, carp, snakehead and zander. There are also real beaches; walking along the shore is very pleasant, although some private resorts have been fenced off.