Termez is the southernmost city of Uzbekistan and a major port on the Amu Darya River. It is the country’s outpost and it has retained this capacity for more than 2,500 years. The location of Termez on geographically advantageous Amu Darya River bank where the river is rather shallow and can be easily crossed, made it “Iron Gates” on the caravan routes connecting North and South, East and West. As with many other cities of Central Asia the history of Termez knew both rise and decay. Termez was situated in the very center of Bactria: a brilliant civilization that sprang to life several millennia ago. In the 2nd century B.C. Termez with its citadel fulfilled double function: it defended the main crossing of the Oxus (Amu Darya) river and serviced numerous caravans traveling along one of the routes of the famous Great Silk Road. Being a part of the Graeco-Bactrian kingdom the city was inevitably exposed to the material and spiritual influence of Hellinism. The kings of the Kushan Empire, equal in its military power to China or Rome, understood the importance of Termez as an outpost in the valley of the Oxus River and a city controlling the trade route. During the 1st century A.D. Termez acquired one more function, ideological, having become the main center of Buddhism in Central Asia It was from here that missionaries spread the teaching of Buddha to Sogdiana in the north, Margiana in the north-west and Eastern Turkestan in the north-east, behind the Pamir and Alai mountains. Thus when the Chinese monk Xuan Zang arrived in Termez in the 7th century he counted over 12 Buddha monasteries within the city walls alone. Having come to decline by the end of the 7th century, Buddhism had to give way to other religions with Islam being spread after the city was conquered by the Arabic troops. But the city was in for a much more terrible ordeal: in 1220 the Mongols took Termez and razed the city to dust. Several times in the later period the citizens rebuilt the city. But that was already new Termez, with the original pre-Mongol city of Termez lying six kilometers northwest.
The strategic location of the site (it is on the boundary with Afganistan) made it be beyond the reach of tourists; and it was not until recently that groups of tourists got the opportunity to visit this strikingly interesting ancient city. Modern-day Termez bears few traces of its colourful history. However, some ancient monuments and sites in the outskirts of the city attest to the glorious times in the life of the peoples inhabiting the southernmost province. These include the archeological sites presenting Buddhist memorials (Zurmala Tower, the Buddist temple and monasteries of Fayoz-Tepa and Kara-Tepa) as well as some very interesting samples of medieval Central Asian architecture (the Mausoleum of Al-Hakim at –Termezi, Kyrk-Kyz fortress, Sultan Saodat Ensemble).