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Karakalpakstan is an independent Republic inside Uzbekistan. Karakalpak means "black hat people" but no more remnants of black hats can be found there nowadays. The Karakalpak used to be nomads and fishers. The Aral Sea, which is in the north, was big and full of fish. Now, as a result of unsuccessful and water wasting irrigation to keep the cotton growing during long years, the land is dry and the lake has shrunk to one quarter of its original size, and became very salty. A lot of pesticides, defoliants and fertilizer had to be used to increase the cotton harvest and traces are still to be found everywhere. The streets often look like there has been a light snowfall. However, this is the result of the constant wind, blowing the salt from the dry lake bed all over the area surrounding it. On top of that, a drought struck in the year 2000, leaving the people poor and without anything to eat. A Karakalpak woman showed me her house in Muynak, a village that used to border the Aral sea.

The house was a holiday house on the beach, where she spent many happy days with her children; the shore now was between 50 and 100 kilometers away. In this village, all people used to be fishermen, and are now sitting, unemployed and bored, on their doorsteps, watching the days go by. An old fisher museum reminds of better times.
In and around Muynak, boats are stranded everywhere. They just stayed in the water until the water disappeared, no need to rescue them since there were not a lot of other fishing possibilities in a doubly landlocked country.
Karakalpak have their own language, which is a Turkic language, like Uzbek. It resembles Kazakh language more than Uzbek. You see also a lot of camels in this region, running freely across the road.
The capital is Nukus, a city which exists since 1932. Here you will find the Savitsky museum, also called Art Museum, and as I understood, now involuntary renamed "State Museum". The rich artist Savitsky collected here in the 1920's about 70,000 art pieces, to prevent Stalin to erase all non-socialist art. Hardly anybody knew this collection existed until the Soviet Union collapsed. The collection is far too big to exhibit, even after the recent move to a new building.
Probably only 10% of the collection hangs on the wall or stands around, a little bit crammed because it is still an enormous quantity. Strangely enough, the museum also exhibits copies of famous European artworks, when there are still so many treasures hidden away in the basement of the museum. Luckily it hardly ever rains so the paintings will not suffer much damage. To the left one of the famous paintings hanging in the museum.
Even though Nukus is not older than a mere 70 years, in Karakalpakstan and the neighboring Khorezm people have been living for thousands of years and have left their traces. The most famous ruin from the third or fourth century is Topraq-quala (qala means city), on top of a hill overlooking the river Amu Darya. It still has three 25 meter high towers and if you use your imagination only a little bit, you can imagine how people must have lived here. Qavat Qala was unfortunately mostly destroyed by Jenghiz Khan, but of Ayaz Qala, Janpyq Qala (1st century) and Elliq qala (fifty cities) you can still find beautiful ruins.
Most of the ruins were fortresses in the old days and to ensure safety, they were built on a high place, offering a most beautiful view over the Karakalpak land. In the middle of the desert, suddenly little lakes and green patches emerge; there is even a small Nature Park, called Badai-Tugai, where is said that the desert cat, jackal, wild boar and fox are still having their habitat.