From the top of its 175 m (574 ft) height, the Sulaiman Too mountain looks down on the productive Fergana valley and on the important city of Osh, which, during the Middle Ages, was a major crossroads on the Silk Road. At the background of the ancient city, Sulaiman Too and its five peaks were, for a long time, an important landmark for travelers.
Sulaiman Too was the first spot in Kyrgyzstan to be marked as a UNESCO world heritage site in 2009. Nowadays, it is famous and known as an “exceptional spiritual landscape that reflects both pre-Islamic and Islamic beliefs”.
You will have to climb up a long stairway and path to discover the secrets of this sacred mountain and get a breath-taking view on the city of Osh and its valley.
During hundreds of years, Sulaiman Too was worshiped as a sacred mountain. The most ancient written work on Sulamain Too was found in a Chinese text from the 13th century. It mentioned a Davan city, place to purchase horses, in a very revered mountain. In the 15th century, it was known as the Bara-Kukh, a name in Farsi which translates as “the beautiful mountain”. It’s in the 18th century that the actual name of the mountain, Sulamain Too, appeared. It refers to an Arabic legend that says that the prophet Suleiman stayed on this mountain. In the 19th century, the mountain became a holy place for the Muslims and was renown abroad as a place for worship and curing. Later, scientific expeditions were sent to study the legends, rites and history of its rocks, caves and crevasses.
The link between Sulaiman Too and Islam is undeniable today , but specialists consider that it was a holy place already during the Bronze age.
During the Soviet Union, authorities tried to ban all religious practices on Sulaiman Too and turned it into a secular hike. They destroyed several sacred places and installed a panoramic observation platform at its top and a restaurant in the natural cave of Rusha-Unkur. The latter was then transformed into a museum. However, Suleiman Too still welcomes many religious pilgrims and shelters 17 active ritual sites.
The sacred mountains has a network of antique paths that connect the ancient religious spots and the caves decorated with petroglyphs of humans, animals or geometric symbols. You will be able to walk to the Dom Babura, “house of Babur” from the 15th century, the prayer center Zahiruddin Babau, named after the founder of the Mongolian dynasty, and to the 16th century mosques Taskht-I Sulaiman and Rawwat-Abdullakhan. These are still splendid and historically rich after their reconstruction.
Marked with colored stones, the sacred ritual sites of Sulaiman Too are still much visited today. They are believed to have curative and spiritual properties. For example, the Ene-Beshik cave, also called the fertility cave, attracts many women who desire children. To learn more about the specificities of each of the miraculous sites, you will have to visit the historic and cultural museum and its photos.
In this strange museum built right into the mountain rocks, you can also see an exhibit of artefacts, craftwork, sculptures and paintings dating back to the 11th century. If you take the staircase decorated with stuffed wild animals, you’ll go out to an observatory platform that will give you a stunning panoramic view on the surroundings.
You will probably be surprised to see small notes and papers slipped inside the rocks: do not touch them, these are wishes and prayers entrusted to the sacred mountain.
From Bishkek, there are collective taxis and mini buses that leave to Osh. The car ride is beautiful but difficult, with a succession of high mountain passes. Count around 12 hours to get to the southern capital. You can also get there by plane from the Kyrgyz capital.
The arc that marks the entry of the path to Sulaiman Too is near the Osh library, on the Kurmanjan Datka avenue. The climb is not difficult but takes around 20 minutes.