Heading north from Namangan, the mountains that form the border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan come into view. At the end of the road lies Kosonsoy/Kasansay, a majority-Tajik town that contains one of the largest mosques in Central Asia, as well as some reminders from times past.
Coming by public transport, a bus from Namangan costs 0.50$ and takes about an hour. You drive in along the mischievously named Wool Street, so called because of the big textile factory still in operation here. The center of town revolves around the bazaar (what else?), in between the main street and the Kosonsoy river running through the center of town. You are firmly off the beaten track here, so expect some serious staring.
Things to do
Juma mosque: To find the Juma mosque, follow the main street down for 500m, and its 5 shiny grey domes soon come into view. The reconstruction funded entirely by locals (only the front gate remains from the 13th century original), you can sense people care about their religion here, and it is one of the few large mosques in Ferghana Valley that has not been closed down by authorities. You are not allowed to take pictures inside, but you can be sure: the woodwork that forms the main structure is very impressive, as are the carved details on the doors. On the other side of the square, artful Soviet mosaics remain well-maintained.
Bazaar: It’s a quiet one. The woodwork on display along the main street is fantastic though, and a prelude to the Juma Mosque. Overlooking the river, a number of grimy chaikhanas sit, filled with skull-capped men.
The park, just east from the bazaar, is the better place to rest and drink your chai. Surrounded by a moat stands a giant chinor, said to be more than 1000 years old.
Mug Tepe: Continue north from the mosque towards the hills for a bit to find fragments of the ancient fortress of Mug Tepe. The fortress was probably part of a chain of military real estate defending the outer edge of the extensive Kushan empire, from which Kosonsoy might have taken its name. Another theory says Mug Tepe only got built much later, in the 7th century AD. Not quite sure who is right. In any case, the view is nice.
Colourful little mosque: On the other side of the river, this place is now a “museum”.
Shah Fasil Masaar: the 12th century mausoleum of Shah Fasil, a distant descendant of Mohammed (and some kind of a Sufi?), still stands in its original form. It attracts pilgrims who, in typically Central Asian fashion, mix superstition, Islam, Zoroastrianism, Tengrianism and ancestor worship into a mad reverence. Buses run from Kosonsoy, or even Namangan, but timetables are unclear. On your own, head northeast. Once past Zarkent, take the first left. close to GPS 41.408979, 71.679796.