Fayaz Tepe (Fayaz Tepa, alternatively) was a Buddhist monastery near modern Termez. Important and beautiful frescoes and sculptures have been unearthed here; you can see them in the history museums of Termez and Tashkent.
Today, you can visit the archaeological site to get a feel for the place and see the remnants of the old stupa and the excavated monks’ cells. Bonus: a slight frisson from viewing the Afghan border so close by.
How Fayaz Tepe came into being
In the early centuries of our era, Buddhism benefited from the size of the Kushan empire, connecting Termez with far-flung cities like Peshawar and Turpan. Under Kanishka the Great, Buddhism spread from the south to the north, and from the valley of the Oxus along the Silk Road to China and, eventually, Japan.
There were many Buddhist monasteries at that time in Bactria. Kara Tepe and Fayaz Tepe, which are within sight of each other, are just two of the monasteries surrounding Termez. The big Zurmala stupa is on the other side of the road.
Fayaz Tepe is the older and more monumental of the two: it is essentially a very big stupa from the first century CE with a monastery next to it, while Kara Tepe consists of three groups of monks’ cells and several small stupas.
How it ended
Fayaz Tepe probably came to an end in the third century CE, when the Sasanian Persians tried to restore the frontiers of the ancient Achaemenid Empire and invaded Bactria. During these wars, Fayaz Tepe was abandoned. The monks must have moved to nearby Kara Tepe or another monastic settlement.
Excavating the ruins of Fayaz Tepe, archaeologists have found wall paintings and sculptures from the three first centuries of our era. Some finds date to the fourth century and prove that the stupa still received visitors. It must have been a special place indeed, with a small dome (three meters high) inside that was covered by a larger dome (fifteen meters high).
Clay and gypsum statues of Buddha and fragments of pottery containing Brahmi, Punjabi, Kharoshti and Bactrian scripts point to the essentially Eastern orientation of Fayaz Tepe at the time. Remains have also been discovered of a two-kilometer long aqueduct that supplied the monastery with water from the Amu Darya.
Greek influences can easily be recognized in Fayaz Tepe, for example in the relief of a Buddha, seated underneath a Bodhi Tree, with two monks standing next to him, between two Corinthian columns supporting an arch. There is no need to explain why the wall painting of a horned Alexander the Great is another testimony of Greek influence in the valley of the Oxus.
The originals are found in the history museum in Tashkent. Copies are displayed in the history museum of Termez.
How to visit
A guard is usually present during working hours to collect the entry fee. The price of visiting is included in your ticket of the archaeological museum. Taking pictures costs 5000 sum extra.
You can still visit outside business hours; there is no fence. Do not stray too far into the direction of Afghanistan, though; the border area is under heavy surveillance. Also, you will not be able to enter the dome to see the actual stupa. The dome you see on pictures is a modern construction to protect the original stupa from the elements.
A small museum is attached to the site. It is currently under reconstruction.
Standing at Fayaz Tepe, you can see Kara Tepe, on the banks of the Amu Darya. Since it is so close to the border, you will need a special permit for that one. Only for specialists.
- Located 15 km west of Termez off the main M39 highway. Bus number 15 runs past the turn-off to Fayaz Tepe, from where it is a 1 km walk without shade.
- On the map: OSM / Gmaps
Other sights nearby:
- Modern Termez & the archaeological museum
- Kampyr Tepe
- Old Termez & Mausoleum of Al Hakkim At-Termizi
- Jarkurgan minaret
- Kyrk Kyz Fortress, Sultan Saodat & Kokildor Khanaka
Historical background thanks to Livius.