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One of the oldest, unusual architectural landmarks in Turkmenistan's medieval history is the Mashat-ata dating back to 9th century. Located on the edge of the sand dunes on the territory of Etrek etrap, 25 kilometers north of the village of Madau and nearly 7 kilometers from the vast settlement of Misrian, it is a true gem of the Ancient Dekhistan State Historical and Cultural Reserve.
The monument is visible from far distance: it was erected on a powerful base; its helmet-shaped dome rises above the surrounding area, standing out not only for its excellent preservation but also for its monumentality and perfection of forms among the nearby medieval mausoleums. This monument also appears under the name Shir-Kabir in several books and tourist guides (Great Sheikh). Local historians, however, note that the name applied to another memorial in the northern suburb of Misrian, which was demolished in the 1940s. It was a nemazga mosque in the suburbs, whose picture can only be seen in old photos. There is now only a small hill in this scene, and a scattering of broken bricks. And Mashat-ata has been in the center of an ancient necropolis for more than a thousand years, attracting the architectural historians, art historians and ordinary pilgrims for a whole century, who travel to these deserted places to see a masterpiece of Islamic art from the 9th-10th centuries.
Moreover, Mashat- ata mosque’s interior is also interesting for everyone, which has a domed roof, square in plan. Each wall has three niches, with the mihrab at the middle of the southern wall. Its lovely design includes three-arched recesses, one inside the other. It is carved with Arabic inscriptions and swirling, flowery patterns. For security, the mihrab has been boarded up, but gaps between the boards offer a good view of the decoration. Another riot of inscriptions and geometrical patterns is a carved panel in the central niche on the eastern wall.
Turkmenistan’s oldest mosque - Mashat ata inspired generations of great thinkers, poets such as Mollanepes, Dovletmammet Azadi, Magtymguly, that formed Turkmen literature and history today.