Nokhur Cemetery, Turkmenistan

The cemetery of Nokhur, a village amidst stranded mountains in southern Tukrmenistan, contains tombstones decorated with mountain goat horns. The horns are considered sacred as they offer protection against evil spirits, and for the same reason the households in Nokhur keep goat skulls outside their doors. 
Nokhuris are raised to admire and respect mountain goats for their endurance and strength. Although Nokhuris are Muslims, traditions like the celebration of mountain goats are specific to their tribe and have existed even before their Islamic faith. They claim to have descended from Alexander the Great's soldiers, and are able to maintain their own rituals by remaining a closed and conservative community, isolated from other people. 
Nokhur's cemetery exemplifies a rare syncretism that comes from incorporating pre-Islamic beliefs into the Islamic religion. While most pre-Islamic religions were wiped out upon the arrival of Islam, traces such as burial rites of local tribes still exist in certain areas of Central Asia. 
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©Annette Johnson 2018
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