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Nokhur Cemetery, a cemetery with goat-horn bedecked gravestones.

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We are in Turkmenistan, in the remote village of Nokhurli.
Behind the mountain ridge lies Iran.
Nokhurli are different from other Turkmens.
They claim to descend from Alexander the Great’s Greeks, like others across Central Asia, and they speak a dialect unrecognizable to other Turkmens.
At the cemetery of the remote village of Nokhur, nearly every grave is marked by a wooden post adorned with the horns of a mountain goat.
The reason?
The goat horns are thought to fight off evil spirits and help the souls of the deceased to ensure a safe passage to heaven.
The graves point to burial rites steeped in animism, sprinkled with Zoroastrianism: the goat horns are there to fight off evil spirits, while the stones are marked with steps, to help the deceased ascend to heaven.
Not by chance, in addition to their appearances at the village cemetery, skulls of mountain goats are found at some of the houses’ doorways of the village as well.
The Nokhuris, the mountain tribe of the region, have always considered mountain goats sacred animals for their strength and endurance.
The reverence of these animals clearly predates Islamic traditions, and though today the Nokhuris are devout Muslims, this part of their ancient belief system has continued to survive.

The cemetery of Nokhur is an excellent example of how Islam works in Central Asia, as it 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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