Ancient beyond ancient, the ancient of Mary was a known settlement as far back as 500 B.C. as part of a Satrapie under the Persian ruler Darius (yes, of 300 fame). Well beyond that, though, the city was also later known as the “Mother of the World” for its economic importance on the Silk Road and cultural influence throughout the Persian, Bactrian, Sassanid, and finally Arab empires.
Cyrus the Great spent time here, Ghenghis Khan’s sons slaughtered here (at which point Mary was so large that close to 1 million people are believed to have died…. in 1221!), and Sir Alex Burnes passed through here before his eventual assassination in Kubul during the British attempts to pacify Afghanistan (way before us, back in the mid-1800s).
There are a lot of ancient excavated cities in Central Asia, and I’ve been to quite a few of them. Very few encompass the size and history and sheer romantic name of ancient Mary, the “Mother of the World.”
Mary is very old, and very ruined, and a very large place to explore. Still, though, you should go. It is, after all, one of the most important historic centers of all of Central Asia.