Welcome to Aral
Four decades ago, Aral (Aralsk; Арал), 450km northwest of Kyzylorda, was an important fishing port on the shores of the Aral Sea, with a population twice its current size. A large mosaic inside its train station depicts how in 1921 Aral’s comrades provided fish for people starving in Russia – a scene that preceded the Aral Sea ecological disaster that took water from its lifelines, the Syr-Darya and Amu-Darya rivers, and pushed the shoreline 60km out from Aral. For those who wish to witness the ecological disaster first-hand, grim, semidilapidated Aral, where locals are wary of strangers, makes a decent base for a day or two. Aral is easier to visit than similarly defunct ports in Uzbekistan – and less gloomy, as efforts to save the northern part of the Aral Sea are succeeding and its fishing industry is growing again.