Moynaq, also spelled as Muynak (Karakalpak Мойнақ/Moynaq; Russian Муйнак/Muynak; Uzbek Мойноқ/Mo'ynoq), is a city in northern Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republic in Uzbekistan. It is the seat of the Moynaq district. Formerly a sea port on the Aral Sea, it is now 150 km from the water in the Aralkum Desert and thus is a disaster tourism destination. It is also the location for the biggest electronic music festival in Central Asia.

The Memorial above the former shore of the Aral Sea, now dried.
Moynaq, Aral Lake, World War II Memorial, Uzbekistan.jpg 

Once a bustling fishing community and Uzbekistan's only port city with tens of thousands of residents, Moynaq is now dozens of kilometers from the rapidly receding shoreline of the Aral Sea. Fishing had always been part of the economy of the region, and Moynaq became a center of industrial fishing and canning. However, a 1960s Soviet government diversion of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers sapped the Aral Sea of its inflows, causing much of the lake to dry up and thus leaving the area susceptible to economic collapse. The regional Soviet-led agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton production diverted water from the aforementioned tributary rivers of the sea into irrigation, which resulted in severe pollution caused by agricultural chemical runoff. This, in turn, caused the sea to evaporate and left the remaining water with extremely high levels of salinity, which made it toxic and led to the ecological disaster that is destroying the sea and killing the residents of the towns in its vicinity, including Moynaq.[1][2]

Moynaq's major attractions are the armada of rusting hulks that once made up its fishing fleet during the Soviet era, and a one-room museum devoted to Moynaq's heritage as a center of the fishing industry.[3] Poisonous dust storms kicked up by strong winds across the dried and polluted seabed give rise to a multitude of chronic and acute illnesses among the few residents who have chosen to remain, most of them ethnic Karakalpaks, and weather unmoderated by the sea now buffets the town with hotter-than-normal summers and colder-than-normal winters.

^ "Waiting for the sea". BBC News. Retrieved 2018-07-27. ^ "It's Raining Salt: Toxic Aral Sea Storm Sparks Health Fears In Central Asia". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved 2018-07-27. ^ "Travel Guide to Moynaq & Aral Sea | Caravanistan". Caravanistan. Retrieved 2018-07-27.
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Arian Zwegers - CC BY 2.0
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