Mo‘ynoq also spelled as Muynak and Moynaq is a city in northern Karakalpakstan in western Uzbekistan. Formerly a sea port, now home to only a few thousand residents at most, Mo‘ynoq's population has been declining precipitously since the 1980s due to the recession of the Aral Sea.
Once a bustling fishing community and Uzbekistan's only port city with tens of thousands of residents, Mo‘ynoq is now a shadow of its former self, dozens of kilometers from the rapidly receding shoreline of the Aral Sea. Fishing had always been part of the economy of the region, and Mo‘ynoq became a center of industrial fishing and canning. However, overfishing the shallow sea in the past made it very susceptible to economic collapse as the Aral Sea has dried up. A regional agricultural monoculture dominated by cotton production which diverts water from tributary rivers of the sea into irrigation, and severe pollution caused by agricultural chemical runoff, are causing the sea to evaporate and the water that remains is highly saline and very toxic, causing the ecological disaster which is destroying the sea and killing the residents of the towns in its vicinity, including Mo‘ynoq.
Mo‘ynoq's major "tourist attractions" are the armada of rusting hulks that once made up the proud fishing fleet during the Soviet era, and a one-room museum devoted to Mo‘ynoq's heritage as a center of the fishing industry. 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.
The town remains a tragic monument to the conscious environmental havoc wreaked by the Soviet Union's policies in Central Asia. Today, it is nightmarish town of stagnant, corrosive pools and deserted factories, the victim of a Soviet crusade to overcome nature. Not a single fish can survive in the sea, 10,000 fishermen have lost their jobs, and Muynak has lost its raison d'etre.
The main reason for a visit to Muynak is to witness the death throes of the Aral Sea and the dramatic sight of dozens of deserted fishing boats rusting at their moorings, submerged in sand, or riding the crest of a sand dune. The City Museum and the Monument to the people who died during the October Revolution (the highest point in Muynak) are also interesting places to visit. Tourists can take a taxi or a bus to get to Muynak from Nukus.