Boats in desert around Moynaq. Image Credit: Supplied

We were midway through the Central Asia Rally in 2013 when we first heard of the mysterious ghost ships of the Aral Sea. All we knew were snippets of a conversation — uttered half in Russian — shared over a dubious coffee in a bordertown village of Kazakhstan.

Tired and dusty from a mammoth 900-odd kilometre journey from Russia over the past few days, our adventurous spirit was briefly put on hold as we wearily crossed the border into Uzbekistan, with the aim to set up camp for the night in Moynoq (also spelled as Muynaq).

Snuggled in our sleeping bags around a roaring fire that night, counting satellites as they moved across the starry night, it was there we first heard the tragic history of the Aral Sea. The water body, divided between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was once known as the fourth largest lake in the world in terms of area.

Panorama of ship cemetery at sunset near Moynaq at Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

However, due to the former Soviet Union’s plan to launch a global cotton industry in the 60s, the rivers that fed the lake were diverted to fuel this short-lived venture. By the late 90s, human intervention and climate change had all but dried up the lake, leaving behind a ship graveyard that serves as a haunting history of man-made disasters.

If time permits, do take a detour to visit these bleak ghost ships, lying abandoned and rusted in an endless sea of sand, mutely narrating their own terrifying story of a time gone by. The best route to visit the place is by heading to the city of Nukus, which lies north of Bukhara.

How do I get there?

flydubai will operate five flights per week between Dubai and Tashkent starting March 11. Flights to Tashkent will operate from Terminal 3, Dubai International Airport. The average cost of a return ticket is Dh1,550.