Osh is the second largest city in Kyrgyzstan, located in the Fergana Valley in the south of the country and often referred to as the "capital of the south". The city is at least 3,000 years old, and has served as the administrative center of Osh Province since 1939. The city has an ethnically mixed population of about 220,000 (in 2003), comprising Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Russians, Tajiks, and other smaller ethnic groups.
Osh is a lively place, with the largest and most crowded outdoor market in all of Central Asia. The city's industrial base, established during the Soviet period, largely collapsed after the break-up of the Soviet Union and has started to revive only gradually. The proximity of the Uzbek border, which cuts through historically linked territories and settlements, deprives Osh of much of its former hinterland and presents a serious obstacle to trade and economic development. Daily flights link Osh - and hence the southern part of Kyrgyzstan - to Bishkek and the north, and the recent upgrading of the long and arduous road through the mountains to Bishkek has greatly improved communications.
The city has several monuments, including one to the southern Kyrgyz "queen" Kurmanjan Datka and one of the few remaining statues of Lenin. A Russian Orthodox church, reopened after the demise of the Soviet Union, the largest mosque in the country (situated beside the bazaar), and the 16th-century Rabat Abdul Khan Mosque can be found here. The only World Heritage Site in Kyrgyzstan, the Sulayman Mountain, offers a splendid view of Osh and its environs. A cave in the mountain is the site of a museum containing a collection of archaeological, geological and historical finds and information about local flora and fauna.