Namangan's most interesting site is outside the actual city. Some 22km to the southwest near Shokhand kishlak are the ruins of Aksikent, a fortified city at the confluence of the Kasansai and Syr Darya rivers.
Aksikent (also known as Akhsi) was already well established by the 3rd century BC. Along with 60,000 soldiers, the Chinese commander Li Guanli besieged Aksikent for 40 days in 103 BC in an attempt to gain control of the surrounding territory and, in particular, its famed blood-sweating horses.
It recovered from Arab destruction to become the Ferghana Valley's main city under Samanid rule in the ninth and tenth centuries. Arab geographers describe a metropolis of mosques, bazaars and craftsmen, with the tripartite division common in Central Asia; citadel, shakhristan (inner city) and rabad (large suburb).
Early in the 1st millennium ad, the city was conquered first by the Kushans and then by the Turks. It was a caravan stop en route from Kashgar to Byzantium, and locally made goods were traded all along the route: the strong but flexible steel produced in kaolin-lined smelting furnaces here was famous as far away as Itaghdad and Damascus. By the early medieval period the town had grown to such an extent that the perimeter wall was 18km long, and the central citadel contained a palace, mosque and bathhouse. Soldiers kept an eye on the trading domes and hostels from watchtowers along the walls.
In the early 13th century Aksikent was sacked first by the Karakhitai and then by Jebe Noyan, one of Genghis Khan's commanders. The Mongolian steamroller pushed Aksiketh downstream, where the Timurids restored it to importance. Omar Sheikh ruled here, sparking claims that his son Babur was not born in Andijan. The city fell into decay and though attempts were made to rebuild it on the riverbank, it never really recovered. What little remained collapsed during an earthquake in 1620. The remains are impressive in extent and for views across the river, though little can lie distinguished beyond the ghosts of city walls and houses.
Aksikent is not a popular site for tourists, despite its historical significance, so you're likely to have the ruins to yourself. Start by climbing to the top of the site where a modern pylon stands incongruously atop a sweeping, manmade mound ill earth. This was once the centre of the fort and, as the Emperor Babur recorded in his memoirs, the Baburnama, the suburbs of Aksikent stretched out from here lor 3km in each direction. Looking down the steep drop to the row of plain trees alongside the river, you can clearly see the strategic value of this site: it's a spot that is easy to defend, and you could see enemies advancing from any direction.
Although initially the earthen mounds around you look just like arid humps, if you look closely you'll be able to differentiate between the underlying earthworks and the stocky mud-brick walls. Millions of bricks, each one made by hand, comprised walls more than 2m thick: it's little surprise that it took Li Guanli's forces so long to break inside.