Shymkent was originally founded in the 12th century during the heyday of the Great Silk Road. Unlike most caravanserais, this one was tasked with a dual purpose: the allow travelers a place to rest and recuperate; and provide protection for the town of Sayram. This town was located 10 km to the east of present day Shymkent. However, it wasn’t too long until this outpost was smothered by Genghis Khan and his armies and by other nomadic tribes numerous times. Much like other Great Silk Road cities, only the strong survived and Shymkent proved that it was up to the task. Destroyed and rebuilt numerous times, it passed from empire to empire; from the Golden Hordes, to the Bukharans, to the Kokandians, to the Russians, and today to Kazakhstan. While Shymkent’s population is 64% Kazakh, interestingly the city has a strong Uzbek influence to the point where many of the restaurants serve only Uzbek food. Given the city’s close proximity to the Ferghana Valley, you can be assured that you’ll find the world’s best produce!
Today, Shymkent it is one of the most vibrant cities in Central Asia. Home to over 600,000 people (mainly Kazakhs, Russians, Uzbeks), this city has become an industrial center and today houses an oil refinery and food processing plants. More importantly it is the home of Kazakhstan’s best beer, “Shymkentskoe Pivo.” So be sure to have a glass while you’re here! There are two large shopping centers to find a few bargains and to witness the local economy in action.
While there’s nothing left of the caravanserai that started it all in Shymkent, the Regional Museum of History and Anthropology will provide you with a number of interesting exhibits that highlight the important heritage of this Great Silk Road town.
Greg has lived and worked in Central Asia since 1997. His hands-on understanding of the people, culture, and tourist destinations provides our clients the opportunity to feel comfortable knowing that they are in good hands. His travels throughout Central Asia have given him the opportunity to interact with many professionals in the tourism industry that enables him to providing the highest quality of services anywhere in the world.