One of the most interesting places to visit in southern Kazakhstan is Turkestan, home of the Khoja Ahmed Yasawi Mausoleum. While it's a great architectural landmark in its own right, it's also an important place of pilgrimage for devout Muslims throughout Central Asia – and the world. Additionally, it’s on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It’s location in the south makes it easy access for those that are traveling in Kazakhstan, but it can easily be included as a stop during an Uzbekistan tours, too.
Khodja Ahmed Yasawi was a Muslim holy man. He was born in Sayram in 1103 A.D. and was educated as an ascetic Sufi in Bukhara as a young man. Upon the completion of his studies he moved to Turkestan where he lived his entire life. Yasawi was well-known as an excellent and charismatic communicator who was able to deliver his message through poems and sermons through the local language. When he turned 63 he spent his remaining days in an underground cell out of respect for Muhammad’s passing at the same age.
When he died in 1166, a tomb was erected over his grave. However, Yasawi’s renown had spread far beyond the reaches of Turkestan and by the time Tamerlane arrived in the 1396 he ordered that a much grander mausoleum be constructed over Yasawi’s grave. Equal in size to the Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand, the observer is left with no doubt of the intentions and respect that Tamerlane had for Yasawi. Unfortunately, Tamerlane died before the mausoleum was completed. In those days, most projects were neglected if the ruler passed away before completion.
It’s a 2-hour road trip from Shymkent to Turkestan. While most people only visit for the day, others choose to stay there for the night which in itself is an enjoyable and comfortable experience. Each year the city attracts thousands of pilgrims who may believe that three visits to the mausoleum are equal to one visit to Mecca. However, there’s no proof in the Koran that this is true and some have considered this to be blasphemous. Nevertheless, the mausoleum holds an important status in Kazakh culture.
As you’re building your Uzbekistan tours itinerary, you may want to include a trip to Shymkent and beyond to nearby Turkestan to visit this important shrine. If you’re on tour in Kazakhstan, you will definitely want to visit this important and fascinating city!
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.