Disappointing ancient ruins

Otrar Travel Blog

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Camels walking across the desert

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Juliana (Russia), Hannes (Sweden)

The three of us were awake before 08.00, giving the old man on reception no excuse to hassle us today. Clearly he was dissatisfied with this, so instead set a 4 minute time allowance on the shower! The Communists have a lot to answer for. After checking out, we left our bags in the front hall of the hotel and went out for breakfast.

Once we had eaten, Julia bargained with a taxi diver to take us to the ancient ruins of Otrar, located 70km's away. The previous day we had been quoted anything up to 8,000 Tengge ($67), so we were reasonably happy to settle on 3,000 Tengge ($25) today. Our taxi was a very funky Soviet car, the Zhiguli, which was driven by an equally interesting looking driver.

The journey took us over a barren landscape and we came across 2 herds of wild camels, although i didn't want to get too close after the recent vomiting incident! We passed the Arystan-bab Mausoleum, which had yurts set up outside, but settled on just having a fleeting glimpse from the roadside.

Yurt camp and Aristan-Bab Mausoleum


Otrar has an impressive History, having come under attack from both Jenghiz Khan and Timur. Well when i say come under attack, i mean it was razed to the ground and all of its citizens were butchered. It is claimed that had Otrar's governor not murdered the Mongol traders that had been sent here, Jenghiz Khan may not have begun his rampage throughout Central Asia and even Europe.

In 1219 Otrar actually withstood 12 attacks from the Mongol forces, before eventually capitulating, after been betrayed by one of their own citizens. Timur had less problems when he sacked the town in 1376 and it wasn't until the 16th Century that the area came under Kazakh rule.

All that is left today is a large mound upon which sits some poorly reconstructed brick walls. Without any direct interest in the site, it really isn't something that you would want to go out of your way to see.
Otrar ruins
What was quite fascinating was the amount of pottery that was visible on the floor. I found it fun to imagine who had touched the items, maybe someone who had been beheaded by a marauding Mongol invader?

What also captured my attention was the wildlife, which included some very pretty grasshoppers and a gopher, which kept popping up from holes, scurrying across to another and descending down again. After an hour we were all a little bit bored, so wandered back to our waiting Zhiguli, parked out in the baking midday sun. An hour later and we were back in Turkistan, where we had some lunch, collected our bags and caught a marshrutka (minivan) to Shymkent.

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Camels walking across the desert
Camels walking across the desert
Yurt camp and Aristan-Bab Mausoleum
Yurt camp and Aristan-Bab Mausoleum
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Otrars defenses are once again br…
Otrar's defenses are once again b…
Pottery we found amongst the ruins
Pottery we found amongst the ruins
Think this is to do with praying?
Think this is to do with praying?
City of Otrar
City of Otrar
Interesting scenery, seen from the…
Interesting scenery, seen from th…
Otrar ruins
Otrar ruins
Camels crossing the desert
Camels crossing the desert
Our speed mobile
Our speed mobile
Funny looking cars...
Funny looking cars...
Otrar
photo by: Deats