A stunning mausoleum, cold beers and friendly people

Turkistan Travel Blog

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Statue outside the Mausoleum

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

Our 16 hour train ride from Almaty was pleasant enough and had only cost $10, which is incredibly good value by any standards. The design of the train was similar to the ones in China, with 3 tiered beds and mini cabins of 6 beds. The people in our section had all been very friendly and curious, asking questions and offering refreshments.

From Turkistan train station, a 30 Tengge van ride took us 5km into the town centre and we headed for the cheapest gostinitsa that was listed in our guide book. Unsurprisingly the price had sky rocketed and it now cost 2000 Tengge ($16.

Yasaui Mausoleum
50) for a room at Sabina's. The 3 of us decided to split the costs, but the room only had 2 tiny single beds and an outside bathroom, which had hot water for 2 hours in the morning and evening.

The lady on reception was very nice though and offered us some useful information on the area, before we went over the road to a small cafe for lunch. Now we were out of Almaty, the price for food had plummeted. Hannes and I had Plov (150 Tengge / $1.25), a local specialty consisting of fried rice, carrots and meat, whilst Julia took the Beef steak with potatoes, egg and salad (200 Tengge / $1.65).

Turkistan's star attraction is the Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum, dedicated to the founder of the Yasauia Sufi order. The Mausoleum had originally been constructed after Yasaui's death in 1166, but Timur held him in such high esteem, that he had the current megalith constructed in the late 14th Century.
Yasaui Mausoleum
In time the Mausoleum fell into disrepair, but it has recently been reconstructed with the aid of the Turkish government, who have not only donated money, but also set up a Turkish-Kazakh University in the town.

Approaching the Mausoleum, the scale of it really impressed me, with towering blue domes and a fortress wall running around part of its perimeter. Before even entering through the main gate, we were approached by a young Turkish man who was a student there, and just wanted to say Hello and ask where we were from. A few minutes later a local Kazakh man asked Julia and I if we would listen to him praying in front of the Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum. It was quite hypnotic and fascinating to witness. Once he had finished he chatted for a while, told us some information about the site then just said goodbye and off he went! What a nice man.
Yasaui Mausoleum


The front of the Mausoleum is stunning, with high pillars rising on either side of a massive central archway. Today the holes in the wall provide the nesting grounds for countless birds, all trying to drop a present on unsuspecting visitors heads. Admission was free, which really shocked me, especially as this is one of the most beautiful things to see in Kazakhstan.

Entering the building you immediately notice two things, the huge domed roof and the enormous cauldron on the floor. The top of the dome reaches an impressive 39 metres in height and has a width of over 18 metres, whilst the cauldron was a gift from Timur. Today the walls are quite basic, but we were told that they used to have mosaic tiles covering them from top to bottom.

The central chamber contains Yasaui's tomb, which is visible from the side through some closed gates.
Turkistan building
On either side a man chanted prayers, as women knelt and listened. It felt an incredibly Holy place and even though i have no real idea of who Yasaui was, he clearly holds a place in many peoples heart.

One thing that made me laugh inside the Mausoleum was a Muslim family who were trying to take photos and then hide their camera. Stupidly the man never turned his flash off, so it wasn't too conspicuous. The man who we had listened to praying said it was a sin to take photos inside and even though I'm not Muslim, i definitely wanted to respect that, which made it more amusing thinking of the punishment this family probably thought they would get for breaking their own laws!

Back outside we went for a walk through some beautiful rose gardens and encountered a friendly group of Kazakh School kids, who were keen to chat with us.
Outside Turkistan train station
It was a great chance for me to try out my Russian and them their English, whilst Julia interpreted the bits that we couldn't understand. They were keen to have a photo with us and 2 small girls grabbed for Hannes and I, so they could be seen linking arms with us!

It had been a memorable visit, although now we weren't sure what to do, as it was only 16.30 and we had nothing in particular that we wanted to see. Wandering through the streets for some time was quite interesting and also helped us build up a bit of a thirst, which we went to quench in a small outside restaurant.

Draught beer was only 120 Tengge ($1), as was the tasty Shashlik, which is pieces of barbecued meat on a skewer. We settled in for 4 hours and made friends with the friendly lady owner.
Sunset at the Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum and Yasaui Mausoleum
In the end Julia and I translated her menu, so as she could hopefully get the trade of any passing foreign travellers. She told us that in Kazakhstan the women are still offered to men along with a dowry of horses and camels and i think she was just about to make an offer of her daughter to Hannes, when we decided that maybe it was best that we head back to the restaurant where we had lunch.

It turned into quite a long evening, with beer and food been consumed in abundance. The young owners blasted out some music and there was a steady stream of clients, all of whom enjoyed having a good nosy at us. It was almost 03.00 when we stumbled over the road to bed. We had to wake up the old man on reception, who turned out to be a really grumpy old sod and i had to sleep on the floor, as the bed wasn't big enough for Julia and I to share.
Sunset at the Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum and Yasaui Mausoleum


The following day we had the old git hammering on our door from 09.00 onwards telling us to get up and check out, even though check out was 11.00. The thought of travelling wasn't really appealing to any of us, so finally we agreed to stay one more night. The remainder of the day was spent reading in the room, until the grumpy git finished his shift and a lovely old woman took over. She brought us coffee and turned the shower on early, when she heard that we hadn't washed in 2 days - or maybe she was fed up of us stinking the place out!

In the late afternoon we went to the train station to book our onward tickets. Originally we were going to head back East, but decided that we may as well see the famous Aral Sea to the West, as we were in the vicinity (well 500kms or so away!).
Sunset
Sadly there were no seats available on the daily train, so we left empty handed and went to see if we could bargain for a taxi to Otrar for the following day. This also proved fruitless, so we meandered through the streets and towards the Mausoleum for sunset.

The City seemed to have an air of death about it, not only the Mausoleum, but we also passed a dead dog, a dead chicken and a dog that had its ears chopped or bitten off. Julia was getting a bit freaked out by it all, whereas Hannes and I viewed it as a photo opportunity.

In the evening we ate at a small cafe, which served up huge portions of meat and potato for only 180 Tengge ($1.50). I love this type of food and wolfed it down with some gusto. Whilst letting it digest we found an internet cafe to sit at for an hour and then went home for a relatively early night.

Deats says:
This place is beautiful, i was blown away. Maybe not as good as Uzbekistan, but far less people. Really cool!
Posted on: Aug 07, 2009
almond72 says:
What a huge mausoleum, the stucco looks very good from the pics !
Posted on: Aug 05, 2009
Deats says:
I know, crazy! Still got more to upload too :)
Posted on: May 28, 2008
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Statue outside the Mausoleum
Statue outside the Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Turkistan building
Turkistan building
Outside Turkistan train station
Outside Turkistan train station
Sunset at the Rose garden, Mausole…
Sunset at the Rose garden, Mausol…
Sunset at the Mausoleum of Rabigha…
Sunset at the Mausoleum of Rabigh…
Sunset
Sunset
Defensive walls and the Yasaui Mau…
Defensive walls and the Yasaui Ma…
Defensive walls and the Yasaui Mau…
Defensive walls and the Yasaui Ma…
Defensive walls at Yasaui Mausoleum
Defensive walls at Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Pottery at Yasaui Mausoleum
Pottery at Yasaui Mausoleum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sultan Begum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Julia at Yasaui Mausoleum
Julia at Yasaui Mausoleum
Rose garden and Mausoleum of Rabig…
Rose garden and Mausoleum of Rabi…
Rose garden and Mausoleum of Rabig…
Rose garden and Mausoleum of Rabi…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha-…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha-…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha-…
Rose garden, Mausoleum of Rabigha…
Hannes and I with a group of Kazak…
Hannes and I with a group of Kaza…
Fortress wall at Yasaui Mausoleum
Fortress wall at Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Hannes on the fortress wall
Hannes on the fortress wall
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Classic car
Classic car
Julia and I with the new restauran…
Julia and I with the new restaura…
Julia and I getting tipsy
Julia and I getting tipsy
Hannes and I ready to attack Dinner
Hannes and I ready to attack Dinner
Dinner
Dinner
Hannes a little drunk
Hannes a little drunk
Hannes and I practicing been Russi…
Hannes and I practicing been Russ…
Party!
Party!
Hannes doesnt smoke... supposedly
Hannes doesn't smoke... supposedly
Julia taking a photo of Hannes smo…
Julia taking a photo of Hannes sm…
Julia and I in a romantic moment!
Julia and I in a romantic moment!
Cheers!
Cheers!
Kazakh flag painted on a board nea…
Kazakh flag painted on a board ne…
Outside Turkistan train station
Outside Turkistan train station
Julia with some roses at Turkistan…
Julia with some roses at Turkista…
Collage of an astronaut
Collage of an astronaut
Collages
Collages
Dead dog, eww!
Dead dog, eww!
Dead dog and some collages - man l…
Dead dog and some collages - man …
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum
Yasaui Mausoleum and fortress walls
Yasaui Mausoleum and fortress walls
Yasaui Mausoleum and fortress walls
Yasaui Mausoleum and fortress walls
Sunset
Sunset
Sunset at Yasaui Mausoleum
Sunset at Yasaui Mausoleum
Sunset at Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sul…
Sunset at Mausoleum of Rabigha-Su…
Sunset at Mausoleum of Rabigha-Sul…
Sunset at Mausoleum of Rabigha-Su…
Roses at sunset
Roses at sunset
Sunset
Sunset
Bug in a rose
Bug in a rose
Turkistan
photo by: Biedjee