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Shymkent - Sayram


Shymkent and Sayram, twin cities separated by a mere 10 kilometers in the southern reaches of Kazakhstan, share vastly different stories.

Along a vital north-south trading route through Central Asia, skirting around the Tianshan Mountains, the town of Sayram was founded over 3,000 years ago. As one of the oldest continuously inhabited city in Asia, Sayram saw it grow from a mere outpost to a regional trading hub. Across the way, where modern day Shymkent lies, a Caravanserai was constructed in the 12th century to shelter weary travelers making their way from Shymkent and onwards the great journey. Shymkent grew modestly from Sayram’s wealth into a trade center of its own, until its destruction from Genghis Khan and later nomad attacks. It left both outposts reeling.

How fortunes have changed today. Sayram is now a mere village on Shymkent's outskirts, while Shymkent has blossomed into Kazakhstan's third largest metropolis. At the heart of Shymkent stands a recently restored ancient fortress, its crumbling walls now rebuilt into a monument to the city's storied Silk Road history. Walking amongst the watchtowers and reconstructed rooms, one feels Shymkent is experiencing a modern revitalization, emerging as a new crossroads for the region. Though only a fragment of its former self, Sayram still remains one of Asia's oldest continuously inhabited settlements, its longevity a testament to the vitality of this oasis that once nourished countless trade caravans venturing east and west.

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What Goods were Traded Here?

LIVESTOCK - The Sayram area was well suited for raising horses, sheeps and goats.

LEATHER AND FURS - Animal hides and furs from the region's livestock were also profitable exports.

How to Get Here

We arrived by taxi from the border of Uzbekistan, easily arranged at the border. Shymkent is also well connected by rail to Almaty and Astana as it is the country's third largest city.

Our Treasure

We didn't have the highest expectations for Shymkent, but we were surprised to see the reconstructed citadel in the center of town a new focal point, and a window to learning about its history.

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    ➨ Kazakhstan and the Silk Road - Coming Soon

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The journey continue skirting the northern route of Central Asia, where the endless steppes meet mountains. A long, but not entirely difficult stretch awaits to Almaty, center of a bustling bazaar that you will surely need to supply for the next leg of the journey towards China.


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