The spiritual heartbeat of Kazakhstan, Turkestan still attracts pilgrims from around the world, yet it also tells tales of destruction hidden beneath its sands.
Lying along the northern branch of the Silk Road in southern Kazakhstan rests the historic city of Turkestan. Though prosperous medieval trade centers once dotted these desert crossroads between East and West, most notable the grand oasis city of Otrar, many met a brutal end at the hands of the Mongols. Their vast ruins whisper of past glories buried beneath sands.
Not all disappeared though as Turkestan endured, growing into a vital nexus of Sufi Islamic spirituality by the 12th century A.D. under the guidance of revered spiritual leader Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. His enduring legacy made Turkestan a focal point not just for trade, but for sharing divine wisdom, where Yasawi's expansive turquoise-tiled shrine complex draws multitudes of pilgrims seeking blessing, renewal and community. Under its arches, domes and landscaped courtyards, the call for prayer interweaves with the murmurs of ancient Sufi poetry. Here still lies an oasis drawing a nation together and linking civilizations across continents - the legacy of one man reverberates across the desert despite the calamity that may have struck.
THE SILK ROAD JOURNAL
What Goods were Traded Here?
HORSES - The Kazakh steppes were renowned breeding grounds for strong horses prized across Eurasia.
CAMEL HAIR TEXTILES - Weavers and tailors crafted rugged camel hair fabrics much in demand by merchants.
How to Get Here
We arrived by taxi from Shymkent, a moderate journey across the desert with a stop in Otrar. However, the most popular way to make this journey is by train from Almaty or Astana.
Stepping into the grounds of the mausoleum, filled with friendly Kazakh's making long journeys to pay respects. Turkestan feels alive and renewed, a revival among the ancient route.
➨ The Otrar Oasis - Coming Soon
S N A P S H O T S O N T H E R O A D
W H E R E W I L L Y O U R J O U R N E Y T A K E Y O U N E X T ?
Turkestan was like a mirage, an oasis to fill your spirits and strength as the journey towards China continues. The endless steppe is now becoming an afterthought as you continue eastward, where high mountains rise. The first stop is Shymkent, a once important stop at the intersection of two routes,