On the Syr-Darya 290km northwest of Turkistan, Kyzylorda became capital of Soviet Kazakhstan in 1925 but was replaced by cooler Almaty when the Turksib railway reached there in 1929. Oil and gas operations in the South Turgay Basin, mainly Chinese-owned, underpin its economy today. Kyzylorda’s chief role for most travellers is as a staging post for Aralsk or Baykonur.
Aysha-Bibi & Babazhi Katun Mausoleums
In Aysha-Bibi village, 16km west of Taraz on the Shymkent road, are the tombs of two 11th- or 12th-century women, legendary protagonists of a local Romeo and Juliet tale. The Aysha-Bibi mausoleum, though heavily restored in 2000–2002, is probably the only authentically old building around Taraz.
About 14km east of Shymkent, the busy little town of Sayram was a Silk Road stop long before Shymkent existed and dates back possibly 3000 years. Kozha Akhmed Yasaui was born here and Sayram is a stop for many pilgrims en route to his mausoleum at Turkistan. Sayram’s population today is almost entirely Uzbek.