Introduction

About 44km south of Turkestan lie the ruins of Otrar (Отрар), a once-prosperous Silk Road town that brought Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to Central Asia. Much of the rest of Asia and Europe might have been spared Mongol carnage if Otrar’s Khorezmshah governor had not had Chinggis Khan's merchant-envoys murdered here in 1218. As retribution, the following year Chinggis' forces mercilessly trashed Otrar, which until then had been one of the most important Silk Road towns in the fertile Syr-Darya valley. It was rebuilt afterwards but eventually abandoned around 1700 after being trashed again by the Zhungars (Oyrats). Today it’s just a large dusty mound, known as Otyrar-Tobe, 4km northeast of the small town of Bayaldir, worth visiting for the numerous archaeological finds that have been uncovered here. Nearby, a mausoleum of a famous religious mystic is a popular place of pilgrimage.