Getty Images/Lonely Planet Images

Turkestan

At Turkestan (Туркестан) stands Kazakhstan’s greatest architectural monument and most important pilgrimage site: the mausoleum of Kozha Akhmed Yasaui. It was built by Timur (Tamarlane; 1336–1405) in the late 14th century on a grand scale comparable with his magnificent creations in Samarkand, and has no rivals in Kazakhstan for human-made beauty.

Turkestan was already an important trade and religious centre when the revered Sufi teacher and mystical poet Kozha Akhmed Yasaui came to live here in the 12th century. Yasaui was born at Sayram, probably in 1103, underwent ascetic Sufi training in Bukhara, then lived in Turkestan, dying here about 1166. He founded the Yasauia Sufi order and had the gift of communicating his understanding to ordinary people through poems and sermons in a Turkic vernacular, a major reason for his enduring popularity.

Turkestan makes an ideal base for day trips to Sauran and Otrar.

Top attractions

These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Turkestan.