Turkestan, the ‘land of the Turks’ is located in Syr-Darya Valley. I have arrived here on marshrutka from Shymkent. It’s an amazing experience which I highly recommend to everyone traveling in Kazakhstan.
It’s not the most luxurious and comfortable way of transportation. It would be unacceptable in any developed country but here I take it as it is. And I love crazy form of transportation! There is always more passengers than seats. Nobody speaks English and people travel with all their belongings.
It’s a perfect way to experience the real life here. And see endless flat, grassy land where there are no trees. Because you drive for hundred km seeing nothing more then that and camels on the road. It’s actually very humbling. The magnitude of steppe and mountain mass dominating over it.
Turkestan is a number one destination with its real gem of Turkic architecture. Kozha Akhmed Yasaui Mausoleum. In Muslim world the city is the second Mecca and it’s a place of pilgrimage. Even those who are not Muslims believe that it is a sacred place. It was a spiritual center of Turkic speaking world and the capital of Kazakh khans.
I have came to Turkestan with a big expectation of the building which is so known. Was I a bit disappointed? Was I expecting something bigger? More spectacular? Maybe. I could imagine that it would be a real pearl once finished.
The mausoleum was built by great Timur. In honour of Yasaui. Author of religious collection of Hikmet. One of the first preachers of Islam. Among Turkic people of Central Asia.
The construction in Turkestan lasted ten years and was never finished. Evidence is the facade. Which lacks lining and still has construction staging. What bothered me so much at first.
Legends of Turkestan
And again I have been told an amazing legend that Sholpan. The first and most loved wife of Timur oversaw the construction. The foreman of the assembly feel in love with her. And began an astute. She noticed this. And decided to teach him a lesson.
She offered him two eggs. One was brightly decorated. And the other was black. The foreman took the decorated egg. Sholpan shelled both of the eggs. Offered them to him and asked if he could taste any difference between the two? He concluded that both eggs tasted the same.
Then Timur’s wife explained. It is the same with women. They have different appearances but are the same at essence. And thus the man was wasting his time being lovesick for her. When there are other women available to him.
However. He was convinced he wanted her and no other. Therefore he left Turkestan the same night. Leaving the building unmanned. And with lack of qualified architects to replace him. Construction remained unfinished.
As much as I loved this the story. The truth is that Timur sent the majority of his workers from Turkestan to Samarkand. To build the Cathedral Mosque. Which is ‘a must’ to visit! On my. Yet unscheduled trip to Uzbekistan.
After seeing mausoleum. I was wandering around the city in search of interesting pictures. When I been chatted up by a woman on the street. Who in the end invited me to her house. So I can meet her husband and kids.
She was speaking Russian but explained that her mother’s family is from Polsza, Poland. And therefore she treated me with astonishing hospitality. Preparing czaj for me. And baking delicious pierozki on the spot. She ordered her kids to speak with me in English and here things about Poland. Then she was insisting on me staying over their place for a night.
That is how people are here. Treating you like a guest rather then a tourist. I have explained that I have plans and little time in the region. Promised a postcard from Poland and took off back to Shymkent.
Another two hours of bumpy ride while contemplating mentality of people. Wondering where have we lost all that in our beautiful. Developed and structured world of fancy Europe.