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Shopan ata mosque.

Tours to Shopan ata mosque on Mangistau. 

«Memory is the treasure house of the mind wherein the monuments thereof are kept and preserved»

Thomas Fuller.

Sights of Shopan ata mosque on Mangystau.

This underground mosque is located 60 km northeast of the village of Zhanaozen, on the northeastern edge of the Mangystau chain. It is situated at the foot of a promontory (Mount Shopan ata) dividing the sandy desert of Bostankum to the west from a saline depression to the east.
Sixty kilometres before you reach Beket-Ata is another famous site, the Shopan ata complex. According to legend, Shopan was a pupil of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi. In the centre of the necropolis is a circular mosque, without any decoration on the outside, hewn out of the flat sandstone rocks.
Believers think that before visiting Beket ata, one must stop at Masat-ata and Shopan-Ata. The cave is found at the bottom of a low limestone cliff, the top of which has been carved into a crater in order to collect water for ablutions.
It is surrounded by a cemetery dating from the Xth to XIXth centuries AD, from the Oguz to the Adai period, the latter constituting 70 percent of the funerary complex. Shopan ata is one of the oldest in the Mangystau Region (X - XII centuries AD) and hosts the grave of the saint Shopan-Ata, who lived in the XII century.
The entrance opens onto the side of a rock face and the cave consists of four rectangular rooms connected to each other by corridors: an entrance hall, a prayer room (the mosque) and two funeral chambers containing the tomb of Shopan ata and that of his daughter.
Two other doors situated to the left of the mosque's entrance give access to pilgrim dormitories. Shopan in Kazakh and chaban in Russian mean "shepherd": Shopan ata is in fact the patron saint of shepherds.
Legend says that he was a dervish, a disciple of Ahmed Yasawi. One day, Master Yasawi summoned his disciples to a yurt, told them to shoot an arrow through the round hole of the shangyrak (roof opening), and go and spread Sufism as shepherds in the place where their arrows landed.
Shopan- ata arrow reached the Mangyshlak Peninsula on the site of the actual mosque, in the land of a rich bai (landlord) named Bayan, to whom the saint subsequently proposed his service as a shepherd.
Bayan agreed, saying that at the end of the year he would pay Shopan ata by the number of white sheep born during the season. That year all the newborn sheep were white, but Bayan postponed his payment, saying that he would pay the following year according to the number of newborn black sheep.
The following year, all the newborn sheep were black, and finally Bayan understood that he was facing an extraordinary man, offering Shopan ata all his belongings. The legend continues, saying that Shopan ata had two grandsons, Shakpak ata and Karaman ata, who are buried and revered in other underground mosques in the Mangyshlak region. It is also said that he was a hero in battle, dying on the battlefield, and that his powers were such that a visit to his tomb and the invocation of his name have magical healing properties.
In 1764 his tomb was visited by the young Beket ata (subsequently buried and revered as a saint 50km east of Shopan ata), who was inspired to go to Khiva to study Islam. The track leads over а distance of 25 kilometre to the Kazakh -Turkmen necropolis of Shopan ata.
According to legend, Shopan was а pupil of Hodzha Akhmet Yassaoui. The centre of the necropolis is formed by а circular mosque, without any decorations on the outside, hewn into the flat sandstone rocks.
Believers think that before visiting Beket ata, оnе must stop at Masat ata and most important of all, Shopan ata. Whoever ignores this rule, will not be able to find Beket Ata and get lost, and even in case оnе finds it the visit will be in vain.
Some 30 kilometre to the east of Shopan ata in the cleft landscape of the cliff, оnе finally comes to the guest house of Oglandy and the mosque of Beket ata. The agency Turist in Aktau offer this trip and participating in it spares one highly annoying problems with orientation.

The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.The underground mosque Shopan-ata.

Authority:
The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick.   Publishing house "Odyssey".2010. The information from this book is given by author Dagmar Schreiber. 

Photos
Alexander Petrov.