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Главная » Sairam religious sights. The ancient mausoleums and mosques of Southern Kazakhstan.

Sayram and Shymkent.

Monuments in Sairam.

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

Thomas Fuller.

Experience Guided Tours in Kazakhstan.

Sayram and Shymkent are two ancient cities on the famous Silk Road - each a medieval capital of southern Kazakhstan with a unique history. Ancient Sayram held out in the struggle against time and remains today like an open-air museum.
Ancient Shymkent lost to the developers of the XXth century. However, thanks to archaeologists, new pages of the glorious history of each city are still being opened. 
City on the white river.
Buddhist pilgrim Suan-Tsyan wrote about Sayram for the first time in 629 when travelling from China to India. On his way, he crossed the Taklimakan Desert of northwest China,
visited Kazakhstan, climbed across steep mountain passes and saw Lake Issyk-Kul.
As he traversed Central Asia, he wrote his Notes About Travel Along Western Territories During the Great Tang Dynasty of China, an intriguing book for scientists as well as travel lovers.
Suan-Tsyan visited several cities in southern Kazakhstan, the largest of which was the "City on the White River." Arabic and Persian books describing the routes of the Silk Road refer to this city with the same name Suan-Tsyan used - Medinat al-Baida, White City, or Ispidjab.
Makhmud Kashgari, the author of Divan Augat at-Turk, the dictionary of Turkic languages published in Arabic in 1074, used another name for the city - Sayram. Although not mentioned in Chinese sources until the beginning of the seventh century, the city appeared much earlier.
Archaeologists working there believe the city was established more than 2,000 years ago. Medieval Sayram was the centre of a huge district stretching northeast to the area between the Talas and Chu rivers and northwest to the middle of the Syr Daria River.
It was a large transit centre where several trade routes converged on the Silk Road. Although once described as an amazing city, today Sayram is only a small village.
Gates facing all directions.
Tenth century Arab geographer Ibn Hawqal wrote that Sayram, famous for its orchards and markets, had a government house, a prison and a mosque. "This vast city is full of people; Ispidjab is the only city in the entire Khorasan and Ma Wara'un-Nahr [Transoxiana region] that does not pay kharaj [Islamic land tax]," wrote Hawqal.
Sayram's four gates are evidence of its important role as a centre of trade and transit. Goods from Iran, Syria and Baghdad were brought in via the southern Gate of Bukhara. The Gate of Nudzhket was named after Nudzhket, the city located directly to its west at the future site of Shymkent.
From there, caravans set out for towns along the Syr Daria River, such as Otrar, Sauran, Yassy-Turkistan and Yangikent, before continuing to the Ural River and further on to Europe. From the northern gates caravans set out across the Kazakhstan steppe to Siberia.
The Gate of Shakvan (or Shavaba) led to the east to the city of Shavab and further on to Taraz, Kulan, Asparu, Balasagun, Upper Barshan and on to China. Merchants from China and East Turkistan carried silk, priceless porcelain and ceramics, items made of jade and jasper, as well as Chinese medicines.
Carpets, precious stones, perfumes and rare animals such as lions and elephants were brought to China from Iran, Arabic countries and India. Local coins minted in the XIth and XIIth centuries in Sayram were one of the currencies passed along the Silk Road.
White fabric, weapons, swords, copper and iron were exported from Sayram to other countries. The city was also known as a slave trade centre, where captives of various wars were sold as slaves. Many of them later served as military guards for the Baghdad caliphs.
Oasis on the endless steppe.
Sayram was one of the most densely populated areas, with about 40,000 people, mainly craftsmen, living in the city and its outskirts. They were great artisans who produced ceramics, glass, jewellery, products made of bones, and carpets.
In addition, it was a large agricultural centre. When Islam began to spread there in the ninth and 10th centuries, Muslim burial rites became customary and Arabic handwriting appeared.
However, in earlier times Sayram was the centre for the spread of Christianity, and archaeologists have found the remains of monasteries outside the city. Numerous Muslim holy sites also remain in and near the city, to which many pilgrims come throughout the year.
Sayram prospered until the Tatar and Mongolian invasions of the XIIIth century, at which time the city's name changed from Ispidjab. Very little information is available about life in Sayram from the XIVth to the XVIIth centuries, but it is well known that the city continued to be a centre that not only controlled trade, but also strategic routes to the south.
During the XVth to XVIIIth centuries it was part of the Kazakh khanate. At the centre of the present-day village of Sayram there is an archaeological monument showing some of the remains of the ancient settlement, including the ruins of the fortress wall.
At the end of the XIXth and the beginning of the XXth centuries the city wall still had rounded merlons, an essential part of battlements used in ancient fortifications.
The second capital – Shymkent.
After Sayram faded in significance, neighbouring Shymkent (formerly Chimkent) moved to the foreground and developed into a thriving city around the XVIIIth century. Eventually Shymkent took over the role as the main city in southern Kazakhstan.
The settlement was first mentioned in Zafar-Nama, the work of Persian historian Sharaf ad-Din Ali Yazdi describing the events of 1366 related to Timur's campaigns. However, the history of the city goes back several millennia, evidenced by the accidental findings of tools from the Stone Age and objects dating back to the Bronze Age such as knives, axes, weapons and decorations.
Later, Sak tribes occupied the city, leaving multiple burial mounds to their descendants. Medieval Shymkent reached its flourishing point in the 14th-15th centuries. Remains of this ancient city are in the centre of present-day Shymkent.
Archaeological excavations currently being done under the auspices of the Cultural Heritage Program have helped to identify the age of Shymkent as 2,200 years, having been founded prior to the second century B.C. During its early history it was part of the Kangjuj State (from the third century B.C. to the fifth century A.D.), then became one of the cities of the ancient Turkic states (from the sixth to XIIth centuries) and also played an important role in the history of the Kazakh Khanate.
The modern city of Shymkent is the regional capital and a large economic, scientific and cultural centre of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Karl Baipakov.

Magazine ""Tengri 6. 2009.