Turkestan and Southern Kazakhstan – is this what they call Silk Road?

bazar Turkestan Silk Road
bazar of Turkestan

The Silk Road in Kazakhstan: Turkestan and the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi

Instead of bicycle touring Kazakhstan, so far we basically were on a hitchhiking trip of the northern Silk Road route. Our visa issues, caused by the drunk Uzbek consul, forced us to rush through the steppe of Kazakhstan. But after leaving Aralsk, we’re more than half-way our way to Kyrgyzstan, we soon can resume cycling.

In the meantime, we finally hit the real Silk Road, approaching the city of Turkestan, the core of the Timurid empire, and today inhabited by an Uzbek majority.

A Silk Road diary

And here we go, another truck! A broken-down, shaky one from the times of the Czars. The driver goes up to Taraz but we get off close to Turkestan, otherwise, I think we would come back in small pieces. Luckily for him, the driver’s seat looks a little more comfortable than ours. But still, quite a job to drive this thing on these roads every day.

The Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi in #Turkestan was commisioned by #Timur himself. An impressive and beautiful building

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Turkestan: the Kazakh side of the Silk Road

In Turkestan, cheerful town on the Silk Road, we see the Mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi, one of the few historic buildings in the country and a must see attraction in Kazakhstan.

We also visit the bazaars, beautiful and chaotic, and a lovely square with a fountain, where some kids are taking a bath. We are also tempted, but in a rare moment of wisdom, we desist.

Here we finally find a stereotyped Silk Road atmosphere. Indeed this city has a long history, dating back to the 3rd millennium BC, and was a headquarter of the Timurid empire, Timur itself commissioned the mausoleum, dedicated to a Sufi mystic and poet who lived during the XI century, and whose name was indeed Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi.

Back on track: bicycle touring Southern Kazakhstan

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mausoleum Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi
mausoleum of Khawaja Ahmed Yasawi

We leave the city and cycle until the heat is overwhelming, which happens fairly quickly, and then we get on the last truck to Shimkent. The driver is crazy, drives like a Georgian and sings.

Finally, we can ride our bicycles again! We did a little bit less than 3000km in a week and we have 8 days left to get to Kyrgyzstan, we should make it in time.

The road begins to ascent, and the landscape starts to change, there are even some trees and small rivers, we wash our bodies by a rivulet, very cute but freezing.

We sleep there, it’s the first wet place in a long while. We meet a man with a ton of kids around him, they’re curious but not intrusive.

Turkestan square
fountain bathing kids staring at our bicycles

Today we climb, climb, climb, but luckily the temperature is not exaggerated. This is one of the few more inhabited areas of Kazakhstan. At the top begins a long descent that takes us to a beautiful park of olive trees along a river where a woman on a bicycle is fishing.

We sleep well, and ride for almost a hundred kilometers the next day, across Taraz, where it seems to be not much to see, except the pretty waitress of the restaurant where we stopped to eat the usually fried eggs (Daniele got some pasta with sheep, way better).

Along the way we stop for ice cream in a gas station, we get to talk with people there, they offer us a beer and that after Cto chilometra , (100km) mnoga marijuana iest (there is a lot of…).

A moment to meditate about how far we got with our bikes.

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