You might not have heard of Sayram, but it’s actually one of the oldest cities in Central Asia and is over 3000 years old. The city is so old that historians can’t really decide when the city came into existence and can’t decide if the city’s name is Persian, Arabic, Turkic or from a different language altogether. Sayram is the site of Kazakhstan’s first mosque and was on the old silk road. Visit Sayram if you’re interested in old history, religion or simply seeing what Kazakhstan looked like before the Soviets invaded.
Note: There is another Sayram in China, don’t get confused. Sayram Lake isn’t anywhere near here 🙂
To make it easier for you to find the sights, we’ve created a map that will tell you how to quickly visit all the sights. You can find more information about each site in the “Things to See and Do” section.
Things to See and Do
If you’re coming to Sayram, you’ll probably want to visit the mosques, mausoleums and minarets of old. Here’s some sights we saw that you might like to see too…
Abdul-Aziz Baba Mausoleum
The mausoleum commemorates Abdul-Aziz Baba, an Arabic war leader, who is believed to have brought Islam to the area in 8th or 9th Century AD. The original mausoleum here was very old, but the current building dates to the 19th Century.
Mirali Bobo Mausoleum
This mausoleum holds a 10th Century Islamic scholar (though no other website seems to elaborate on this). The entrance to the graveyard can be found on the main road “Amira Timura”.
Much smaller than the previous mausoleums, this one is by the side of the road.
The market is small, but you may be able to find samsa and other food there. Don’t buy bread from here though, local people don’t wrap the bread when transporting it!
A nice, but short minaret. It’s possible to walk up the minaret to the top, though there are no views. Around the minaret you will see excavations, presumably of the old mosque it would have been attached to. To get there, you will need to turn right off the main road and follow a path/backstreet that is adjacent to the school.
You can get a marshrutka (minibus transport) or taxi from Shymkent.
We heard that you can get a marshrutka from Ayna Avtovaksal . It’s also likely that marshrutkas will leave from Samal Bus Station, the biggest marshrutka terminal in Shymkent, though we’re not sure on this (leave a note in the comments if you know differently). Marshrutka drop off/pick up point in Sayram is on the crossroads next to the market, so right next to all the sights!
We got a taxi from near the outskirts of Shymkent and it only cost us 1150 KZT. Taxis from the centre will cost slightly more. You can grab taxis from the marshrutka pick up point by the marketplace. The first taxi drivers we asked to go back to Shymkent wanted 2000 KZT, but when we asked for less, they pointed to other taxis in the same marshrutka area and they accepted the same price as the cost of the taxi ride to Sayram. The taxi drivers won’t understand the address of the hostel, so make sure you have your destination marked on a map that has Cyrillic (I use Maps.Me, a free offline map app).
What To Eat
Our first taxi driver said that Sayram shashlik was the best, so we gave it a try and it was pretty good (though it’s been good everywhere). We found a cheap restaurant (called Maluka) opposite the market and had two meals, tea and dessert for under $4.
However, it was the plov that we were really impressed by. It was the best plov we had had in the whole of Kazakhstan, and we were having plov almost every day. We also had a selection of desserts that were all cheap and tasty.
To find the same food, go here:
The restaurant is behind the shashlik and ice cream stalls. You’ll see lots of desserts and nothing else, but they’ll bring you a menu when you sit down. We highly recommend the food there.
Accommodation for Sayram
We didn’t stay in Sayram. Use Shymkent as a base for travel due to the number of accommodation options there.