The Minaret of Khyzyr

It is the only remaining tower in the ancient city of Ispijab.

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The Minaret of Khyzyr

It is the only remaining tower in the ancient city of Ispijab.

The ancient city of Ispijab, standing on the Great Silk Road, is called by the name Sayram in modern times and is a suburb of Shymkent. Sayram is a sacred place full of ancient mausoleums. The minaret bearing the name of the prophet Khyzyr, mentioned in the Quran as an unnamed companion of Musa, was once part of a mosque, which, according to certain historical data, dates back to the 9th-12th centuries. Today, only a 10.5-meter high tower has been preserved of the original building.

Pilgrims come to the minaret to honor the memory of one of their beloved saints and ask him for protection, support, or blessing. Despite the fact that the minaret is an object of pilgrimage, it remains attractive for ordinary travelers. Many, for example, want to try to overcome a difficult climb to the top of the tower through a very narrow spiral staircase.

Particularly interesting are the stories associated with Khyzyr himself. Some Turkic peoples considered him the patron saint of those traveling by sea. Some revered him as a saint protecting them from fire, theft, and even snake bites. Legend has it that Khyzyr was endowed with immortality, could work miracles, heal, punish vices and crimes, and provide assistance to those in need. The prophet could, in the guise of a traveler or a beggar, meet people to test their morale. Even today, the Kazakhs believe that one shouldn’t offend an old man or a beggar whom he meets on the road, because Khyzyr himself may be in his guise. If a beggar knocks on your door, he must certainly be allowed in and given a seat at the table.

Useful tips 2021-2022

How to get there

The minaret is located on the outskirts of the city of Shymkent, on the territory of the ancient city of Sayram. You can get there by taxi or buses that run from the central bus station of Shymkent or from the Aina Market.

Food and accommodation

Sayram is known for its authentic cafes. Along the central highway, there are cafes with tandoor ovens (cylindrical clay or metal ovens), in which delicious flatbread and samsa are baked fresh everyday. It is believed that Sayram cafes are considered to prepare some of offer the best pilaf and manty in all of Kazakhstan. Manty is a type of dumpling made from a thin dough and juicy minced meat. Seasoned with a dash of vinegar, they are definitely worth a try.

Here you can also visit the bazaar and buy fresh fruits and vegetables, fruits or you can also try out some dried fruits as well. We recommend staying for the night in the center of Shymkent, in one of its many hotels or hostels for the night.

Tourist attractions