The Holy Shrine and 'Second Mecca' Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.

The Holy Shrine and ‘Second Mecca’ Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.

Typically the story of an old city where history is scattered in incredible minarets and sand-buried ruins.

Towering in the sky is Hagia Sophia, and colorful bazaars spread across a vast expanse of land. Turkestan, in southern Kazakhstan, serves as the center of Kazakh art and cuisine.

Turkestan means ‘Land of Turks’. Turkic nomads, traveling the Silk Road, settled here in the early 6th century. The city was formerly ‘Shawgar’ and ‘Yasi,’ gaining its current name in the 16th century as the capital of Kazakh Kantia.

Today, Turkestan comprises various Turkic ethnic groups, from Kazakhs to Uzbeks. The Cooperation Council of Turkic-speaking States declares it the ‘Spiritual Capital of the Turkic World,’ highlighting its deep Islamic history. For the past seven years, Daulat Meldikhanov has worked as a tour operator and guide on the Silk Road, educating tourists from around the world about Turkestan’s history and culture

“Turkistan is a unique city, and recent archaeological research suggests that the history of this city goes back more than two thousand years,” says Meldikhanov. For tourists visiting Turkestan, Meldikhanov lists five must-sees for the city’s architecture, culture, traditional cuisine, and entertainment.

The best example of the Silk Road is the tomb of Khwaja Ahmed Yesavi.

The Holy Shrine and ‘Second Mecca’ Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.

Khwaja Ahmad Yesvi was a famous poet, philosopher, and Sufi who helped to promote and spread Sufism in the Turkic world. After Yasavi died in 1166, his final resting place served as a shrine for travelers on the ‘Sufi Silk Road’.

Meldikhanov pointed out, ‘We can witness over 600 years of Muslim heritage with our own eyes.’ Some walls retain their original form, and 14th-century ornaments endure.

The tomb may be a UNESCO World Legacy Location. The mausoleum is 38.7 meters tall and includes a turquoise arch which is the biggest arch in Central Asia. The tomb is considered one of the finest pieces of design from the Timurid Domain that ruled the locale within the 14th century.

The 35-room tomb has antiquated Persian depictions, a mosque, and antiquated stone carvings on the outside of the landmark. The structure of this tomb was built close to the conclusion of the Silk Street period.

“Murud Nazarov, a colleague of Meldikhanov, stated, “The tomb of Khawaja Ahmad Yasavi still stands today as an important testament to its past glory, even as much of the Silk Road fades into history.

Izat Sultan Museum.

If history seen in the form of Khwaja Ahmed Yasawi’s tomb tempts you to explore further, the Azrat Sultan Museum will not disappoint you. Spread over 1,235 acres and featuring an impressive array of written, architectural, and cultural artifacts, the museum is designed to help popularize Kazakhstan’s national history.

You’d have to come here many times to see the museum spread over such a large area, but Meldikhanov recommends visiting a few places located here.

They excavated this mosque to a depth of four meters, positioning Khwaja Yasawi’s private room to face the sunlight, and meticulously designed it to preserve the prayer routine

Moreover, until 1979, these hot water baths were functional. Pilgrims visiting Khawaja Yasawi’s tomb used to bathe and cleanse their bodies here before proceeding. Although hot water is no longer available for bathing, these baths are still present in the museum as an exhibit.

A domed brick structure, which once hosted sacred rituals, remains accessible solely through a local guide. Visiting Rabia Sultan Begum’s tomb here is also highly recommended.

The Holy Shrine and ‘Second Mecca’ Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.

Best Leisure Experience: Caravanserai Complex.

Some people call this area ‘Kazakh Venice’ because of a canal here, but it is a complex called Caravan Saray.

Karvan Sarai, a five-star hotel, embodies cultural pride and hospitality. Stop here for a night boat ride and the tale of Kazakh Romeo and Juliet. Here at Karwan Sarai, there is a very interesting flying theater where you can feel like a flying bird.

Furthermore, it’s an excellent Cornish market for Kazakh food

Whether it’s a refreshing drink or a hearty meal, Meldikhanov encourages travelers to stop at one of Turkestan’s many markets, the Cornish Bazaar.”You’ll discover nourishment, new natural products, vegetables, dresses, and much more here,” Meldekhanov said.

Located just a 10-minute walk from the shrine of Khawaja Ahmad Yasavi, this market showcases traditional Kazakh art and cuisine. Local vendors expertly sell embroidered cloths and carved pottery. The mouth-watering aromas of the food reflect Kazakhstan’s commitment to meat.

“In Kazakhstan, a common joke prevails that it’s the world’s second-largest meat consumer, and when asked who the number one carnivore is, the answer is the wolf,” Meldikhanov told Azrah Tafnan.

Optimal Travel Begins at Turkestan Station.

Turkestan Railway Station itself is a charming place, famous for its unique round arch and charming mint-colored walls. It draws inspiration from 20th-century Soviet architecture harmonizing with Kazakh tiles. Recall that Russia occupied this city in 1864. According to Meldikhanov, this railway station is the best and The fusion of Russian and Kazakh architecture in Turkestan is exemplified authentically. Tourists can enjoy scenic train views of Turkestan and nearby cities.

The Holy Shrine and ‘Second Mecca’ Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.
Khwaja Ahmed Yasavi TombOver 600 years of Muslim heritage, UNESCO World Heritage Site, 38.7 meters tall, turquoise arch, 14th-century Timurid architecture.
Azrat Sultan MuseumSpread over 1,235 acres, featuring written, architectural, and cultural artifacts, including excavated mosques, Khwaja Yasawi’s private room, Rabia Sultan Begum’s tomb, and hot water baths exhibit.
Caravanserai ComplexOften called ‘Kazakh Venice,’ a cultural hub with a five-star hotel, flying theater, boat ride, and Cornish market for Kazakh food.
Cornish BazaarTraditional market near the shrine of Khawaja Ahmad Yasavi, showcasing Kazakh art and cuisine, including embroidered cloths, carved pottery, and a variety of foods reflecting Kazakhstan’s commitment to meat.
Turkestan Railway StationA charming blend of Russian and Kazakh architecture, featuring a unique round arch and mint-colored walls, providing scenic train views of Turkestan and nearby cities.
The Holy Shrine and ‘Second Mecca’ Mosque in the Turkish Spiritual Capital.

In conclusion, Turkestan stands as a unique city with a rich history dating back over two thousand years, where Turkic nomads settled and the Silk Road played a pivotal role in cultural exchange. The city, now declared the ‘Spiritual Capital of the Turkic World,’ boasts deep Islamic roots and is a melting pot of various Turkic ethnic groups. From the tomb of Khwaja Ahmed Yasavi, a testament to over 600 years of Muslim heritage, to the expansive Azrat Sultan Museum, preserving Kazakhstan’s national history, Turkestan offers a journey through time and culture.

The Caravanserai Complex, often referred to as ‘Kazakh Venice,’ provides a unique leisure experience with its cultural pride, hospitality, and a flying theater that lets visitors feel like flying birds. The Cornish Bazaar, just a short walk from the shrine of Khawaja Ahmad Yasavi, showcases traditional Kazakh art and cuisine, reflecting the country’s commitment to meat.

The Turkestan Railway Station, with its charming round arch and mint-colored walls, serves as a fusion of Russian and Kazakh architecture, offering scenic train views of Turkestan and its surroundings. As a guide and tour operator on the Silk Road, Daulat Meldikhanov emphasizes the uniqueness of Turkestan, making it a must-visit destination for those seeking a blend of history, culture, and culinary delights.

Q1: What does the name ‘Turkestan’ mean, and what is its historical significance?

A: ‘Turkestan’ means ‘Land of Turks,’ and the city has historical significance as a settlement for Turkic nomads along the Silk Road since the early 6th century.

Q2: What is the significance of Khwaja Ahmed Yasavi’s tomb in Turkestan?

A: Khwaja Ahmed Yasavi’s tomb is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing over 600 years of Muslim heritage. The mausoleum is considered one of the finest examples of Timurid architecture from the 14th century.

Q3: What attractions are recommended at the Azrat Sultan Museum?

A: The Azrat Sultan Museum, spread over 1,235 acres, features written, architectural, and cultural artifacts, including excavated mosques, Khwaja Yasawi’s private room, and Rabia Sultan Begum’s tomb.

Q4: What is unique about the Caravanserai Complex, and why is it called ‘Kazakh Venice’?

A: The Caravanserai Complex is often referred to as ‘Kazakh Venice’ due to its canal. It includes a five-star hotel, a flying theater, and cultural experiences, offering a blend of leisure, cultural pride, and hospitality.

Q5: What can visitors expect at the Cornish Bazaar in Turkestan?

A: The Cornish Bazaar, located near the shrine of Khawaja Ahmad Yasavi, showcases traditional Kazakh art and cuisine. Local vendors offer embroidered cloths, carved pottery, and a variety of foods reflecting Kazakhstan’s commitment to meat.

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

Nestled within the breathtaking landscapes of the Karakoram Highway lies a hidden gem: the Hunza Valley. Carving its way through magnificent rock formations and soaring peaks, this 1300 km marvel stands as a testament to human ingenuity and natural beauty. Few have ventured upon its winding paths, yet those who have experienced its splendor are forever enchanted by its allure.

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

The 1300 km long Karakoram Highway passes through some of the most amazing rock formations on the planet. It is a dream path that few people know about. While traveling on this hilly road, the strong wind was coming in through the window of the car. Despite the summer, the snow was sparkling on the 7,000 meters tall crests and the softening waters of the ice sheet were falling in the form of a waterfall within the stream passing through the Hanra Valley. The Karakoram Interstate was once a portion of the Silk Street, which was set up centuries prior by the nearby occupants. Be that as it may, in 1978, after 20 a long time of difficult work by 24,000 Pakistani and Chinese laborers, the street was opened to standard vehicular activity, opening the entryways of exchange, tourism, and ease of travel to this inaccessible locale.

The 1300 km long road starts from the small town of Hasan Abdal near the federal capital of Pakistan Islamabad,

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

Unveiling the Beauty and History of Gojal: A Journey through Wakhi Culture and Attabad Lake.

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

Tucked away in the heart of the Hunza Valley, Gojal is a region that shares a rich cultural tapestry with Central Hunza. What sets Gojal apart is its unique Wakhi language, a living testament to a migration that took place hundreds of years ago. In this article, we’ll embark on a journey to explore the fascinating history and natural wonders of Gojal. The Wakhi Connection: The Wakhi language is the soul of Gojal. It speaks volumes about the region’s heritage and the people who migrated from the Wakhan Corridor centuries ago. This linguistic link to the past is a treasure trove of stories and traditions that have been lovingly preserved. A Journey to Transform, In the days of old, reaching Gojal from other parts of Hunza was an arduous voyage that spanned several days. However, with the advent of modern infrastructure, that journey has been significantly shortened. Today, it’s just an hour’s drive, with the mesmerizing blue waters of Attabad Lake greeting travelers as they enter the region. Attabad Lake: A Tragic Beauty, At first glance, Attabad Lake appears to be a natural wonder, but its origins are tinged with tragedy. On January 4, 2010, a devastating flash flood blocked the Hunza River, submerging several villages and giving birth to this artificial lake. It serves as a haunting reminder of the forces of nature. A village reborn, The name Attabad Lake not only encapsulates the lake’s beauty but also pays homage to a village that was tragically lost during the 2010 disaster. Today, it stands as a symbol of Hunza’s resilience and innovation. The Changing Landscape, Gojal, much like the rest of the region, has witnessed transformation and development. The Karakoram Highway, connecting Pakistan and China, has seen significant improvements. In 2015, five tunnels were completed under the banner of China-Pakistan Friendship, making it a marvel of modern engineering.

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

A thriving urban oasis, Contrary to the image of a remote, untouched region, Gojal is evolving into a bustling urban center. Luxury hotels have sprung up around Attabad Lake, catering to travelers seeking comfort and adventure. The lake, once a site of destruction, has become a hub for relaxation and exploration.

Pakistani food is rich in spices, but in the traditional dishes of Hunza, spices are present only in the form of a few mint leaves. They use yak meat and apricot oil in abundance.

Eighth Wonder of the World. (A Pakistani Road).

Mol’ is a local cheese made from a mixture of local milk, sugar, and apple and vinegar. Also ordered ‘Ghulmandi’ which was a thin bread sandwich filled with curd and fruits. Ghulmandi: A Thin Bread Extravaganza
One cannot talk about the local cuisine of Hunza Valley without mentioning ‘Ghulmandi.’ This thin bread sandwich is a taste sensation, filled with creamy curd and an array of fresh, juicy fruits. It’s a culinary masterpiece that perfectly balances the richness of the curd with the refreshing burst of fruity goodness. The Visionaries Behind the Magic
The heart and soul of this culinary adventure are two remarkable women, Malika Sultana and Rashida Begum. In 2016, they embarked on a journey to preserve and celebrate the local dishes they learned from their mothers and grandmothers. Their restaurant, now located at a picturesque bend of the Karakoram Highway, has become a symbol of tradition and innovation. A Revival of Tradition
According to the restaurant owners, the tradition of local dishes was on the brink of disappearance. The younger generation had lost touch with the culinary heritage of their ancestors, and no one was cooking these exquisite foods anymore. This inspired Malika and Rashida to step in and rekindle the flame of tradition. A Hub of Women’s Business.
Beyond its culinary offerings, Gojal, and especially Gulmat, has emerged as a hub for women’s entrepreneurship. In a country where only 20 percent of women are part of the workforce, the Hunza Valley stands out as a remarkable exception. Women here are not only managing restaurants but also running shops and engaging in woodwork, defying stereotypes, and contributing to the local economy.


In the heart of the Hunza Valley, amidst the towering peaks and azure lakes, lies a culinary oasis that embodies the spirit of tradition and innovation. Through dishes like ‘Mol’ and ‘Ghulmandi,’ the flavors of Hunza come alive, offering not just sustenance but a glimpse into the rich tapestry of its heritage. As women entrepreneurs like Malika Sultana and Rashida Begum breathe new life into age-old recipes, they pave the way for a future where tradition and progress intertwine harmoniously.

What makes the Karakoram Highway unique?

The Karakoram Highway, stretching 1300 km from Hasan Abdal in Pakistan to Xinjiang in China, is renowned for its breathtaking scenery and engineering marvels. It passes through the majestic Karakoram Mountains, offering travelers a glimpse of some of the world’s most stunning landscapes.

What role does the Hunza Valley play along the Karakoram Highway?

The Hunza Valley, a pivotal stop along the Karakoram Highway, is celebrated for its natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and culinary delights. It serves as a gateway to the ancient Silk Road, connecting travelers with the traditions and landscapes of the region.

What is the significance of Attabad Lake?

Attabad Lake, formed in 2010 due to a devastating landslide, is both a natural wonder and a poignant reminder of nature’s power. Despite its tragic origins, it has become a symbol of resilience and innovation, attracting visitors with its mesmerizing turquoise waters and surrounding landscapes.

How does the cuisine of Hunza Valley reflect its cultural heritage?

The cuisine of Hunza Valley, characterized by dishes like ‘Mol’ and ‘Ghulmandi,’ reflects the region’s rich cultural heritage and culinary traditions. With its emphasis on local ingredients and traditional cooking methods, it offers a taste of Hunza’s history and heritage to visitors and locals alike.

What is the significance of women’s entrepreneurship in Hunza Valley?

Women entrepreneurship in Hunza Valley, particularly in areas like Gulmat, is a symbol of empowerment and economic empowerment. Women-owned businesses not only preserve cultural traditions but also contribute to the local economy, challenging stereotypes and inspiring future generations.