A good first port of call before visiting the archaeological site of Otrartobe itself is the Otrar Museum. It is located in the village of Shauildir, 11km to the south of the site. If you are coming here from Shymkent, take the main road towards Turkestan, turning left after 92km at a signposted junction just to the north of the village of Tortkol. Shauildir is 45km on: the museum is at the end of the village. Coming from Turkestan, it lies south of the town, in the same direction as the Arystan Bab Mausoleum.
There is a bust of Al-Farabi out in front of the museum. The first room displays finds from excavations at several sites in the oasis, including Otrartobe, Altyntobe and Kok-Mardan. A ceramic vase from Altyntobe has a capacity of250 litres. A frieze around the back of the room depicts old Otrar as a city of traders and intellectuals. A room to the right has further items found at Otrar, including 13th-century coins minted in the city, a clay figure of a ram, and some strange blackened lumps which are apparently bits of medieval bread. There is a room devoted to Al-Farabi, and then one about the Mongol siege, including a grisly diorama in which many of the arrows seem to be finding their mark. Upstairs is ethnography, with mock-ups of yurt interiors, a scrawny-looking stuffed falcon used to illustrate a display about hunting techniques, and something described by the English-language labelling as 'scissors for a hairstyle of pets'.