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Exploring Sayram

The centre of town is a crossroads, with the bazaar spread out on its southern side. Just to the west of this crossroads is the small Mausoleum of Karashash Ana, Yassaui's mother. Square in plan, this brick building rises to a central brick dome. The facades on its southern and western sides rise higher than the others. The tomb inside the building is covered in a green cloth. A sign at the front dates the mausoleum to the 13th or 14th century, but a plaque put up in Soviet times describes it as a 17th-century building, and it has clearly been reworked through the centuries.

Continuing on this road away from the crossroads, you pass on your right a turquoise-domed modern mosque. A sign points down a side road to your right to Botbay Ata, a newly built square-based mausoleum with a bright turquoise dome on top of an octagonal drum. The mausoleum was funded by Botbay Ata's descendants, and constructed on the site of his grave. Retrace your steps back to the turning beyond the mosque, immediately beyond which is the Mausoleum of Mirali Bobo, an Islamic preacher, dating from the 10th century. Usually kept locked, it is a square-based brick building, with metal sheeting covering the dome and an arched facade. Like most of the main mausolea in Sayram it lies in a graveyard, as burial close to the grave of a revered holy person is considered auspicious. A shaded path brings you to the mausoleum from the road.

Back at the main crossroads, if you head in the opposite direction, away from the Karashash Ana Mausoleum, you pass on your left the Yusuf Sayrami School. Around the back of this is an attractive if rather stubby brick Hisr Paygambar minaret, with arched openings beneath its domed roof. The excavated remains of a mosque stand next to it. You can climb the tight spiral staircase of the minaret, though there is no great view at the top.

Heading north from the main crossroads, away from the bazaar, you reach on your left the Mausoleum of Abd al Aziz Baba, who accompanied Iskak-bab in his mission to convert local people to Islam. The mausoleum dates from the 15th century, with an 18th-century reconstruction. Take a path climbing through the surrounding graveyard to the mausoleum, which is a brick building with three metal-covered domes. There are cloth-covered tombs beneath the first and third domes, and an area for prayer beneath the central one. Continuing further, you reach another crossroads. Turn left here to reach, on your right, after a few metres an imposing columned building housing the town museum. The Nauryz Park stands opposite, with a pleasant willow-fringed lake and a big wheel. Heading in the other direction from this second crossroads, after a dusty walk of 1km or so you reach on your right, at the edge of town, the Mausoleum of Ibragim Ata, Yassaui's father. This is a square-based building topped with a metal-covered dome, dating from the 16th or 17th century. The mausoleum itself is often locked: the tomb is in a niche in the wall. The mausoleum lies on the side of a hill, on top of which a small graveyard spreads out.

Leaving Sayram by the road heading eastwards towards Karamurt, you reach on your left after 31cm the site of the fortress of Mertobe. There is a car park here. Take the metal footbridge guarded by two stone gryphons across the watercourse to reach the small hill marking the site of the fortress. A flight of steps leads up it, where a plaque in Kazakh explains that Mertobe is a symbol of Kazakh unity, as the place where Tauke Khan gathered together the three judges representing the Kazakh zhuzes: Tole Bi, Kazybek Bi and Aiteke Bi, and all agreed to unite.