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Karakhan and Dauitbek mausolea

At the eastern end of Dostyk Square a resolute-looking statue of war hero Bauirzhan Momishuly stands in front of the regional theatre. The latter building houses both the Kazakh Drama Theatre and Russian Drama Theatre, the latter entered round the side.

A couple of blocks further east, along Tole Bi Avenue, a yellow and blue arch spanning a side road off to the right points the way to the Karakhan and Dauitbek mausolea. The entrance to the park containing the two buildings is on your left, a short way down this road. You walk along a path between rose bushes to the heavily restored Karakhan Mausoleum. Rebuilt at the start of the 20th century, this dates from the 11th or 12th century. The mausoleum is believed to be that of a Karakhanid ruler, the subject of many local legends. Some accounts name the ruler as Shakhmakhmud, the betrothed of the beautiful young Aisha Bibi. Unlike his doomed love, Shakhmakhmud lived to a considerable age, spending much of his time in prayer and the pursuit of spiritual goals. He received the name of Aulie-Ata, 'holy father', and it was in his honour that the city took that name in the 19th century. He is today also popularly referred to as Karakhan Bab. The mausoleum is square in plan, with a domed roof. It has a tall portal on its south side, with a large niche within which stands a carved wooden door. Inside, niches in each wall frame latticed windows. The cloth-covered tomb lies in the centre of the building.

The path continues to the more modestly sized Dauitbek Mausoleum, honouring a local Mongol governor of less than glowing reputation, who died in 1267. The building is more popularly known locally as the Shamansur Mausoleum. Heavily reconstructed in the 19th century, the mausoleum has a plain exterior, and is again entered beneath a portal on the south side of the building. It is however usually kept locked.

The complex is a popular place for wedding parties, whose visits here tend to be a curious mix of the religious and the secular. A typical pattern involves prayers being said in the Karakhan Mausoleum, followed by the bride and groom waltzing through the surrounding woodland to the choreography of the director of the wedding video.