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Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Museum

If you have time, a good first port of call, before visiting the mausoleum complex itself, is the single-storey Tsarist building housing a museum, which sits in the parkland between the complex and Taukekhan Street. The first room has items found at local Bronze and Iron Age sites, as well as medieval items, including coins and decorated ceramics, uncovered from the Kultobe Hill just to the south of the mausoleum complex. The second room covers the Turkic period, with items on display including a 7th-century stone balbal from the Karatau Mountains: in this case a moustachioed gentleman taking a drink. There are also items excavated from a site known as Shoytobe, which is believed to be that of Shavgar, the town which represents Yassis antecedent. There is some fine glazed earthenware of the 11th and 12th centuries, found in the upper cultural layer of the Shoytobe site.

A third room, back across the foyer, is centred on a model of the Khodja Ahmed Yassaui Mausoleum. There are exhibits related to Yassaui s life, including early 20th- century copies of the Divan-i Hikmet, printed in Tashkent and Kazan. There is a model of the Hilvet underground mosque, the work of one A L Schmidt in 1942. The room also includes exhibits focusing on the town as a spiritual centre of the Turkic people, with Korans and scientific works on display. The last room covers the history of Turkestan since the 15 th century. A model of the interior of a Kazakh dwelling of perhaps two centuries ago features the children on a felt rug playing a game with sheep bones while Dad lolls lazily and Mum prepares the kumiss. The displays cover the city's period as capital of the Kazakh Khanate. A large painting at the end of the room depicts the coronation of Ablai Khan, being carried up by four bearers on a large white felt rug in front of the portal of the mausoleum. Ceramics on display include a candleholder in the form of a sheep, dated between the 16th and 18th centuries.