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© Vera Larina / Shutterstock

The Ancient City of Otrar

At least four powerful eras of rule lived and worked on this land, and their legacies have been intertwined to influence the resulting landscapes.

Now a ghost town, Otrar has a history that dates back 2000 years. Once a major trading centre along the Silk Roads, the remains of ancient palaces, bathhouses, and mosques tell of the grandeur the city once held. These days, the fortress still stands and that's likely to be a highlight of your visit... including its most ingenious secret: a water carrier found amongst the ruins.

Over the centuries, the Khwarazm Shahs, Mongol Khans, Timurid Amirs, and Shaybanid Sultans all shared and influenced Turkestan’s history, including here at Otrar. The most influential period in the city's history was in the early 13th century, when Genghis Khan retaliated to the execution of his ambassador by besieging Otrar for five months, eventually breaching the walls and massacring the inhabitants.

© Elvira Tursynbayeva / Shutterstock
© Elvira Tursynbayeva / Shutterstock

Otrar rose again and became an important economic centre once more. However, it was once more the site of a dramatic historical event. In 1405, when the conqueror Timur was leading a campaign in the region, he became sick and died in one of the city's palaces.

Relics of society found amongst the dirt © 
Elvira Tursynbayeva / Shutterstock
Relics of society found amongst the dirt © Elvira Tursynbayeva / Shutterstock

Ancient texts and folklore indicate a time of prosperity with a thriving population and cultural centre in Otrar. Archaeologists continue to unearth new discoveries of artefacts and chronicles from the people that inhabited the city. When you visit today, know that you are standing on the ground where history was made.


The Ancient City of Otrar