Journey to

"Feeling the grief of exile transforms raw into mature, It turns scatterbrains into good wise men, In dirty rags, eating crumbs I found, I arrived in Turkestan, Yes, I. - Hoja Ahmed Yassawi

Finding Pearls and Diamonds in Turkestan

Central Asia for the uninitiated holds treasures way beyond the supplies, products and ingenuity passing along the Silk Road. Many centres,  harbingers of beauty, wisdom and treasures material and spiritual attest to the richness of human experience. Hazrat-el-Turkestan is no shrinking violet when it comes to displaying its riches. As the home of one of the greatest and least known Sufi founder saints, Hoja Ahmed Yassawi, it is the home to his mausoleum and final resting place.

Living Zen is proud to have two guides who have come to know not only this great saint and his work but have visited, connected with this 'Second Mecca' as it is referred to, in Southern Kazakhstan.

Englishman Jonathan Trapman and his Russian Estonian wife Virve have had the honor to become the first translators into the English language of Yassawi's surviving verses (Hikmet). The great man wrote over 99,000 Hikmet with us knowing at present of only a couple of hundred to have survived.

Hazrat-el-Turkestan (literally The Blessed One of Turkestan) lies on the Southern tip of Kazakhstan near the border with Uzbekistan, on the route of the Silk Road. It is where Yassawi lived for much of his life. The place until the 16th century was called Yasi, thus his name. It also houses the hilvet (underground chamber) where Yassawi aged 63 decided to 'die to live' and withdrew for the remaining 62 years of his life underground. It was during this time he wrote most of his Hikmet. The journey to Turkestan includes a tour of all the sacred sites within the town and across the deserts and towns, villages and countryside where he spent his life.

West side of Mausoleum

A story in design

Part of the finished side of the tomb of Yassawi

Mausoleum of Hoja Ahmed Yassawi

Hazrat-el-Turkestan, Southern Kazakhstan

Taste just one drop from the pitcher of Love - Hoja Ahmed Yassawi

Tomb of Arystan Bab

Yassawi's major teacher

The saint Arystan Bab waited for over 500 years to impart the sacred persimmon seed to his young charge at age 7. It was he who initiated Hoja Ahmed Yassawi ont a life time's path of opening others to their true spiritual purpose

Yassawi University - Turkestan

An exemplar of education

Yassawi spent his life teaching others and his legacy in his eyes were that all should be afforded education on all levels. The Hoja Ahmed Yassawi University has brought these wishes to fruition. One of the most comprehensive seats of learning in Central Asia.

Yassawi in his Cell

Composing Hikmet in the Hilvet

Aged 63, not wishing to live longer than the Prophet (pbuh), Yassawi retired into his solitary cell for 62 further years where he composed the majority of his 99,000 hikmet whose extanct verses are found in his DIvine Wisdom

Mosiac side of Mausoleum

Every tile tells a story

As with so many extraordinary buildings the Mausoleum of Hoja Ahmed Yassawi built under instruction from Timur (Tamerlene the Great) is remarkable for many things but especially one. Each square of mosaic (turqois with blue surround tells part of the story of the build and Yassawi's life. Amazingly the turqoise are script!

The Camels of Turkestan

They can tell tales tall and true

The camels of Turkestan wander around as if they own the place. They really are not only ships of the desert but holders of the ancient traditions. We asked them a few questions and most times were told "Be off or I'll kick you downstairs!" You do not argue with these ancient guardians!

The Memorial at Alger

Where the men and women of the Darker Times are remembered

In Stalin's Soviet Union the determination to stamp out artists, creatives and thinkers created the single greatest holocaust in human history. It is often conveniently forgotten over 70 million died under this regime. Alger some 60 kms from Astana was one such camp. Its memorial stands as a profound rememberance of man's inhumanity to man.