Shymkent is the capital city of South Kazakhstan Province, the most populated region in Kazakhstan. It is the third most populous city in Kazakhstan behind Almaty and Astana, with a population of 630,000, with one of the largest metropolitan area populations in Kazakhstan. It is a major railroad junction on the Turkestan-Siberia Railway and a notable cultural centre, and is served by an international airport. It is situated 690km west of Almaty and 120km north of Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Shymkent was founded in the 12th century as a Caravan Sarai (Silk Road Hotel) to serve the Silk Road town of Sayram, 10km to the east. Shymkent grew as a market center for trade between nomads and settled people. It was destroyed several times: by Genghis Khan, by soldiers from the southern Khanates, and by nomadic attacks. Once part of the Khanate of Kokand, it became part of the Emirate of Bukhara in 1810 and was then annexed by the Russian Empire in 1864. It was renamed Chernyaev in 1914 and renamed Chimkent in 1924.
The name of the city came from a combination of two words, Shym meaning turf, and Kent meaning city. Shymkent and Chimkent have identical translations in Kazakh and Uzbek, respectively.
After Kazakhstan gained independence, the city was returned to its original name, Shymkent, in 1993 as part of the government’s campaign to apply Kazakh names to cities. This created an ambiguity in the city's name in the Russian language. (The formal spelling of "Shymkent" as codified in Kazakhstan's
Constitution goes against the Russian spelling rules of never having the (Cyrillic) letter ы follow the letter ш.) As a result, the new name Shymkent is used only in Kazakhstan, while Russia and some other countries using Russian language keep using the original Uzbek spelling of "Chimkent".
Places to see
Are you thinking of what to do in Kazakhstan on your vacation? Then Shymkent is a great place to start. Shymkent is a good place to stop to explore ancient cities of Otyrar, Turkestan and Sayram when you travel to Kazakhstan. It’s the city with a high proportion of Kazakh population. Under Tamerlaine’s reign Shymkent was the most powerful trading centre of Kazakhstan, an important staging post on Great Silk Road.
There are 8 parks in Shymkent city, 3 of them were formed in mid-19th and early 20th centuries. There is a philharmonic society named after Sh.Kaldayakov in the city.
Unique exhibits of the epoch of Kangyui State are exposed at the regional museum of local study founded in 1920. An old Asiatic quarter still remains in the city.
A park named after Abai, a water park, an ethnographical park “Ken-baba” are very popular among children and grown-ups. There is a children’s railway 6 km long which links the northern part of Shymkent city with an arboretum, a zoo and a hippodrome.
There are the following theatres in Shymkent: South Kazakhstan regional Russian drama theatre, South Kazakhstan regional Kazakh drama theatre named after D.Shanin, Opera and Ballet Theatre of South Kazakhstan oblast, Satire and Humor Theatre of South Kazakhstan region and Puppet Theatre of South Kazakhstan region.
Shymkent has been attracting travelers and scientists for a long time. As the city is the regional centre of South Kazakhstan oblast all tourist routes start in the city. Some of the attractions in Shymkent Kazakhstan include historical places, exotic places, hunting and fishing, mountain tourism. In South Kazakhstan there are Saint places and architectural constructions which are visited by pilgrims:
- Ordabasy and MIG Memorial Ordabasy circle, site of the Friday Mosque
- MIG Memorial
- Regional Studies and History Museum
- Victory Park
- Central Park
- Museum of Stalinist Repression
- Afghan War Memorial
- Nauryz/Navruz Holiday Celebrations on the Spring Solstice
(Islamic New Year)
- Al-Farabi Square