Shymkent, Kazakhstan: My Dear Corner

What travel stories do you have?

Global travel blog that features travel stories on living, traveling and growing up in cities, villages and towns around the world!

Shymkent, Kazakhstan: My Dear Corner

It’s not easy to write a story that will interest anyone other than your mother. But I have decided to do my best and write about the city where most of my vivid memories took place. Shymkent is one of the ancient cities of Kazakhstan, dating to the 12th century when it was founded as a small caravan settlement on the Great Silk Road. For centuries, crowds of people speaking different languages filled the bazaars of Shymkent, and long caravans crept along dusty roads carrying precious gems and silks, spices and dyes, gold and silver, and exotic birds and animals to Europe.

The bustling bazaars in the city still give a taste of its rich trading history. Present Shymkent is Kazakhstan’s most vibrant city with crowded bazaars and a lively downtown – it has more of a Central Asian buzz on its leafy streets than anywhere else in the country.

I was once lost in one of those bazaars when I was 8 years old. I still remember the crowd, noise and hot summer afternoon, which disorientated me. I released my mother’s hand for a second and lost her in a massive crowd. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask for help.

Thank goodness one of the merchants noticed me and asked me in Kazakh,“What happened? Are you lost?”

Then he asked in Russian. Later in a language that I didn’t understand. Maybe it was Uzbek, Tatar or Kyrgyz, as Shymkent is located near Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, and there are a lot of merchants from those countries here. In fact, 131 ethnic groups live peacefully in Kazakhstan and have created a life for themselves here, although a majority of them were deported in the 1930s and 1940s by Stalin during the Virgin Lands Campaign, Soviet Space Program and World War II.

Silk Road Shymkent

Silk Road Shymkent

The current demography statics shows the following population breakdown for Shymkent: Kazakhs 64.76 %, Russians 14.52%, Uzbek 13.70 %, Tatars 1.54 % and others nationalities 5.48 %. Thus, it make sense to ask a stranger a question in several languages. Sadly, I was not able to say anything due to panic and my mom’s prohibition from talking to strangers. After several unsuccessful attempts to talk with me, the merchant disappeared and came back with an ice-cream, a loudspeaker and other merchants. Despite not knowing the merchant, I calmed down when I saw him again.

Silk Road Shymkent

Soviet Era Shymkent

He offered me an ice-cream and said, using some incomprehensible gestures, “Take it! Don’t be afraid! We just want to help…”

Of course, I immediately gave up being silent, took the ice-cream and replied to him for the first time during our so-called conversation, “Thank you!”

Suddenly, he started laughing and said, “Oh my god, you are not deaf! I was trying to explain to you that I want to help using pantomime… My name is Adilet, what is your name?”

“Meirman,” I said.

“Well, Meirman, sit down on my chair and watch over my goods. We will find your mother. OK?” said Adilet pointing to his chair and goods.

“OK,” I replied with a mouthful of ice cream.

Some time later, I heard from different corners of the bazaar, “Looking for Meirman’s mom! Looking for Meirman’s mom! Mom!…”

Suddenly, I heard another voice, “A boy was lost! A boy was lost! The boy is wearing black shorts and white T-shirt and cap! An eight year old boy, Meirman!”

Silk Road Shymkent

Present Day Shymkent Bazaar

So, there were also people helping my mom find me. In a few minutes I became popular – every passerby found the missing boy in me, saying supportive words and showing their intentions to help. People in Kazakhstan are quite hospitable by nature. But in Shymkent, the people are probably the most hospitable and kind in all of the country. Since ancient times, Shymkent always has accepted newcomers. The city has accepted them warmly, hospitably and cordially. And many people have stayed here to live. People in Shymkent are always very friendly, responsive and kind. They never let a guest stay hungry. They are ready to help.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.

Dalai Lama

Finally, I met my mother and our meeting was very touching – like in a movie scene. Some of merchants were also crying, but it was with tears of happiness. This is the day when I understood the true meaning of kindness. After fifteen years, it has became my philosophy of life, and the city is still my dear corner.

Meirman Badyrov

Meirman Badyrov

My name is Meirman Badyrov, I was born in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. Firstly, I am a web-developer. For the past several years, I have worked in development, optimization and support of Learning Management System for JSC SCAT Arilines. Secondly, I am a translator and writer during my free time. I write mainly for myself and my future generation, hoping they will read my creations. I’m interested in computer science, reading, football and table tennis.

LEAVE A COMMENT