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There are 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan. Three of these sites are cultural and the other two are natural sites.
Kazakhstan UNESCO Sites
Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi (2003)
This is the first cultural site in this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan. It is located in the city of Turkestan and is in an unfinished state. In 1389, the building of this mausoleum was commissioned for by Timur who was the ruler of the Timurid Empire. His aim was to replace a smaller mausoleum that was built in the 12th century for Khoja Ahmed Yasawi who died in 1166. He was a famous Turkic poet. However, when Timur died in 1405, the construction halted and it never resumed.
Despite the incomplete state of the mausoleum, it is lauded as an important cultural structure in Kazakhstan because it is the best-preserved construction from the Timurid Empire. It also provides a glimpse into the architectural style of the time. In fact, many pilgrims from various parts of Central Asia visit this religious structure. It is so popular that it has become acquainted with the national identity of Kazakhstan.
It is a national monument in Kazakhstan. In 2003, it was inscribed into the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan.
Petroglyphs within the Archaeological Landscape of Tamgaly (2004)
This is another cultural site in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan. It is located within the lush Tamgaly Gorge and the arid mountains of Chu-Ili in Kazakhstan. This site features 5,00 petroglyphs or rock carvings, which scientists date back to the latter half of the second millennium BC (or at the start of the 20th century). This remarkable collection of rock carvings are dispersed throughout 48 complexes in burial grounds and settlement areas within the region. Hence, archaeologists believe they provide a glimpse into the rituals and way of life of the people who lived in the region at that time.
Aside from these rock carvings, there were also ancient tombs found in the area. These tombs date back to the late Bronze Age. Meanwhile, mounds of stone and earth were discovered within the same area too. Majority of the rock carvings are concentrated within the central canyon. There were signs that these canyons were used as altars wherein the prehistoric people performed their rituals and made sacrificial offerings.
This is one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan that is considered a transnational property. This ancient and historical route starts from China and ends in the Zhetsyu Region of Central Asia. It also encompasses 33 ancient and historical sites along the way that includes ruins, forts, religious structures, ancient roads and more. In fact, UNESCO believes that more corridors will be added to this particular property in the years to come. This UNESCO site was established in order to protect and commemorate the cultural heritage of this ancient trade route.
Saryaka – Steppe and Lakes of Northern Kazakhstan
This is the first of two natural sites in this list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan. It is located within the Kazakh Uplands, which is often referred to as the saryarka that literally translations to “yellow range”. This property was inscribed to the UNESCO list in 2008.
There are two protected areas comprised within this property: 1) Naurzum State Nature Reserve and 2) Korgalzhyn State Nature Reserve. Both properties combine to a total of 450,344 hectares of land area covered by this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The property is dominated by wetlands that provide a habitat for migratory birds (some of them considered threatened species) including the Siberian white crane, which is extremely rare today. Aside from being the migratory route for various bird species, it is also an important breeding place for most of these birds.
Hence, this site was listed by UNESCO as a naturally important site as it provides a natural refuge for the birds. Aside from the wetlands, the area also consists of both fresh and salt water lakes.
The Western Tien-Shan is the second natural site inscribed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kazakhstan. It was added to the list in 2016 as part of the 40th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. It is also a transnational property which means that it is shared with other countries, namely Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. This mountain range system that is encompassed within this site is one of the world’s largest mountain ranges.
The property protected by UNESCO covers more than 467,000 hectares in land area with an altitude reaching a maximum of 4,503 meters. The UNESCO site also covers three important bird and biodiversity areas.