The underground shrine of Mangystau
The Beket-Ata underground mosque, along with the Khodja Akhmet Yassaui mausoleum, is one of the most important shrines in Kazakhstan. The mosque, which is completely cut down in rock, is located in the area of Ogland, and despite being remotely located from large cities; it is a place of mass pilgrimage for people from all over the country. The mosque was built by one of the most revered saints and preachers of Sufism in Kazakhstan - Beket-Ata. During his life, the Sufi became famous for his wisdom and gift of healing. This shrine rightfully occupies a special place in the Muslim world of Kazakhstan and throughout Central Asia.
foto by Asina
History and interesting facts about the underground mosque
Becket-Ata was born in the mid-eighteenth century near the modern village of Kulsary, which is located in Atyrau region. When he was 14 years old, the boy came to bow and pay his respects to the hallows of Shopan Ata. The saint himself appeared to him and gave the young man his blessing. After that, Becket went to Khiva, to study science in madrasah(Muslim school). After studying, Becket-ata proceeded many roads and paths, but eventually returned to Mangystau. When weak and needy people came to him, he helped them, healed them and led them on the righteous path. In his instructions, Becket-ata always taught believers to live righteously, in honesty and kindness.
Foto by Yakov Fedorov
The underground mosque was built by the great Sufi Becket Ata in the eighteenth century. In total, the sage built four mosques. The first of them was built in his hometown - Kulsary, which was later called the Ak-mosque(White mosque). The next one is located on the cliffs of chalk, near the village of Beineu. The third mosque was build in the place of Tobykta. Later on, an underground mosque was built in the tract of Ogland, which the saint cut down out of rocky cape.
The sage and saint forever remained in the people's memory, not only as a saint, healer, sage and architect but also as a warrior-batyr who performed feats in the name of his native land.
The holy place is located in the heart of a massive rock, ledges tearing down into a nearby ravine. On a small platform, which is located in front of the entrance to the underground structure, you can admire the picturesque landscapes adjacent to the shrine. To entre of the mosque, you will need to go down under the ground for a thousand and five hundred steps. At the entrance to the mosque, you will find a room completely flooded with shining sunlight, which pours warm rays from special openings made in the ceiling-dome. From this room you can already get into the prayer hall by the mihrab and into the tomb of Becket-ata himself. This holy place enchants, inspires and makes people think about the meaning of life and the purpose of our life on this earth.
How to get there
The nearest town with an international airport is the city of Aktau. Upon arrival, you will need to rent a car and head towards the city of Zhanaozen. From this town to the mosque, the round is about 150 km. After Zhanaozen, the road leads to the village of Senek, and then another 115 km along the road passing the Shopan-Ata mosque. A tradition and unspoken rule were to visit the Shopan-Ata mosque, which is located on the way to Beket-Ata. Today it is very difficult to understand, but a hundred years ago, believers made all this long and difficult path on foot. The path lay under the sultry scorching sun and this was a real test for people's faith. Only recently, a modern asphalt road was built to get to the mosque.
Foto by Valery Isaev
Travel companies organize tours for groups by bus or off-road transport.
Useful travel tips
For the trip, the spring and summer season is recommended. It must be noted that when visiting a holy place you need to bring closed light clothing with you which won’t make you feel the hot weather. When visiting a mosque, you should refrain from noisy behaviour, smoking and drinking alcohol.
Be sure to bring a hat and a supply of water (from 3 litres per person). Warm clothes are needed if you want to stay late in the evening and night.