Underground mosque and Sultan-Epe canyon
The Sultan-Epe Mosque has located 57 km from Fort Shevchenko, which is not difficult to reach from Aktau. The complex itself is located near the canyon, which overlooks the Mangyshlak Bay.
The mosque was created in the XII-XIII centuries and was both a place of mass worship and a haven for itinerant preachers and hermits.
The underground mosque was carved into the rock and named after Sultan-Epe. Numerous stepped approaches lead to it from one side of the canyon, and stone columns reinforce the ceilings of the underground cultural monument.
The mosque, carved in stone, is very interesting as a monument to ancient architecture: a multi-chamber mosque with stone columns. It consists of eleven rooms, one of which contains the tomb of the Sultan-epe. A characteristic element of the style is the narrowing of the inner diameter of the well to the mouth along a regular geometric curve, giving it an external aesthetic appearance, grinding, filigree fitting (aikel) of casing stones to each other.
Historians believe that this structure was built as a monastery-abode for the Sufi community.
The necropolis, which is located next to the mosque, represents several types of gravestones: sagana-tamami, boxes-sarcophagi, kulpytas with koitases, horizontal masonry fences, etc.
According to local legends, Sultan-epe was the protector of sailors and people believed that if you are drowning, then you need to pray to Sultan-epe and he will save you.
Sultan-Epe himself, according to ancient authors, was the son of Hakim-aga, the famous Central Asian poet and student of Khoja Ahmed Yasavi.
Sultan-Epe, according to legends, performed many feats: he transferred the Kaaba to Bakyrgan for his father, revived the previously slaughtered bulls, and rescued people drowning in the sea.
Due to the mistrust on the part of his father, the Sultan-epe, according to legend, became invisible. 100 years later, when the Nogayev tribe already lived in Mangystau, Sultan-epe came to the weak and lame boy Kheirulla when he wanted to commit suicide because of the bullying of family and friends at school. The saint imparted knowledge and wisdom to the boy with his breath and ordered him to build a mosque in the place where he would see an eagle sitting on the ground.
The powers given to the boy by the Saints helped him only by touching large stones and saying the name of the saint, to carry them. This gift helped Heirullah build a mosque.
The Sultan-Epe Canyon itself is located in the Kaushe mountain ridge, built of shell rock and with many abandoned fishing stone settlements. If you go up a hill, you can see the blue surface of the Caspian Sea. The area is home to unique plants and animals that cannot be found in other parts of Mangystau.
At the beginning of the journey, you will meet the Sultan-Epe mosque and next to it there is a well with spring water, which is very difficult to find in Mangystau. The greenery in the area of the mosque is pleasing to the eye, after hours of travel in the desert. The slopes are covered with hawthorn, willow, jigida, and mulberry. In spring and autumn, they change their color and dress either in white or red.
The stow, like an oasis, attracts many completely different birds and animals: a corsac fox, a long-spined hedgehog, pink starlings, green and golden bee-eater, an eagle, etc. A panorama of the Caspian Sea opens only three kilometers away.
According to residents, a well with drinking water has healing properties, and all travelers and pilgrims always drink water from it.
Despite such a remote location from Aktau, the mosque is often visited by tourists, believers, and pilgrims. Visitors are not only from Kazakhstan but also from all over the world. They are interested in the history and rich culture of this region.
How to get there
The most convenient way to get to the mosque is by car or as part of a group of tourists by bus. In general, the journey will take about 4.5 - 5 hours.
Useful travel tips
• We recommend that you hire a guide or travel agency for your first trip.
• If you are planning a long walk, we advise you to stock up on water and bring a hat.
• Sunglasses will be necessary for a trip to the Sultan-Epe Mosque, and if you decide to continue on your way to the rest of the monuments of the Mangystau steppe.
• It is recommended to visit the mosque in closed clothing and avoid short shorts and skirts, T-shirts, and off-the-shoulder dresses.
• Climb to the highest point and admire the views of the Caspian Sea from the canyon. We advise you to stay and enjoy the views of the sunset. Your photos will be extraordinary.