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Destination Details

Turkmenistan
Tags : Ak Ishan

Ak Ishan is one of the most popular shrine pilgrimage sites in Turkmenistan, Ak Ishan is reached by a signposted turning to the north of the main road, some 22km west of Sunche. Ak Ishan lies 13km north of the road. The complex includes a brick mosque, with a stubby minaret, and a second prayer hall. The grave of Ak Ishan lies close to the latter, within a walled enclosure. A small fenced enclosure nearby marks the grave of his wife. Ak Ishan, who lived in the 19th century, was highly respected for his piety. It is said that, on his death at the age of 90, local villagers were unable to bury him in his home village, as his grave collapsed whenever they came close to completing it. The villagers then placed the body on a white camel, which was left to wander free. The camel eventually ended its wanderings at this site, close to the grave of an unknown child. Here Ak Ishan was buried.

Three ram's horns rest on a wizened tree in front of the prayer hall. Turkmen women anxious for children will touch one of these horns to their forehead, and then tap it on the ground. If a large piece of dirt drops from the hollow interior of the horn, a boy is believed to be on the way. A small grain signifies a girl. From this area, a paved path runs a few metres to a circular enclosure, with a low brick wall. It is said that 40 followers of Ak Ishan are buried beneath the low earth mound inside the enclosure.

The Ak Ishan site also includes accommodation blocks for pilgrims visiting the place, as well as a large area for the holding of sacrificial meals. Behind these are sand dunes. A path leading into the dune area brings you to an odd sight: a blanket spread across the sandy ground, with legs (mainly female) protruding from beneath it. There is a round well here: pilgrims peer into the well for a sighting of the moon, which is supposedly visible to those whose wishes are to be fulfilled. The blanket is used to cut out external light sources. The circuit across the sand dunes continues to another well, this one a brick construction, whose water is considered to have particularly sacred properties.

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