Mangystau peninsula is rich of natural treasures. There are many unique historical and architectural monuments on the territory, which were created by folk architects from the Stone Age to the present day. Most of them do not have unique analogue in whole Eurasia. The presence of such monuments justify that the traditional architecture of the Kazakh nation was formed from ancient times. Many ancient monuments of other regions of Kazakhstan were destroyed and covered by the ground, and some of them totally disappeared. Mangystau land still keeps ancient structures due to the use of construction and durable local stone.

Museum-reserve of cultural monuments of Mangyshlak and Usturt was created in order to preserve the unique historical and architectural monuments and natural landscapes in 1980. A prominent scientist and artist Uzbekkaly Janibekov played a huge role on the creation of it.

The reserve received the Republican status and was renamed as a Mangystau State Historical and Cultural Reserve in 1992. The main activity of the reserve is identification, public accounting, scientific research and certification of monuments, the organization of protective measures, monitoring of conservation and restoration works, archaeological research and control of their implementation, advocacy and mass awareness among people.

Today, the reserve has five departments: Fund department, Department of accounting and conservation, Department of Architecture, Department of Archaeology and Excursion-mass Department.

Over 13,000 objects of historical and cultural heritage were investigated and passported to the staff of reserve. More than 440 monuments were taken under state protection, and 21 of them received a republican status. 249 archaeological monuments had detailed studies of residential complexes of the late Stone Age, cult-burial structures of the Bronze Age and Early Iron, medieval towns, forts, caravan-sheds that located along the Great Silk Road, 140 complex ensembles that include large and small forms of architecture, 60 monuments of architecture and urbanism. In addition, about 700 objects of historical and cultural heritage, listed prior accounting, could be joined to the monuments, which taken under the state accounting.

The funds of the reserve contain over 80 thousand exhibits, and annually collection is updated of artifacts due to archaeological research. The reserve held research expedition in Mangystau region each year, and the staff of the reserve try to cover a large territory of the peninsula Mangyshlak and Ustyurt plateau, southern of Caspian areas, Bozashy peninsula area. During the expedition, new objects of historical and cultural heritage are identified, investigated and passported.

Stationary exhibition “Monuments of Mangystau” was opened in reserve building on September 2007. It consists of two rooms: archeology and historic-architectural monuments. The exhibition was created according to materials of the reserve, which collected over 30 years of existence (photos, scientific background materials, field sketches, ethnographic information, models, measurements, drawings, etc.).

Creation of a permanent exhibition gives an opportunity residents and visitors of Aktau to get comprehensive information about the unique monuments of Mangystau, which are scattered on the territory of the region and inaccessible areas. Moreover, the reserve staff developed traveling exhibitions on the theme: "Archaeology of Mangystau", "Sacred places of Mangystau", "Religious architectures of Mangystau", "Small sized architectural forms", and “The world of prehistoric nomads". These exhibits tell the history of the emergence and development of architectural monuments of the region from ancient time until the present day based on the richest materials and original expositions.

Reserve staff provides enormous scientific and educational work on the preservation of monuments. Currently, a project is under development. This project is for establishment of Aktau on basis of Mangystau historical preserve with vast parkland and open-air museum, where will be presented the basic patterns of stone architecture in a historical-chronological order. Here will be reproduced full-sized bright examples of stone architecture of Mangystau from ancient times to the present. The open-air museum is such a center for study, preservation and promotion of architectural culture heritage of Eurasia nomads.

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Underground mosque of Shakpak Ata (architectural monument of the X-XV centuries)

One of the main attractions in Mangystau region is a unique monument of religious architecture - Underground mosque of "Shakpak-Ata". The mosque is located on Tub-Karagan peninsula, more than 20 kilometers to the northeast from Fort-Shevchenko. It is considered as the oldest monument of architecture in Western Kazakhstan. 

Shopan-Ata Nekropol

Underground and necropolis mosque of Shopan-Ata is very popular in West Kazakhstan. This place is not only ancient monument for residents, but it is also a spiritual center.