Saray-Jük or Saraychyq (literally, "Little Sarai", to distinguish it from Old Sarai) was a medieval city on the border between Europe and Asia in the 10th-16th centuries. It was located on the Ural River, modern Kazakhstan, Atyrau Province, near Sarayshyq village, 50 km above Atyrau. There was a major trade route from Europe to China across the city.
It was believed till recently that Saray-Jük was founded by Batu Khan, but excavations uncovered that it was founded as early as in 10th or 11th century. In 13th Saray-Jük turned into a major trade center. After the disintegration of the Golden Horde in 14th century the city fell into decay: in 1395 it was ruined by Timur, but Saray-Jük was rebuilt in 1430s-1440s. However, it stayed the main city of the Nogai Horde. The Kazakh khan also had headquarters there later. In 1580 it was ruined by "thief Cossacks"—that is, Cossacks uncontrolled by Russian government.
Saray-Jük was one of the biggest cities of the Golden Horde, a center of a metropolitan agglomeration: the ruins of the suburb Aqtöbe, located near Atyrau were preserved until the 20th century.
The city had a ceramic water-pipe and metallurgy and pottery were also developed. Neighboring populations were agriculturist or fishermen. Ibn Battuta, visited Saray-Jük I n1334 reported about Baghdad-like ferries across the Uly-sû canal. Neighborhoods of the city were a popular resort among the Golden Horde's nobility.
The remains of buildings, workshops and others are situated at the bank of Ural River, which wash away the ruins. In 1999 a memorial complex was established there by Kazakhstani authorities.
- (Tatar) "Sarayçıq/Сарайчык". Tatar Encyclopaedia. Kazan: The Republic of Tatarstan Academy of Sciences. Institution of the Tatar Encyclopaedia. 2002.
- also spelled Saraycik, Saraychik, Saray-Zhük, Sarayçıq, Saraichik, Sarai-Dzhuk, Kazakh: Сарай-Жүк, Кіші Сарай, Сарайшық translit Saray-Zhük/Saraý-Jük, Kishi Saray/Kişi Saraý, Sarayshyq/Saraýşıq, Russian: Сар-Учу́г, Сарайчу́к, Сарайчи́к, Ца́рские Учу́ги, Сара́й Ма́лый translit Sar-Uchug, Saraychuk, Saraychik, Tsarskiye Uchugi, Saray Maly, what mean Small Sarai, i.e. Small Palace, modern Tatar: Sarayçıq/Сарайчык