The city of Taraz is located on the southern region of Kazakhstan near the border of Kyrgyzstan. It is observed to be the third fastest growing city in Kazakhstan, next to Astana (the capital city) and Turkistan. Its old Soviet name was Jambul or Zhambul. Kazakhstan is the largest former Soviet state and the ninth biggest country in the world. It is home to so many modern facilities and ancient sites that make it a truly important tourist destination in this part of the world.
The ancient city of Taraz is more than 2,000 years old, making it one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan. It was recognized by UNESCO as it celebrated its 2,000th year anniversary in 2001. It began as a fortress built by a Hun named Zhizhi and it was here where the Battle of Zhizhi took place in 36 BC. Ancient literatures refer to it as the medieval city of Talas, which was a major trade center along the Silk Road in 568 CE. Historical records account a reference of the city by Xuanzang when he passed Talas in 629, as well as the Battle of Talas in 751 CE. The battle that took place along the Talas River was between the Chinese and the Arabs. The Arabs won the battle and captured Chinese paper makers, who would eventually introduce paper to the West.
Taraz is actually much older than written history. Caves used as homes and ancient campsites were discovered in the eastern part of the city in the Karatau Rangers. These archeological finds prove that the Talas Valley was already settled in before the 1st century BC. The unearthed relics were found to belong to the Neolithic Period. Other finds date back to the bronze epoch in the 7th and 8th century BC. These include chest ornaments, bronze statues of royalty and ceramic products.
In 1938, the Soviets named the town Jambul after the famous Kazakh poet, Jam-bul Jabayev. The city grew as the government sent in so many deportees, millions of Volga Germans, Chechens, Ukrainians and even Koreans. These people were branded “enemies of the state”.
Today, Taraz is slowly and steadily gaining popularity as a tourist destination in this huge country of Kazakhstan. Some of the city’s leading attractions are centuries-old mausoleums, including the Babaji-Khatun Mausoleum and Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum, which is a 12th-century crypt located 18 kilometers to the west of Taraz city’s center. Aisha-Bibi Mausoleum was designated by UNESCO as a protected architectural monument for its picturesque fretwork. The 11th-century Babaji-Khatun Mausoleum, on the other hand, is the only Central Asian mausoleum with a dome that is shaped like a 16-rib umbrella. Other city attractions include two theaters and training institutions for teachers, food technicians and irrigation engineers. Through the centuries, Taraz is a popular stop for people traveling from Tashkent to Almaty. Again according to historical records and documents, there were ancient attractions in old Talas that could have entertained travelers as they passed by. These ancient and now-lost attractions included a number of lush gardens and town fortifications. Historians and researchers also believe that Talas was densely populated.