Taraz on the Silk Road

Taraz is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia.  built and populated by the ancient Sogdians, Taraz celebrated its official 2000th anniversary (recognized by UNESCO) in 2001, dating from a fortress built in the area by a Xiongnu Chanyu  named  Zhizhi and was a site of the Battle of Zhizhi in 36 BCE.[ The city was first recorded under the name “Talas” in 568 CE by Menander Protector.

The medieval city of Talas was a major trade centre along the Silk Road. Talas was later described by Xuanzang, who passed Talas in 629 and later wrote:

Traveling westward from the Thousand Springs 140 or 150 li, we come to the city of Daluosi. The city is 8 or 9 li in diameter; and was settled by Hu (“foreign, non-Oriental”) merchants from various nations. The products and the climate are about the same as Suyab.

The Talas alphabet, a variant of the Turkic “runiform” Orkhon script, is named for the town. Talas secured a place in history by virtue of the Battle of Talas (751 CE), which was fought between forces of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and those of the  Arab  Abbasid   Caliphate.   The battle took place somewhere along the Talas River in the Talas valley. One of its indirect outcomes was the introduction of paper to the west, via the Arab capture of Chinese paper makers.

Things to do in Taraz

Aisha Bibi Mausoleum

Aisha Bibi Mausoleum
Aisha Bibi Mausoleum

This jewel of a mausoleum is a taxi drive out of the city but it is very nice. With a garden surrounding it and a few little stalls, it is worth the short drive. Remember to wear a head scarf if you are female and shoes need to be taken off outside.

The Aisha-Bibi (Kazakh: Айша бибі) is an 11th or 12th-century mausoleum for a noble woman located in the village of Aisha Bibi, 18 km (11 mi) west of Taraz, Kazakhstan on the Silk Road. It is locally famous as a monument to love and faithfulness.

Aisha Bibi Mausoleum 2
The terracotta panels which help to create the illusion of masslessness typical in Islamic architecture. The terracotta decoration also uses light and shadow rather than color, a pre-Mongol style. Functionally, this type of decoration scatters the light so the viewer is not blinded as he might be from a smooth light colored wall in full sun


There was just an hour to go for 16-year-old beauty Aisha-bibi to meet with her lover. But a tragedy cut the life of the girl.  She had estimated herself worthy to marry the Emir of Taraz, and left her home Otrar with her nurse. At the end of their voyage, the two women stopped at the edge of the Talas River to refresh themselves. It is there that bit by a snake, Aysha lost her life. The Emir, informed at the same time of the mission of the young woman and her fine tragedy, came in haste to collect its last sigh and ordered the construction of this tomb. Today nobody can say what color her eyes were. Nobody remembers her voice, habits, and warmth of her hands. But we know the main thing about her: she loved and was beloved.
— Kamila Erbol




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