If you’ve already been to the cultural center of Kazakhstan – Turkestan, then your next stop is better be the historical center of the country – Taraz. The city is very ancient and very modern at the same time. One of the most ancient cities in Kazakhstan was established by the Sogdians and is more than 2000 years old today.
Taraz city was built as a part of trade web of the Great Silk Road; it connected modern China and Turkestan. It was a large trade center with developed crafts and fertile lands. However, archaeological findings prove that it was inhabited much earlier. History of the city started from a fortress that was built by Zhizhi Chanyu. The founder died in battle in 36 BC near the fortress. First mentions about Taraz appeared in 568 BC in Greek sources; back then it was called “Talas”. The city witnessed a significant battle between the Arab Abbasid Caliphate and the Chinese Tang dynasty. By 12th century Taraz city was economic, cultural, and political center of the Karakhanid Khanate. Just like any other important and developed city it was destroyed by Genghis-khan armies in 1220. It was brought back to life in the end of 18th century by the Kokand Khanate. They built a new fortress on the ruins of Taraz and named it Auli-Ata. From then Taraz followed typical faith all Central Asian cities that became a part of the Russian Empire and USSR.
Taraz city wasn’t called historical center of the country for nothing. There’re quite a few historical monuments in the surroundings of the city. Aysha-Bibi Mausoleum located 16 km away from Taraz is dedicated to Kazakh Juliette. There’re mysterious ruins of Akyrtas or “Kazakh Stonehenge”. Nobody knows anything about when Akyrtas appeared or what purpose it served. If you want to dive right into local day-to-day life you should go to Shakhirstan Market. It’s where you’ll get a taste of what is life in Central Asia.