In the south of Kazakhstan, on the Talas River near the Kyrgyz border is Taraz, a major city of the Jambyl province. Dating back more than 2,000 years, it is one of the oldest cities in Kazakhstan and in 2001 UNESCO recognized its status as a World Heritage Site. Originally a fortress, it was the site of the Battle of Zhizhi nearly 50 years BC and in 750 AD, the river was the site of the Battle of Talas, fought between the Tang Dynasty and the Abbasid Caliphate during which the Arabs took the Chinese paper makers hostage, resulting in the introduction of paper into the western world.
Under the rule of many empires from the Arabs and Persians to the Mongols and the Dzungars, Taraz is an archaeological treasure trove full of historical architecture and artifacts. Its streets are lined with mosques and mausoleums, while the Regional Museum is home to many examples of the city's history and the bustling market harkens back to when Taraz was a major city on the Silk Road.