For centuries, crowds of people speaking diverse languages filled the bazaars of Asia, and long caravans crept along dusty roads carrying precious gems and silks, spices and dyes, gold and silver, and exotic birds and animals to Europe.
Yet the Silk Road was to become not only a great trade route but the melting pot of two very different civilizations; those of the East and the West, with their specific cultural traditions, religious beliefs, and scientific and technical achievements. Central Asia, situated between China and India in the east, bordering on the European world in the west, spreading between the Volga and Siberia in the north, and between Persia and Arabia in the south, for almost two thousand years stood at the crossroads of the world's great civilizations and cultures.
Much has been lost to history. The sands of time have covered many ancient towns, but the careful hands of archeologists and restorers have succeeded in finding and restoring for us rare treasures from the old cultures of the Semirechye (Seven Rivers region) and Central Asia.
Branches and routes of the Silk Route didn't remain static over the course of time - they changed for various reasons: some of them gained significance and flourished, while others ceased to exist, causing the decline of the towns and settlements in their path.
In the sixth and seventh centuries A.D. the route passed through China to the west via the Semirechie and southern Kazakhstan. The flourishing period of the Silk Road through Central Asia and Kazakhstan declined during the 8th-12th centuries.
The huge territory remembers the slow plodding of camel caravans, for thousands of years wandering the wide routes of the Great Silk Road.
This part of the road represents a unique complex of historical monuments, archeology, architecture, town planning and monumental art. The cities of Otrar, Taraz, Sairan (Ispidzhab), Turkestan (Yassy), Syab, Balasagyn and others were not only shopping centers, but centers of science and culture.
The Great Silk Road is one of the most significant achievements in the history of world civilization. The widespread network of caravan routes crossed Europe and Asia from China to the Mediterranean coast and in ancient times served as an important means of business relations and cultural exchange between East and West. The longest part of the Silk Road lies across the territory of Central Asia and Kazakhstan.
Caravans laden with silk from China, spices and precious stones from India, silver goods from Iran, Byzantine clothes, Turkic slaves, Afrosiabian ceramics, and many other goods, moved through the Kara-Kum and Kyzyl-Kum deserts, the boundless steppes of Sary-Arka; passed over the ridges of the Pamirs and Tian-Shan , Altai and Karatau Mountains; and crossed the rivers Murgab, Amu Darya and Syr Darya.
Along the route of the caravans were rich settlements and towns - Merv (Turkmenistan); Bukhara, Samarkand, Urgench and Khiva (Uzbekistan); Otrar, Taraz and Chimkent (Kazakhstan); Dgul, Suyab, Novokent, Balasagun, Borskon, Tash-Rabat, Osh and Uzgen (Kyrgyzstan).
The first, the Southern branch, ran from Termez via Samarkand to Dushanbe's present location, along a tributary of the Kyzyl-Su up to Alai and exited in the area of modern Irkishtam, where it switched direction towards Kashgar.
The second, the Fergana branch, led from Samarkand via Hodjent to Isfara, Kokand and Osh.
The third, Northern branch came from Zamin Rabat to Benkent (Tashkent) , Isfidjab (Chimkent), Taraz (Jambyl), Nuzket (Kara-Balta), and Balasugun (Burana). From there, caravans traveled along the Boom Canyon to reach the Issyk-Kul area and further to China across the San-Tash range.