Talas is a small town in northwestern Kyrgyzstan, located in a long valley between two imposing mountain ranges. Its geographical location is 42°31′N 72°14′E and its population is 32,538 (as of 1999). It is the administrative headquarters of Talas Oblasty. Its economy is traditionally oriented towards the Kazakh city of Dzhambul.
The mythical Kyrgyz national hero, Manas, is said to have been born in the Ala Too mountains in Talas oblast. A few kilometers outside Talas lies a mausoleum, supposedly that of Manas. However, the inscription on its richly-decorated facade dedicates it to "...the most glorious of women Kenizek-Khatun, the daughter of the Emir Abuka". Legend explains that Manas' wife Kanikey ordered a deliberately false inscription in order to mislead her husband's enemies and prevent the desecration of his body. The building, known as "Manastin Khumbuzu" or "The Ghumbez of Manas", is thought to have been built in 1334. It now contains a museum dedicated to the epic. A ceremonial mound also lies nearby.
The Talas river was the site of the Battle of Talas (751 CE), fought between Chinese and Arabian forces, which marked the beginning of China's precipitous decline from its greatest golden age.