19
Feb 14

Past Meets Present in Uzbekistan

Travel to Uzbekistan and you will be hard pressed to experience a land and people with as deep a history so close to the surface. The people of Uzbekistan are friendly and beautiful. During our Silk Road trek, we crossed Uzbek desert and steppe overland because we wanted to see it all. From the viewpoint of a westerner, Central Asia is a lynchpin to understand the modern world. Uzbekistan was one to the five “stan’s” created by the Soviet government to divide and rule the Turkic population of Central Asia. The “stan’s” of Central Asia include Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Prior to the Soviet collapse in 1991 all five counties were part of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics). Have a look at the Great Game to get a better understanding of the relationship of Uzbekistan and Central Asia to Europe prior to the modern era.

The ancient city of Shakhrisabz, formerly a stronghold of Amir Timur (Tamerlane) replaced it’s central statue of Lenin with one of Timur and the Soviet era hotel stood abandoned. Timur’s descendents gave rise to the Mughal Empire, who can be credited for building the magnificent Taj Mahal.

Silk Road Merchant. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Silk Road Merchant. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Timur and his palace. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Timur and his palace. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Cyrillic. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Cyrillic. Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan.

Sacred Tile. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Sacred Tile. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

 


04
Dec 13

Friendly Bukhara

I met this lovely young lady while visiting the remarkable Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara. When she saw me jotting down notes and taking photographs she approached me in that wonderful way children often do. She spoke excellent english and asked question after question from an intelligent curious mind.  A while later she took me around the corner to meet her mother at the family shop. After introductions we chatted a bit and I asked if I could take their portrait.

Mother and Daughter. Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Mother and Daughter. Bukhara, Uzbekistan


08
Sep 12

Bukhara Caravanserai

We once again have access to youtube. This video from Bukhara shows a typical Silk Road Caravanserai. Thank you to Archaeologist Bekhruz Kurbanov for sharing his expertise.


23
Aug 12

Samarkand Paper Mill

We visited the historic Samarkand Paper mill as part of our Silk Road expedition. It lies on the outskirts of modern Samarkand, beyond the opulent Registan Square of Timur. It can be found among the long stretches of old mounded earth, all that remains of the storied mud brick Samarkand leveled by Ghengis Khan.

The site was idyllic with clear running streams turning small water wheels and buoying a pair of lovely white geese. Yellow and golden flowers accented the manicured lawn, and pottery, artfully arranged, gushed water from an unseen source. In this very location, paper burst forth into the western world, a secret learned from the Chinese by Arabs in the 8th century AD.

The materials and methods used today remain the same as those used in that time and I was told that due to the unique qualities of mulberry bark, Samarkand paper will last 2000 years. I was fortunate enough to handle the pages of a 400 year old book written in Arabic on Samarkand paper and the pages felt as crisp and fresh as those that had just been pressed. The ink used in these beautiful books was lampblack, a carbon black ink created from the soot of the oil lamps burned in mosques.

 


23
Aug 12

Puppet Theater in Central Asia

While traveling through Central Asia on our Silk Road expedition, I noticed there were many shops and buildings dedicated to Puppet Theater. Archaeologist, Bekhruz Kurbanov explains.


17
Aug 12

Samarkand

Gentle Reader,

We have arrived in Samarkand at last! Our journey overland from Bukhara covered 460 kilometers over roads that were rough but not nearly so much or so dusty as those in East Africa. Christy and myself began the day early and I enjoyed a breakfast of black coffee and a small omelette. On the way out of town we looked at an antique carpet from the Caucuses region made from the neck hair of a camel which is supposed to be the finest wool possible, but I thought the carpet looked old and tired, more like an old camel itself and advised against a purchase. Our wonderful and always affable guide took me around to a 19th century Caravanserai to explain how the merchants sold and stored their wares.

Once we had left the city of Bukhara, the landscape appeared to become more arid and I wondered if we were entering another desert but as it turned out we were entering the Central Asian Steppe. The photographs I had seen of this area showed a somewhat grassier if barren landscape so I decided to be patient and let the day unfold. After our experience in the Russian restaurant two days ago we have both become much more cautious about our food since the last thing we wanted on this long hot ride was another round of food poisoning, therefore lunch was two rounds of the fabulous local bread we had first eaten near Mary in the Karakum Desert. The ruined palace of Timur in Shahrisabz was one of the most stunning buildings I have ever seen. It continually breaks my heart so see so many broken walls and shattered cities as I have seen in Central Asia.

The scenery didn’t change much until we neared the region of Samarkand. As we gained altitude, a soft thin velvet of green lightly covered the ground. I learned this area often enjoyed a sprinkling of rain in the mornings. Rolling pastures replaced irrigated cotton fields and mulberry trees. Weathered shepherds on donkeys replaced minibuses and motorbikes. Women worked in the fields creating towers of dung pies for fuel. Mud brick houses dotted the hills and rugged mountains towered in the distance. Too soon it seemed, the buildings and tall trees of Samarkand broke the spell and rushed forward to greet us, but here too was magic. Finally, I thought, we have arrived.

Sincerely,

C. L.