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.