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.