Pamir Highway, Tajikistan

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Day 4 – Kalaikhumb

Day 5-6 Khorog

On the other side of the river Panj  is a tributary of the Amu Darya or Oxus River. The river is 1,125 km long and forms a considerable part of the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and the Pamir Highway follows the river to the city of Langar.

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Says: Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

Out of Dushanbe we pick up the River Panj several hours outside of the city of Kolub that was celebrating its 2700 years of history. Before reaching Kalaikhum, we traveled a winding, asphalt road, about 9 -hour drive before reaching  Kalaikhum.

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Modern hotel in Kalaikhumb with Afghanistan looming in the background

During this long trip we had several stops, one at a women’s cooperative to observe the local embroidery in Kolub. 2CCE5EA3-510D-4C57-9C1A-24E18B4D84A5Also a to visit to the Hulbuk Fortress, where, as guest, Mr. Khojaev, caretaker, presented me with roses in appreciation for the visit.

Hulbuk Fortress historically was an important stop over for the Silk Road between the 8th and 11th century. Destroyed by the Monguls, little remains or the original structure of the once mighty fort-palace. The citadel lies approx 30 km southwest of Kulob. Already in the Bronze Age, people settled in the area in sight of the salt mountain Chodscha Mumin, which rises 1334 m above the valley. This bronze cat that is now in the Dushanbe Museum of Antiquities was unearthed at Hulbuk Fortress:

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But mainly, as we drove along the road that clung to the side of the Tajikistan mountains, my attention was to the other side of the river and Afghanistan. The road on the Afghani side was like a mirror image of the Tajik side. Here are a variety of photos.

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Driving to Khorog, the road becomes mostly gravel, narrow, and leftover asphalt from the Soviet days. It was 7 hours of exhausting, bone-jolting drive but thanks to Zafar, my driver, we arrived into Khorog before dark and in one piece. The Serena Hotel in Khorog is worthy of a mention. It is an old Pamiri house converted to a hotel. Pamiri houses are square and follow the Zorestrian elements of wind, earth, fire, and rain. The view of Tajikistan’s mountains  are stunning and only a stones throw to the Afghan banks.

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Serena Inn hotel garden

 

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Across the Panj River is Afghanistan

The Pamir regions occupy a unique position within Tajikistan and is strongly linked to the contest between Russia and Great Britain in the Pamiri in the second half of the 19th century known as the “Great Game”. At the end of this contest, the two dominant superpowers in the region agreed in 1895 to form a Pamir Boundary Commission to define the borders that are still in force today. When Soviet power was established in the Pamiri, the region incorporated into Pamirskaya oblast in 1923. In 1925 a decision of the central executive committee of the USSR remanded the area as the ‘Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast’. After independence and the end of the Cold War, GBAO’s special autonomous status remains.

GBAO in Tajikistan is roughly separated into two parts: Western and Eastern Pamiri. The Western Pamiri are marked by deeply incised valleys and a multitude of villages inhabited by Pamiri mountain farmers who mails belong to Eastern Iranian language groups. All major rivers flow westward to the Panj (also know in antiquity as the Oxus).

The Eastern part, is named Murghab district has high plateau landscape. Predominantly Kyrgyz livestock herders who speak Kyrgyz, a Turkic language.

The capital of the Pamiri is Khorog combining river terraces with flat area at the confluence of the Panj, Shakhdara and Ghund rivers.

From Kalaikhumb to Khorog we see signs referrring to the Diamond Jubilee on fences and trees.

On July 11, 2017 His Highness the Aga Khan is marked his Diamond Jubilee, or 60th year as the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) promoted a worldwide celebration brings together the global Ismaili community, partners of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), and government and faith community leaders in over 25 countries.Along the Pamir Highway villages have dedicated 2018 as a year of celebration so on Saturdays the villages come together for song and dance to show their appreciation. Along the road, we passed some Pamiri girls dressed in traditional Pamiri costume walking to the festival.

And today, Saturday, we spent at the festival where there was wrestling and dancing. I sat with an elder group of volunteers. Each neighbourhood gets together and with their own money organizes musical groups. Here is the Gulaken Folk group. E7A1E11B-550E-47EB-98C4-BFA6EEC42CEEThey are women my age who have just started to learn English and go to the Agha Khan center for lessons once a week. They have written their names for me using Latin letters. 9E6EAC28-93A2-40E9-A739-DD84E9C54C52

The local Khalifa (religious leader) organized a musical performance and food was blessed and given out for free.

Dushanbe, city of roses

Roses in the parks, along the sidewalks and highways were an unexpected introduction to the Tajikistan capital, Dushanbe. A quiet, clean city with welcoming population, it was a small village in 1924 now has a population of 1.2 million. Dunshanbe means Monday in Tajik language. The Soviets incorporated this village and 3 others form a capital.

I begin with this unusual, beautiful introduction to Tajikistan: my guide and translator, Sitora Nabieva, singing the Tajikistan national anthem in Kohi Navruz Palace.

Three days to visit artisan masters began at the office of the Executive Director of the Union of Craftsmen of Tajikistan. With a delightful introduction and welcome, we were introduced to Khurshed Sattorov, Head of Fashion Design Studio and Nadia Imranova, Fashion Designer, both internationally known Tajik fashion designers. Both fashion designer’s employ women from rural communities to embroider, dye silk, and weave.

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Khurshed Sattorov, Fashion Designer

Tajikistan is a presidential republic, headed by Emomali Rahmon, president for life. On the day I arrived, Sitora noted that Tajikistan welcomed the 9 millionth citizen into their country, a country that is 93 percent mountainous with an abundance of water resources, minerals, and agricultural products.

The history of this area is complex with many invaders, empires, kings, and sultans. Tajikistan itself is a new country receiving its independence in 1991 after the break-up of the Soviet Union; its borders haven been drawn by Stalin when he divide Central Asia into countries. Tajikistan suffered a violent civil war between 1992 -1997 that might have seen another war-torn country like Afghanistan, Syria, or Iraq. Fortunately for the Tajiks, an insightful leader, Emomali Rahmon, emerged and the country is on its feet, safe and developing. One of the most important points that my guide, Sitora, impressed upon me that the Tajik people are not nomads, they are settled peoples thus they have a great legacy in literature, science, and traditional crafts. Rather than trying  to struggle through the history, here is a is a quick synopsis from Wikipedia:

“The territory that now constitutes Tajikistan was previously home to several ancient cultures, including the city of Sarazm of the Neolithic and the Bronze Age,  and was later home to kingdoms ruled by people of different faiths and cultures, including the Oxus civilisation, Andronova culture, Buddhism, Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Islam. The area has been ruled by numerous empires and dynasties, including the Achaemenid Empire, Sassanian Empire, Hephthalite Empire, Samanid Empire, Mongol Empire, Timuride dynasty, Russian Empire, and subsequently the Soviet Union.  Within the Soviet Union, the country’s modern borders were drawn by Stalin when it was apart of Uzbekistan as an autonomous republic before becoming a part of the Soviet Union in 1929.”

Exploring Dushanbe, it is hard to miss the golden arch and bubbling fountains of the Ismail Samani monument in the centre of town. Commemorating the 1,100 anniversary of the Samanid State, this monument honours the Persian Samanid, whose time in power was one of peace and plenty, with great flourishing of the arts and sciences.3D467359-6607-4390-A3BB-BC49ACE93CD5Last year I visited the Samanid Mausoleum in Bukhara, Uzbekistan, where Isma’il Samani is buried.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum. See post: Soviets and Sodigans

Isma’il is known in history as a competent general and a strong ruler; many stories about him are written in Arabic and Persian sources.

Another monument in the extensive gardens is Rudaki, born in 858,in (Panjrud), a village located in the Smanid Empire  is now Panjakent, located in modern-day Tajikistan. Biographers write that he was blind at birth yet he was the court poet to the Samanid ruler Nasr II (914-943) in Bukhara.  Rudaki is  the Tajikistan’s  most revered poet. The setting of Rudaki’s statue in a rose garden is appropriate for this 9th-century ‘Adam of Poets’, whose poetry celebrated philosophical musing on the natural world.

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My guide and translator, recites a poem of in song about when the king wanted to make Samarkand the seat of government and leave Bukhara, Rudaki wrote a poem that successfully changed the king’s mind and he kept his court in Bukhara.

While strolling through Dousti Square, and living up to the meaning of its name, friendliness, we met tourists from Uzbekistan from the Ferghana Valley and, of course, they are friendly and, of course, we join to share photos together.

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Then off to the Art Foundation of Tajikistan, a foundation that supports and encourages the development and preservation of Tajikistan’s deep artistic legacy. Exhibitions and classes showcase today’s artisans and their dedication to keeping alive traditional Tajikistan crafts. Djamshed Djuraev, Master of Florentine Mosaics cleared his schedule to give us a ‘master class’ in his craft.

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Djamshed Djuraev, centre. Nassim, right. Sculptor, left.

In an interview before the class, Djamshed explained the process: Florentine mosaics are cut pieces of stone fit together with each other in such a way that you can’t tell that the finished work is, in fact, made up of many little bits of semi-precious stone.With other mosaic styles the spaces between the tiles/pieces are quite obvious, indeed, are meant to be seen. In the technique of Florentine mosaics  each piece of stone – often minute in size – is carved, shaped, filed, measured, and re-filed until it meets perfectly with its connecting piece. Below is part of the process .

Tajikistan has dedicated 2018 as the Year of Tourism Development and Folk Craft. So I could not have come at a better time to meet master artisans in so many fields of traditional crafts.  There are many that I would like to write and will post especially on this subject. E5237437-0A02-46CB-8732-175E0423EB51However, a mention here of the Ceramic Master, Sukhrob Saidov, who is a 10th generation potter and whose family originated in Bukhara. Tajik pride themselves in their hospitality to join for tea, fruits, and hot round, chewy bread. The hospitality and generous spirit to share what they have touched my heart.

Glass…I finally found evidence of glass production  in Central Asia, at least up to southern Tajikistan. In the museums in Bukhara, glass was no where to be found but here in the Museum of Antiquities that displays ancient artefacts of the many cultures and religions that influenced the Silk Road, I found glass remnants.

Tomorrow I begin the journey along the Pamir Highway. Internet might be non existent so it may be over a week before I post again.

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-map by Henry Cookson Adventures

In the meantime, I will leave you with the Center piece of the Museum of Antiquities, a 5th century Reclining Buddha, unearthed from a Buddhist monastery complex in Amina Tepe in southern Tajikistan.

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Dushanbe to Beijing

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Map created by Pablo of Henry Cookson Adventures

Here I go again…this time starting on the Pamir Highway (the old Soviet road known as M41) in Tajikistan and making my way to Beijing, China.

 

Pamir Highway is a road traversing the Pamir Mountains through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan in Central Asia. It is the only continuous route through the difficult terrain of the mountains and serves as the main supply route to Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. The route has been in use for millennia, as there are a limited number of viable routes through the high Pamir Mountains. The road formed one link of the ancient Silk Road trade route. -Wikipedia

Pamir Mountains. Mountains of  Tajikistan Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range located in Central Asia which are formed by the junction or knot of the Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush ranges. They are among the world’s highest mountains; in Victorian times they were known as the ‘Roof of the World’. They are also known by the Chinese name of Congling or ‘Onion Mountains’…

Mountain peaks as high as 7,143 metres will be skirted and some as high as 4043 metres will be passed over.  This is a high altitude exploration following the migration of material culture along some of the lesser known routes along the Silk Road. I will visit remote communities and artisans over 6 weeks such as…

-In Tajikistan meetings with artisans  such as  Djamshed Djuraev, Master of Florentine Mosaics
– Dilmurof Sharipov, Jeweller
– Daler Mehtojev, Painter
– Karim Rakibov, Kundal Painting Master…to name a few.

-In Kyrgystan:Afghan Palmir community in southern Kyrgyzstan

– In China some highlights are :

Hotan Silk Factory: An important oasis on the historic silk road, Hotan has long been famous for the quality of the silk it produces. Watch the silk-making process first-hand, from boiling raw silk cocoons and spinning thread to weaving generations-old ‘ikat’ (atlas in Uighur) patterns, resulting in richly designed, colourful silk fabrics.

Sunan, China a meeting with Ke Cuiling, a skilled artisan, who has spent her entire life to preserve Yugur culture through clothing. National costumes are noted for their high collars, intricately embroidered designs, brightly contrasting colours of blue, red, black and white, along with tasselled, trumpet-like hats. Yugur are the smallest population of China’s 56 recognised minorities and are Turkic-speaking nomadic descendants of Mongolian Uighurs.

I hope to write as I travel but the roads are rough and long, and the Internet often scarce but I will try and I hope you will follow along.

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Roman Glass in Britain (and Bida)

Bangels poster v2Tatiana Ivleva (see Global Glass website)contacted me out of the blue! She came across my journey in Bida, Nigeria. I had traveled to Bida in 2015 specifically to see the glass and brass handmade crafts and techniques, read about:  Bida: Bangles and Beads. Somehow Tatiana came across my post and contacted me through my website, nomad4now.com. Tatiana explained that her research involved the ancient craft of glass bangles particularly seamless Romano-British bangles.  She was most interested in Nigeria’s glass making tradition as it was similar to the Roman techniques. Titiana inquired if she might use a part of my video in her research and in this exhibition. The following video was released for the exhibition: Fashion Frontiers Glass Bangles of Roman North. Tatiana explains the process:

To see the entire process of the ancient and traditional craft of bead and bangle production in Bida view the next video, parts of which have been included in the exhibition video:

Glass making can be traced to the Ancient Egyptians about 3,500 years ago. The earliest archaeological finds of glass objects in Egypt date back to the reign of the Pharaoh Thutmosis III (1504-1459 BC). The most famous of these is the illustration in the Annals of Thutmose III at Kar- nak. (Paul T. Nicholson ,”Glass Vessels from the Reign of Thutmose III and a Hitherto Unknown Glass Chalice,” Journal of Glass, Vol 48, 2006.)  In the last century BC, glass blowing (see Egyptian glass blowers here) was invented in Syria or Mesopotamia which gave rise to a variety of glass objects during Roman times. Glassmaking , the process of making glass from sand and soda ash is said to originate in Egypt. However there are those that disagree and who have researched that the first true glass was made in coastal north Syria in the kingdom of Mitanni, Mesopotamia and brought to Egypt. (Paul T. Nicholson). 

The Bida glass makers in their oral history repeat that their ancestors came from Egypt via Chad, the Bornu Empire and migrating from Kano to finally settle with the Nupe area thus bringing with them the knowledge of glassmaking.

Camel caravans from Kano and Timbuktu carried goods —indigo, salt, ivory, gold to name a few—for thousands of years that interconnected the world by the great trade routes. These historic caravans, particularly in the Sahara, Eurasia, and the Arabian peninsula were as much about trading as about communication. One of techniques communicated along the way was glass making.

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bracelets made in Bida, Nigeria using ancient glass making technique

Roman Finds Group (provides a forum in Roman artifacts.) Read about the exhibition at: http://www.romanfindsgroup.org.uk/exhibitions

During my journey along the Silk Road, I searched for evidence of glass making. Other than a reference in literature that ‘Arabs’ carried glass in caravans, I did not see evidence of ancient glass. Pottery shards and ceramic bowls were seen in museums as well as at archeological sites.  Glass would be difficult to transport, however,  why did the technique not travel into Central Asia? Or if it did why are there no surviving remnants of glass, glass making, or glass blowers?

Also see: Une Histoire de bracelets  https://archeoglass.jimdo.com

The Final Stretch – Karakalpakstan

 

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“Karavan” – 1926 by Alexander Volkov (1888-1957) , style: Uzbekistan avant-guard. At Savitskiy Karakalpakstan Art Museum

Karakalpakstan is in the western region of Uzbekistan

Sep 29 Darvaza • drive to Kunya Urgench • Nukus, Uzbekistan
Sep 30 Nukus
Oct 1-2 drive to Urgench • Khiva• Tashkent
Oct 3 Depart Tashkent for Cairo

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Map from Central Asia, Lonely Planet p. 140

Crossing the border from Turkmenistan was the easiest of the bureaucratic borders yet. The autonomous region of Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan was created partially from the ancient lands of Khorezm and ceded to Russia Empire in 1873 by Khanate of Khiva. Karakalpakstan people are ethnically diverse Turkic speaking group who, though originally nomadic hunters and fishers, in the recent past did migrate seasonally with their cattle. All that came to an end with the Soviet imposed widespread cotton farming fed based on irrigation from rivers mainly the Amu Darya which fed into the Aral Sea, which eventually turned into an environmental disaster for the region.

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“Cotton Picking” 1935 by A.A. Shpadi, Contemporary Kalakalpastan at Sarvitskiy Kalakalpastan Art Museum,

At the end of September, the cotton fields during harvest.

The ancient region of Khorezm or Khorasmia, as it was known to the ancient Greeks, covers the region of Karakalpakstan and the border region of Turkmenistan. Khorezm was a kingdom of the Achaemenids in the fifth and fourth century BCE. Zoroastrianism religion, originated in the region of present-day Iran, spread through Central Asia. Situated on the banks of the Amu Darya river in Karakalpakstan is the Chilpik, an ancient Zoroastrian Tower of Silence thought to be the earliest example of the traditional funerary ritual, constructed somewhere between the first century BCE and 1st century CE.

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Ancient Zoroastrian Tower of Silence, Chilpak

The only reason to visit Nukus was to visit the Savitsky Karakalpakstan Art Museum. Actually,  this journey had two must see destinations: the crossing over Torugart Pass from China to Kyrgyzstan to see Tash Rabat caravanserai and the Savitskiy Collection. The first one was not accomplished due to the Chinese closing the border so I was determined that I would not miss arriving in Nukus. It is not an easy place to visit and coming from Turkmenistan, I began to worry that something would happen to detain me. But my worrying was unfounded and I had the entire day reserved only for the museum visit.

Opened in 1966, the museum houses a collection of over 82,000 items, ranging from antiquities from Khorezm to Karakalpak folk art, Uzbek realism and avant-guard collection and, uniquely, the second largest number of Russian avant-guard paintings in the world, the largest being in St. Petersburg. All of these artworks are by Soviet dissidents, literally saved by the fearless imagination and tireless energy of one man, Igor Savitskiy.

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Igor Savitskiy (1915-1984) buried in the Russian Cemetery in Nukus. Bronze statue presented by local Karakalpastan artist, D. S. Razebaev. Epitaph reads: Everything fades only a star does not perish.

The Russian painter, archeologist and collector, Igor Savitskiy (1915-1984), was a student from 1941-1946 at the Surikov Institute, Moscow. During  WWII the Institute was evacuated to Samarkand, thus starting Savitskiy’s discovery of Central Asia. He first visited Karakalpakstan in 1950-1957 to participate in the Archeological & Ethnographic Expedition headed by the world renown scientist Professor Sergei Pavlovian Tolstov that uncovered the ancient civilisation in Khorezm. Savitskiy explored Karakalpakstan collecting the history and folk arts of this unknown population living in the desert. During this period he literally walked across vast areas of northern Karakalpakstan and started a collection of dying folk arts, jewellery, embroidery, woven textiles, stamped leather and carved wood and clothing as well as coins and carpets eventually number at least 7000 pieces. He trained Karakalpak artists and convinced the authorities that Karakalpakstan needed an art museum and he was appointed director in 1966. He gave up painting claiming that one should not combine the two and dedicated himself to expansion of the museum. In the meantime, Savitskiy managed to fall foul of Stalin’s rules about what was and was not acceptable art. Somehow he avoided exile or imprisonment; he achieved it by self-banishment to a far edge of Soviet empire, Karakalpakstan. Savitskiy could not stand by and watch Russian art of the early 20th century perish, he began to conceive of the idea to rescue tens of thousands of works by forgotten or forbidden artists banned as formalist to the safety of Nukus. through friends and contacts in the art world, he made dangerous visits to view works which had been painted in the 1920-30s and then, when they dropped out of political favour, had been hidden from public view. With no money of his own he depended on persuading the artists to have them sent to a safe house in faraway, unknown Nukus. He amassed an incredible 90,000 paintings by artists.

See Website: Savitskiy Collection, Karakalpakstan Museum.

Watch the Movie, can buy it on ITUNES or find it on You-Tube: The Desert of Forbidden Art https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pGX7kKrutpY

Read: New York Times: Desert of Forbidden art.

A few examples of art from the Savitskiy Collection:

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“An Uzbek man”-1926 by V.V. Rojdestvenskiy (1884-1963) Russian avant-guard

 

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“Provincial Actors in Bukhara” -1932 by Mikhail Kurzin, Uzbekistan avant-guard.

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” Laying water Pipes in Bukhara” by N.G. Karaxan (1900-1970)

Leaving Nukus we drive next along a rail line connecting Tashkent to Nukus; on the opposite side of the road are ruins of an ancient castle perched atop a dramatic mesa like mountain. The remains of this ancient fortress, the walls were standing when Alexander the Great and his armies passed by en route to India the drive to Ugrench crosses the Amu Darya River (Oxus River in biblical times ) The river is at the centre of the scandal over excessive water use for cotton irrigation that has virtually dried up the Aral Sea.

Arriving Khiva was not as picturesque as Savitskiy had painted it in

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“Outskirts of Khiva” by Igor Savitskiy (1915-1984)

Sherizod, the driver, pulled the car up to the hotel that was across the road from the Khiva  fortress walls,  dusted in a rosy light. IMG_4809Khiva has an inner and outer city. Those living in the inner walls are not so many these days but if a person from the inner city of Khiva dies outside the walls, they cannot be buried inside the fortress. Thus, people from the inner city were buried on the walls of the fortress, as close as possible to their homes. Another advantage for the people in the fortress was the perception that invading armies did not advance through graveyards as it was a sign of misfortune.

Khiva, the first site in Uzbekistan to be included in theWorld Heritage List is said to be founded by Noah’s son, Sham, who discovered a water well but archaeologist put the origins of the well  in the 6th century CE. In Khiva’s heyday , which did not come until the 16th century, it was the capital of Khanate of Khiva that feuded with Bukhara and Kokhand. For three centuries , Khiva was the most lucrative slave market of Central Asia. Today, it is more like walking through a movie set or a Middle Ages theme park with restaurants, camel photos and touristic trinkets sold along the main thoroughfare.

Maybe Khiva needs a respite from its bloody history…in the 1700s Tsarist Russia sent 4000 troups to Khiva where they were massacred and for the revenge in 1873, Russia sent 13000 troops to descend on Khiva and massacred the city. In 1740 the ancient fortress of Khiva was destroyed by the Persians. In 1920 the Bolsheviks absorbed Khiva as they did with all the Khanates into the Soviet Union.
In an environment of such of harsh history it is perhaps surprising that Khiva should produce a world renowned scientist, Al Khorezmi who developed the theory of algorithms and algebra in his seminal work Al Jebr.DSC_0848

One thing is for sure, Khiva can boast about the sweetest melons:

Captain Frederick Burnaby, in his 1876 book A Ride to Khiva, made similar observations:Melon traders would shovel up snow and ice during winter and store it in deep underground cellars. Then in summer the most succulent melons were packed with ice and placed in large lead containers. These were then heaved onto camels to journey across the deserts to the banqueting tables of the Tsar of Russia, the Emperor of Peking and the Mogul rulers of Northern India.
Burnaby had the good fortune of tasting an aged Khorezm melon in the middle of a Khiva winter. “Anyone accustomed to this fruit in Europe,” he wrote, “would scarcely recognize its relationship with the delicate and highly perfumed melons of Khiva.” He added that “throughout the winter, melons are preserved according to an old method where they are put into straw or net bags and then hung from the ceiling of a special warehouse called a kaunkhana [qovunxona, or melon house].”- Excerpt from “In Search of Ibn Battuta’s Melon”, AramcoWorld, Nove/Dec 2015

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“Old man with a Melon” -1935 by G. Jeglou (1935-2010)Contemporary Karakalpakstan

An impressive view of the town is from the open air pavilion at the top of the Khulna Ark. The Ark, like the one in Bukhara, was a fortress within a fortress; the Khan of Khiva’s palace., his harem, a mosque, reception, and guest rooms, throne room, mint, horse and camel stables, barracks for guards and a jail. The whole complex is now a museum where particularly on the verandah of the Summer Mosque , the mosaic ceramic tiling, carved wooden columns and painted ceilings are some of the most beautiful in Central Asia.

See Then and Now photographs of Khiva at “The Journey to Khiva”.

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“Domes of Khiva” , Igor Savitskiy

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Same view of “Domes of Khiva”

On the last night of this great journey, I was invited for dinner to the home of a family from Khiva. Dinner was served in a traditional setting, sitting around a low table on the floor. My hosts  were retired historians, I was honoured to learn about their work in education, their traditional life of customs and their growing concern for the youth. My last meal in Central Asia…plov and samosa…delicious!

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“Still Life, Pilaff (plov)” by M. I Kurzin (1888-1957) Uzbekistan avant-guard

On October 3rd, I boarded Turkish Airline and headed to Cairo…arriving at Ithaka:

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

-C.P. Cavafy

(all rights reserved, copyright 2017 .To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required)

4000 years in 7 days-Turkmenistan

 

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Darvaza Gas Crater, Karakum Desert

Sep 23 Bukhara • drive to Mary, Turkmenistan
Sep 24-26, Mary and surrounding area
Sep 27-28, Ashgabat
Sep 28 drive to Darvaza
Sep 29 • drive to Kunya Urgench • Nukus, Uzbekistan

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Map from National Geographic, “Caspian Sea”, 1999. Black line is the route through Turkmenistan and the green circle is the are of ancient Merv and the Gonur-Depe.

An early morning departure from Bukhara and on the road to the Turkmenistan border, the most important stop before the border was to find a toilet, for there was no way of knowing if facilities would be available at the crossing. Abdu, my guide, directed Sherizod, our driver, to stop as what looked like a restaurant/hotel. As soon as the car stopped, we heard loud music coming from the building. Since the time was 9am, I assumed a wedding party was just coming to a close…but I was wrong, it was a breakfast party to celebrate the 60th birthday of a well-known local man. In true Uzbek hospitality, the group of men standing outside insisted we join the celebrations. We were ushered to a table filled with delicacies of plov and samosa, meats, salads and fruits; music played to welcome us and we soon met the honoree. After many pictures and congratulations were had, we set off with handfuls of sweets for the border crossing. After several hours of typical border red tape, I was in Turkmenistan!

After crossing the border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, I was met by my guide, Elias, a native of Merv. Elias’s first comment was to reassure me that he and his ancestors were quite harmless and sincerely friendly. He insisted that he should not be judged by the local proverb: “If on the road you meet a viper and a Mervi, kill the Mervi first, and the viper afterwards.”

Being sufficiently reassured that I was in safe hands,  I turned my thoughts to Turkmenistan, a flat, dry country dominated by the Karakum Desert with ancient civilisations buried beneath the moving sands. IMG_4594

Turkmenistan consists of five major Turkmen tribes and is also a country to delight any anthropologist or archaeologist.

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Five tribes:are Teke (Tekke), Yomut (Yomud), Ersari (Ärsary), Chowdur (Choudur) and Saryk (Saryq), on Turkmenistan flag

In Turkmenistan, I would visit civilisations spanning from 2300 BCE at Gonur-depe to the 11th to the 16th century CE monuments of Kunya-Urgench. Turkmenistan went the same route as Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan first colonized by Russian tsarist in 1881 and Sovietised from 1917, with Stalin drawing the countries borders in 1934. Watch this 1972 movie, “The Daughter in Law”, about life in Turkmenistan after WWII.  The photographs that follow are things that are still present in village everyday life:  felt rug, yurt,the vessel for tea, saksaul branches (Haloxylon, See http://webdoc.sub.gwdg.de/ebook/dissts/Koeln/Annaklycheva2002.pdf, page 68), reed mats, dowry chest.(run cursor over pictures for information.) The abundance of saksaul branches demonstrates the wealth of a family.

 

 

The first town after the border crossing is Turkmenabat, the area in which caravans crisscrossed from the Karakum desert and agricultural land of Uzbekistan. The river Amu-Darya (River Oxus), provided a natural resource to sustain travellers making their way to and from the Caspian Sea (see map). The Silk Road was in its decline when Genghis Khan’s army invaded the area in 1221 and levelled the city, Turkmenabat, which was known, then, as Amul.  Then from the north, more invasions from Timur and his armies. During this time, the Song Dynasty (960-1279CE) was vying with the Arabs trading by sea routes diverting goods from overland trading, another reason that destabilised the caravan routes. But still today, there are remnants of the many caravanserai that rise above cotton fields along the road to Mary (Mari) and the ancient city of Merv; the direction, south, that we are headed.

Remains of caravanserai in the area of Merv:

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Merv was a crossroads of the world religions. Christians (see photo of Nestorian church below), lived side by side with Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Manicheans.

Merv stood on the crossroads of the main routes of the Great Silk Road. Routes through Merv went in a number of directions: north to Khorezm (through the Karakum Desert or to Bukhara); east to Termez (near Afghanistan); southwest to present day Iran; and west to Nisa (ancient Parthian city near Ashgabat). The Merv channel from the north imports of such products as wax, honey, and furs came. From the southern route connected land and sea routes enabling the intensification of trade with Arabia.

 

During the Russian tsar era, a fortress was built around 1881 and  Turkmenabat became known as Charjou. For me, Turkmenabat is a rest stop to recover at a restaurant straight from the 1970 world of disco equipped with dance floor and 360degree revolving mirror. After some Lagman soup, another two-hours drive and we enter Mary (Mari), a former settlement for the Tekke Turkmen tribe that surrendered to the Russian tsar in 1884.

The significance of Mary is the proximity to the earliest history in the Merv Oasis: the 4000 year old complex of the Gonur-depe, medieval Merv, and the intersection of four caravan roads in the Silk Road. Gonur-depe was the capital of one of the great but little known ancient civilisations. The earliest history of the Merv Oasis in former delta of the River Murghab can be traced to the Bronze Age culture, 2300-1700 BCE. Over 4000 years of its history the cities at this site have borne different names in different periods – Mouru, Margush, Mariana, Merv, Mary – and these made an impact on the development of Central Asia.

Uncovered by Soviet archaeologists in the mid-20th century, the fortress town of Gonur-Depe was once a thriving center of a Zoroastrian civilization populated by thousands. The Bronze Age site dating back to around 2000 BC was surrounded by strong fortress walls, and made up of adobe homes and buildings, the remnants of which are still subsiding in this rural corner of Turkmenistan located about 45 miles north of Merv.

In Gonor-Depe the remains of a variety of Zoroastrian sites were discovered, including a palace, a Zoroastrian fire temple, and a necropolis. Zoroastrianism is the religion founded by Zoroaster, who lived in Persia sometime between 1000 and 600 BCE.  Fire is seen by Zoroastrians as pure and sacred, and is the central element in their temples.DSC_0185

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Elias, myguide, at Gonur -Depe

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Chariot wheels and bronze pot and camel skeleton

The Murghab river oasis was occupied at least as far back as the beginning of the first millennium BCE although the earliest structures at Merv date to the early Achaemenid period (sixth to fight century BCE). Merv known as Margiana or Margushe in Alexander the Great’s time by the end of the second century BCE Margiana fell under Parthian control. It was considered religiously liberal with populations of Nestorian Christians,

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Nestorian Christian church, Nestorianism is the Christian doctrine identified with Nestorius (386–451), patriarch of Constantinople.

Buddhists and Zoroastrian. Merv reached its peck of trade between 11th and 12th century when the Seljuk Turks made it their capital.

People I met at the ancient monuments of Merv on pilgrimage from different parts of Turkmenistan. (Move cursor over picture for information about the various monuments.)

 

Zuleyha is from the Beluch tribe that moved to southern Turkmenistan from their ancestral  community in Iran about four generations ago. The Baluch in this region have retained many aspects of their material and social culture. I asked Zuleyha about the embroidery on her robe and she said that it was store bought. She said that the women use to embroider their robes but no one has the time or interest to do so now.

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Some monuments at ancient Merv site:

 

Ashgabat, the ‘city of love’ and monumental marble buildings and capital of Turkmenistan is not far from the Iranian border.  One of the visa requirements was to purchase a ticket to the Asian Games being held during my journey there, so off I went to the ballroom dancing competition and to my surprise (or maybe not so surprising), Lebanon was the only Middle Eastern country competing!

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20170926_121734Before leaving Ashgabat, a visit to Nisa,  the first seat of central government of the Parthians.(reigned c. 250 BC–211 BC):

 

 

 

And a visit to a centre for horse breeding of the Akhalteke race horse, Turkmenistan’s prize breed, that has application to the UNESCO for inclusion of the breed in the World Heritage list:

 

 

 

Ring of fire in the Karakum desert: human error creates mesmerizing nights in the desert…

DSC_0496From Ashgabat to Konya-Urgrench to cross the border back into Uzbekistan takes us through the Davaza Gas Craters.  Elias describes the road as the worst road in the world. Definitely, the drive was difficult not only because of the pot holes but the camels walking down the middle and across the road. We are headed to a camp grounds provided by the government. The yurt or tent accommodations are on a first come/first serve. The jeep turned off-road and on a sandy piste to the crater, which takes experienced driver as the way is not marked. Roman, our driver, is superior at his skill and luckily,  a first-class mechanic and barbecue expert! First stop, however, is the village of Yerbint, which gives a glimpse of rural life in the desert.

Elias asks around to find if felt rugs are for sale though not for tourist consumption, he finds a lady willing to sell her rugs. The patterns in the felt rugs (see Kyrgyzstan to watch how felt is made) are handed down from generation to generation. When bargaining is finished, one young boy reminded his mother that he had helped her roll the rug and slyly asked if there would be any profit for him. Little did I know that Elias’s insistence on this purchase would save be from a bitter cold night in the desert, not only an authentic piece of work but also I pulled the rug over me against the raw desert night air.

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Felt rug , pattern handed down for generations, centre is the Zoroastrian ring of fire surround the four seasons, the rams on either side signify wealth and the borders are the moving sand.

The Darvaz gas craters are a human mistake during the Soviet era gas exploration  but nonetheless, it draws tourists from Ashgabat. Roman explains that most tourists make the 3 hour drive to watch night fall at the crater only to return the same night through the ‘worst road in the world!’ This crater had been set alight in 1971 since the collapse of an underground cavern of natural gas. Engineers set it alight to prevent the spread of methane gas but it has never stopped burning. The diameter of the crater is 69 metres, and its depth is 30 metres.

 

 

 

In the morning we break camp early to cover another rough road to the Uzbekistan border with enough time to explore the monuments at Konye-Urgench, which was once  the centre of the Islamic world. P1030064P1030061

Meet Elias Djumyev, my guide (on left) in Turkmenistan and Roman, expert driver.IMG_0786 (1)

 

(all rights reserved, copyright 2017 .To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required)

Sogdians and Soviets: Monumental Samarkand and the Holy City of Bukhara – Uzbekistan

Sept. 17 Tashkent • train to Samarkand (drive day trip to Urgut)

Sept. 18-20 Samarkand
Sept. 20 Samarkand • train to Bukhara
Sept. 20-22 Bukhara
Sept. 22 Bukhara
Sept. 23 Bukhara • drive to Merv, Turkmenistan

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Map from Lonely Planet, Central Asia, by Mathew, Elliott, Masters, Noble p. 140

The world is a caravanserai, with one entry and one exit…

– Omar Khayyam

Samarkand and the Holy City of Bukhara are probably the most photographed cities and probably the most name-recognizable cities in Central Asia. The waves of people who have gather to stay and marched through Samarkand and Bukhara have left overlapping chronicles of monuments, languages, and traditions while others have receded from history’s memory forever.

Sogdians are a people that once lived in modern day Uzbekistan. Their influence once reached far into China between the 4th century BCE to 7th century CE yet knowledge of them was lost until the 19th century. Afrasiyab (also spelt Afrasiab, Afrosiyab, or Afrosiyob) was the name the Sogdians gave to their city that we now call Samarkand. Afrasiyab was the city the Sogdians built a fortress built on high ground for defensive reasons. The habitation of the territories of Afrasiyab began in the 7th-6th century BCE, as the centre of the Sogdian culture. Before visiting Samarkand, I came across references to Sogdians in Turpan, China’s at the Bezeklik’s Thousand Buddha Caves where Sogdian faces are painted in the grotto of the resting Buddha. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bezeklik_Caves#/media/File%3ABezeklikSogdianMerchants.jpg 

Listen to podcast: Mystery Abound #89.

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From:en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bezeklik_Caves#/media/File%3ABezeklikSogdianMerchants.jpg

In Samarkand, I had a formal introduction to the Sogdians. Samarkand, known as Afrasiyab to the Persians, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities, along with Aleppo and Damascus, in the world.  All roads led through Afrasiyab to China, India, and Persia for trade, artisans, and armies. Goods travelled through China and Central Asia along caravan routes through middlemen based in Asia towns such as Dunhuang and Turpan, China. The Sogdians played a major role in facilitating trade between China and Central Asia as late as the 10th century CE. They established a trading network across the 1500 miles from Samarkand to China.

The Sogdians were known to the Greeks in the 4th century BCE and the city was taken from them by Alexander the Great in 329 BCE and named the city, Marakanda. Alexander the Great married a Sogdian princess, Roxanna, of Bactria (modern day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan) and encouraged his soldiers to take wives from this area.  He was impressed by the size of the fortress and strength of the city walls, which was more than 12 kilometres in circumference. Some references state that before the Greeks, the Sogdians were fierce warriors but when defeated by the Greeks, they were never war-like again. However,they became great traders and entrepreneurs with their language the lingua franca of Central Asia. Over the centuries, the Sogdians played an important role in spreading religions, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and Nestorian Christianity but it seems that when the Arabs conquered Samarkand, the Sogdians either left the city or converted to Islam and lost their identity. In China, the Sogdians were persecuted under the Tang Dynasty changing their names to survive. Then the Sogdians were lost to history until the 19th century when letters were found in Dunhuang and Gansu, China, that told about the Sogdians.

For a good overview of an excellent example of people moving through China and Central Asia , read: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sogdia

Samarkand

Samarkand is located in a fertile valley between the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya. A natural site for people to live. After the Greeks, the area came under the Kushan Empire that included northern India. Then in the 7th centuryCE Samarkand was under influences from Turkic and Persian tribes and the Tang Dynasty in China. In 751CE the battle of Talas, (near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan) the Arabs fought against the Chinese for claim to the area, the Chinese lost the battle and eventually the people converted to Islam. After this battle, the secret of Chinese paper-making was revealed to the West and the technology swiftly spread to the Middle East.

From this period Samarkand was ruled by various groups including the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad but in 1220 it was totally destroyed by the Mongol conqueror, Genghis Khan. After 150 years, Timur ( r. 1369-1405), built Samarkand to its glory we see today, though depending on what side of history one is on, Tamerlane (as the European named him) was another brutal conquerer or a brilliant leader ; Timur built Central Asia’s wealth and culture. His astronomer grandson, Ulugbek, ruled until 1449 and made Samarkand into an intellectual centre and built more magnificent monuments that we see today in Samarkand.

Overtime Samarkand decayed and in 1897, there was a devastating earthquake. During Soviet rule and to their credit, major restoration took place to restore the crumbling buildings to magnificent monuments. Here, The Registan, meaning sandy place in Persian, is the centrepiece of the city. DSC_0441The grand plaza is surrounded on three sides by enormous madrasahs built after Timurs death in 1405. The first to be built was Ulugbek Madrassa in 1420, followed by Shar-Dor Madrassa in 1636, and Tilly’s-Kori in 1660. The architecture, each has high vaulted archways at their entrance, with the Ulugbek and Shar-Dor flanked on either side of their archways by 35 meter decorated minarets. The exterior of the three structures are covered with intricate Islamic patterns and calligraphy of millions of ceramic tiles.

The ancient necropolis of the Shah-i-Zinda (meaning Tomb of the Living King) mausoleum, survived Genghis Khan’s troops. This mausoleum was built for the family of Timur and his grandson, Ulugbek and also the resting place of Qasam bin-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed.

Shah-i-Zinda is an important place of pilgrimage. In the 19th century Shah-i-Zinda was in ruins with collapsed domes and minarets and the Soviet restorers again came to the rescue and painstakingly restored and rebuilt these treasures.

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Stairs to Shah-i-Zinda: A superstition that some people believe is that if you count the same number of step ascending as descending, then your prayers will be answered.

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Shah-i-Zindi

My guide, Abdu, and I stopped at a bench to talk about the history and saw an elderly lady  descending the steep stairway. He commented that because of her head scarf she was from the south of Uzbekistan. Soon she sat on a bench opposite from us and I asked Abdu to inquire if she was from Samarkand. We soon met a feisty 80-year-old woman who had come with her two sons, their wives and children from a village next to the Afghanistan border for a pilgrimage to Shah-i-Zindi. They asked where was I from… and were quite surprised with my answer.  Everyone with smart phone in hand, taking pictures was the first task and then with smiles and congratulations on our delight to have met. The chance encounter ended in Abdu getting his ears pulled by the grandmother for which he said  was a blessing from her area. Poor Abdu had red, sore ears the rest of the day!

Then we took a little detour to visit Lena Ladik, a Ukrainian textile artist who opened the Happy Bird Art Gallery in 2005 in a portion of an old caravanserai.  Her gallery is filled with original handmade Uzbek clothing, textiles, ceramics, and artwork, it is a combination of upscale shop, museum, and antique store. The director, Lena Ladik, is committed to supporting traditional Uzbek arts and handicrafts that incorporate natural materials, fair trade, and eclectic tastes.  Lena made Turkish coffee and we sat around a small table getting to know one another. She showed me a Russian-language edition of Vogue Magazine that recently wrote about her work and the caravanserai.  Then our conversation veered off to quite another subject. Lena showed me a picture of her mother and father. It was taken right after WWII, he was in a Soviet uniform and her mother had a 1940s waves and curl hairstyle. Both, in early 20s, they were smiling sweetly. On the other side of the world, I have a picture of my mother and father, in the same pose taken right after WWII. My father in a US uniform; my mother with a 1940s hairstyle; they had just gotten married and they, too, smiled sweetly.  Lena and I, close in age, marvelled how our parents and our lives were lived on opposite sides of the world in vastly different situation yet we both retained photographs taken probably in the same year of our parents and here in Samarkand, our paths cross. (Happy Bird Art Gallery and Craft’s Center. Facebook: gallery bird. Leg_igp@list.ru/ tel: +998937204215. Trip Advisor)IMG_4444

Before leaving Samarkand, we met with a block print master. It was another  serendipitous meeting that started in the town of Margilian and continued to Bukhara.   I met Vladimir Akhatbekov, a Russian Uzbek, at the Atlas Birham Festival put on by UNESCO in Margilian. His workshop was closed but he unlocked the door to show us his work. The meeting led to another chance meeting in Samarkand. Vladimir recognised me at the caravanserai that I met Lena and invited us to his workshops and he spent many hours explaining his trade. To honour his craft, once back in Cairo, I will write a separate post. (Meeting Vladimir prepared me to appreciate the Sufi complex of Muslim orders, the Naqshbandi. (Naqshbandi is the name of his father meaning block printer).DSC_0818

Before saying good-bye to Samarkand, I attend a fashion show put on by Russian fashion designer Valentina Romanenko’s.  Moscow-trained Romanenko has transformed her traditional Uzbek home into a workshop and display area. (Www.alesha-art.com)

 

Bukhara

Arriving by fast train, Bukhara is less than two hours from Samarkand. Ibn Battutu’s words rang in my ears: ‘the mosques, colleges, and bazaars are in ruins …’ He reported this in 1333 one hundred years after Genghis Khan had destroyed the city. The only structure that Genghis Khan’s army spared was the Kalon Minaret and the Ismael Samani Mausoleum.

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Kalon Minaret built in 1127 was the tallest building in Central Asia, 47 metres tall.

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Ismail Samani Mausoleum was the first mausoleum built in 940 after the Arab conquest. The architects were Muslim but their skills reflect the early symbols of the Zoastrianism.

Before 1220, Bukhara was a city of pious scholars. It was ruled by the Smanids in the tenth CE true you and was the centre of Islamic learning attracting students from Arabia and Spain.One such scholar Ismail al-Bukhary, born in 810 in Bukhara, is renowned in Muslim world for 1000 years as the author of the hadiths, “AI-Djami as-salih”, or literally in English Book “Trustworthy”, which is the second most important Muslim text after the Quran.

Bukhara only started to come back to its former life some fifty years after Ibu Battuta visited the city when Tamerlane started to rebuilt the city, from about 1390. In time Timur and his descendents in the succeeding centuries were once again to turn the city into one of the most magnificent in all of Central Asia. The next time Bukhara was damaged was during the Russian Civil War when Bolshevik commander, Mikhail Vasilievich Frunze (born in Bishkek,Kyrgyzstan), sent planes to bomb Bukhara and Khiva in 1920.

In the evening of my first day in Bukhara, I headed for the Lyabi Hauz,( a Tajik name for ‘around the pool’) a pond in a central square surrounded by mulberry trees. Until the Soviet era , the ponds or hauz, were abundant throughout the city but because of pollution and disease all but a few were filled in, The central area of Bukhara is the old town is made up of small alleyways opening into small plaza with impressive ancient buildings along the way.

One of the most historically important architectural landmarks in Bukhara is The Ark or Arg. The Ark is a massive fortress surrounded by 20 meter high mud walls almost a kilometer in length. From the earliest days the Ark was the fortress of the rulers, the Emirs of Bukhara. It was destroyed and rebuilt repeatedly over the centuries. Inside its walls were military barracks, arsenal, administrative offices, a mint, workshops, stables, water tanks, prison, and of course, the harem. Archaeologist, Maksuma Niyazova, who delivered a lecture and provide private access to expositions in the Ark, which gave an instructive information of the history of the area of Bukhara as well as The Ark.

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The Ark or Arg or Arq

One of the sites that was off the beaten path was a 19th century house built by a wealthy Bukhara merchant built by Ubaidullah Khojaev in 1891. Faizullah Khojaev, the son, conspired with the Bolsheviks to over throw the Emir of Bukhara, Emir Alim Khan. He succeeded but soon he ran afoul with Joseph Stalin and was sent to the Gulag and died in 1937. The Emir fared better as he made a deal with the Bolchivicks and got safe passage to Afghanistan. (Uzbekistan was colonized from Bochivicks era, 1917, to  Independence in 1991. Everyone speaks Uzbek and Russian.)

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House of Faizullah Khojaev

On every corner, in every shop, at the doors and in the windows are pieces of needlework called Suzani. Whether in Samarkand or Bukhara, women sell all shapes and sizes of hand-embroidered and machine-made material.  At the Suzani Workshop in Shafrikan Village, Oysara Ruziyeva , master suzani, has worked 20 at a community cooperative where local women take part in the stitching process of pieces of Suzani. At this workshop they start with silk cocoons, dying, design, drawing and embroidery in the centre. I meet Oysafa at the Madrassa as she is participating in the Bukhara Craft Fair where her daughter has just won first place for her suzani piece. Suzani simply means ‘needlework’. There are different types of stitches, different materials and threads, and hand or machine-made suzani pieces. (Can be reached at +998942472735)DSC_0890

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Oysara’s daughter, Nigora Hamdamova,  wins first place in the Suzani category at Bukhara Craft fair. This is the piece that takes first place.

“Your hands should be busy with your job, your heart busy with God.”

This is the saying that Abdu, my guide, related to me that sums up Naqshband’s Sufism.

Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari Sufi Complex.DSC_0092
Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari (1318-1389) was the founder of what would become one of the largest and most influential Sufi Muslim orders, the Naqshbandi. (Naqshbandi is the name of his father meaning block printer). Baha-ud-Din was buried in his native village, Qasr-i Arifan, in 1389. In 1544 Khan Abd al-Aziz built over his grave a tomb and surrounding buildings. The Memorial complex is located 12 kilometers from Bukhara and is today a place of pilgrimage-Read: 11 principles of Naqshbandi  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baha-ud-Din_Naqshband_Bukhari

Just not enough time to write about all the people I have met, so in Cairo:

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In Urgut, Numon, a  6th generation potter

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Mustakam family , a story of persistence

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Bazaars Here candy seller in Samarkand

Meet Abdu Samadov, my guide throughout Uzbekistan with famous Samarkand bread. DSC_0843

My last afternoon in Uzbekistan was spent in a courtyard of a traditional Bukhara house. At the house of the famous miniature artist, Daviat Toshev, we at the national dish, plov (this time with quince and quail eggs).FullSizeRender Daviat invited musicians from the Drama school and here is a sample of their music. Shakir on the tanbur, Mustafo on the doira (percussion) and his student, Mirshod,  on the doira.  Here they play 16th century Persian poetry in the extinct language of Chagatai. (See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chagatai_language

(all rights reserved, copyright 2017 .To copy or re-produce photography and/or writings, written permission from Lesley Lababidi is required)