One of my esteemed readers (thank you, Murtala) recently commented, “Perhaps this incredible adventure is the longest travel in your life.” That sentence has stayed with me over the past month, turning it over in my mind, considering a lifetime of travel. And yes, it is the longest, intentionally studied, travel that I have attempted. However, my unparalleled adventure was when I followed my soon to be husband, in 1971, to Beirut, Lebanon, and found myself, within a year, in West Africa. In those days, communication was by post or a telephone call booked at the central telephone exchange. Then, water was boiled and filtered in a ceramic container; now, water is purchased in plastic bottles and everywhere! Forty-seven years later, the world has changed, significantly….email, mobile phones, Facetime, credit cards, ATM. Travel arrangements are confirmed and tickets are purchased over the Internet, no need to send a telex and wait days for a reply.
All packed and ready to go on the Silk Road. A term coined in 1877 by the German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen. The Silk Road was never a single road but a vast network of trade routes stretching from Xian (Chang’an) to the Mediterranean. Travelers have written about trade routes as far back as the Han Dynasty around 100 BC but ancient mummies in the sands of the Taklamakan Desert indicate travelers to China some 2000 years ago. In the twenty-first century, the Silk Road, has a new name, The Belt and Road, a development strategy focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, the People’s Republic of China, the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road to Europe. The exchange of goods and thought perseveres.
The years living in Nigeria and Egypt instilled the desire for continuous learning, which encouraged, though late in life, this journey through China and Central Asia. Study of Egypt’s five thousand-year history and Nigeria’s considerable diversity of people and culture prepared me for China’s immensely long and incredibly complex history. Empires have risen and fallen but the vastness of the territory from China to Central Asia is daunting to comprehend. First stop, Beijing…to be continued.