Arriving at night, winding our way through narrow stony streets in the dim light of our headlights, could not have been more perfect. Then opening the large foreboding wooden doors to the oasis that was our hotel (or apparent oasis as it turned out) was everything we could have wished for.
Despite the pleasure on arrival, it wasn’t the place for a rest and relax – not for us. Contributing factors could have been – the bathroom that was a repurposed refrigeration unit – with a handle that didn’t work, less than clean bedding, a general feel of lack of attention to detail, being locked out of our room with no easy solution, o real clothes washing facilities and for the first time being around locals/staff who did not seem happy. But of course there is a reason for things – here we met Monesh and his family. Wonderful warm, friendly and helpful. His tips have definitely enhanced our stay. And of course he introduced us to the ineffable Firdavs! (A journalist with an encyclopaedic knowledge of Uzbekistan!)
Travelling in countries where you do not speak the language often means it’s a peripheral glance – without being able to talk or read its hard to gather much information other than what a guide book provides. Of course as English speakers we are incredibly fortunate with much of world now learning and speaking English.
Firdavs was our guide – originally it was to be just one day – but we all had such a good time – we stretched it out for another day. (Well actually Firdavs joined us on the second day and wouldn’t accept any fee for his assistance). More examples of the generosity of spirit of the Uzbek people and Firdavs in particular.
So we did explore the usual tourist hotspots, the Registan, Gur- E- Amir Mausoleum, Bibi- Khanyn Mosque, Hazrat-Hizr Mosque. We also spent our time at Afrosiab museum and the Observatory where history was brought to life in technicolor through stories and walking the same paths as people in ur history books. Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan – both commanding armies and known to us but Amir Timur and Mirzo Ugulbek were the ones that captured our attention. It was a clear example of how little we know about the history and the leaders of significance in other parts of the world.
The magnificence of the architectural vision, vastness of the majesty was at times overwhelming. Though at the same time it was hard to get enough of it. Day after day we returned to soak a little more in.
Lisbet – you asked if 100 days would be enough. No. A thousand days and nights would not be enough. This place has the majesty of a thousand lifetimes. And yes I know that sounds dramatic but it is so awe inspiring- in quiet space sitting reflecting on it all, trying to take it all in, you can easily be reduced to tears.
The architectural wonder is certainly the visual focus but understanding the purpose behind the design makes you love it even more. As one of the major hubs on the Silk Road Samarkand has always had visitors – so they designed with that in mind, places for travellers to rest, to eat as well as places for locals to learn. So education and knowledge and hospitality are foundations stones to much of the design. If you’re into science, check our Mirzo Ugulbek – his work in astronomy is astounding!
Seeing the architecture and knowing a little now about the country also helped us make sense of the textiles the images and icons used in Sozanis, carpets and soumak. As a weaver, Adrienne was right at home, now speaking the same language, the language of textiles. The delight on the weavers faces was obvious, finally someone who understood the complexity and value of their work. It was during one of these long chats – that Adrienne tied her first carpet knot!
Ceramics and textiles, more wonderful people, history brought to life through landscape and story, architectural splendour – so much to take in. Of course I have taken hundreds of photos – and you’d be seeing more of them is they didn’t take so long to upload. 😫
One of may favourite quotes from the prophet was “in battle with demon, one person with knowledge is better than a thousand ignorant prayers”. This reflecting the importance of the pursuit of knowledge – and perhaps one of the reasons behind the high literacy levels of Uzbeks.
There is of course more to tell and much more to see – but tomorrow we leave the wifi zone – such as it is – so short and sweet – for somewhere really too big to fully comprehend.
So below is a map of our journey to date (highlighted) and the finger pointing to our next major stop Bukhara (or Buxoro) on many maps. From there we’ll head further west to Khiva/Xiva then back to Tashkent and off to Khazakstan by early June.