End March , Early April is replete with luring travel destinations but our group of 6 , been -there done -that women just couldn’t make up its mind !
Steered finally by the very attractive, very able , tireless Nandana , we set off to one of the only two doubly landlocked countries in this world .. wondrous Uzbekistan 🇺🇿 , the other being little Liechtenstein.
I had a hidden agenda . I wanted to meet my three year old god -daughter , Zoelle in Tashkent !
Her future had to be decided and the decision was not going to be easy .
Surrounded by land , some desert , some mountainous , Uzbekistan has cities which are each a breathtakingly beautiful ‘museum ‘ under the skies . Minarets poised like lighthouses with poems inscribed on their tiaras , gilded mosques with scintillating domes , mausoleums draped in precious jade and onyx , madrasahs ( universities )set in mulberry and elm lined courtyards , palaces of the ‘ khanate’ made of baked bricks, then decorated with tiles , each tile baked , painted ,glazed , numbered in brilliant hues of turquoise, azure , aquamarine . The Uzbek cities of KHIVA , BOKHARA , SAMARKAND simply dazzle !
Who could have created such magnificence you gasp in awe ??!.
And then you discover that it was our very own Shah Jahan’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather ….
Amir Temur !
(That’s 8 generations removed !)
Timur Lane lived from 1336 to 1405 AD . He was the nomad conqueror king who brought artisans and treasures from all the lands he conquered along the erstwhile conduit of that time ……the Silk route!
Apart from trade in spices , silk , cotton , wool gunpowder , Art in a fusion of unique styles ( Arabic , Persian , Zoroastrian, Mongol, Afghan , Chinese Han , Jewish ) germinated !
Pictures cannot capture the beauty , the symmetry, the grandeur!
Perhaps you can see it in Saloni’s eyes as she looks up at the great dome in Samarkand .
She , by the way , is the sweetest gal with a flair in understanding subtle nuances of different languages !
This talent was extremely helpful in a country where roughly 5 % speak English , the rest Uzbek , Russian ,Turkic , Tajik!
The Silk route , we learnt , was neither a road nor a route . Rather , it was a network of pathways traversing Central Asia over land from China to Turkey and back again … well before sea travel was discovered!
Here is a pictorial depiction of the silk route , in miniature !
Caravan Serais or resting posts were set up every 40 Kms or so ,where travellers could rest and goods be traded .
Marketplaces and Townships developed around the Sarais , auguring for a robust exchange of goods and an equally robust exchange of art ,culture , ideas ! Puppet processions , like the one we saw in Khiva must have been commonplace !
So also , a money changer on wheels , then likely on horseback !
Each Sarai -city became a bazaar capital and a festive cultural hub , a place of learning ( madrasahs )!
It was amazing to learn that ‘ Ghazals ‘are a gift by the legendary Uzbek poet and mystic Alisher Navoi ( 1441-1501AD ) to the Indian subcontinent!All part of the Silk Route wonders !
In fact , and I quote , ‘Few places on Earth have given ‘literature ‘ the importance it attained in Central Asia, where mighty and meek composed, recited, listened to or read, and lived with poetry as their constant companion.”
Here is a picture of a bactrian camel , the ship of
the desert .
Arts and crafts flourished! And How !
‘Suzani embroideries , zardosi ,
Carpet weaving etc , metal works , pottery !
Girls had to stitch and display several pieces of Suzani embroidery 🧵before they got married ..
the favourite motif being the pomegranate .. signifying prosperity / abundance / fertility / good fortune !
The land was rich !
It is said that children used to play with gold coins in the paradise land of Samarkand !
And if anyone doubted the power of the court of Amir Timur , he would simply say , ‘ Come ! See our buildings !’
Beholding the 18 kg buckskin parchment of the Quoran at the Hast Imam complex in the potentially seismic city of Tashkent was humbling .
This 7 th century AD Old manuscript is calligraphed in ancient Arabic and preserved as well as it can be .
We couldn’t take pictures but here is a copy …
The observatory built by Amir Timurs Grandson Ulugh Begh was a revelation too ! How clever was he !
How the heck did people manage centuries ago with no internet / no wifi to assist ??
The most accurate of calculations were made with precision using the simplest of tools ! See the angle of the ‘Light ‘ my friend , use sextants , astrolabes !
Use your eyes !!!
Entering the airy home of world famous miniaturist Toshev Davlat in Bokhara was a delight . After a specially curated Uzbeki meal of mutton soup , eggplant and cheese rolls, fresh salads and bread we were swirled almost like dervishes by his hypnotic Sufi discourse .’’ It is not important where a child is born , it is how and where the child is nurtured that is important ‘’
And true to that , he had adopted 35 children under his wing, teaching them the art of miniature painting , free of cost !
Opening new doors to life ! Mashallah !
Arty and hearty ! Just like YOU , NANDANA , I reflect !
Bibi Hanums ‘ikat ‘ house ( named after the wife of Amir Timur , er … one of them !) had us in a tizzy too !
No point in discovering a new land without bringing home memories …
So here I am displaying ‘ several ‘ of them …
An ikat velvet jacket !
Thank goodness , Soha , the girl who knows her weaves well , approved !
No messing with her , she has even written a well researched treatise on sarees!
Well if you think that was enough .. it isn’t !
You can’t come home from Uzbekistan without
a carpet , a camel bag and a smaller one for good measure !😊
Thankyou Neomy ….for your innovative skills in making light of these tapestries and somehow reducing the excess baggage bill !
Too bad I couldn’t get back any Rishtan pottery or Khiva puppets …
But took solace in the fact that I did manage a top hat ……
…., So useful to keep the Mumbai cold out ☺️!
And some half eaten Samarkand bread !😊
A big ‘ Raakhmat ‘ to Toshev ! In his ‘sage ‘words , lay the answers to my dilemma .
Please do note my Suzani Shawl !
‘Raakhmat ‘ too to our very capable tour guide ,
Atabek , and to our travel guides, Inyesta , Dennis , Gul , and Marie .
Also a big hug to my very wise ,very practical friend -for -all seasons Shaila … what would I do without you ?! Or your travel plug , your charger , your nail cutter , etc etc !
Most of all …..,,To you , NANDANA!
You took the lead , went all out and MADE things happen !
‘’The sure fire ‘’trait of greats !’’
Till our next … 👋!