The silk paper factory at Konigil

When I first came across the term ‘Silk Paper” in one of the many museums at Khiva, I was intrigued as to what it was.

Was silk paper a special kind of silk that looked and felt like paper? Or was it the other way around where paper felt and looked like silk? Or was the term used to refer to the silk money of Khorezm? The answer, I found out later, lay somewhere between all this and a little beyond.

While in Samarqand, I took a break from visiting the many monuments there to go see a silk paper factory in a village called Konigil. Located about 10 km from Samarqand on the picturesque banks of the River Siab, the Meros Silk Paper Factory is a family run unit that has been in operation for about 12 years. During my visit there, not only did I get to know what silk paper was all about, I also saw the process that went into producing them, and got the opportunity to pick up some souvenirs !

#MyDreamTripUzbekistan, Samarqand, Travel, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, Heritage , UNESCO World Heritage Site, Samarkand, Koni Ghil, Koni gil, Silk Paper Factory Siab River, Meros Paper Factory

The River Siab or the black river

Continue reading

The blue city of Samarqand

Samarqand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, and is spread over three sites — the ancient settlement known as Afrosiab; the Timurid portion; and modern part of the city. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001, Samarqand is a contemporary of Rome and celebrated its 2750th birthday in 2007.

Located along the Great Silk Road at the crossroads of routes leading to Persia, India and China, Samarqand has drawn people from fields and from all over. It also attracted the itinerant travelers like Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta and purposeful conquerors like Alexander the Great and Shaybanid Khan alike. The former came out of curiosity; the latter to plunder or rule over its vast wealth. Samarqand drew me in as well, a modern-day traveler. If you have been following my Uzbekistan journey on this blog, then you will recall that it was a picture of a blue dome in Samarqand that had sparked of a desire to visit it.

I was in Samarqand for two days and got a glimpse of a fascinating past filled with myths, legends and historical events. I also saw many blue domes and many more works of art (see photograph below) that were in different shades of blue. The amount of blue was enough to dub Samarqand as the blue city and use that title for this blog post as well !:) .

#MyDreamTripUzbekistan, Samarqand, Travel, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, Heritage , UNESCO World Heritage Site, Samarkand, Blue city Continue reading

The Registan Square of Samarqand

The Registan Square in Samarqand is the city’s, and perhaps Uzbekistan’s, most recognised monument. In a way, it is to Uzbekistan what the Taj Mahal is to India. So it was not surprising that the Registan Square was the one place I was looking forward to visiting the most even before I set out for the trip in September 2015.:)

It was early evening when I arrived in Samarqand after a beautiful drive through the Zarafshan mountains from Shakhrisabz. As the car drove through the city towards the B&B I would be staying in, my first impressions were of an elegant and beautiful city filled with monuments. I kept an eye out for the Registan Square and even thought I glimpsed it, but could not be sure as the one way roads made me feel like we were going around in circles !

Once at the B&B, I was delighted to find from the very handy map given there that the Registan Square was just a 5 minute walk away. So after freshening up and some tea, I followed the directions on the map and within minutes was at the Registan Square. The sun had almost set and my first glimpse of the iconic monument complex was at twilight.

Time stopped still as I took in the magnificent sight before me and I think I had tears in my eyes as well. Over the next 2 days that I was at Samarqand, I would visit the Registan Square often, and each time it would be an overwhelming experience.

#MyDreamTripUzbekistan, Samarqand, Travel, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, Heritage , UNESCO World Heritage Site, Samarkand, Registan Square Continue reading

Shakhrisabz: The home town of Amir Timur

I arrived in Shakhrisabz after a 4-hour, uneventful ride from Bukhara. It was the first day of a 3-day public holiday in Uzbekistan for Qurban Hayit (or Bakri Id as we know in India) and the town appeared to be quite deserted.

Though I knew that the monuments would be open and my guide waiting for me, it was still a little unnerving to see empty streets and closed shops as my car drove into the town shortly before noon. I was surprised to see so few tourists in Shakhrisabz, especially considering the fact that it, or rather its historic city centre, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed in 2000). The harsh sun only accentuated the emptiness, as did a lack of green cover, which was ironical as I found out later that “Shakhrisabz” means Green City in English !

#MyDreamTripUzbekistan, Bukhara, Travel, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, Heritage , UNESCO World Heritage Site, Shakhrisabz, Shakrisabz

Remains of the old city wall of Shakhrisabz and a reconstructed potion

When I met Tursonay, my guide, one of the first questions I asked her was why there were so few people on Shakhrisabz here. Her answer was quite crisp and to the point: Shakhrisabz was not as grand or glamorous as Samarkand or Bukhara. But, she went on to add, the history of the region would have been very different if not for the most famous son of Shakhrisabz — Timur, Uzbekistan’s national hero. And for that reason alone, Shakhrisabz was important,

And over the next 2-3 hours that September afternoon in 2015, I got introduced to Amir Timur — as he is referred to in Uzbekistan — and got acquainted with his home town, Shakhrisabz.

Continue reading

Travel Shot: The hat with legs !

There I was walking down one of the many streets in the historical centre of Bukhara, idly looking at stuff being sold at the many pavement stalls lining the street. As I passed the stalls, I made a mental note of the interesting stuff that I could come back and have a closer look at later and perhaps pick up something to take back home with me. There were carpets, paintings, booklets, terracotta figurines, ceramic tiles, silk scarves, embroidered material, ikat products, hats…

I suddenly stopped at a stall selling hats. There were many hats, but one of them had caught my attention. And I stopped and stared with disbelieving eyes. I actually rubbed my eyes and tentatively reached out to touch the hat with ‘legs’ dangling from it.

#MyDreamTripUzbekistan, Bukhara, Travel, Uzbekistan, Central Asia, Shopping, Souvenir, BizarreEvery place has its share of the funny, quirky and the bizarre and this hat with legs was definitely my pick for Bukhara and Uzbekistan. I saw similar ones in Samarkand too ! It was a real hat in the sense that the fur was real as were the legs and the feet and the nails… of what I think was once a fox.  Continue reading

The Jewish Heritage of Bukhara

On the very first day of my Uzbekistan trip last September, I stumbled across something that was to add a new perspective to my trip, and give me lots to think about. There I was wandering around the Saviksty Museum in Nukus and looking at the various works of art when I came across this painting of a “Bukharan Jew”, by Y.U. Razumovskaya (Charcoal on Paper, 1927).

Karakalpakstan Museum of Art, Savitsky Collection, Nukus Museum

It was the caption that caught my attention for I was not aware of the presence of Jews in Bukhara or in Central Asia. Since I was curious to know more about the painting and the community the man in the painting represented, I asked my guide at the museum for more information. While the guide could not give me more information on the painting or its painter, she did mention that Bukhara was once home to the largest number of Jews in Central Asia. She said that while there were still Jews living in Bukhara, the numbers had come down drastically.

That night, as I waited for my dinner to arrive in my hotel at Nukus, I read up on the Bukharan Jews. Continue reading