Friday, September 16, 2016

Necropolis, Samarkand

Registan Square Samarkand

Babushka and Grandson Khiva

Flowers for First Day of Schoo,l Bukhara

At Madrassa Site, Samerkand

Bride and Groom, Samarkand


Greetings at Bazaar in Samarkand

Man at Tomb of Tamur in Samarkand

Woman in Bukhara

Horses in Kyzilkum Desert

Yurt Camp and Morning Clouds


First Day of School


Big Old City Wall and Small Man

Golden Smile

Old Man in Khiva

Blog From Uzbekistan
September 16, 2016

Salaam Alekum!  Drasvicha!!
Greetings in Uzbek and Russian!

We arrived in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on August 31, 2016 to tour the Silk Road, but when we told people we were going to Uzbekistan many people didn't know where Uzbekistan is.  Uzbekistan is in Central Asia, and borders the other "stans".  Kazahkstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
The Silk Road is the route that silk merchants traveled from China.

We had never been in that part of the world before, but to say the least, it was great:  Food, people, ancient sights, customs -- everything.

And interestingly, Uzbek is very similar to Turkish - many words the same, so communication was a bit easier than we had expected since we both know Turkish from when we lived there in 1960.  Also,  Uzbeks speak Russian, and Peter knows a little, enough to just get along. 

Uzbekistan is perhaps the cleanest country we have ever visited.  Wide tree lined streets, modern building, very little traffic, along with the mix of 2,500 year old buildings and sights.

When we arrived the President was in a coma, and no one knew if he was alive or dead.  Alas, he died about 3 days after we arrived.  Islam Karimov was the first President of Uzbekistan, and 3 days of mourning followed.  All was peaceful.  No coups or threats.

Uzbekistan is 95% Muslim, but is a non sectarian country.  No public praying or other public religious observances,  And for a photographer, it was easy to photograph Muslim women as you shall see.

Tashkent is the capital with many government building, nice shops, and open air bazaars and markets with everything you can imagine, and very fresh.  Much of Tashkent was destroyed by an earthquake in 1966 and rebuilt by the Soviets.

We flew to Urgench in order to drive to Khiva, about 7 hours on excellent roads.  Our car was a Chevy and nearly all cars there are Chevy sedans, since they are manufactured in Uzbekistan.

Khiva is an ancient, several thousand year old walled city.  Quite small so it is easy to see it all.  Norbek was our driver there and for the rest of the trip.. Saida was our knowledgeable and friendly guide.

In Khiva, we saw many brides and grooms who had just been married and were parading themselves through the old city, being photographed and video taped.  Most with white gowns and suits, but some with traditional dress.  By the way, because of the Muslim culture the brides must be virgins, and couples do not live together before marriage.

Even though we were jet lagged, we still were able to visit all the places we had planned to see. The food was great:  Green noodles which are hand made with parsley juice, plov (rice, onions, carrots, lamb, and oil).  Plov is a national food, eaten only at lunch.  Great bread (Non) cooked in a tandoor oven.  Ate delicious melons, including torpedo melons. Much of the food is Russian, since the Russians came in 1868, and in 1920, Uzbekistan become one of the Soviet Republics until 1991 when it gained independence.

Saw a lot of cotton and rice fields.  Cotton is the biggest crop, accounting for the largest export in the world.  All land is owned by the government and rented to the farmer and the farmer is told what and how much to plant.

Norbek our sweet driver and Peter had a lot of fun speaking Turkish.  Norbek lived in Ankara, Turkey where he attended University, and we also lived in Ankara.

The faces of the Uzbeks are very interesting - Tatars, Mongolians, Russians, etc.  And great to photograph.

We drove to Bukhara.  Stayed in very Russian hotels.  Breakfasts included kasha (Uzbek/Russian for hot cereal), blintzes, cheese pancakes, sweet farmer cheese, eggs, and the best fresh sweet melons.  Bukhara is very old, very clean and very well preserved. 

Bukhara had a large Jewish population which dwindled to now very few.  We visited both Ashkenazi and Sephardic synagogues.

Everyone wipes their silverware off so we did, well Hinda did anyway, and fresh compote juice.

Uzbekistan was hot  in the high 90's but mornings and evenings were delightful and comfortable.

Next we drove to the Kyzilkum Desert to stay in a yurt.  Comfortable, and nice to see the stars through the open roof, and fell asleep to Uzbek folk singing. In the morning, Peter's glasses broke.  Norbek said he could have them repaired but it seemed they were too broken for that, but he insisted they can do anything in Uzbekistan, we made a bet, two days later he told us the glasses were sent to Moscow on a special plane and lo and behold he gave them back as good as new. Peter lost the bet and Norbek got a very healthy tip. If this had happened in the USA, we would have thrown the glasses away and bought new ones, since we live in a throw away society. On the drive to Samarkand, many trucks from Iran and Turkey.  Stopped for tea, and ate fresh tandoor non - bread. 

85% of the people in the country are under 25, so there are not enough schools, thus morning school for some, and afternoon school for others.

On the way to Samarkand, we visited a family owned, multi generation ceramic factory where everything is made by hand and bought a beautiful dish.  Abdullah was the one who made our dish. He has been around the world showing his craft and has been in Santa Fe many times. We are so happy to have one of his pieces.

On to Samarkand, another 5 hours or so.  Our favorite city in Uzbekistan.  Lots of beautiful tiled mosques and madrasas - Muslim schools.  There is also a Jewish school in Samarkand, but it is open to all children, who also study Hebrew.

In Samarkand, is where Amir Timur (Tamerlane), lived and is buried.  Very beautiful tiled mausoleums, mosques, madrasas, and other buildings, many from the 11th Century, as in all of the cities we visited.   But also very modern universities and medical schools.  Feels very cosmopolitan, good restaurants and coffee shops.  In one of the restaurants we ate Chicken Kiev, which we haven't had since we left Turkey in 1962, and it was just as good as we remembered.

In our hotel there, a very traditional Russian hotel, brides and groom came to be photographed several times a day.  Lots of fun to watch and also photograph them myself.

Samarkand is where paper from Mulberry trees is made using the same ancient process.  Supposed to last for 1,000 years.  Very interesting hand made process using only hand done processes and water wheels, and heavy stones to make the paper.

Some other foods:  shashlik - shish kabob, pelmeni, samsa, manti, borsh, nan.  Delicious. All food is prepared when you order it, so it takes a while.  Only Plov is made ahead of time in huge vats.  And of  course roast lamb. In Uzbekistan horse meat is often eaten, we did not partake.

Uzbekistan is 12 time zones later than Seattle.  A 19 hour flight on 3 planes and two changes.  On the way home we had a 9 hour layover in Istanbul, in the middle of the night.  So we rented a room at the airport hotel and got a little rest.

We said goodbye to Norbek in Samarkand, his home, and boarded a high speed train for a 2.5 hour trip back to Tashkent.

In Tashkent on our final day, we wanted to see an exhibit of fine ceramics including those from Abdullah, but everyone told us to go to a different place and finally with Peter's limited Russian and phone calls to Norbek, we finally succeeded in finding the Gallery of Fine Arts.  After we stopped in a very upscale neighborhood for coffee and met a group of medical students.  Very nice!!

Back home on September 11 tired, jet lagged and happy.

Hyer!  Dasvidanya!  Goodbye in Uzbek and Russian!

Peter and Hinda