Oct 22, 2016
By Frances Fedden, recently returned from Uzbekistan, Exploring the Silk Road
Next departure: 27 September - 10 October 2017
Autumn is a beautiful moment to visit Uzbekistan, the clear golden light enhancing photography and the poplars and mulberry trees turning colour just as the last of the precious ‘white gold’ is harvested from the cotton fields. This is an extraordinary country of Central Asia, landlocked but pivotal for centuries in the exchange of goods and ideas brought by merchants with their caravans, along the ancient Silk Roads.
Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand: cities redolent of an exotic past, full of beautiful monuments and breath-taking tilework. Bukhara is one of the oldest cities in the world and to see a section of its ancient walls, left un-restored, is truly exciting. These walls were built to withstand invaders until 1220 when the fatal attack of Genghis Khan decimated the city.
The buildings that most evoke the romance and commerce of the Silk Roads, are the covered bazaars and caravanserai with their elegant domed roofs. Travelers and artists over the centuries have left us with lasting impressions of the jostling crowds, camels, bales of colourful silk and the gems that would have been found here. Nowadays, the fun is bargaining for Ikat silk and carpets under those same domes.
Throughout the trip the achievements of the Timurid Empire (14th and early 15th century AD) are a recurring theme, but also the disasters that befell those in the path of Tamerlane. What a fascinating character he was – incredibly and unbelievably cruel, yet able to foster a cultivated court, encouraging the arts, sciences and fine craftsmanship. He conquered a vast area from Turkey through to Syria, Persia, Central Asia and northern India. His buildings in Samarkand, his capital, are extraordinary and no one who sees the blue domes can possibly forget them, perhaps the most iconic feature of Uzbekistan.
The people are very friendly and welcoming and curious to know about us. You will be pleasantly surprised by the delicious, fresh food. Delicate green noodles with vegetables, little pumpkin pies warm from the tandoor, fresh warm bread and raviolis stuffed with cheese or vegetables poached in broth – and of course the huge yellow melons are legendary.