Slice of the Silk route

Mountains and Cities of the Silk Road  – 

 

Krygyztan, an unassuming country where its’ mountains reach the skies, its’ nomads grounded to their traditions and where its’ horses, the sheep and the cattle roam freely in the valleys cuddled between the skies and the mountains. It has a spirit of a free nomad, a heart full of pride, yet very humble.

Our trip to this country was a revelation of how enormous an expanse could be and how tiny is our existence in relation!

In spite of its’ tremulous past of invaders and dictators, the people are peaceful, enterprising and their quest to keep their cultures and traditions alive very apparent.

Yurt living –

How is life here? How long do you spend living in the yurts? Why do you do this?” I ask the family matriarch in her yurt kitchen which I was fortunate enough to enter. – “We spend four months here on the summer pasture land every year. I like it because it’s peaceful,” she says. “When it gets too cold, we’ll go back to the town.” The teenage daughters were there to help the mother and were soon leaving to resume their university education. Traditions not stopping them to move forward in life.

On 3000m, sits the Son-Kul lake and on the shore are atleast ten yurts made available for the adventurous travellers eager to experience a drop of the nomadic life. It is only possible due to an enterprising venture called ‘CBT – Community Based Tourism’. We experience the Kryg hospitality, their breakfast of fresh fruit, bread and porridge, and homemade soups and salads. The night approaches and we tuck in our pre-warmed yurt waiting for the electricity to be turned off. Generators are life -saving over here so is water. Mornings are cold, yet crisp and sunny and coming out of the yurt, brushing your teeth in the open, the wild horses already grazing freely, backdrop of the beautiful lake, the experience is just so surreal, dreamlike! The modern world is really missing on this!!

After a two night stay, we were back on to the winding roads, bumpy and rough did not dampen our spirits and we just could not stop staring at the beautiful breathtaking peaks, a palette of warm colours and shadows emerging from the sun and the clouds. The famous 33 parrot winding road was the finale and a super shot which is now permanently imposed in our memories. These peaks and mountains were a complete backdrop or a foreground.

 

 

Slice of Silk Road – Tash Rabat

Driving along, you see the grass plains stretch out with the only movement herds of grazing horses grazing.  Towns are far between and sometimes they’re so small that you only notice a few houses or yurts and you think how many people have passed through this region over centuries.

A moving market was created for centuries connecting lands from the east, China through middle east, India and finally to Europe. Krygyszstan providing the super highway of this international trade. Not the Russian ladas or Toyotas , but camels and caravans of goods travelled in all directions, carrying wares to be traded.

And to support these traders, caravanserais sprung up on these highways, to meet the needs of the traders’ rest, food and security. Let’s say ‘Travelodge caravanserai’! So many have disappeared and some in ruins. However this caravanserai at Tash Rabat fitted our imagination. During the peak of the Silk Road era, it’s easy to imagine people gathering here to eat, drink and trade.

Camping near this mysterious site for two nights was such a bonus. Having got used to our previous stay in the Yurt at the lake, we familiarised ourselves pretty quickly. Again the young host family provided us with excellent fresh meals and a warm yurt to tuck in at night. We were getting used to the crisp sunny mornings and cold nights, when the last morning we all woke up with a carpet of unexpected snow on the grounds. This gave us an insight of how cold and uncomfortable it could be during the winter time!. This was the last group for our host family, and they were ready to go down to the valley into their comforts.

As we left the high altitudes, the silent and ghostly caravanserai behind, we kind of started missing the whole experience already! The serene beauty almost superseded the drop down toilets and the cold nights!

The downward journey through the winding route, the valleys, a few peaks up and then down took us to a comparatively modern town in the Naryn province. A homestay lunch completed our mountain experience.

Osh and crossing the border to Uzbekistan

Our week in Krygyztan was coming to an end. Our last stop in Osh, a busy town with majority of Uzbek population gave us our first taste of Uzbek hospitality. Our home stay lunch at an Uzbek family was very delicious. The family home had distinct Uzbeck architecture which was a stark contrast to simple Yurt setups.

Our crossing over to Uzbekistan by land was smooth but interesting, despite our group leader’s warning on delays

Our lovely host  – Mohhabat (means ‘Love’) head of the family – see above picture of Mohabbat and me!

Here we come Uzbekistan!!

Three main sites of historical interests in this country are Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.

Khiva , our first stop after a short flight from Tashkent to Khiva. It was walled Fort town, very rustic and organic. The surviving mud walls of the Fort gave the town a nostalgic feel. We walked through the narrow lanes lined with shops, cafes and through the old town,. Not as touristy and spoilt due to its somewhat inconvenient route, Khiva proved to be the most favourite stop in our group.

After admiring the beautiful tile work and mosaic turquoise dome that dominates Khiva’s skyline, we headed to the Juma Mosque which is unlike anywhere else we visited in Uzbekistan. The main chamber is divided by a muddle of 218 columns, some dating back to the 10th century. It hosts one of the oldest Fire Temple from the Zoroastrian era which was fascinating.

 

 

Bukhara – Our drive from Khiva to Bukhara was a long drive passing through the Kizikum desert, and a picnic style lunch on the way. Reaching Bukhara in the evening and resting straight into a hotel was the only best thing we could do. The next day was the day to see the town in its glory, starting with the Lyabi Hauz complex with a manmade pond and where the locals and the tourists join in to soak in the sun and culture.

Bukhara is an ancient city and was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval centre for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazaars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries.  The Ulugbek observatory is a surviving contribution from Temurid.

The people in Uzbekistan seemed to be more relaxed in their adherence to the Islamic traditions and the friendliness and the openness was quite apparent. We had groups of local women coming to us to be photographed with them and were warmly welcomed everywhere.

Local ladies enjoying their dance and music in the centre of the town market – I did join in later!

Samarkand – our final Silk route stop and a much awaited and an anticipated one. Having heard so much of its history and its beauty, we could not wait to arrive. Our evening arrival had a perfect timing as we were driven straight to the famous majestic ‘Registan’ –  a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, majolica-covered madrassas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries, and Gur-e-Amir, the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Timurid is hailed as a hero in Samarkand and the home to resting places of most of his family and for himself. The Bibi- Khanaym tomb and the Shahi-Zinda mosque and the tomb with their intricate green and turquoise mosaics clearly demonstrated the grandeur and talent which existed during those centuries.

Uzbekistan’s silk road cities were at the cross roads of culture and arts like silk carpet weaving, wood carving, gold jewellery and paintings thrived then and continue to do so.  It is a paradise for art loving shoppers!

Registan – the ultimate!!

 

Overall, our Uzbekistan trip was as interesting, although differing from Krygyztan. Each country offered us unique experiences, from nomads to merchants, these cultures and civilizations although intertwined, yet differed intensely, each one intent to keep their identity alive!

I would totally recommend this trip, specially via Wild Frontiers, as our lovely organised tour leader Anna made it all easy and left us to enjoy our adventure

Sept 2018 – Mountains and cities of Silk Route

 

Anna and us… struck a friendship!!!

Mountains and Cities of the Silk Road  – 

 

Krygyztan, an unassuming country where its’ mountains reach the skies, its’ nomads grounded to their traditions and where its’ horses, the sheep and the cattle roam freely in the valleys cuddled between the skies and the mountains. It has a spirit of a free nomad, a heart full of pride, yet very humble.

Our trip to this country was a revelation of how enormous an expanse could be and how tiny is our existence in relation!

In spite of its’ tremulous past of invaders and dictators, the people are peaceful, enterprising and their quest to keep their cultures and traditions alive very apparent.

Yurt living –

How is life here? How long do you spend living in the yurts? Why do you do this?” I ask the family matriarch in her yurt kitchen which I was fortunate enough to enter. – “We spend four months here on the summer pasture land every year. I like it because it’s peaceful,” she says. “When it gets too cold, we’ll go back to the town.” The teenage daughters were there to help the mother and were soon leaving to resume their university education. Traditions not stopping them to move forward in life.

On 3000m, sits the Son-Kul lake and on the shore are atleast ten yurts made available for the adventurous travellers eager to experience a drop of the nomadic life. It is only possible due to an enterprising venture called ‘CBT – Community Based Tourism’. We experience the Kryg hospitality, their breakfast of fresh fruit, bread and porridge, and homemade soups and salads. The night approaches and we tuck in our pre-warmed yurt waiting for the electricity to be turned off. Generators are life -saving over here so is water. Mornings are cold, yet crisp and sunny and coming out of the yurt, brushing your teeth in the open, the wild horses already grazing freely, backdrop of the beautiful lake, the experience is just so surreal, dreamlike! The modern world is really missing on this!!

After a two night stay, we were back on to the winding roads, bumpy and rough did not dampen our spirits and we just could not stop staring at the beautiful breathtaking peaks, a palette of warm colours and shadows emerging from the sun and the clouds. The famous 33 parrot winding road was the finale and a super shot which is now permanently imposed in our memories. These peaks and mountains were a complete backdrop or a foreground.

 

 

Slice of Silk Road – Tash Rabat

Driving along, you see the grass plains stretch out with the only movement herds of grazing horses grazing.  Towns are far between and sometimes they’re so small that you only notice a few houses or yurts and you think how many people have passed through this region over centuries.

A moving market was created for centuries connecting lands from the east, China through middle east, India and finally to Europe. Krygyszstan providing the super highway of this international trade. Not the Russian ladas or Toyotas , but camels and caravans of goods travelled in all directions, carrying wares to be traded.

And to support these traders, caravanserais sprung up on these highways, to meet the needs of the traders’ rest, food and security. Let’s say ‘Travelodge caravanserai’! So many have disappeared and some in ruins. However this caravanserai at Tash Rabat fitted our imagination. During the peak of the Silk Road era, it’s easy to imagine people gathering here to eat, drink and trade.

Camping near this mysterious site for two nights was such a bonus. Having got used to our previous stay in the Yurt at the lake, we familiarised ourselves pretty quickly. Again the young host family provided us with excellent fresh meals and a warm yurt to tuck in at night. We were getting used to the crisp sunny mornings and cold nights, when the last morning we all woke up with a carpet of unexpected snow on the grounds. This gave us an insight of how cold and uncomfortable it could be during the winter time!. This was the last group for our host family, and they were ready to go down to the valley into their comforts.

As we left the high altitudes, the silent and ghostly caravanserai behind, we kind of started missing the whole experience already! The serene beauty almost superseded the drop down toilets and the cold nights!

The downward journey through the winding route, the valleys, a few peaks up and then down took us to a comparatively modern town in the Naryn province. A homestay lunch completed our mountain experience.

Osh and crossing the border to Uzbekistan

Our week in Krygyztan was coming to an end. Our last stop in Osh, a busy town with majority of Uzbek population gave us our first taste of Uzbek hospitality. Our home stay lunch at an Uzbek family was very delicious. The family home had distinct Uzbeck architecture which was a stark contrast to simple Yurt setups.

Our crossing over to Uzbekistan by land was smooth but interesting, despite our group leader’s warning on delays

Our lovely host  – Mohhabat (means ‘Love’) head of the family

 

Here we come Uzbekistan!!

Three main sites of historical interests in this country are Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand.

Khiva , our first stop after a short flight from Tashkent to Khiva. It was walled Fort town, very rustic and organic. The surviving mud walls of the Fort gave the town a nostalgic feel. We walked through the narrow lanes lined with shops, cafes and through the old town,. Not as touristy and spoilt due to its somewhat inconvenient route, Khiva proved to be the most favourite stop in our group.

After admiring the beautiful tile work and mosaic turquoise dome that dominates Khiva’s skyline, we headed to the Juma Mosque which is unlike anywhere else we visited in Uzbekistan. The main chamber is divided by a muddle of 218 columns, some dating back to the 10th century. It hosts one of the oldest Fire Temple from the Zoroastrian era which was fascinating.

 

Bukhara – Our drive from Khiva to Bukhara was a long drive passing through the Kizikum desert, and a picnic style lunch on the way. Reaching Bukhara in the evening and resting straight into a hotel was the only best thing we could do. The next day was the day to see the town in its glory, starting with the Lyabi Hauz complex with a manmade pond and where the locals and the tourists join in to soak in the sun and culture.

Bukhara is an ancient city and was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, and a major medieval centre for Islamic theology and culture. It still contains hundreds of well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazaars and caravanserais, dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries.  The Ulugbek observatory is a surviving contribution from Temurid.

The people in Uzbekistan seemed to be more relaxed in their adherence to the Islamic traditions and the friendliness and the openness was quite apparent. We had groups of local women coming to us to be photographed with them and were warmly welcomed everywhere.

Local ladies enjoying their dance and music in the centre of the town market – I did join in later!

Samarkand – our final Silk route stop and a much awaited and an anticipated one. Having heard so much of its history and its beauty, we could not wait to arrive. Our evening arrival had a perfect timing as we were driven straight to the famous majestic ‘Registan’ –  a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, majolica-covered madrassas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries, and Gur-e-Amir, the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Timurid is hailed as a hero in Samarkand and the home to resting places of most of his family and for himself. The Bibi- Khanaym tomb and the Shahi-Zinda mosque and the tomb with their intricate green and turquoise mosaics clearly demonstrated the grandeur and talent which existed during those centuries.

Uzbekistan’s silk road cities were at the cross roads of culture and arts like silk carpet weaving, wood carving, gold jewellery and paintings thrived then and continue to do so.  It is a paradise for art loving shoppers!

Registan – the ultimate!!

 

Overall, our Uzbekistan trip was as interesting, although differing from Krygyztan. Each country offered us unique experiences, from nomads to merchants, these cultures and civilizations although intertwined, yet differed intensely, each one intent to keep their identity alive!

I would totally recommend this trip, specially via Wild Frontiers, as our lovely organised tour leader Anna made it all easy and left us to enjoy our adventure

Sept 2018 – Mountains and cities of Silk Route = Kashmira and Bharat

 

Anna and us… struck a friendship!!!

KASHMIRA - WIN_20180914_052542

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