Thursday, August 27, 2009

and so it ended - trip to Uzbekistan and Turkey




the last evening spent in Khiva, in Uz, turned out pleasant and interesting as Dilshaad our wonderful driver invited us to his home to meet his family. His wife Muneera had laid out a wonderful spread for us......... as we seated ourselves comfortably on the floor cushions to enjoy the dinner his three children, Gulnara, Mutluba and Dil Murad joined us. With interest and curiosity in their eyes they watched us, the language and shyness was a barrier but the netbook and the pictures and video helped break the ice. Soon we were all walking outside as we saw the figs, pomegranates, tomatoes squash and other fruits and vegetables growing in their big back yard.............

we flew from Urgench to Tashkent later that night on a two propeller plane......it was a roller coaster ride, and a lot of focus on the breathing and the belly helped keeping what belonged inside the body in............at Tashkent we got a reprieve of two hours in the very new and posh hotel park turon, before the wake-up call and incessant knocking on the door, to help us get out in time for our flight; even at that early hour of 2:30 am we were given a bag of sandwiches, fruit and yogurt as a take away breakfast.

after the flight delay and being unsure of making our connecting flight we arrived in Istanbul, the hotel turkoman had sent the car and driver and soon we were settled in to our rooms..........the hustle bustle and the gorgeous weather was too enticing to sleep..........the haman or the Turkish bath was a real treat.....we were relaxed and later that night the sleep was much awaited and very refreshing........our final day in Istanbul was spent meandering the streets, and we ended the evening by taking the enjoyable ferry ride on the Bosporus to the asian side and met up with our friend Sevil Oren and her friends Kate and Jill at the yatch club........watched a beautiful sunset

the highlights of the last four weeks has been the discovery of different sites and sounds at airports, hotels, streets, and learning the history of the place..................all the people we met and saw will be remembered as they weaved themselves into our experience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Honoring my mother - who lived with gratitude

Aug 25, 2009


The spirit of the soul, lost this day, 20 years ago will be with me............As I celebrate my birthday, I celebrate his life….. ..my dear brother who would look at me with a reassuring smile and a twinkle in his eyes and say don’t worry be happy………..his essence lives on in Arij, Mariam and Alayna, and his presence remains with those he met………

Birthdays are an annual reminder that someone has been and is alive……the day also marks the X number of years since the person was born……….being alive is a celebration and the birthday is a reminder to rejoice……my wish for any birthday is to be glad that we are alive to celebrate the day………may each moment of your life manifest your thoughts………….

and so this journey ends in Khiva

Khiva is the last stop on the 17 days touring of Uzbekistan in Central Asia. Yesterday we drove west from Bokhara, and after driving for over five hours, which included a 3 hour drive through the dessert, we came into Khiva.
The hotel Mallika is across from the western gate or the Ota Dervaza of the Ichan Qala, which is the old walled city of Khiva; Ichan is also listed as a heritage site under UNESCO. I was informed that the city sees anywhere from 200 to 400 tourist going through it. The cost for spending one day in Ichan, with access to over 20 monuments and museums is about 20,000 sums, this includes the cost of taking photographs inside the monuments. We got a chance to see the artisans, bent over the wood piece or weaving carpets in their workshops. The wood used in Khiva is from the Elm tree, we saw beautifully carved doors, and cutting boards, and in the courtyard of the workshop we saw a huge gazebo, this is the kind of daybed with cushions for seating, when asked if this was on special order, they said no, we took 6 months to build this and now we wait for a buyer.
As we entered the silk carpet store, we saw the weavers creating their art in the the carpets they weave. The samples of their creation was a delight to see and touch. Many carpet designs have been taken from the miniature paintings. We saw the silk, and the process of softening and dyeing the silk. Now when I look at silk, and carpets it will be more than wow this is very beautiful , this visit has added another dimension of understanding the effort, skill and art in creating a silk carpet and this process will be remembered.
Watching the children as they approach the tourist, asking for candy or a pen, or even posing for a photograph……………the most interesting was when a teeny little girl, not more than two years old,, standing outside the store where a younger and an older woman were sitting, who I presumed to be her mother and grandmother, this little girl looked at us and with her hands pointed towards the table where some items for sale were displayed., and in her baby plus foreign language wanted us to look at the items and buy them. Her tone of voice and the inflection in her voice was the same as her mother uses to invite the tourist to buy.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Dinner Uzbek style - in Bokhara

today is the last day in Bokhara, eight days was a long time in one place.......faces start to become familiar..........

Mr. Fayzov Mumin and his wife Auliya and their young grandson Mirjon invited us for dinner. We arrived with a box of chocolates and wine and were greeted and led into the dining room............the table was laid with local dry and fresh fruit, a salad made of finely sliced beetroots, and another of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes..........we were offered fresh rose water to drink, along with some other fruit juices  Soon the warm somsas were brought, and a bottle of  local Bokhara red wine was opened.........the wine was sweet and was served in small bowls, a little smaller than the ones set aside for the green tea......... As part of their hospitality, we were soon watching an Uzbek action movie of kidnapping and murder. This movie was produced and acted by the sufi leader and his group..........midway through the conversation, and the many toastings, the movie was changed and soon we were watching the video of Uzbek and some Indian songs........by now we were into our next course of pilaf, sprinkled with carrots and topped with a layer of meat......the host mentioned once that the custom is to use your fork and eat out of the main platter, but no offence was taken when we took the serving in our plates.........as we sat back satisfied with our meal, listening to the music and discussing the history of the region, the last course of grilled meat (shashlik) was brought...........I was reminded of the tradition of sit down dinners, whereby one has to remember to only taste every course, less you offend the host/hostess by being unable to eat the last course...........the evening ended with the host sharing the family photographs.............Auliya, his wife does not speak english, joined in the conversation as it was translated for her..........she smiled all through, as she enjoyed her wine and offered us more food,  encouraging us to eat more..........as the evening ended and we got up from the dining table to leave, we were given a bag of home grown, dried mulberries............ with appreciation and gratitude as we said our goodbyes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In Bokhara - surrendering to the moment

as we walked around this morning........ through the cobbled streets of Bukhara, we suddenly found ourselves in front of yet another magnificent looking building........after taking photographs of the outside we ventured inside into a mosque....i forget the construction date, as nothing here is new, it is either a restored version after Genghis Khan grazed everything to the ground, or a renovation of a restoration.............
inside the building, the feeling which was evoked was of peace and of being someplace where one ceases to exist.........it reminded me of the sense I get after walking inside a church, temple or a syanagogue........or whenever i am awe struck..........seeing a beautiful sunset............a rainbow after the rain..........the waves in the ocean.........a bluer than blue sky..............anything that shifts the attention from me to something beyond, something more than the I........... as the "separation between the observer, the observed and observing" dissolves......... in that moment the heart becomes the place of worship and the awareness the silent prayer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bokhara and vicinity

We went to Chor Bakr, which means to visit the necropolis of the sufi saints............imagine my delight when our host turned, pointed at a tree and asked if the same tree grows in Pakistan, as he picked the fruit he said this fruit is supposed to lower blood pressure........I looked at the the cherry size berry, green in color and as I tasted it I was jumping in bliss, this fruit is called bayr........for the next half an hour I was more interested in bayr picking, and thanked all the departed souls for giving me the opportunity for this discovery.......were the saints cringing in their graves at this frivilous, desire fufilling gesture...............later after our touring of this wonderful site, we sat under the mulberry tree........one of the groundskeeper, Gulnora invited us to share the food brought by people as part of the offering (tabaruk)......... dumplings which were akin to small size parathas.........all was good

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ibn Sina

Ashfona is a small village where Ibn Sina was born more than 1000 years ago.............a scientist, mathematician, philosopher and a doctor are among the many areas he mastered.......we were also informed that he was the founder of musical therapy...........as I write these words I am disappointed at not having the knowledge nor the mastery of words to be able to describe his greatness and the magnitude of his contribution.

The museum, a medical school and a conference centre reside in the premises. The architecture of the buildings is new and we saw no tourists, the entrance was only 1000 cyms (soooms), compared to anywhere 3 to 7 times more for other sites. Mr. Momin a former executive from the tourism industry, was kind enough to suggest this trip and accompanied us to Ashfona. Accompanied by Mansur the guide they wanted us to see their 300 seating conference centre and we were offered tea and candy.

I stood in front of the statue of Ibn Sina, a silent gratitude in my heart....... in awe at the brain and the person that he was........believing that his essence lingers in the human consciousness

Monday, August 17, 2009

Warm days and cool evenings in Bokhara

As I wander through the streets of Bokhara I notice how this area, protected by UNESCo and encouraged by the tourists, is like being in an unreal world........ the past is remembered in the architecture, the old is restored and the new is built as a continuation of the old......  

I enter a carpet store, the weavers are setup in one corner and I walk over and watch how they weave, one knot at a time......  the salesperson rolls out carpets after carpets, and arouses my interest and desire to possess one of the beautiful pieces of art, I am mesmerised and transported in time.......the comments on the quality, the number of knots, the number of weavers and the length of time it took to weave, brings me back..........  I walk out of the store and feel the silk of the carpets on me.........my senses are infused with the indigo, turquoise, gold, red and greens............our mind has an amazing ability to create romance ........soon the reality becomes a reflection of what we perceive.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Samarqand sight seeing on August 14

I was mesmerised when I entered the observatory of Ulugbeg, he was the grandson of Amir Temur and ruled for about 40 years from 1404............he was an a astronomer and mathematician, the site of his observatory has been rebuilt and is now a museum.........a few words and the sample of some of his work........there was a simplicity surrounding the space.........greatness requires no explaination..... .......the brain is not restricted to time and space........

the next stop was Shahizindan..........this is a place worth a visit, if I try and describe in words then the words will not do justice to the way the mausoleums are laid out............climbing the stairs was like climbing towards the greatness that is signified in this tribute to the dead..........I turned back and the view behind was as magnificent as the view in front, and that around the corners and curves of the layout..........I felt a great calmness and peace within........ although we honor and remember the past with its heroes and leader, the past is not for the living...........the present is..... life is meant for living........

August 11 - On the Silk Route from Tashkent to Samarqand

The highway built on the ancient silk route is very smooth and wide. One notices fields of cotton, and fruit trees along the road.
We saw the roadside vendors selling melons, of different textures, colors and size. The vendors were always clustered in a row, so the different colors looked very appealing and inviting. We did succumb to the attraction of the fruit. As our driver went out to pick a piece for us, we saw a gypsy woman approach the car.…..she held a small pan with smoke emitting from the pan…there were some wayside weeds and herb burning in the pan…….interesting way to ask for charity or as she called it sadqa……….by moving the pan in a circular direction around a person , it is believed evil spirits are banished and prevents any misfortune from lingering around the person who is so blessed.
We noticed that at places the road had been blocked to one lane with speed bumps, this slows the vehicles down for security monitoring…….we continued the drive as the road wound around the Turkestan mountain range. We were careful with the liquid intake, and asked for one pitstop…….the bushes were a better alternative to the make shift toilet. …..as we continue our travels we notice that the toilets are not for the faint of heart, I once twitched my nose and looked at the woman monitoring the cleanliness of the toilets and she shrugged her shoulders as she said madam, toilet!!!
On to the entry in to Samarqand……….. the architecture of the ancient civilization, influenced by the Turks and the Persian empire is evident even in the new construction……. our attention was diverted to the side where the archaeologists are preserving the remains of the original city of Samarqand. I felt an emotion or feeling, it was so brief that it could only be felt, no label comes to mind…………
The Malika Hotel takes one back a few hundred years in its layout. I feel I am in the home of my grandparents, and their parents, as narrated by them and envisioned by me. The homes were called havali pronounced ha-vay-lee), with a courtyard in the centre and the access to the rooms through the courtyard ). A large covered porch with ceiling over 20 feet overlooks one of the courtyards, This porch has beautiful and inviting day beds, or takht (tah-kht) The size is about 6 ft by 10 feet, they are made of carved walnut wood, with cushions and bolsters for the seating. As I shed my slippers and climbed up with the notebook, I tried to be as graceful as I could, pretending to be a begum (lady) of the house, waiting for her tea, and family and friends to appear. I think where the twist in this imagination is that this could be the courtyard for the men, and it is the man of the house, sitting with his sheesha, and an audience in attendance. I like the part better where I am the mistress, and this is the ladies section, or better still I have transported this into the 21st century, and men and women sit together. I look towards my left and see two more of these beautiful takht………….on the right of me, there is a bar like area where they have beautiful rugs and some handicrafts displayed…… I look away so as not to be caught in this moment of temptation.

August 13 - Samarqand - Uzbekistan

inthe ancient city of Samarqand construction and restoration work is happening all around.......the people are happy to see tourists, and inspite of the language barrier and the heat of the summer I feel a stranger in a familiar land.

the drive from Samarqand to Shahrisabz was just over two hours......the best part was the drive around the mountains, on the Zeravshan range. Unexpected moments of beautiful view of the valleys and the surrounding moutains..........people working in the fields, as a child looks up and waves......the boy riding on the donkey, carrying a sheep as a passenger.............the smell of food mingled with the energy of the sun...........we reach the top of the range on our route, close to 2000 meters..........the air is fresh and we stop at the long line of vendors selling dry fruits............you could taste as much as you want and no one blinks an eye............the camera is a great magnet, as soon as you take it out, people are happy to pose for you...........

Amir Temur looks magnificent in stone, overlooking the park......a huge crowd of newly married couples with their entourage of photographers and friends........they come to be blessed by their past leader as it is a popular spot for the couples to take pictures.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tashkent - Uzbekistan















The early morning arrival at Tashkent airport created mixed feelings.....the airport was small, a little unorganized in search for forms in english, and further disorganized at the pre-customs....nothing too much, just a little glaring when one is used to living and visitng countries which have sustainabale processes in place.....the driver was waiitng for us as we emerged from the terminal and the early morning warmth and the drive through the clean wide roads of the city, soon brought the thoughts back to a feeling of eagerness and excitement....the new hotel, with its service and smile made the mind and body relaxed and ready to settle in for the 2 days stay in Tashkent. The Park Turon Hotel, offered comfort and a touch of hospitality of the east.
As we went sightseeing the city offered old buidlings, new renovations and remnants of the communist regime.........people were very friendly and warm and had a smile on their face, even with the barrier of the language the communication lines were open......a woman selling walnuts, was so intrigued when she saw the picture I took, she asked me to visit her in the mountains, where she lives. In an unexpected way the afternoon wait of over an hour became an opportunity to connect with the local people..... the camera became a point of interest as they posed while I took their pictures......a picture became worth a thousand words.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Dealer in intangibles - from Moscow airport

August 8, 2009

After spending 3 days in Istanbul it is time to move onwards to Central Asia…………a few words regarding Istanbul. We stayed with Sevil, a common friend, and in these three days I had a taste of Istanbul that staying in a hotel and doing the tourist activities would not have matched. Yoga and meditation by the Marmara sea………..watching and using the exercise machines setup in the park by the sea…..what a great idea, children have their play area and here I was seeing adults doing different exercises using the equipment……the days were spent relaxing on Sevil,s balcony, overlooking the sea…………evenings were spent in the area around Taksim……full of tourists walking around Bayoglu, We walked up to the Galata tower.
Last night we went to the open air convention organized as a partnering of Isuzu and the Turkish transportation. Great musical presentation, introductions and hand shakes……the live music of Turkish, French and English songs………as I looked up the full moon was waning, yet magnificent…….We ended the evening at a restaurant on the Bosphorous, called Dragon………what a magnificent view of Istanbul against the backdrop of the shimmering sea.

This morning we started our journey to Tashkent. The ferry ride from Bostanci (pronounced bos-tan-chi) to Bakirkoy took about 50 minutes, listening to the iPod as we sailed was a luxury ride in itself.

The wonderful people I met in Konya and Istanbul trip were the essence of this trip………..as I realized the world has many beautiful places to visit and see, but it is the people that turn the seeing into a feeling.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Moving on as i leave Konya - August 5, 2009

from the lobby of the the Dergah hotel, i sit and watch the mausoleum of Rumi........the memory of the twirling dervish and the Sema last night emerges......the full moon watching over the event, on the side and unobtrusive.....under the clear night sky......it is time to be......drink in and soak in the moment......as the soul becomes enriched.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sema ceremony - Konya Turkey

What is Sema......it is hearing, from the privacy of the Hidden Secret of the Heart... In the thousands of turns of the dervish, you see the joy turning within us, like wine without the glass.......... through the camera lens, i watched the Sema ceremony.....i am reminded that this is meditation in motion......the body language of the dervish and the significance of the arms....... first folded, then as one hand opens to the sky to receive, the other gives from the heart to the world.....outwardly it seems like a performance......yet in the midst of the onlookers.......they are centered without duality....one in their oneness.......
video



Full moon and the twirling dervish at the mausoleum of Rumi

Monday, August 3, 2009

Rumi in Konya, Turkey

the arrival in Istanbul was followed by a night ride to Konya. The bus ride was very comfortable and the hospitality of the East was reflected in the service......fresh water, tea, coffee, snacks, and wet wipes to keep everyone happy......

since our arrival in Konya, we were fortunate to be introduced to Esin Celebi, she is the 22nd generation descendant of Rumi. Esin took us under her wings, and the first 2 days were spent less as tourist....we wandered with Esin and were privy to all the little perks which a Rumi Foundation member enjoys.......we met many who did not speak English....Rumi and his poetry came back to mind....close the language door and open the window of love.