Friday, August 14, 2009

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. … 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.

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