Monday, March 25, 2019

Tashkent: Farewell Grand Orzu Hotel

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The facade of the Grand Orzu Hotel, Tashkent
As many Uzbek Journeys travellers know, the Grand Orzu Hotel in Tashkent was my home away from home.

For many years I stayed there, always in suite #48. I had made peace with the curtains, the noisy and almost broken air conditioners, the towel rack that regularly fell down. I replaced the dreary paintings with artworks from friends.

So why did I stay there? And why did I use this hotel as the Tashkent base for my clients until just two years ago?

Because the staff were wonderful: what they may have lacked in expertise they readily made up for in enthusiasm and sweetness. (Once I caught the flu and the restaurant manager herself made chicken noodle soup and brought it to my room).

The staff were all well-educated people, who, although during Soviet times had professional work, now needed better paying jobs, e.g. my cleaner Oksana was a meteorologist. Another had been a language teacher and helped me with my Russian homework. There was nothing "slick" about the Grand Orzu or the people who worked there, but the atmosphere was special.

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On a hot summer's day this pool was perfect for a dip
The courtyard was exceptional and very rare in Tashkent. Climbing red roses bloomed twice a year and surrounded the small, refreshing swimming pool. Traditional tapchans (raised platforms for eating and sleeping) edged the courtyard. How lovely to sit there in the evening, sipping a beer or wine.

The location was super: Caravan restaurant just across the road as well as Georgian, Japanese and Central Asian cafes nearby. It was an easy 20-minute walk to the State Fine Art Museum, Babur Park 5 minutes by foot, Ulughbek Holmuradov's jewellery boutique just around the corner and Askiya bazaar a further 5 minute walk from there.

And now it has closed its doors. A new Grand Orzu will open in 2020 in nearby Nukus Street. The original building is slated for demolition soon. Like all the Central Asian capitals, land is expensive. Too expensive for a small, cosy hotel. The space will house a multi-storey apartment block.

To all the staff who looked after me, I thank you and hope that you have found work in Tashkent that suits your skills.

To my travellers who were sometimes a little taken aback by its "on-the-verge" of shabbiness, thank you for not complaining too loudly.

Vale Grand Orzu.

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The courtyard was a perfect place for breakfast and a relaxing, evening drink after exploring Tashkent

Related posts:
Uzbekistan's Secret Underground
Tashkent Nostalgie - Eugene Panov's Exhibition, Tashkent
Seismic Modernism - Architecture and Housing in Soviet Tashkent
Pushkin in Babur Park, Tashkent 

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Kyrgyzstan: A Week at Anna and Sergei's Guesthouse in Tamga

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View of the garden at Anna and Sergei's guesthouse, Tamga
On the rugged, south side of Lake Issyk-kul, lies Tamga.

Once a thriving town servicing the famous sanatorium - where cosmonauts and sports people trained and recuperated in the heyday of the Soviet Union- today it is a dusty Kyrgyz village.

And well worth visiting.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour we spend one night there, in Anna and Sergei's charming guesthouse with the loveliest garden I know in Kyrgyzstan.

For many years I have enjoyed Anna's scrumptious meals made with vegetables, fruits and herbs straight from the garden, accompanied by homemade wine. Sergei, handy man extraordinaire, has repaired clients' spectacles, made a walking stick and fixed zippers on suitcases.

Late last summer, I decided to spend a week there - what a treat!

Sergei and Anna are childhood sweethearts - he was Father Frost and she the Snow Maiden at a school New Year's play. Sergei, who trained as a beekeeper in Soviet times, was born in the house: his parents worked at the sanatorium.

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The tree house - a private spot to sip tea and read
It reminds me of childhood holidays. The garden is full of secret places dotted with small pavilions, where you can lie down and read for hours in absolute quiet. Fragrant flowers bloom in spring and autumn, and the apple trees are laden.

There is a tree house - complete with wifi! I played table tennis with other guests - many families from Kazakhstan and Bishkek come every year to this special place. There are a couple of bicycles and a sauna - make sure you wear the special Kyrgyz embroidered sauna hat!

Every morning Sergei drove guests to the nearby beach - golden sands lapped by the shimmering, clear water of Issyk Kul lake. He picked us up again for lunch and was happy to take us back to the beach later in the afternoon. There are other nearby excursions which Sergei can arrange:
  • the remarkable Fairy Tale Canyon, about 10 kilometres away;
  • the Tamga Tash stone decorated with Tibetan inscriptions;
  • day hikes;
  • waterfalls in the Barksoon gorge.

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Your hosts Sergei and Anna
I pottered about the village every afternoon. The small Dr. Zhivago - style homes have gardens burgeoning with fruit and vegetables.

Frequently the owners rushed out to give me plums and apples, saying that there was too much fruit for their families and neighbours.  The nearby cemetery - Orthodox and Muslim sections - is testimony to Tamga's former status as a thriving Soviet community.

If this is the sort of break you need, I encourage you to stay with Sergei and Anna. The south side of Issyk Kul is quiet, far from the high rises that dot the more popular north side.

Rates are so reasonable - about US$30 for two people with breakfast and dinner included. There is no menu - rest assured that whatever Anna cooks is delicious. Her zapekanka, a cottage cheese pie, served occasionally at breakfast, is a stand out. During my week there, Anna never prepared the same meal twice.

Sergei can arrange transport from Bishkek (about 4 hours 30 minutes) and Karakol (1 hour 30 minutes).  More photos below of the guesthouse and the village.

Contact details:

Email: sergei-hutor@mail.ru
Tel: +996 770 567 508/ +996 770 436 734
Address: 8 Podgornaya street, Tamga

Related posts:
Kyrgyzstan: Monumental Art in the Provinces (Images of mosaics in Tamga sanatorium)
Kyrgyzstan's Bus Stops
Kyrgyz Blues
Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums

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The beach at Tamga
 
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Huge tray of apricots drying in Anna's garden
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Tamga's main street
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Another sweet nook in Anna and Sergei's garden
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A grave in Tamga's Muslim cemetery


Monday, February 11, 2019

Buy Original Ikat Items by Dilyara Kaipova - Uzbekistan's Foremost, Modern Textile Designer

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Kaipova's "The Scream" on the loom in Margilan, Ferghana Valley Image: Dilyara Kaipova


For lovers of ikat textiles, this is a rare opportunity.

Dilyara Kaipova, whom I think is the most innovative artist working in Uzbekistan today, has made (on her *hand treadle* sewing machine) some wonderful cushion covers and scarves from her exhibition fabrics, exclusively for sale from Uzbek Journeys.

Supply is very limited as the pieces are made from the last lengths of her fabrics.

All pieces are handwoven from 100% organic, natural-dyed cotton grown in the Ferghana Valley, in eastern Uzbekistan. Working with masters in the ikat weaving centre of Margilan for over five months, Kaipova produced classical, hand-woven fabric infused with Mickey Mouse, The Scream, Alien, Batman, and, as Uzbekistan prepares to build a uranium power plant, her Anti-Nuke protest.

Kaipova has noted, with respect, that although those masters thought she was a little loopy, they worked enthusiastically with her, creating these magical works.

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Pale gold and black Mickey Mouse design - traditional Uzbek chapan (coat) Image: Dilyara Kaipova


Originally a puppet maker, award-winning Dilyara has had solo shows in Tashkent, Bishkek and Tbilisi. She is now collaborating with designers in Europe and Russia.

Her first textile project "Captain Ikat" explored how traditional arts - in this case ikat fabric - can absorb and be devalued by symbols and cliches of mass culture. Yet the paradox is that these same cliches can also invigorate and transform national traditions. The fabric, even when woven with designs of Mickey Mouse or Batman, magically still came alive.

There are several posts about her on this website:

The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Dilyara Kaipova Conquers Bishkek at the Asanbay Center
Dilyara Kaipova Strikes Again at the International Applied Arts Festival, Tashkent

The BBC (Uzbek language) has written about her and the Alliance Francaise, Tashkent, arranged a hugely successful show in 2018.  (An interview, in Russian, in which Dilyara discusses her work and philosophy is available on YouTube).

And now you have a chance to pick up a small masterpiece made from the last metres of her ikat fabric. Plus you would be supporting a rare and original artist.

Designs: (Large size images below)
  •    The Scream (Edward Munch)
  •    Mickey Mouse
  •    Alien
  •    Anti Nuke
Cushion covers are 35 cms x 35 cms/13.7 inches x 13.7 inches. Zipper closing, matched to main colour.

Price: US$30 each

Scarves are 148 cms long x 38 cms wide (58 inches x 15 inches).

Price: US$60 each 

How to buy: Please contact Uzbek Journeys and I will advise about payment and postage, based on your location. I am happy to send additional photos and answer any questions about these small masterpieces. The colours are fabulously vivid.

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Stunning ikat scarves from Dilyara Kaipova. Image: Dilyara Kaipova


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Alien ikat cushion cover. Image: Dilyara Kaipova


Antinuke ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova

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Antinuke ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova

dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Mickey Mouse ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova


The Scream ikat cushion cover. Image Dilyara Kaipova


dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Masters in Ferghana making the fabric prior to weaving. Image: Dilyara Kaipova

dilyara kaipova handloomed ikat designs buy, uzbek ikat modern designs, art craft textile tours uzbekistan
Dilyara Kaipova







Related posts:
The Fantasy World of Uzbek Textile Artist Dilyara Kaipova
Dilyara Kaipova Conquers Bishkek at the Asanbay Center
The Story of Uzbek Ikat Production: Step by Step