Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Central Asian Art and Craft Books: Holiday Reading

steppe magazine cover featuring kazakhstan
Cover Steppe Magazine Issue 9
The week before Christmas a stack of books about Central Asia arrived. I plan to laze about reading them during the holiday season. What a treat!

Firstly, the latest issue of Steppe Magazine is here.  It is devoted to Kazakhstan: profiles of artists, musicians, and a restorer of ancient artefacts. The feature stories take in wild fruit forests, tulips, tus kiiz (beautiful embroidered yurt hangings), Kazakh film, and a journey across the steppe by train.

Steppe Magazine is truly worth subscribing to: an online subscription is just US$20 and you get access to all the back issues.  My preference is a hard copy subscription. The photography and articles are superb; I dip into my issues all the time. It's a perfect gift, too.

tent bands from central asian yurts
Tent bands
Next is the catalogue from an exhibition I saw in 2007 at the Textile Museum in Washington: Architectural Textiles: Tent Bands of Central Asia by Richard Isaacson. Isaacson is a retired physicist, who has simultaneously pursued a strong interest in art and oriental carpets.

As he writes, "the trellis tent, or yurt, is a brilliant invention. It has made nomadic life possible across Central Asia for at least one and a half millennia. An important component of its construction is a woven tent band which girdles the lower part of the wooden roof struts. This critical engineering element provides the tension necessary to brace the roof dome against outward collapse under the load of heavy felts and the force of strong steppe winds".

Beyond serving a utilitarian function, tent bands are often elaborately decorated.These are not little narrow bands: these are 30 - 35 cms wide, exquisitely woven and highly decorated bands.  Each band is many metres long, as it has to go around the the whole yurt; the ends of the bands are braided. Here is a 2-minute video clip of the exhibition in which Mr. Isaacson and the curator discuss the exhibtion.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour you spend one night in a yurt at Ayaz Qala, where you can admire the tent bands. The next day you visit the Savitsky Museum in Nukus, which not only includes a beautifully decorated yurt but also has a fine collection of tent bands.

cover of claudia antipinas book krygyzstan
Cover of Antipina's 'Kyrgyzstan'
Then there is the splendid book Kyrgyzstan by Klavdiya Ivanove Antipina, which documents Kyrgyz costumes over the last 150 years. Antipina was an ethnographer, who, during her studies in Moscow, was branded an 'enemy of the people' and exiled with her son to Kyrgyz SSR in 1934.

She was finally able to obtain a post as a travelling teaching adviser that took her all over the country, especially the south. It was only after Stalin's death in 1953 that she could officially complete her studies, graduating with a PhD in 1962. She journeyed by horseback documenting the craft, costumes and customs of Kyrgyz nomads as they were being forced into sedentism. Antipina devoted her life to this research.

kyrgyz headress fr claudia antipinas book krygyzstan=
Elechek headress, northern Kyrgyzstan
Tragically, Antipina's text disappeared before a definitive book was published. Three years before her death in 1996 (aged 92), she was interviewed about the lost text and all aspects of traditional Kyrgyz costume. In 2006 this book, produced from the transcripts of those interviews, and now a seminal source of information on Kyrgyz costume and embellishment, was published in Italy. The illustrations, based on Antipina's photographs from her travels, are by Temirbek Musakeev, with whom Antipina collaborated.

My final splurge is a German/English volume of Max Penson's work 'Usbekistan: Dokumentarfotografie 1925-1945'. I have written elsewhere about Penson's photography and this is the only English publication I know of some of his works.

Swiss couple Oliver and Susanne Stahel purchased this portfolio of prints taken between 1925-1945. The images document the massive transformations taking place at that time.

max penson photograph of tashkent women 1920s
Tashkent street scene
As Russian film pioneer Sergei Einstein said of him "Penson's unparalleled photo archives contain material that enables us to trace a period in the republic's history, year by year and page by page". This book is hard to come by and I am thrilled to have a  copy. 

There are more titles in my pile, but these are the first I'll be reading. All the details about these books are noted in the book list section of this website.

Related posts:  Holiday Reading 2013: Central Asian Titles
Holiday Reading: Central Asian Titles (2012)
Max Penson: Uzbek Photography between Revolution and Tradition 
Jamilia: A Kyrgyz Love Story 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Karakol: A Frontier Town in Kyrgyzstan

Roof detail Dungan mosque; image Sue Byrne
Karakol, wedged between the eastern tip of Issyk Kul lake and the Tian Shan mountain range, began life as a garrison town for the Russian Imperial Army in 1869. Settlers followed, drawn to the fertile lands of the region.

The Russian explorer and Great Game player Nikolai Przhevalsky used Karakol as a base camp for his expeditions into Central Asia and China. (The town is 150kms from the Chinese border). He died of typhoid here in 1888 and the town was renamed after him in honour of his life and work.

In 1921 Lenin renamed it Karakol, then Stalin changed it back to Przhevalsky in 1939, the centenary of the explorer's birth. In 1957 a small museum and garden were built as a tribute to Przhevalsky. At Kyrgyzstan's independence in 1991 its name reverted to Karakol.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Karakol
The wooden Holy Trinity Cathedral, constructed in 1895, has been restored and reconsecrated. In Soviet days it was a dance hall and later a school. It holds several important icons salvaged from nearby Svetly Mys, the nearby hamlet where the Christian apostle Matthew is said to be buried.

There is also a Chinese mosque in Karakol: Dungan mosque, built in 1910 entirely of wood without a single nail. The Dungans fled China during the Han Chinese retaliation after the Muslim uprising in the north west in the 19th century. Instead of a minaret the mosque has a wooden pagoda. A Dungan community still lives in Karakol.

Khan Tengi, sunset
The town retains a small section of Russian colonial 'gingerbread' buildings and, with its parks and poplar-lined streets, there is a gracious air.  Not so gracious, perhaps, but very exciting, is Karakol's famous Sunday livestock market to which nomads flock to trade sheep and horses.

Today Karakol serves a base for various outdoor activities, especially mountaineering expeditions to the Enlichek glacier and the mighty peaks of Jengish Chokusu (formerly known as Pobeda, 7439 metres) and Khan Tengi (7,010 metres). In winter Karakol is a popular resort for skiing and snow boarding.

Uzbek Journeys arranges excursions to Kyrgyzstan before or after the Uzbek tours; these include a visit to Karakol. In 2013, I plan to offer a combined Uzbek-Kyrgyz tour that will include visits to the felting and design studios of Kyrgyzstan as well as time in the mountains.

Related post: Jamilia: A Kyrgyz Love Story
5 Reasons to Visit Kyrgyzstan

Monday, December 12, 2011

Central Asian Head Gear

turkmen elder and telpek
Turkmen telpek
Central Asians adore hats: there's an astonishing range of fabrics, colours, shapes, and embroidery. Each region has its own style and the head piece can be an indicator of status, age or gender.

Turkmen are most readily identified by their big, woolly telpeks. Usually made of black sheepskin, the hats are shaggy and surprisingly very practical. Despite appearances, it was the headgear of choice for nomads. Even today the wearer has usually shaved his head and wears a skull cap underneath. This creates a microclimate that prevents overheating in summer and extreme cold in winter. Happily the telpek industry is alive and well in Turkmenistan.

Kyrgyz alkalpak white felted hat
Kyrgyz al kalpak
Kyrgyzstan's al kalpak is more than a hat: it symbolizes the snowy peaks and vitality of this mountainous country. It is the most sacred part of the Kyrgyz national dress and is referenced in many everyday expressions, e.g. "If you lose your kalpak then you will lose you head". Kalpaks are still hand made of white embroidered felt with black highlighted seams.

The skull cap, known as duppi or tyubeteyka, is an integral part of Uzbek national attire, both for men and women. There is a large diversity of forms: conic, four-sided, round, and cupola-shaped. Often richly embroidered, they can resemble a delicately bejewelled carpet.

Each region has developed its own style, passed from generation to generation. Every woman enriches the traditional ornamental motifs with her own creative images and stylization.

emroidered uzbek skull cap
Emroidered Uzbek tyubeteyka
Probably the most common men's skull cap originates from Chust in the Ferghana Valley: it is black with 16 decorative arches around the border, representing strong gates through which no enemies may enter to kill the wearer of the skull cap.

Often there are almond or pepper patterns stitched on these. The design is an ingenious 'flat pack'. In Tashkent there is a garden cafe that has used this shape to create a very cool sun umbrella!

Bukhara is the Uzbek centre of gold embroidery and the skull caps here, particularly favoured for weddings, reveal very delicate needlework.

Tajiks wear skull caps with Zoroastrian and Indo-Iranian symbols woven into the design, e.g. fire and the swastika. The people of the Pamirs wear round and flat caps and people of different religious sects within the same region may also wear group-specific skull caps.

Although Kazakhs often wear the felt al kalpak, their hats can also be made with fur and feathers.  Kazakh men may wear a rounded warm cap, trimmed with astrakhan, marten or raccoon fur. During the harsh winter they wear the tymak, a fur cap with three flaps - a pair for the ears and a longer and broader flap at the back.

uzbek man skull cap black white
Chust style skull cap
The Kazakh bridal headpiece, the conical saukele, is 70cm high, and is the most expensive item in a dowry. Ornamental images such as the tree of life or ram horns form part of the saukele design.

This article is merely a quick romp through some of the fabulous head pieces of Central Asia. The finest examples are on view in the national museums. In Uzbekistan, Urgut and Shakhrisabz are good places to pick up vintage pieces.

However, it is on the streets, in the bazaars and the countryside where you will be dazzled by how strong and glorious the head gear traditions in Central Asia remain.

Related post: Uzbek Robes Features in Russian Textiles Book 
Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #1
Elechek - Kyrgyz Traditional Headdress Part #1

Kazakh bridal headpiece, the conical saukele

Monday, December 5, 2011

Symbols in Stitches: Uzbek Suzanis

pomegranate suzani bukhara
'Suzani' derives from the Persian word for needle. However, for textile lovers, the word is synonymous with the glories of Uzbek embroidery. Stitched cooperatively by women and girls for centuries as part of their dowries, suzanis today remain a significant decorative and cultural art in Uzbekistan.

Since the 2nd century B.C. Central Asia's great oasis cities absorbed designs from all over the Silk Road: Chinese porcelain, Persian carpets, Mughal embroideries and Islamic art all influenced the patterns so patiently stitched in these splendid wall hangings and covers.

Major suzani centres evolved: Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz and Nurata. Each centre developed distinctive embroidery techniques, producing different effects. Motifs chosen were often the same across schools, albeit abstracted with differing stylistic features.

Pomegranates are frequently used in suzanis: the many seeds symbolize fecundity and it is strongly associated with wedding rituals. The 'botum' motif, shaped like a teardrop or almond signifies abundance, while the chili pepper pattern is said to protect against the evil eye.

Surrounded by deserts, lavish flowering garden scenes reminiscent of Persian 'garden carpets' were always popular: carnations, roses, iris and twining vines decorate the fabrics. The ewer is a recurring motif, representing the life-giving qualities of water.

Large circular motifs, assumed to be sun and moon, are thought to derive from ancient Zoroastrian cosmological symbols crucial to agricultural communities. Leaves in vegetative patterns can be of several shapes: oval, serrated like lilac leaves, trefoil and cinquefoil. Garlands of leaves and rosettes are also widely used. A wavy stem of the trumpet-like bindweed signifies wealth and vitality.

Some of the finest examples of suzanis are displayed in the Applied Art Museums of Tashkent and  Bukhara, both of which are visited during Uzbek Journeys tours. Bukhara is my favourite place to purchase embroidery works: the range is astonishing of both old and new pieces, sewn on cotton and silks.

At a private collection in Bukhara, you will see splendid antique pieces as well as fine examples of modern works. Roaming through the city's converted madrassahs and caravanserais will also provide opportunities to purchase suzanis directly from embroiderers.

At Urgut market, near Samarkand, Uzbek women laden with new and old pieces will pursue you, pleading with you to purchase a suzani. I have bought excellent ones there (hard bargaining required) as well as at stalls in Shakhrisabz.

To learn more about Central Asian embroideries, I recommend Christina Sumner and Guy Petherbridge's book Bright Flowers: Textiles and Ceramics of Central Asia.

Related posts
Uzbek Suzanis: Like Flowers in the Sand - Part #1
Uzbek Suzanis: Like Flowers in the Sand - Part #2
Suzanis as Upholstery: the Brilliance of Bokja Design
Sacrament of Magic Yarn - Madina Kasimbaeva's Exhibition, Tashkent

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tashkent's Open Air Railway Museum

Tashkent railway museum locomotive
A red-starred locomotive at the museum
Tashkent's Museum of Railway Engineering is a very cool, open air museum. Its appeal reaches beyond trainspotters' obsessions: it is here, among these huge locomotives, that the scale of the Soviet Union's empire is palpable. These behemoths plied across Central Asia from the Caspian Sea to the borders of China.

Located not far from Tashkent's main station, the museum was opened in 1989 in honour of the trunk railway centenary in Uzbekistan. The collection is one of the largest in the world: there are 13 steam engines, 18 diesel and 3 electrical locomotives as well as carriages and cars. And you can climb all over them.

The 'Tsar's Carriage' is a sleeper carriage of Nikolai II's era. It is full of exhibits that tell the fascinating tale of the development and history of Central Asian railways, including images of Mrs. Bashorat Mirboboeva, Uzbekistan's first woman train driver.

The oldest steam locomotive  is the 'OB', nicknamed 'The Lamb' by railway workers, because of its accommodating nature. It weighed 53 tonnes and could travel at 55 km/hr. It appeared in many films, including Neulovimye Mstiteli (The Elusive Avenger), a Soviet children's propaganda film.

Tashkent railway museum locomotive
Another marvellous exhibit at Tashkent's railway museum.
 'The Victory', pride of the Soviet steam locomotives produced from 1949-1956, is staggering: 178 tonnes, 5.1 metres high with wheel diameters of 1.85 metres and capable of speeds up to 125 km/hr. Another steam locomotive is the TE5-200, which was captured from the Fascists in 1943 and then put to use in Uzbekistan.

Diesel and electrical locomotives gradually replaced steam: the huge TEP-70 of 1973 weighed 126 tonnes and could reach up to 175 km/hr.

Soviet history also resonates in the names of these machines: the BL-Vladimir Lenin and the FD-20, for Felix Dzerjinski, a communist revolutionary hero who became the first director of Cheka, the Bolshevik's secret police.

The museum is open daily from 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m., however, the Tsar's carriage with railway artifacts is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Entrance fee is 1,000 soums per adult (about 60 cents). The telephone number is +998712997040. A two-carriage sight-seeing train on the mini-diesel TU 7-A locomotive runs through the park to the delight of visitors, especially children. You can view more images of the trains in the museum at  the International Steam pages website.

Update July 2012: When I visited in April, the Tsar's carriage was no longer open. Tatiana, a former train conductor, is available for guided tours if you speak Russian, French or you are with a guide. This is definitely worth doing as Tatiana brings alive the museum displays.

Related posts: Travelling by Rail in Uzbekistan
Steppe Magazine: Images of Tashkent's Metro 

Source materials:  Thanks to Marat Akhmedjanov, publisher of Discovery Central Asia Travel Magazine, for permission to use materials from a 2007 article. Mr. Akhmedjanov also runs the Discovery Bookshop, the largest online source for books, maps, DVDs etc about Central Asia. It's a fabulous resource and I regularly buy titles there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Uzbek-Korean Connections

korean kimchi stall at uzbek market
Kimchi sold at an Uzbek market
On first visiting Uzbekistan you will be struck by the Korean faces in the streets, in banks, in hotels and in markets. Although South Korea is the second largest investor country in Uzbekistan, the estimated 200,000 ethnic Koreans have been there for several generations. What's the back story?

Russia annexed the Maritime Province (Primorsky Krai) on the Pacific coast in 1860, following the signing of a treaty with Peking. As Korea's Joseon dynasty declined, thousands of Koreans, driven by poverty and opportunities in the resource-rich, sparsely-populated Russian Far East, moved to this area, just south of Vladivostok, the administrative capital. 

When Japan annexed Korea in 1910, thousands more Koreans fled to Russia. By the time of the October revolution in 1917, there were over 100,000 Koreans living in the region and in the 1920s the community had almost 400 Korean-language schools and seven Korean newspapers. Although these were heavily subsidized, requests for an autonomous Korean province within the USSR were rejected.

Soviet Koreans in uniform
Soviet Koreans in uniform
After Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931, Koreans in the Maritime Province allied themselves with the USSR and did not oppose Stalin's decree of compulsory Soviet citizenship in 1932.

However, following an agreement in 1935 between Moscow and Tokyo, which included a provision for Korean political activities to be curbed, a mass deportation of Soviet Koreans began. Stalin regarded large ethnic communities as threats to the state: he viewed the Koreans as Japanese spies! Over 170,000 Soviet Koreans were transported by rail, in appalling conditions over 40 days, to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Often the deportees were left in isolated locations in the open steppe or forced to work on collective farms.

In 1956 Khrushchev permitted Soviet Koreans the right to live where they wished and pursue whatever work they chose. Many moved to cities to study and take up professions such as medicine, engineering and teaching that were hitherto denied. Just as they had succeeded in farming, Soviet Koreans enjoyed professional success. Now, 80% of Uzbek Koreans are urban dwellers. In 1994 an Uzbek Korean was elected to parliament.

Today, apart from the strong economic linkages between South Korean and Uzbekistan, South Korean popular culture has swept through Central Asia. As the Korean ambassador to Uzbekistan stated: “Young people in Uzbekistan dream of driving a Daewoo car, and watch Korean television shows on an LG TV set hooked up to a Samsung DVD player".

Update July 2012: Korean-Uzbek director Ruslan Pak won the grand prize in the best international new talent category at the 2012 Taipei Film Festival on Wednesday for his film about third generation Koreans in Uzbekistan. Hanaan is about a Korean-Uzbek detective who tries to avenge the drug-fueled death of his friend.

In 2007 a documentary Koryo Saram - the Unreliable People was made by Y. David Chung and Matt Dibble. It tells the harrowing story of the 1937 deportation through the eyes of survivors. How these Koreans integrated with Soviet society while maintaining their traditional identity is a fascinating testament to the power of cultural heritage.

Listen to some stories and see rare archival footage in the 4-minute video clip below.

Related posts:
The Greek Community of Uzbekistan
Mennonites in Khiva 1880 -1935
Langston Hughes: An African American Writer in Central Asia in the 1930s

Monday, November 14, 2011

Samarkand Restaurants and Cafés: An Insider's View

Suzanna Fatyan Samarkand tour guide and food critic
 Suzanna Fatyan
Suzanna Fatyan, one of Uzbekistan's finest tour guides, is also an obsessive foodie. She hunts down seasonal foods, and visits markets and restaurants all over Uzbekistan. She will contribute regular articles recommending the best places to eat in the cities visited on Uzbek Journeys tours, as well as pieces about Uzbek cuisine. Here Suzanna describes where to eat well in her home town, Samarkand.

Uzbekistan is the land of famous melons, the sweetest fruit, excellent raisins and the tenderest lamb in the world. For centuries Uzbekistan was famed for its gastronomy: Omar Khayam admired Samarkand wines, gourmets of China appreciated the sweetness of Samarkand peaches, merchants, exhausted after long, dusty trips along the Great Silk Road enjoyed Samarkand plov, lamb, non and other specialties.

Samarkand remains a centre of fine food today and I would like to share with you several places that Samarkand people really like.  Plov is Uzbekistan’s famous specialty: it is prepared for the most important events and for the most respected guests. Every region of Uzbekistan offers its own recipe of this fabulous course.

At the Bedonali Kazi Palov restaurant at 33 Makhtumkuli St. (near Busygina) you will find very special plov. It contains not only common lamb and beef but also quails stuffed with fatty tail  and spices.  (Fatty tail is prized in Central Asia and the Middle East. Some sheep are bred to store fat in their tails. A mature ram’s tail can carry up to 12 kgs of prized fat, which is softer and more delicately-flavoured than fat stored inside the body). Another unusual feature of Samarkand plov is yellow carrot, a vegetable only found in Central Asia. Red carrot is also widely used in Uzbekistan but not for Samarkand plov. Bedonali Kazi Palov is not open on Sundays. Tel: +998 66 2225318 or +998 66 2627717.

Uzbek samsa served on traditional plate
Uzbek samsa
 Another  “must try” for every visitor is samsa!  Hot, just taken out of the tandoor puff pastry, filled with a mixture of lamb, beef and juicy onions makes you forget your name and want stay in Uzbekistan forever.

One of the best samsa spots is a little chaikhana at the crossroads of Dagbitskaya and Vohid Abdullaev Streets. It may be hard to find: it has no name and the only immediately noticeable hint is a line of cars near a big white gate that looks like a private house. But experts know. Here you not only eat the best samsa but also see samsa baking in the tandoor. Time your visit carefully as it is closed on Sundays.

samarkand sign post to shurpa restaurant
Sign post for the nearby nuhat shurpa restaurant
Chickpeas are generally known as the key ingredient of hummus. In Uzbekistan they are cooked along with meat. Nuhat shurpa is a dish that attracts Uzbeks to Samarkand and the best place for trying is situated at the start of the road leading to Tashkent. It is very easy to find: right before Ulugbek’s statue at the observatory, there is a small street. The restaurant is not visible from the road but any local person will point the way to it with great pleasure. Again, the number of cars nearby is a significant clue. Look for the sign on the street pole!

Should you find a vacant table you will first be served a wonderful bullion, followed by fresh salad and then most importantly, chickpeas and tender lamb that has simmered for a long, long time, served in a traditional dish.

courtyard of nuhat shurpa restaurant samarkand
Courtyard of the nuhat sherpa restaurant

Generally, authentic Uzbek cuisine is available at lunchtime. Especially plov and samsa.

Evening is the best time for shashlyks and kebabs. I recommend the Karimbek and Standart restaurants. Karimbek is situated at A.Timur St. and designed in both traditional and European styles.

Standard is an Armenian restaurant, located at Papanin St. near Busygina. It is renowned for pork shashlyk, gijduvanskiy, and fish shashlyk (seasonal). Moreover it serves excellent fried vegetables, salads and good homemade red wine (seasonal). Standard's gijduvanskiy is minced shashlik combining lamb and beef. The portions at Standard are  large: one stick has two pieces, easily  enough for one person. It is very popular and reservations are a must. Tel: +998 66 2224515

samarkand czech restaurant zlata praha
Zlata Praha restaurant

If you suddenly hanker after European cuisine I highly recommend the Zlata Praha, a Czech Restaurant in Samarkand.  Besides traditional Czech sausages and good local beer, the restaurant offers a choice of vegetarian courses, desserts and coffee. Situated at 59 M. Ulughbek St. (former K.Marx)  near Korzinka. Tel: +998 66 233 66 39.

If you are looking for a quiet evening, coupled with a beautiful view and cup of refreshing green tea, head over to Anargis Art Café, at 12 Tashkent Street near Bibi Khanum mosque. (This restaurant is run by designer Nargis Bekmuhamedova). Here, you can also enjoy lunch or dinner consisting of traditional Uzbek dishes like lagman (noodles, vegetable and meat) and manty (steamed dough filled with meat and onions) and borscht.

samarkand platane restaurant
Platan restaurant, Samarkand
Platan is also recommended for evenings out.  The restaurant offers a synthesis of Uzbek, Russian and Armenian cuisine. It has a good choice of light salads and very delicious lamb and prunes.  It is located in the 19th century part of Samarkand at A. Pushkin St. There are outdoor tables, a non-smoking room (usually quiet and suitable for dates and chats), and a general room – nice but noisy in the evenings. Telephone for reservations: +998 66 2338049.

Often locals and visitors alike are in a rush at lunchtime. Should you find yourself in the 19th century part of Samarkand and in a hurry, stop by a Turkish eatery called Istanbul Kebab. It offers both buffet and a la carte menus. The sweets are wonderful and so too the real Turkish coffee. Istanbul Kebab always has a choice of vegetarian dishes, light soups, kebabs, Turkish pies and many other things to keep you happy and strong for the rest of the day. It is in an easy-to-find spot at Navoi Street (formerly Mustakillik, formerly Lenin Street – the street names vary according to how old your map is).

Samarkand entrance to fratelli cafe
Entrance to Fratelli cafe, Samarkand
Within walking distance from there is another fast food stop, Fratelli. Located at 31 Amir Timur St, Fratelli offers pizzas, salads, sweets and coffee. It is a popular destination among students and young couples although can become noisy.

You can relax after a long day in Blues Café, 66 Amir Timur St, one of the oldest drinking spots of Samarkand. It also offers good food and a special atmosphere: posters of blues legends adorn the walls. If you play piano you can play some melodies when Eddie, the regular player takes a break!  Blues Cafe is a very small café, and you should reserve in advance. Tel. +998 66 2336296.

The Orient was always famous for its luxury, and Samarkand restaurant will help you feel it. Designed like a Sultan’s palace, Samarkand is a true melting pot of cultures, traditions, and styles. It offers both Uzbek and European cuisine and is an excellent venue for a farewell dinner. On the second floor is a lovely Russian-style room, where you can also dine. It is situated near the wine factory at 54 M. Koshgari St. Tel: +998 95 5005559 or +998 66 2601339.

Bon appetit!

Related posts:
Uzbekistan for Vegetarians
Celebrating Nowruz - Spring New Year in Uzbekistan 
Tashkent Restaurants and Cafés: An Insider's View 
Bukhara Restaurants and Cafés: An Insider's View

              You can contact Suzanna at

Monday, November 7, 2011

Islamic Galleries Reopen at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

14th century tile from a squinch, Samarkand
After an eight-year renovation, the Met's  Department of Islamic Art reopened its fifteen galleries on November 1st.

Known as the New Galleries for the Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia, the rooms consist of some 1,200 objects from a rotating collection of 12,000. The organization of the galleries by geographical area aims to emphasize the rich diversity of the Islamic world by underscoring the many distinct cultures within its fold and its interconnectedness with other cultures.

They boast architectural splendours, including a Moroccan courtyard, a room dedicated entirely to carpets (it evidently holds so many carpets that it muffles sound), as well as objects ranging from the most intimate to the most monumental.

The Damascus Room was a room in a big Syrian house in the early 1700s. Workers took it apart and shipped it to New York, then rebuilt the room inside the museum. Experts repaired and restored each element of the carved and painted wood and the splendid tiles in the room.
10th century bowl, Samarkand
As well as precious manuscripts, calligraphy and pottery there are paintings with images  of animals, of dragons, of flowers, and realistic paintings of people.

Navina Haida, one of the curators, says "the images are surprising because of the common notion that Islam forbids imagery — but that's not quite true. Yes, images of living things are discouraged in the religious sphere. But, they appear widely outside that context, especially when it comes to the illustrations of books and poetry and literature."

There are over 140 Uzbek objects in this collection: tiles, carpets, textiles, manuscripts, paintings, and jewellery.

The New York Times has an excellent back story about the galleries and of course the Met's web materials are outstanding.

Related post: Turkmen Jewellery at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art
Afghan Art - Tradition and Continuity at the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Early 19th century suzani from Nurata, Uzbekistan
Images source:

Monday, October 31, 2011

London Book Launch: Biography of Igor Savitsky, Founder of the Karakalpakstan Museum, Nukus

Igor Savitsky founder of Nukus Museum Uzbekistan
Igor Savitsky
If you're in London on Wednesday 9 November, don't miss the launch of Marinika Babanazarova's biography of the founder of the Karakalpakstan Museum: Igor Savitsky - Artist, Collector, Museum Founder at Pushkin House at 7:00 p.m.

The museum, located in Nukus in far western Uzbekistan, houses a collection of Soviet avant-garde art that is rivalled only by St. Petersburg's Russian Museum. Russian artists, caught up in the idealism of the early Soviet days, were drawn by the exoticism of Central Asia. They visited the region, some settling there, and painted exuberant works fusing modernism with orientalism. Simultaneously, Uzbek artists were producing remarkable pieces influenced in particular by primitivism.

All this came to an abrupt end when Stalin promulgated the decree On the Reconstruction of Literary and Art Organizations in 1932. Artists whose works did not meet the 'radiant future' style of socialist realism found their paintings removed from galleries and were unable to participate in exhibitions. Worse, some artists were repressed, sent to gulags and mental institutions or executed.

Savitsky rescued thousands of these 'dissident' works and hung them in his museum. Nukus' very remoteness worked to his advantage: because of the chemical warfare testing conducted nearby it was off-limits even to most Soviet citizens. So displaying paintings, even banned paintings, that no one would see, was feasible.

Road of Life and Death by Alexander Nikolaev
Road of Life and Death by Alexander Nikolaev, 1924
Marinika Babanazarova has been the museum's director since Savitsky's death in 1984. She is the grand-daughter of Karakalpakstan's first president (who was himself repressed and shot as an enemy of the people in 1938). Savitsky often visited her family's house in Nukus and later, Tashkent.

Her memoir draws upon correspondence, official records, and other documents about the Savitsky family that have become available during the last few years, as well as the recollections of a wide range of people who knew Igor Savitsky personally.

As she states in the foreword to this deeply moving and personal narrative: “I hope this memoir will serve not only as a multifaceted, broad-based portrait of a great man who was my mentor, but also as a tribute to his legacy.”

Houses by Lyubov Popova 1914
Houses by Lyubov Popova, 1914
The book, in separate English and Russian editions, will be on sale at Pushkin House (from 9 November) and at selected locations in Tashkent, London, Moscow, and Washington, D.C. as well as the Nukus Museum. All sale proceeds go directly to the Museum to support the maintenance and preservation of the Savitsky Collection. The book is available online now through Discovery Books, London. (Around A$24 including postage to Australia).

The story of Savtisky and the collection is told in a remarkable, award-winning documentary The Desert of Forbidden Art by Amanda Pope and Tchavdar Georgiev. You can watch the trailer and purchase a copy online. (US$35 including postage to Australia). Should you happen to be in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on 3 November there will be a screening at 6:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency and a screening on 11 November at the University of Central Asia, Bishek at 4:00 p.m.. Also on Monday 7 November in Riga, Latvia, at the historic Splendid Palace cinema at 7:00 p.m.

On Uzbek Journeys tours we spend an entire day at the Nukus Museum: it is one of the highlights of the trip . As well as the marvellous paintings and works on paper, the collection includes priceless examples of Karakalpak nomads' carpets, jewellery and textiles, also saved by Savitsky. Excellent catalogues are available there for purchase. Visiting the museum's website provides a valuable overview of its history and collection before your visit.

Related posts: Alexander Volkov: Of Sand and Silk, Christie's Exhibition
Sotheby's London Exhibition: Contemporary Art from Central Asia & the Caucasus
Desert of Forbidden Art screens at Venice Biennale

Monday, October 24, 2011

Uzbek Caravanserais

Indian caravan arrives in Bukhara
An Indian caravan unloads at a caravanserai in Bukhara
In the heyday of the Great Silk Road, many ancient trails connected countries, people, goods, technology and ideas. Camels and mules, loaded with spice and porcelain, silks and medicines, carpets and jewels plied across the hot desert sands, mighty mountain ranges, and the green plains of the oases.

Guest houses to accommodate the animals, merchants and goods were constructed about every 25-30 kms along the routes: these were known as Caravanserais. The word is derived from 'carvon' meaning a 'group of travellers' and 'saroy', which means house or palace.

The first caravanserais appeared in Central Asia in the 9th century A.D. and were generally built by order of the rulers, governor-generals and wholesale merchants. Some of them were built inside the towns and did not require protection. Those built along the roads were small defensive fortresses.

Generally caravanserais were two-storied structures of massive stone walls surrounding a square or rectangular yard, thick wooden gates often upholstered in metal, and no outside windows. There was a well in the centre of the courtyard, and sometimes the water was brought there from long distances. The ground floor served as stalls for pack animals and warehouses for the merchandise; the first floor provided space where travellers could spend the night without fearing for their cattle and goods.

Caravanserais were full of people: merchants learnt the latest news, met new partners, made deals with traders from other lands and exchanged ideas and philosophies. They served as storehouses for major consignments, stock exchanges for price settings, intermediaries for transfers of oral and written messages, and wholesale centres. They also housed restaurants and artisans' workshops, such as tanners, blacksmiths and tailors. Hammam (baths) and tabibs (local healers) were at the disposal of travellers as well.

Rabati Malik caravanserai between Samarkand and Bukhara
Rabati Malik caravanserai
With the rise of maritime trade and later railways, many caravanserais fell into ruin or disappeared altogether. In Soviet times some were used as warehouses, and today many of them serve as splendid bazaars for artisans' workshops and boutiques.

In Samarkand, the Oriental Sweets tea house is located inside a restored 19th century caravanserai, close to the Registan. On the Kyzyl Kum desert road between Samarkand and Bukhara  there is the impressive Rabati Malik caravanserai, built in the 11th century. It has been added to UNESCO's World Heritage tentative list. The ruins of this site have been preserved, and we will stop there en route to Bukhara.

Inside the Rabati Malik caravansera between Samarkand and Bukhara
Inside the Rabati Malik caravanserai

Materials source: Many thanks to Uzbek writer Nigora Abdukayumova, who is now based in Manila, Philippines.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Oscar de la Renta's Love Affair with Uzbek Ikat

Oscar de la Renta Trench coat from the 2005 collection
Oscar de la Renta Trench Coat, 2005
Since 2005 New York-based designer Oscar de la Renta has included ikat fabrics in collections ranging from clothing and accessories to furniture fabrics.

"They are so unbelievably rich in color," he said. "Ikat is a very traditional fabric that works well for all seasons".

Collaborating with Rasuljon Mirzaakhmedov, master craftsman from Margilan, in the Ferghana Valley, his collection includes adras (cotton and silk ikat), baghmal (silk velvet ikat) and atlas ikat (satin ikat) in bright, graphic patterns. Mr. Mirzaakhmedov's family is at the vanguard in a revival of velvet ikat weaving in which white silk threads are dyed and placed on a narrow loom, a technique that is highly complicated and practiced by very few. The process requires a month to produce just a few metres of fabric.

Ikat refers to both the type of fabric and the resist-dye technique used to create the cloth. To make ikat, parts of the warp (the yarns which run vertically) or the weft (horizontal) yarns are bound and placed in a series of dye baths. The parts of the yarns that are tied and protected resist the dye, allowing makers to produce multi-colored textiles through exposing the yarn to multiple dye baths. Unlike carpets or tapestries, the design of an ikat is articulated on the yarns before weaving begins.

Many other designers have jumped on the ikat train, including Dries Van Noten and Gucci.

Oscar de la Renta ballet flats 2010 collection
Adorable ikat ballet flat from Oscar de la Renta, 2010
Although Uzbek Journeys accompanied tours do not visit the Ferghana Valley, you certainly will see silk ikat weaving and have the chance to purchase fabulous fabrics, including silk velvet ikat, in Samarkand and Bukhara.

Excursions from Tashkent to the silk centres of the Ferghana Valley can be arranged pre- or post-tour.  View the range of Ferghana Valley tours.

In the clip below [1.22 mins} you can view some of Oscar de la Renta's gorgeous ikat pieces.

Related posts: Feruza's Ikat Store, Bukhara
Uzbek Ikat as Interior Design Element 
Ferghana Valley Silk Ikats: Tying the Clouds
Uzbek ikat robes feature in Russian textiles book
Ikat Porcelain Tableware
Valentino Haute Couture Meets Suzani
Basso & Brooke Meet Ikat on the New Silk Road Project

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tamara Khanum: Legendary Uzbek Dancer

Tamara Khanum Uzbek dance icon photographed by Langston Hughes
Tamara Khanum, image: Langston Hughes
According to the research of Uzbek dance specialist Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray, it was  the Bolshevik campaign after 1924 to eliminate the custom of veil wearing that lead to public dance performances by women.

Dr. Gray writes: "Born in Margilan, Ferghana, in 1906, Tamara Khanum was one of the first women to defy tradition and perform unveiled, often courting death at the hands of Basmatchi reactionaries. (One of her colleagues, a young dancer named Nurkhon, was murdered by her own brother for dishonoring the family by dancing in public. Nurkhon later became the subject of a musical drama by Kamil Yashin)".

After graduating from the Moscow Theatrical College, Tamara Khanum was selected to be part of the delegation of USSR artists to the 1924 World Exhibition in Paris, where she performed Uzbek dances and songs. This was the first time in modern history that Central Asian dance had been seen in the West. (1924 was also the year that Isadora Duncan performed in Tashkent and Samarkand).

At the end of 1930s Tamara Khanum collaborated with composer Evgeny Grigoryevich Brusilovsky to create the first Uzbek ballet, Gulyandom, in which she performed the lead role. She also established the first ballet school in Tashkent and composed her own original genre 'song-dance'.

During World War II Tamara Khanum was a member of the front theatrical companies: she gave more than 700 concerts to the troops, and donated her Stalin Prize to the Fund of Defence. In the 1950s she toured Austria, Norway, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China to great acclaim.

Tamara Khanum Uzbek dance legend photographed by Max Penson
Tamara Khanum, image: Max Penson
Tamara Khanum was awarded the title of the People's Artist of the USSR and many other  government awards. She died in 1991.

On an Uzbek Journeys tour, you will visit the Tamara Khanum museum, located in her former house in Tashkent. In 2008, the museum received a $34,000 grant from the U.S. Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation to revitalize and expand exhibits. The museum has used the funds to restore 75 costumes the dancer wore as she performed around the world, create a new exhibit of hundreds of historical photographs, record an audio guide for visitors to learn about the life of Tamara Khanum, and to improve the display of the museum’s exhibits.

A new exhibition area displays hundreds of photographs with captions in Uzbek, Russian, and English. The photos include pictures of the dancer and the musicians with whom she performed, black-and-white scenes of life in Uzbekistan in a bygone era, and posters advertising her international performances. Together they tell the story of the dancer’s life, as well as that of a changing cultural landscape as Uzbekistan evolved throughout the 20th Century.

You can view rare 1939 archival footage of Tamara Khanum dancing at the opening of the Ferghana Valley canal, one of the most remarkable achievements of the Soviet Union in this 2-minute video clip.

A footnote on these images:
the upper photograph was taken by Langston Hughes, the American poet, who described Khanum as "Soviet Asia's greatest dancer". The famous Uzbek photographer, Max Penson, captured her in the lower image.

Materials source:  Dr. Laurel Victoria Gray Persian, Central Asian, and Arabic Culture

Related post: Tashkent's Small House Museums

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chekichs: Uzbek Bread Stamps

Uzbek non bread decorated with checkich stamp centre
Glossy, stamped Uzbek bread.
Uzbek non (flat bread) is scrumptious. And for Uzbeks it is more than just food: non is sacred.

Non is placed under the head of a newborn as a way of wishing it a long, healthy life. It is put between the legs of a baby who has just taken its first steps, to provide a blessing for its path. Mothers make their sons take a bite hoping they will soon return safely from war or army service. Life without non is unthinkable.

At any Uzbek market, there are endless rows of non with different designs, names and aromas. Everywhere you go you can see bread sellers wheeling non around in old-fashioned, big-wheeled baby strollers straight from the tandoor oven. Indeed there are more than 30 types of Uzbek non.

Bakers and householders stamp the centre of each non with an instrument - a chekich. The chekich is a carved handle with metal pins or nails set into it. It produces a distinctive pattern, based on a traditional design, and keeps the bread from rising.

Rows of chekich bread stamps bukhara
Chekichs in Mirfayz Ubaydov's spice shop
Chekichs match my idea of a perfect souvenir: charming, small, inexpensive and evocative. Mirfayz Ubaydov of the Silk Road Tea House and Spice Shop, Bukhara, has lovely chekichs in a range of sizes and patterns, which sell for $4-$8.

Update September 2017:  Good news! If you are unable to visit Uzbekistan to buy a chekich, Shakhista Turaeva has opened an Etsy shop with a lovely selection.

Related posts: The Glory of Uzbek Bread
Khiva: Bread Making Master Class

Monday, September 26, 2011

Avicenna of Bukhara and Al-Khorezmi of Khiva

I have just finished re-reading Jonathan Lyon's outstanding book The House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization.

Avicenna Bukharan born physician and philosopher
Avicenna - father of modern medicine
It is a well documented discussion of how Arab culture had become a powerhouse of intellectual exploration at a time when Europe was in the Dark Ages. "Today many tend to see religion as the enemy of scientific progress," Lyons writes. "Yet early Islam openly encouraged and nurtured intellectual inquiry of all kinds".

The Arabs could measure the earth’s circumference (a feat not matched in the West for eight hundred years), they discovered algebra, were adept at astronomy and navigation, developed the astrolabe, and translated all the Greek scientific and philosophical texts.

Of particular interest to travellers to Uzbekistan are Avicenna (the Latinized name of Ibn Sina) and Al-Khorezmi.

Avicenna was born in  980 A.D. in the village of Afshana near Bukhara.  He was clearly a precocious youth: aged 10 he knew the Koran by heart, before he was 16 he had mastered  physics, mathematics, logic, and metaphysics, and at 16 he began the study and practice of medicine. By the age of18 he had built up a reputation as a physician and was summoned to attend the Samani ruler Nuh ibn Mansur, who, in gratitude for Avicenna’s services, allowed him to make free use of the royal library, which contained many rare and even unique books.

In 1025 Avicenna completed the encyclopedic Canon of Medicine, one of the most famous books in medical history. After translation into Latin in the 12th century, it became the textbook for medical education in Europe and Asia for the next 600 years. Among the Canon's contributions to modern medicine was the recognition that tuberculosis is contagious, diseases can spread through water and soil and a person's emotional health influences his or her physical health. Avicenna was also the first physician to describe meningitis, parts of the eye, and the heart valves, and he found that nerves were responsible for perceived muscle pain. Avicenna, the most famous and influential polymath of the Islamic Golden Age, died in 1038.

Al-Khorezmis statue Khiva
Al-Khorezmi's statue, Khiva; image: G. Menon
Born just outside Khiva, in Khorezm, Muhammad ibn-Musa Al-Khorezmi (780-850) was the chief mathematician in the once-great Baghdad academy of sciences, known as The House of Wisdom.

Al-Khorezmi made major contributions to the fields of algebra, trigonometry, astronomy, geography and cartography. He wrote more than 20 research works, the most famous of which is the Concise Book of Calculus in Algebra. This work was extremely influential: European thinkers corrupted the word 'al gabr' (calculation) to algebra and Al-Khorezmi's name to 'algorithm', naming the mathematical concept after him.

His other major contribution to mathematics was his strong advocacy of the Hindu numerical system, which he recognized as having the power and efficiency needed to revolutionize mathematics. The Hindu numerals 1 - 9 and 0 were soon adopted by the entire Islamic world and later, Europe.

In addition to his work in mathematics, Al-Khorezmi made important contributions to astronomy, also largely based on methods from India, and he developed the first quadrant (an instrument used to determine time by observations of the sun or stars), the second most widely used astronomical instrument during the Middle Ages after the astrolabe. He also produced a revised and completed version of Ptolemy's Geography, consisting of a list of 2,402 coordinates of cities throughout the known world.

To throw in two other names: the great scientist Al Biruni - also from Khorezm in present-day Uzbekistan. He pioneered the notion that the speed of light was much greater than the speed of sound, observed solar and lunar eclipses, and accepted the theory that the earth rotated on an axis long before anyone else.

Ahmad Ferghani, from the Ferghana Valley, was an astronomer, mathematician and geographer. His main work was the Book of Celestial Movements and a Code of the Science of Stars. He identified the dates of the longest and shortest days of the year and advanced the theory that the world was round.

These men were profound thinkers who advanced the frontiers of knowledge. Why are their names and contributions so little known today in the West? It is this issue that Jonathan Lyons explores in his book. If it's a topic that interests you too, you would certainly enjoy this Library of Congress webcast of Jonathan Lyons' lecture. Settle down with a cup of tea -- it's 56 minutes and well worth the investment.

Related posts:
Omar Khayyam in Samarkand and Bukhara
Travelling the Great Silk Road to Canberra, Australia
Arminius Vámbéry : a Dervish Spy in Central Asia
Mennonites in Khiva 1880 -1935
Langston Hughes: An African American Writer in Central Asia in the 1930s

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tashkent's Soviet Buildings

Facade of Hotel Uzbekistan Image courtesy Wayne Diamond
Facade of Hotel Uzbekistan (Image courtesy Wayne Diamond)
Mention the term 'Soviet architecture' and instantly enormous concrete buildings come to mind. The term 'Brutalist', from the French 'beton brut' (raw concrete), flourished in the 1950s -1970s, inspired by the works of Le Corbusier and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. As an architectural style it was also associated with social, utopian ideology.

After the devastating Tashkent earthquake of 1966, many large-scale apartment blocks were quickly built to house the homeless. Later, several grand buildings were constructed as well as the marvellous metro system.

The massive Hotel Uzbekistan, centrally located at Amir Timur square, Tashkent, is a classic example of Soviet 1970's modernist architectural style. In its heyday celebrities such as Federico Fellini, Marcello Mastroianni and Raj Kapoor stayed there, as well as the power brokers of the USSR.

Tashkent's State Museum of History of Uzbekistan
Tashkent's State Museum of History of Uzbekistan
Influenced by the Soviet space program and Yuri Gagarin's celebrated journey into outer space, Soviet architecture also took on ideas of the cosmos and science fiction. One such building in Tashkent is the former Lenin Museum, which now houses the vast State Museum of History of Uzbekistan.

Earlier this year Taschen published Frédéric Chaubin's book CCCP:Cosmic Communist Constructions Photographed. Chaubin, editor of the very cool French lifestyle magazine Citizen K, documented 90 buildings, constructed from the 1970s through to 1990, that dominate the urban landscapes of 14 former Soviet republics.

It's a fascinating record of daring, imaginative, even eccentric structures. As Chaubin comments in the introduction: "The key to Soviet architecture is above all political. The causes of its evolution are to be sought not in architectural theory but, more prosaically, in the regime and its evolution. Nowhere else and nowhere over such a long period of time has the urban landscape been so directly shaped by power”.
TFrédéric Chaubin's image of the Tashkent Circus
Frédéric Chaubin's image of the Tashkent Circus
View a video clip interview with Chaubin (3:30 mins).

Related posts:
Uzbekistan's Decorative Architectural Panels #1
Tashkent: A City of Refuge
48 Hours in Tashkent
Seismic Modernism - Architecture and Housing in Soviet Tashkent

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Samarkand: The Revival of Papermaking

Samarkand became a major papermaking centre after the Arab Caliphate won the mighty Battle of Talas (in present day Kyrgyzstan) against the Chinese Tang dynasty in 751 A.D. Legend has it that the production secret was revealed by two captured Chinese soldiers, who happened to be paper makers.

Samarkand papermaking mill
Koni Gil paper mill - a very charming setting
Water and wind power were used to operate the mills, which pounded mulberry bark, cotton, and waste from cotton and silk production. From the 10th century, mulberry replaced all other materials as it was pest resistant, flexible and durable. These qualities met the needs of Islamic calligraphers. The paper was renowned for its light color and fragrances, derived from adding henna and rosewater to the process.

From Samarkand, papermaking spread  to Baghdad, Damascus, and Cairo. By 900 A.D. bookshops and even public lending libraries existed in the Arab world.  Paper entered Europe in the 12th century, after North African Moors conquered Spain and Portugal carrying the process with them.

Preparing mulberry branches for papermaking
Preparing mulberry branches for soaking
The revered 15th century Uzbek poet, thinker and scientist Alisher Navoi called Samarkand paper "the wings that spread the thoughts of wise people to the world". By the 19th century, however, the skills were lost with the importation of cheap Russian paper.

Fast forward to the mid-1990s, when Uzbek miniature painters faced a critical shortage of suitable paper for their work: local artisan Zarif Muhtarov resolved to revive handmade paper.

With the support of UNESCO and JICA, a suitable site in the village of Koni Gil,10 kms from Samarkand, was identified. A traditional water mill was constructed, fed by the clear waters of the Siob river. Mulberry bark provides the fibre, an ingenious system of simple water-driven machinery is used to pound the stripped bark into the desired softness and a dedicated band of apprentices works with Usto (master) Muhtarov to create sheets of hand-made paper. Once again Samarkand paper is being produced using traditional methods.

Finished Uzbek masks of Samarkand hand made paper
Finished paper masks 

Demand for the paper is growing, particularly in the field of restoration of Korans. Usto Muhtarov and his team also experiment with new products that will appeal to tourists who visit. As well as beautiful cards painted with suzani designs, I bought adorable bookmarks there this year, in the shape of Uzbek women with round non (bread) piled on their heads.

On Uzbek Journeys tours you will visit Koni Gil, view the production process and enjoy a green tea in the shaded grounds of this lovely workshop.

Related post: Travelling the Great Silk Road to Canberra, Australia