Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Explore Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in 2014

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Rosemary Sheel's 'The Blue Hour', Samarkand
Dates for Uzbek Journeys 2014 small group tours to Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have just been announced.

The 16-day Uzbek tours, scheduled for the very best seasons in Uzbekistan, focus on the art, craft and history of this fascinating section of the Silk Road.

Explore the architectural masterpieces of the ancient cities of Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara, and Khiva. Visit artisans’ workshops to meet families who have practised their craft for generations and contemporary artists who are fusing ancient techniques with modern style.

Roam the bazaars, lounge around in teahouses and spend the night in a yurt in the Kyzyl Kum desert. Learn about the intrigues of the Great Game between Britain and Russia and view the extraordinary collection of modernist art in remote Nukus.

And while in this part of the world, perhaps you will consider an excursion to Kyrgyzstan?

The Kyrgyzstan tours combine the majestic, rugged landscapes of snow-capped mountains and lush valleys, with visits to craft co-operatives, design workshops, felt carpet makers and yurt makers. 

Travelling around shimmering Issyk Kul lake, with the towering Tien Shan mountain range in view, you will understand how nomadic traditions are still at the core of the Kyrgyz people, who take immense pride in their heritage.

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Rosemary Sheel's Kyrgyzstan landscape
There are opportunities for hiking, picnics by streams, and listening to traditional musicians and bards in private homes.

You will also have the chance to see a kupkari (buzkashi) match and an eagle hunt; the spring tours include a visit to the famous Sunday Karakol livestock market.

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country, often called the Switzerland of Central Asia, and makes a marvellous contrast to the landscapes of Uzbekistan.

Why not discover this fascinating region in 2014? 

View the 2014 Uzbekistan tours.
View the 2014 Kyrgyzstan tours.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Strolling Through Samarkand in 1930

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Minarets and domes, Samarkand 2012. Image: Wendy Relf
A remarkable documentary by Soviet film maker Gavryushin Constantine Lavrent'evich has recently been posted on YouTube.

Made in 1930 and classified as an 'educational and cultural documentary' it revealed for the first time, to most Soviet citizens, the monuments and life of their Eastern comrades.

For travellers who know Samarkand and those who are planning to visit, this 9-minute clip is a must-see. No matter if you don't read Cyrillic - the images are extraordinary.

See how ruined the monuments were? Now you can understand and respect the restoration works undertaken from the 1930s. It was a massive collaboration of Soviet architects, historians and local masters, which continues today with Uzbek experts. Familiar landmarks, such the the Registan (used as a market square), Bibi Khanum, Shah-i-Zindar and Ulughbek's sextant feature in the film

Remember that it was only in 1924, six years earlier, that the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. In this short documentary, a precious record of transition, you will notice some women still covered in paranja and others in Western-style frocks. There are younger men who have swapped a traditional skull cap for a Russian cap. The market scenes are filled with melons, the chaikhanas (tea houses) are busy, and donkeys are everywhere.

Blow the video up to full screen size and settle back. For some it will evoke recent moments of walking through the same streets and squares, for others you will be wandering around the very same places this year. (If you are unable to see the video on your device, click this link:

Related posts:
A Glimpse of Khivan Woodcarving 1937
Max Penson: Uzbek Photography between Revolution and Tradition
Source: Thanks to Samarkand guide and food writer, Suzanna Fatyan, for alerting me to this clip.