Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Following the Silk Road

Tuesday, November 1, 2011
I am just back from an amazing holiday in Central Asia - three weeks soaking up the ancient culture of Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan was part of the old Silk Road which extended from China to Turkey. Everything from silks, gold, iron, glass, fur, spices, tea, porcelain, lacquerware and mirrors were transported by camels across a variety of mountainous and desert terrains during the Middle Ages.

Uzbekistan is mostly desert with cities and settlements built along river courses and oases. Cities such as Samarkand, Khiva and Bokhara have 1,000 year old mud-brick buildings that are decorated with beautiful blue ceramic tiles. I took the photo above at sunset, overlooking the city of Khiva. I was sitting against a mud-brick wall that was radiating out the heat from the day's sun! This gorgeous desert town is full of palaces, medrassas, minarets and endless windy streets to explore.

The photos below were taken in one of blue-tiled palaces. The walls are covered in a patchwork of indigo and turquoise patterns. These elaborate courtyards are open to the sky and built on a huge scale. Pattern heaven for me!

Everywhere we went, we saw weddings. Entire wedding parties would walk around the towns, stopping to have photos taken. I was that really persistent and annoying tourist who chased around after them asking if I could take their photo! The wedding below was my favourite for the setting as well as the bridal fashions... all of brides I saw wore very elaborate white dresses, encrusted with rhinestones, along with lots of jewellery. The fingerless gloves were linked to the middle finger with a loop, (I'm sure they have a name).

Unfortunately I don't speak Uzbek or Tajik and only have about three short Russian phrases, (one of them being 'Do you speak English?), but a smile goes a long way.

I love this photo with it's crazy mix of cultural influences - Mum in her traditional garb, the bride in her Western style wedding dress and the bridesmaids in funky short red dresses. It looks a bit like a stage set with the 1,000 year old brick minuret in the background. (It's worth clicking to see the larger version).

Here is a pretty Muslim bridesmaid from another wedding. She's covered from head to toe and still manages to look totally glamorous!

And one of my favourite images - a girl from Samarkand, dressed in black and white with that amazing ruffled headpiece.

Desert cities have an amazing feel at sunset when all the pinky brown tones merge with the changing colour of the sky. This was one of those moments in time.

And finally, my new prized pocession; a blue, (artic fox but more likely beaver) fur hat. Bring on those crisp winter days! I hope you enjoyed reading about my holiday. It feels like time to start planning the next adventure.


Aga said...

Aisling, you are a real travel inspirer! I love the picture of the girl with the ruffled headpiece. And mosaics are so beautiful.

Lisa O'Dwyer said...

Oh wow! Looks like the trip of a lifetime! I loved seeing the wedding images and the scenes of the desert cities. And love your new hat! I studied art history in school and did a paper on Spanish azulejo tiles and this is where the designs came from into Europe. Would love to go to the Silk Road cities some day :)

Ciara said...

Looks amazing Aisling! I would never have thought about Uzbekistan as a holiday destination but it will certainly be going on the list now, what a cultural feast! Thanks for sharing :)

Kismet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mis Detalles said...

Perfect pics, love it´s colors and every single detail
Thanks to share, hope to see more soon