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The 5 Stans of the Silk Road

RooFlyer

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We moved on from the necropolis to return to the Registan. We had been warned by our local guide that admission was uncertain - they are setting up fo a major music festival (which the President would attend), so rehearsals might prove problematical. Sure enough, when we arrived about 11:30 am, with the expectation that the gates would open at 11, there was a queue in front of the closed gates. Fortunately, after only 20 mins or so, with a bit of a scrum, we got in. The centre of the site was closed off with lighting etc, but it was great to be at a place comparable in status to the Taj Mahal.

The Registan (meaning sandy place) is an 'ensemble' of three madrassas facing into a square from three sides. They are the Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417–1420) - built by the same emir as constructed the observatory) , the Tilya-Kori (1646–1660) and the Sher-Dor (1619–1636).

Yet again, it is the scale of the place that's hard to convey here - that plus we couldn't access the centre of the square to get some 'in the round' perspective.

The things in the foreground are the lights and stage for the music festival.

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The following isn't a swastika (or even the ancient equivalent of it), but the word 'Allah' written 4 times in a square. Many of the 'square tile' patterns you see on the minarets and on the facades of mosques and madrassas are highly stylised Arabic script of religious sayings.

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RooFlyer

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I'll let the pictures do the talking:

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Behind the facades are the interiors of the madrassas, with a courtyard and central spaces, mostly richly decorated.

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The following ceiling is a wonderful tromp d'oeil. It looks like a perfect dome. But inside the zig-zag pattern, where the blue starts, its flat, but made to look like a dome through the skill of the artist/designer.

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One of the interior courtyards behind the high facade. The apartments are now occupied by shops.

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RooFlyer

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From lunch to a very large mosque whose photos I don't have access to right now.

Then back to the hotel where we sought out a bottle shop for some wine with dinner and dime beers for before.

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Selection of threeUzbek wines. Chose the Merlot of last night at half the price ( that is A$10).

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Local beers on the terrace

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RooFlyer

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Statue of Timur on the walk to dinner.

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Whilst in Samarkand, we had noticed a lot of Street and park cleaning and maintenance. Sorry it's that when the President comes, the place BETTER look smart, else the Mayor's job is on the line ( at the very least). No joke. He's coming for the music festival in a day or two, so the tittivating is in full swing.

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Our restaurant.

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Menus. Again 9,000 som is US$1

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We couldn't byo, so they brought out their selection of three. We got a local 2018 cab sav ( on the right) which was ok.

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Dinner of plov.

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RooFlyer

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Today is going to be a long day. About 8 hours driving to the far South of Uzbekistan, to Termez, right on the Afghanistan border 😱.

First stop is a bit of a detour to Shahrisabz, the birth place of Timur.

Dry countryside with low ranges to one side. Really bad roads, Mostly, it seems, because of rife and endemic corruption. More on that in my country summary once we leave.

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The mausoleum of one of Timur'sfamily members. A graveyard is next to it.

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The chequer patterns on the buildings we have been seeing, I think I mentioned was stylised Arabic script.

Like this:

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The darker pattern on the right, looking like an 'o' with two prongs, is 'allah' written 4 times. To the left, in turquoise and blue is 'Ali' written 4 times.
 
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bpeteb

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At some point on our flight back from SFO end of July I thought that maybe JohnM was in the cabin with us. I've seen a couple of pics here and if you're reading John, was it you on QF74 on July 28? If not, you have a twin

Back to this TR. Just amazing!!!
 

RooFlyer

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As I mentioned up-thread, Uzbek weddings are mostly traditional, but have a 'western' component, of a a day in western wedding attire with guests, often out on a photo shoot. Timur's palace site is a prime one for these photo shoots. There must have been 5-8 parties around the site; bride and groom dressed immaculately, promenading with serious looks, with families looking on.

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If you appreciate the Uzbek wedding formalities, and what they have had to endure over the week, you could almost feel sorry for them!

A few more pics of the palace area. This is a postulated reconstruction of the palace. What we are looking at is the front right-hand structure, up to near the top of the arch.:

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There is a major controversy going on with UNESCO re this site. Its World Heritage listed, but the Uzbek government demolished a big part of the old town, and market in the vicinity of the monuments to plant a very large park. It looks pretty now, but of course has ruined the context of the monuments and UNESCO placed them on he list of 'World Heritage in Danger' and re threatening to take them out of the WH list, which would be the first time that would happen.

Fortunately there is still some fabulous original tile-work from the 14th century

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RooFlyer

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Another wedding ...

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A nearby mosque also dates from the time of Timur's grandson (the astronomer) and has several mausoleums with Timur relatives. More amazing tile-work; the 'star' patterns may relate to the astronomy.

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Can you read the tile-work (or rather, glazed brick-ends) :). Within the frame it reads, top to bottom, Akbah, allah akbah

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RooFlyer

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Need to back up a bit to the previous day in Samarkand. The Bibi-Khanym mosque, another fanging-great structure from the 14th Century. Check out the people around the base.

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Then to a bazaar next door, where there were selling the 'well known' Samarkand bread (as seen in Johanna Lumley's 'Silk Road Adventure') :) It has a shelf life of 3 years!!

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Surprising (to me) is that the Uzbeks don't use much spice in their cooking. The foods in the bazaar are mainly fresh fruit and veges, and dried fruit and nuts (and sweets). Dried apricots, sometimes stuffed with walnuts and mulberries, a specialty.

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RooFlyer

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So, back to the drive south to Termez. The countryside was mostly dry rolling hills, but with many villages along the way. the population of Uzbekistan is about 30 million, more than the other 4 Stans put together. The road was again pretty bad - rough, in the way of being patched over again and again. It got better for the last hour or so to Termez.

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We were roughly following a soviet era rail line, so maybe not surprising that this loomed over us:

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Then, finally, after 5 hours driving (one stop), we broke out of the mountains to a fertile plain at the end of which was out destination, Termez. This area is irrigated by the Oxus river, which forms the boundary between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

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RooFlyer

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I have to include these pics. This little boy was with his mother, and must be the happiest kid we've seen on the trip. Running around everywhere with a big grin and laughter ... but when he saw the blue teddy thing that one of the girls on the trip carries, he went into joy overdrive (his mother too).

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These ladies were also happy to see us and pose for a pic

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Lunch was at a tea house. I byo dried apricots, washed down by a cold beer.

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Termez doesn't see many tourists - few companies get this far south. There is one good hotel, which was a welcome sight after such a long day on the road.

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Walking to dinner, we passed a promising sight.

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But JohnM and I had self-catered and he did the honours.

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RooFlyer

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I was thinking Termez would be a small, dry and dusty outpost, but its quite a bustling becoming-modern town of about 100,000 people. Very green, with lots of water available from the nearby river, which also irrigates a large agricultural area - cotton, and fruit mainly I think. Oh, some rice too.

We got a local guide and first stop was 40km out of town - 'Alexandria on the Oxus' - reputedly one of the towns Alexander the Great founded on his way through to India in about 300 BC. That may be more legend then fact though, but its origins date from around that time, or slightly earlier.

Its been extensively dug by archaeologists, but only parts are visible as 'ruins' of a town, as it was built out of mud bricks, which have eroded heavily. Many artifacts, including written records, are in the local museum and that in the capital, Tashkent.


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The 'city wall' behind is a modern construction. The folks are walking on what remains of the original walls.

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These are all original - about 2,300 years old.

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The site comprises a low hill which gives way to the alluvial plain of the Oxus River, with Afghanistan on the other side.

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Growing rice on the flats. The river formerly was at the foot of the hill, and trading boats called in here.

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RooFlyer

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Showing how diversified this area is, we next visited the site of a Buddhist monastery, dating from the 1st century AD.

Called Fayoztepa today, it consists of the ruins of a monastery and adjacent to it, a stupa. Many relics have been found here.

View on approach - the dome is covering the stupa; the monastery is behind it.

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The monastery walls are original, but they have been mantled on their tops by a clay/mud/straw mixture to protect the walls from erosion. This shows a central courtyard with the cells of the monks on either side.

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The column bases are replicas with originals in museums.

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Survived almost 2,000 years.

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The stupa under its protective dome isn't much to look at, other than to marvel at its survival.

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Some of the Buddhist artifacts seen in the local museum in the afternoon.

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RooFlyer

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By noon it was about mid 30-s and an air-con sit down was welcome. By this time we were used to the menu offerings, and could order like pros. Including "draft beer all round".

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Great bread - still warm from the oven.

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Uzbek 'lagman' soup is delicious and very filling "Uzbek Lagman is a recipe filled with many unique flavors. It's something between a hearty soup and a light pasta. Meat with onions, carrots, potatoes, peppers, tomatoes and onions mixed with spices and cooked as a soup, then served over pasta."

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Downstairs was a scene that could be almost anywhere, but in this case, we are in an Islamic country :)

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