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The Silk Road O'zbekiston & Kyrgyzstan 2018 (katheen Walsh & Graham lanphier)

It's hard to know where to start with this album; the ancient cities of O'zbekiston (Uzbekistan) or the stunning landscapes of Kyrgyzstan? We started our trip in Tashkent, a city that was such a surprise; virtually rebuilt after the devastating 1966 earthquake yet there are still some ancient structures in the old city, some (Tsar) Nicholas II architecture, lots of weird and wonderful Soviet era buildings, and more monumental structures than you can poke a stick at. The boulevards are wide, and parks and greenery abound. There are mosques, madrassas and mausoleums - all the so called 'M's' of the Islamic world. It was a great introduction to the history of the region, the Silk Road, and to the ancient cities of Sarmaqand (Samarkand), Bukhara and Khiva and to the desertscapes that have been inhabited by local people and tribes for several millennia. We also travelled around Issyk-Kul Lake in Kyrgyzstan soaking up the amazing views of snow capped mountains, green valleys, glacial fed rivers, and the azure waters of the lake. Throughout both countries our trip had a focus on the unique arts and crafts of the region which meant we had many opportunities to meet local artisans and craftspeople, to see their work, marvel at their skills and ingenuity, and be amazed at how many generations have been engaged in silk production, weaving, felt making, yurt building, ceramics, carpet weaving, and woodwork. Needless to say, much of this work and the people who do it are a feature of our photos, as is the stunning but ubiquitous blue tiles and domes that for us are now synonymous with Central Asia.

We know now that there is still so much more to see and discover in this region, and we are still wondering why it is that we knew so little about it beforehand. It was certainly a huge gap in our education, but one we hope to fill in years and trips to come. Kazakhstan & Turkmenistan, we hear you calling!

Postscript: for the sake of coherence and brevity, the Soviet era buildings and structures, and the mosaics of the same period have not been included in this album. They have however been previously shared on Facebook.

Stunning, Amazing and Incredible Samaqand

Might not be the best strategy for keeping one's 'audience' engaged, but I can't resist showing a couple of the best pics first:, the mighty Registan in Samaqand. Wow. Every bit as awe inspiring at the Taj Mahal. Stunning by day,
and magical by night.
Truly a sight to behold

Arts & Crafts

A few of the many textile pics showcasing suzani embroidery, ikat weaving, felt making, and decorative yurt weavings.
Some of the people making, collecting and selling these amazing works of art.
Love them all - but the old (antique) ikats (like the one above) and suzanis are so unique and beautiful.
Just finding something you like, can afford, and which isn't too old is a day's work. (Taking 150+ year old pieces out of the country is prohibited.)
The hard working hands of artisans.
Ceramics

Domes & Ancient Structures

At first glance, it's easy to presume that all blue domes and minarets are similar or the same..
However, a closer look reveals that each and every one of them are so very, very different..
Different in terms of glazed and inlay tiles, mosaics, carvings, plaster work, calligraphy, monumental portals, and colour. Just how many shades of blue are there?
In our minds, there is just one outstanding question; can you have too many photographs of blue domes?
We don't think so.
Interestingly, many domes are blue both inside and out
Then there were domes and other ancient structures that were unadorned (Bukhara).
But just as beautiful (Khiva)
And fun (Khiva)
Architectual feats like the perfect cube above left (9/10th Century mausoleum), and the purposely unfinished tower (2nd from the left); leaving the scaffolding intact so as not to attract the 'evil eye'. Khiva walls are from the late 17th Century, and the 9th Century Burana Tower in Kygryzstan (bottom right).
Bukhara
The ancient and ginormous portal at Shakhrisabz.
218 columns, each and every one of them carved differently, including several 10 Century originals (Juma Mosque, Khiva)..

A Touch More Blue

And just to be sure there is enough blue (and yellow, white and green) a bit more detail is added.
And for a final splash of blue .... and pink. Sunset over Khiva

Desert, Water and Landscapes

As stunning as the built environment is, it's hard to beat the natural beauty of the mountains and the valleys of these lands.
High altitude lakes
Issyk-Kul Lake, second highest lake in the world (after Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia)
Final resting places with a view (and a yurt)
Our overnight yurt camp
Sleeping quarters - seperate yurts for men and women
Desertscapes
Glacier fed rivers
Mighty mountains and canyons

People

In the desert and on the streets, people working, having fun, getting married and going about their business. More often than not, happy to see us, to chat with us and to find out where we are from. And very often keen to have a photo (or more specifically a selfie) taken with us.
Very happy to see us!
Karakol (Kygryzstan) anitique shop full of Soviet era memorabilia
Wedding photos at Shakhrisabz
Eagle and hunter
Buzkashii - the ancient polo game (using a goat carcass instead of a puck). Incredibly skilled horseman; the horses even more so.
Women out and about in beautiful textiles and keeping old traditions alive.
Men, boys and their animals

Decorative Arts

Just a few domes (notoriously difficult to photograph).. Final pic the massive Chorsu Market dome (Tashkent)
And a few hand painted walls and ceilings; incredible works of art.

More People

Because you can never have too many people pics

A final few pics of us and our travelling companions

With special thanks to Mirza, Ilya and Penelope for making it all work and ensuring it was an exciting and amazing trip.

Proshchay! Until our paths cross again somewhere in the world. [Copyright Kathleen Walsh 2018. Absolutely fine to share the link to the album, however individual photos may not be copied or reproduced without permission. Contact kathleenwalsh23@gmail.com]

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