Uzbekistan: On the Golden Road to Samarkand with Jules Verne – Part 2
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Amazing Arts and Crafts
crafts have long flourished in Uzbekistan, reflecting the diverse culture of
ethnic groups and ever-changing layers of history. Today, spurred by
independence and growing tourism, traditional skills are proudly handed down
from one generation to the next. From the old trading domes and Aladdin's caves
to glittering stores, the stunning displays simply take your breath away.
after all the heart of the Silk Road, the vast network of trails where caravans
traded myriad goods between East and West, most precious of all the beautiful
Chinese silk. Out in the Uzbek countryside, worms are raised on mulberry leaves
as they have been for centuries and a single cocoon can produce a thread up to
1200 metre long. In the Fergana Valley, at the crossroad of ancient routes, the
pretty town of Margilan is a top producer of hand-made silk and you can learn all
about it in a factory visit. But right across the land, silk beckons in
shimmering colours, scarves, dresses, ties, wall hangings and more. Most sought
after is Ikat when fibres are tied in a specific pattern then dyed before weaving
to create gentle slightly blurred colours, different every time.
cotton, the embroidered textiles known as suzanis are so special they’ve been
featured on postage stamps. Some are designed for home decoration, when several
pieces can be stitched together, others for daily or festival wear but every
province has its favourite style and colours, often symbolic. On the tourist
trail, Bukhara and Samarkand are a treat, hats, bags, skirts, bedcovers and throws
with motifs ranging from leaves and flowers to fruit, especially pomegranate,
the auspicious icon of the Silk Road. Once upon a time, girls would create
their best suzanis for a dowry, featuring the luxurious gold thread still used
today or patterns of beautiful jewels, seen only in their dreams.
Rooted in antiquity
as discovered near the source of the Chirchik, the local jewellery has evolved
over time, influenced by Persia and India and reaching its highlight in the
19th century. Ancient skills and modern technology now come together to produce
attractive ornaments of gold or silver, enhanced with precious or semi-precious
stones such as coral, garnet, lapis lazuli or the vibrant carnelian. Multicoloured
pieces of glass are also popular. Masters often work in craft centres, some
specialising in silver filigree, but bracelets, earrings or pendants, all
articles delight visitors and the local women who may like to wear them as
talismans, pearls for good health, turquoise for luck and so on.
traditional crafts involve leather, wood and metal work, hand-made paper used
for cards, handbags or papier mâché puppets, delicate miniature paintings and
ceramics, an applied art beyond the monumental architectural wonders. Teapots
and mini-bowls, plates, jugs, vases, toys and tiles, these lovely painted
ceramics are both decorative and useful. Colours depend on the local glaze,
mostly blue, white and green in the Fergana Valley and Khorezm (around Khiva)
while Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent have deep glowing shades of yellow, brown
and red. Definitely something for everyone.
On a much
larger scale, if you can afford it, carpets are pure magic. Did you know that
the more you walk on a silk carpet, the stronger it gets as you tighten the
knots? Silk, cotton or wool, hand or machine made (check this out), Uzbek
carpets are both artistic and functional. My favourite was a hand-woven silk
rug in Samarkand, 'two for the price of one', said the guide, for as you turned
it around, the colour changed, all from natural dyes of course. Tempting but
not cheap. Fabric aside, the cost depends on the intricacy of the design and
when hand-knotted -the finest technique-, the number of knots which may reach
over 200 per cm2. Knotting requires dainty fingers, so this is
mostly a woman's job though in this technology age, girls can check up the
pattern on their smart phones. Other items include felt mats made by nomads
with left-over sheep wool, modern flat-weave and embroidered carpets.
your heart and please your eyes”, say the locals, and in my view, this is true
of all arts and crafts in Uzbekistan.
with Jules Verne on the Golden Road to Samarkand.
is the 'som' (currently 10,000 to £1.00). You only need it for small purchases
so change a little at a time (changing back can be difficult).
(clean and undamaged) are widely accepted, so are credit cards for large items
on the tourist trail.
Bargaining is expected in most places, start around 65-70% then move up slowly.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Jules Verne
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