Izzat and I drove from Bukhara to the town of Urgut, where I'd heard there was a particularly good bazaar and was hoping for some special finds. Urgut is near the border with Tajikistan, so it was arranged that we come on the last two days before crossing into Tajikistan.
One of the most amazing experiences I had on my Central Asian adventure was spending a whole day with a Pamir family. There was crochet, food, babies, plus LIVE MUSIC and dance. Yorali, my Pamiri host, shot most of this footage with my little video camera. My talented brother-in-law Simon Surowicz edited it into a fantastic film. Click the Video button above left to view it, and make sure you have good speakers turned on! This music is not like any you've heard before!!
[Note: To see the photos at their best, click on the photo at the top right (map) to open it in a larger format, then click"Next" at bottom left to view all photos on this page.]
I first experienced the splendors of Istanbul last summer, when I spent a few hours there while en route to Uzbekistan. This summer, accompanied by my friend Leslie, I planed a full two weeks there exploring its rich history and textile creativity. We'd booked a room in advance at a small hotel in the Sultanahmet, the old city, where historic sights and tourists abound.
Months ago I saw a photo on ravelry of an amazing slip stitch stock made in the Pamir mountains of Tajikistan. From that moment I decided to go to the region to find out about more about these socks, their origins and makers. I was most fortunate to obtain a frequent flyer air ticket from New York to Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, and back via Kiev in the Ukraine. In Kiev I was to meet up with crochet master Antonina Kuznetsova, who invited me for Ukraine's Indendence Day when she learned I was planning a trip to the region.
After considerable stress over non functioning cash machines and overpriced taxi rides, I catch a bus from Mostar to Dubrovnik next afternoon. We drive along the impressive Adriatic coast, where a string of islands obscures the horizon. It's very picturesque, but the frequent resorts climbing up from the beaches are overcrowded and without much character. After the intensity and dry heat of Mostar, it feels distant and unreal to me.
Khorog is a lovely small city with one good restaurant along the river. I took Yorali to lunch there and we spoke at length about how I could lend support once home, and how we might be able to arrange a longer visit for me in the future. Then Zuhro took me to the Khorog museum, where I knew there were old Pamiri socks I must try to photograph. We were greeted by an unkempt fellow with bottle-thick glasses who did not seem inclined to grant my request. I refused to give up, however, and he finally opened the case containing the socks and gave me a spot to lay them out for photos....
After crossing the border into Tajikistan I stayed in the town of Penjikent, where there are some historic sites, that, sadly, I didn't get to see. The hotel was a dilapidated ex-Soviet hotel that seemed to have no other visitors, OK but a little creepy. To cheer myself up I put on my brand new silver slippers that I bought in Urgut.
My first stop on this trip is in the beautiful and historic city of Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina. Surrounded by mountains and divided by a river, this ancient city ruled first by the Turks and then the Austro-Hungarians, was heavily pounded during the struggles of the 1990s. Over 10,000 Sarajevans died, many more were wounded, and fine old buildings damaged. Fifteen years after the end of hostilities, the city is thriving again. The people are very cosmopolitan and many, especially the young, speak English.
Though my main destination was the High Pamirs of Tajikistan, I couldn't imagine coming to Central Asia without seeing the famed exotic cities of Samarkand and Bukhara in Uzbekistan. My trip in Uzbekistan was arranged by Elenatours, represented by a Russian named Boris.
I'm so excited! I'll be going on a great travel adventure this summer. It began as an idea for researching the origins of crochet. It's often speculated that it all began in the Mediterranean world, and Turkey seemed like a key region. I was aware of their oya tradition, and knew crochet was sometimes used for making oya. Istanbul is a fabulous destination I'd never seen, and became my first point of focus.