After coming off the Kyrgyzstan trek, Peter, our trip leader, had arranged for us to go to Samarkand in Uzbekistan before continuing on up to Tashkent for the flight home.
Beautiful…majical Samarkand…with more history than you can imagine. The population 412,300 in 2005) is the third-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Province. The city is most noted for it’s central position on the Asian Silk Road between China and the west.
We stayed at an old Russian “dacha” (summer home) used by Communist party members before the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Everyone was excited about a real shower, a real sit-down toilet and real beds. You line up there for toilet paper…someone said…pointing to a heavy babushka (old woman) sitting oficiously behind a small table in the entry way. “No! “No! Not tonight,! she grumbled loudly. “Tomorrow morning…toilet paper!” We were incredulous. But the sit-down toilets have no paper….we groaned. ” No, No, Not tonight!” Someone else’s room didn’t have electric lights so an old guy was sent off to investigate…never did find out if light was discovered. Some rooms had TV’s with snowy reception of Russian programs…we were hoping to get some news but there was nothing we could decipher.
So gratefully, we all sat down on real sit-down benches at a real table in the garden outside the dacha for a feast after 18 days and nights on the ground. There was a smattering of Russians who joined us that were not on the trek…police Peter said…one who had too much too drink bragged menacingly about how much power he used to have and now he was nobody. Don’t answer him, Peter advises.
Despite its status as the second city of Uzbekistan, the majority of the city’s inhabitants are Tajik-speaking. In 2001, after several abortive attempts, UNESCO inscribed the 2700-year-old city on the World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.