fashionable clothing adorable toys, and a variety creative and colorful bags and slippers.
The Saka (Scythian) were among the earliest peoples in the region. These warrior
clans, noted for the bronze and gold relics found in burial mounds from the 6th century BC near the great alpine Issyk-kul Lake, as well as in southern Kazakhstan Beginning about the 6th century BC, various Turkic alliances controlled the area in 751 the Turks (aided by Arab and Tibetan allies), repelled the Tang Chinese invaders. The Turkic Karakhanids, ruled the area from the 10th to the 12 th centuries. In the 13th century, the area that is today’s Kyrgyzstan, was most likely populated with people the Mongols drove out of Siberia, an area that was part of Genghis Khan’s bequest to his second son at his death.
In 1685 another group of Mongols, themselves later defeated by the Manchu (Ching Dynasty), drove the Kyrgyz south into present day Tajikistan. After much territorial manipulation among clans and Khanates in the 18 th and early 19 th centuries, the Russians, after a revolt in 1916, took control. In 1936, Kyrgyzstan became a full Soviet Socialist Republic. The current president, Akaev, a physicist, president of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, and a liberal reformer was elected in 1990 and reelected after independence in 1991. Since then Kyrgyzstan has ratified a new
constitution, revamped the government structure, and given Akaev a solid vote of
confidence in a referendum he called for his economic program.
A small fort was built in 1825, near a silk road settlement along a caravan route through the Tian Shan mountains, on a Chuy River tributary. Inhabitants were the Uzbek clan of Kokand. This fort became Bishkek. In 1862, the Russians set up their own garrison which then became the town of Pishpek later becoming the capital of the new Kyrgyz social republic in 1926. Only in 1991 was it named Bishkek, the Kyrgyz version of Pishpek, the word for a kumis (fermented mare’s milk) churn. Today the city is the political and industrial capital of the independent Kyrgyzstan with an obviously relaxed atmosphere and a casual attitude toward its Soviet history and monuments. There is very little that is old in the city, and despite its economic problems, it has a growing middle class, well stocked shops, good restaurants and an influx of business people, aid workers and tourists who find friendly people and considerably simplified travel.
Day 4. Bishkek.
After breakfast you will be driven 190 km (140 miles) outside of Bishkek through
small villages and magnificent mountain scenery to the 11 th century Burana tower, the remnant of a Karakhanid minaret. The Karakhanids were Turkic usurpers who were given credit for finally converting Central Asia to Islam. Briefly we will visit the small museum inside the minaret and climb the mound behind to get a better look at the old city walls. The mound is the remnant of an ancient citadel that was founded by the Sogdians and in the 11 th century became the capital of the Karakhanids. On the back side of the mound is an interesting collection of Turkish grave stones.
In the valley, many pieces of Scythian treasure, including a heavy gold burial mask, were
unearthed but, sadly, are now either in St. Petersburg or in storage in the Bishkek State Historical Museum. You will have a chance to see more of the rural life as you are driven to a nearby village for a good lunch and then make our way back to Bishkek for dinner and overnight. (2nd of 2 nights).
Day 5. Bishkek.
This morning you will see the large, white marble cube that has long been the Historical Museum just steps from the Kyrgyz White House, the seat of the government, the president’s office and the parliament. By the time of your arrival, it is hoped that the museum which is currently under renovation, will be completed and reopened. You will be presented a lecture on the history and culture of the region’s nomadic peoples.
A short stroll down Chuy Prospekt, the city’s broad main avenue, will bring us to the Fine Arts Museum with its fine collection of Soviet paintings. After a typical Kyrgyz lunch we will pay a visit to a local pottery workshop where we can get acquainted with the local ceramic’s style and history. After your full day, followed by dinner you will return to your hotel for your last night in Bishkek. (3 rd of 3 nights).
Day 6. Bishkek – Osh (Kyrgyzstan) to Margilan (Uzbekistan).
This morning will include a transfer to the airport for the flight to Osh, one of Central Asia’s oldest and most important crossroads on the storied “Silk Road”. On your way to the bustling and colorful Osh market you will be able to see that, somewhat inconveniently, the town is built on two sides of Solomon’s Throne, a small craggy mountain that seems to loom up wherever we go. For centuries, the mountain has been a pilgrimage destination for Muslims because it is said, the Prophet Muhammad once prayed there. Because it looks like a recumbent pregnant woman, it is also favored by women who have been unable to have children. In 1497 the adolescent king Zahiruddin Babur, founder of India’s Mogul Dynasty, built a shelter and private mosque a long, steep climb high on the eastern side.
Saying goodbye to Kyrgyzstan, drive to the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border and, after completing border formalities, continue a short distance to Margilan for dinner and overnight. (1st of 2 nights).
Day 7. Margilan.
The whole day will be devoted to visiting Margilan, well-known for its silk factories. Margilan is rightfully considered to be the center of silk production for the whole of Central Asia. You will visit the Yodgorlik silk weaving workshop and have a chance to see the age-old process of silk production and learn more from the masters about the distinctive colors and patterns historically coveted by Chinese and Persian merchants. You will be acquainted with the ikat technique.
Ikat (literally means “to tie” and in the Malay language it means “to bind”) is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles. It employs resist dyeing on the yarn prior to dyeing and weaving the
fabric. The ikat technique has about 37 separate steps and each of them is carried out by an individual craftsperson.
In Margilan you will meet a master of ikat – weaver Fazlitdin Dadajanov. Lunch will
be served at his workshop.
Visit the craft center of Margilan run by another famous weaver of the Fergana Valley
– Rasuljon Mirzaakhmedov. The craft center is located in a madrassah of the 19 th century. Dinner and overnight in Margilan. (2 nd of 2 nights).
Day 7. Margina – Rishtan – Kokand – Tashkent.
This morning after breakfast you will begin a drive in private cars to the Western part of Uzbekistan towards Tashkent. There will be 3 passengers in each car as the route goes through mountains and police do not allow the use of large passenger vehicles.
The first stop will be Rishtan – one of the most important ceramic centers in Central Asia. You will visit the private studio of master ceramic artist Rustam Usmanov and learn about the traditional blue and green floral designs native to the region. Continue 40 minutes to Kokand, the capital of the Kokand Khanate in the 18 th and 19 th centuries when it, like Bukhara, with scores of mosques and madrassahs, was a main religious center in Central Asia. In 1918 the Tashkent Soviets laid waste on the religious building and slaughtered 14,000 inhabitants in response to the declaration of a rival administration. Most of the surviving mosques are once again viable places of worship although not all welcome non-Muslims. In Kokand we will visit the Khan’s palace and Museum. At the palace we will see the two courtyards, which are all that remain of the original seven and some of the only 19 remaining rooms of the original 113. Inside is a Museum where you will see jewelry, musical instruments as well as Uzbek furniture, oriental porcelain and a small art gallery.
After lunch in Kokand, on our way to Tashkent, we will cross the Tian-Shan mountains. It will be a beautiful scenic drive through snow-capped mountains.
Kamchik Pass will be a perfect photo stop offering mountain views in the background. This mountain route was a part of the actual Silk Road.
In the late evening you will arrive in Tashkent for overnight. (1st of 2 nights).
TASHKENT It is believed that Tashkent dates to the second or first century BC. By the 8 th
century, when the Arabs arrived, it had become a major caravan crossroads but it was not until the 11 th century that it acquired the name Toshkent or Tashkent (‘City of Stone’ in Turkic). Although in the 13 th century the Khorezm Shahs and Genghis Khan destroyed the city, it slowly recovered under the Mongols, and then under Timur (Tamerlane), eventually becoming prosperous in the 15 th and 16th centuries. Many of the architectural monuments we can see today were erected during this period. In the 19 th century, as Bukhara was planning to capture the city a Russian general, in defiance of orders, outmaneuvered them and took possession. From this base the Russians slowly overtook the surrounding khanates and during the Great Game for
imperial power with Britain, Tashkent became the Tsarists’, and later the Soviets’, main center for espionage. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 it became the capital of Turkistan SSR.
Day 8. Tashkent.
This morning you will visit the Khast-Imam Square, the old quarter of Tashkent where you will see an 8 th century Koran which was brought to Central Asia by Tamerlane in the 15 th century. On the square you will also see some glorious buildings and beautiful turquoise-tiled domes lighted like an exotic stage set.
Later you will visit the Museum of Applied Arts to see magnificent suzanis (embroidered panels) and other fine crafts, the Abdul-Khasis Madrassah (Islamic school) with its hujra (student dormitories) which are now as metalwork craft workshops producing jewelry, miniature paintings, papier-mâché lacquered boxes and other goods After lunch at an excellent local restaurant, you’ll visit the Chor-Su Market – the biggest market in Tashkent. You will walk through the market and see rows of artisan making craft items for daily needs, the place where dairy products and dry cheese are sold, the butchers’ area, the market for fresh fruits and vegetables, the bread bakeries, and the “food court” of freshly made lunches where people can order their meal and eat on site.
Later you will experience the Tashkent subway (Metro). Tashkent metro stations areamong the most beautiful in the world and are among the top attractions in the city. Tashkent’s metro was the seventh in the USSR, built after the 1966 earthquake. The first line opened in 1977 and two more lines followed. For years you could not take pictures of the interior of metro stations, because of their military and strategic functions. In fact, some of the Tashkent metro stations serve as a nuclear bomb shelters as well. Almost every subway station in Tashkent is fascinating. They all have their own unique architectural features and artistic elements. Some look like ballrooms with huge chandeliers hanging from the ceiling while others look like film sets from science fiction movies. Dinner and overnight in Tashkent. (2nd of 2 nights).
Day 9. Tashkent – Samarkand.
In the morning you will drive to Samarkand, the grand capital of the emperor Tamerlane (the brilliant and great 15 th century ruler who created a huge empire which spanned from Western China to Eastern Europe, including Persia, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Tamerlane made Samarkand as his Imperial Capital).
The famous Silk Road went through Tashkent, the Sirdarya regions and the mountainous countryside of the Jizzah region. You will have lunch in a picturesque roadside choi-khona
After arriving and checking into the hotel, the sightseeing program in Samarkand will
You will be driven out to see the Shaki-Zinda ensemble of the Mausoleums. This unusual necropolis has monuments from the 14 th and 15 th centuries, reflecting the development of the monumental art and architecture of the Timurid dynasty.
The name Shakhi-Zinda (meaning “The living king”) is connected with the legend that Kusam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the prophet Muhammad, is buried here. He came to Samarkand with the Arab
invasion in the 7th century to preach Islam Popular legends recount that he was beheaded for his faith, but he didn’t die. It is believed that he took his head and went into a deep well (the Garden of Paradise), where he’s still living now.
The Shakhi-Zinda complex was formed over eight centuries (from the 11th till 19 th) and now includes more than twenty buildings. The ensemble comprises three groups
of structures: the lower, middle and upper, connected by four-arched domed passages
locally called chartak . The earliest buildings date back to the 11-12 th centuries. Of the tombstones, mainly their bases and headstones have remained. The majority of the monuments date back to the 14-15 th centuries. Dinner and overnight in Samarkand. (1st
of 4 nights).