Published: July 27th 2008July 23rd 2008
Apart from all the sightseeing that we've been doing, most of our time is based around eating. Eating is definitely a big part of the culture here, so it's needless to say that I love it here! They also eat LOTS here, I'm talking double what we probably eat back home for each meal! There always tends to be salads, soups, bread, then the main course - which is often Plov, kebabs, or other meat dishes. When it comes to drinking (vodka), it is impolite to refuse the initial drink, but as you go on, there's even more pressure to drain your glass every time! Tea is the drink of hospitality, and is normally drunk from a small bowl. The custom when drinking tea is the first cup of tea is poured away to clean the bowl, and then a bowl of tea is poured out and returned twice into the pot to brew the tea.
Last night we drove through the mountains and arrived at Sentab village, which felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. Just donkeys, goats, beautiful mountain scenery, and a lovely family that welcomed us with open arms. I fell in love with this
the row of mausoleums. a lot of locals come here to pray and worship the rulers whose tombs lie here
village as soon as we drove up the mountain. There is something about being in such a remote place, where people live so primitively that makes me feel alive. I think the main reason is being so close to nature and having to survive on what you've got.
Here, guests are treated with absolute selflessness. The majority of the local people have little to offer but their hospitality and guests can drain their host's resources and never know it. All we could do was enjoy it, and honour their customs, which hopefully we did. The plov that was cooked for dinner was one of the best that we've had so far, the meat so tasty and tender, the rice cooked well, and the garlic roasted to perfection.
We got to sleep on mattresses under the grapevines, surrounded by fruit trees, fresh air and of course the funny sound of donkeys in the distance. I had a great vantage point as I could see the almost full moon whilst lying down and looking up at the sky, so the night was pure bliss! The next day I didn't want to leave, but we made our way to Samarkand, where
colourful glazed tiles
one of the mausoleums at Shah-I-Zinda
all good things come from according to Dav - perhaps because that's where he is from!
The people in Samarkand don't speak Uzbek here, instead they are mostly Tajik. So again I'm struggling to communicate to people here! The city is one of Central Asia's oldest settlements, and is a key Silk Road city, as it sits on crossroads leading to China, India and then Persia. It changed hands every couple of centuries before being obliterated by Genghis Khan in 1220.
After spending a couple of days here, I would have to agree with Dav, as I've found Samarkand the most impressive cities we've visited in terms of the architecture, the history, the people and the food. A lot of the fruit and vegetables here are transported to other cities within Uzbekistan because of the high quality produced.
It's been 2 weeks now that I've been in Uzbekistan, and I have to say I've fallen in love with this country! It feels strange to be leaving as I was just starting to feel at home after all our lovely encounters with the locals in their homes, not to mention their delicious home cooked food! Even though it's
Malika - part of our host family in Sentab village
Malika's name means princess in Tajik. She definitely acted like a little princess.
been hard to communicate, I've really enjoyed learning about the people and their culture, experiencing the food and trying to understand the complex history that has unfolded over centuries.
I think a lot of people are concerned about how "safe" it is to travel to countries like this. In the time that I've been here, I have never felt threatened, been ripped off, or been stopped by the police in the street. Maybe if I was a journalist it would be another story, but I don't think harming a tourist in any way even crosses their minds. I can walk down the street holding my camera and wallet without even having to be "careful". The crime rates here are relatively low, and the people live in peace. I definitely felt more scared for my life in countries like Brasil or Argentina.
I'm going to be really sad to leave this country, but am looking forward to new adventures in Kyrgyzstan and visiting Kashgar in China.
There are more photos below