Boiling the cocoons and seperating the silk threads
If you happen to be a silk worm and one which is unfortunate enough to be born with the knowledge about what the future holds for it, I am sure there would be a certain amount of fear and loathing taking place in its thoughts. Fergana valley and in particular Margilon is the centre of silk production in Uzbekistan and this is where it all started a long, long time ago, or so it is said in these parts.
We got to know all about silk production on the wonderful free tour that is available at one of the silk factories in Margilon. And so we learned that after being fed for three month on mulberry leaves, they wrap themselves up in a cocoon unknowing that the odds of coming out alive on the other side as a moth are extremely slim. After they have produced enough of the silk fabric in the form of their cocoon they are steamed to death before they hatch, so as not to destroy the precious silk that they produced in the first place, when they break free. Yes being a silk worm is a hard life! Of course you could be one of
There they are bobbing around
the lucky ones that are spared in order to ensure the continued survival of the species and thus the silk. Fear and loathing indeed for those little buggers!
Also I suspect the last Khan of Kokand felt some fear and loathing back in 1876, first with the arrival of the Russians who abolished his job, and then from his own subjects when they turned on him and he had to flee towards those same loathsome Russians for protection. Those subjects themselves must have felt a lot of fear and loathing during the Russian Revolution when after proclaiming independence from the Russian Empire the Red Army sacked the city and slaughtered 14000 of its inhabitants. In the process a lot of its holy sights were desecrated and destroyed which means that there isn't much to see of its former glory. However it probably still has the most historical sights of all the major cities in the Fergana valley, and the old town is actually a very pleasant place to wonder around. In fact I found Kokand quite a relaxing place, with lots of little chaikhana's with old and young men sipping tea, submerged in quiet conversation.
Fear and loathing
The dead worms
certainly was felt in Andijon on that fateful day in 2005 when a demonstration was ruthlessly put down by the government and an unknown number of people were killed. It is best not to talk about that topic when visiting this region. Instead we focused on another subject, the fact that Babur, the first emperor of the Mughal Empire, the one that ruled India until the British came, was born here and lived here until he was forced to flee. There is a statue and a rather lackluster museum dedicated to him in the centre of town. The museum really was not worth the name, it is housed on the spot where young Babur once lived and studied, but it has nothing of interest in it and certainly isn't worth the one dollar entrance fee. More interesting in Andijon are its people, who seem to be more conservative than anywhere else I have seen. The headscarf still rules this place, as do traditional costumes both for men and women. The town itself is a modern contraption, Soviet buildings lined by wide tree-lined boulevards.
And finally we come to Fergana itself, the city named after the valley, founded by the
Colouring the fabric
Russians, with a few Tsarists buildings sprinkled around and lots of shade. It is pleasant enough and it was our base from which we visited the other towns. I would have rather stayed in Kokand, but all cheap hotels had been closed down or were being renovated leaving us with little other choice. And while I have not experienced any fear in Fergana, perhaps there was a tiny bit of loathing at the lack of cheap accommodation. The only real loathing worthwhile mentioning on my part was caused by the usual culprits, namely the taxi drivers. In this case the one who brought us from Tashkent to Fergana. As is often the case the agreed price at the beginning was argued over at the end.
However whatever loathing I did feel it was easily overcome by the hospitality and friendliness shown to us by the local population. Many a time were we invited for weddings, food, a bed to sleep in, or a just to come and see the local village of some random person in the bus. We often had to decline those overtures but nonetheless the spirit remains and it was that which is for me the
Natural colours were used in this particular factory
most memorable part of visiting the Fergana valley.
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