Saturday 18 October
One of our more interesting stops was between Samarkand and Bukhara. Shakhriabz is the birthplace of Timur and was intended to be his burial place as well. As it happened he died of pneumonia en route to invade China. The pass between Samarkand and Shakhriabz was snowed in at that time, so his body never made it to Shakhriabz.
We drove over that pass – it was cold and wet and windy in mid-October. We stopped to some amazing rock formations. Our driver/guide Fazil took great delight showing us his surfing skills on one rock knicknamed “the surfboard”. I don’t think Fazil had ever surfed in his life.
There was a little market at the top of the pass, and local people were selling fruits, vegetables and herbs. The little Forest Apples are swett and almost like a nashi.
Fazil was also keen to show us a specialty from that mountainous area. Build a fire under an earthern pot. Pack the pot with chopped lamb and local herbs, and cook. We were told that people travelled kilometers to sit in the tent and wash roasted lamb and bread down with copious cups of green tea.
There are the expected attractions including Timur’s summer palace in Shakhriabz, which is now two towers either side of a crumbled gateway. There is a statue of Timur, a mosque, caravanserai and the local market.
But what was really interesting was the renovations that are underway.
Residents had been moved out of the centre of town and their homes demolished. The area was being paved with reticulated water to support the trees that would be planted. Men & women workers were digging massive holes, so the trees must be sizeable.
The road had been dug up, it was about 2 metres lower than surrounding land, but the market was still operating above it and on the dusty road. Part of the produce market had also been demolished, leaving just the “nice looking” area.
So what we saw was a tourist attraction WIP.
It’d be interesting to go back and see the completed project, but not in summer when you would bake in the huge open spaces that are being created.
One of Uzbekistan’s assets is its rich historical sites and the country is learning to make the most of it.