(This is a little late. We're not in Uzbekistan anymore but this is what it looked like.) We arrived in Tashkent and immediately went to Fergana Valley to meet our friends who do Ikat weaving. Along the way we learned that craft here is a relatively new development as it was forbidden by the communist regime for a very long time and is only now being revived in small pockets. Therefore a lot of current work is either replicating old motifs and patterns (or inspired by them) and not much of it expresses the voice of modern Uzbekistan. We met some young people, including our great friend Gulmira, who are working hard to define a new style of Uzbek craft with a visual vernacular that speaks to modern life. The embroiderers and weavers who are interested in sustaining a strong craft tradition here are being outnumbered by the machine factories that satisfy the growing domestic demand for Uzbek "traditional style" textiles. Now the hand work is for rich foreigners or as novelty pieces for rich Uzbeks on special occasions.
Gulmira's family is large and lovely and were amazing hosts for us. Her uncle Abdullah hooked us up with our driver Yuriy, who ended up being one of our favorite people. Together we covered over 1500km in Uzbekistan over the course of 10 days. We were sad to say goodbye to him and Gulmira and family.
If you like eating lamb everyday for every meal, come to Uzbekistan and get your fill. I hit my saturation point after about 3 days. Katherine hit hers a bit earlier.
One of the most incredible aspects of traveling through Uzbekistan is the quantity and frequency of elaborately constructed mosques. They are everywhere and boast some amazing tile and brickwork. We blew through about 2000 pictures on the mosques. There are no pictures of them here because I also hit mosque fatigue shortly after I filled my lamb quota. But take it from me, they were impressive.
When we finally arrived back in Tashkent to travel to India we had been to Fergana Valley in the northeast, G'shduvan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Ugurt and Shakrizaabs.
Something Katherine and I couldn't stop laughing about was the currency conversion. In one photo above I'm holding about 5,000,000 Uzbek Som in 500 bills which roughly equals $100 USD. Everytime we went to a bank to withdraw cash we'd walk out with a grocery bag full of money. We felt like we just robbed the place. Everytime we had to pay for something I pulled out a fist full of money from our bag and began the 10 minute process of triple counting the amount. We were all laughing the whole time. Consumerism became entertainment because we literally had no idea how much money we had at any one time.