Thursday, 14 October 2010

Turkestan Break

Sunday 3rd October

We are now following the valley of the Syr Darya, or ancient Jaxartes river, and have reached the Silk Road town of Turkestan. En route I discovered the culprit below skulking behind the treeline bordering the road - cotton!
It was the diversion of water from the Syr Darya and Amu Darya (Oxus river) to irrigate the deserts of Central Asia for cotton production such as this which resulted in the tragic dessication of the Aral Sea, which is fed by these two great rivers. By 2004 the Aral Sea had shrunk to about a quarter of its original size. But more about the Aral Sea when we reach it next year.
An enormous pile of 'white gold'.
This productive irrigated area also grows other crops such as melons and tomatoes - here is a novel use of an old bus as a roadside melon shop.

Having found a local family on the edge of Turkestan to look after Zorbee for a couple of nights, we are staying at the Yassi hotel, which is clean and comfortable, but with the usual Kazakhstan quirks such as hot water only after 8pm. The restaurant served 100 year old cow and there was no milk for the tea. But it is conveniently directly opposite the major Turkestan attraction and important Muslim pilgrimage site of the Timurid Kodja Ahmed Yassuai mausoleum, and we were able to stroll over there after a milkless breakfast tea this morning.

You can get an impression of the size of the mausoleum by the size of the figures - the tiny blue thing to the left of the archway is me. Behind the huge facade is a stunning blue-tiled dome which cannot be seen in the photo.
The mausoleum was commissioned by Timur - sometimes better known to us as Tamerlane - in memory of 12th century Sufi mystic Ahmed Yassuai.

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