Wanderlust: SamarkandApril 17, 2009
Lately, I’ve been haunted by dreams of Samarkand. I’m re-reading Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski, (spelled it right first try… whoot!) which is a lovely book of musings about the former USSR. He briefly mentions a trip to Samarkand, while describing a stay in Uzbekistan, and I was suddenly reminded of all the fabulous flights of fancy that name has taken me on over the years.
Samarkand has always stood out in my mind as a mythical place, the very epitome of exoticism and the Orient, in the greatest, most antiquated adventure story sense of the term. The word itself, lolling on the tongue with its long aaaaa’s and lazy consonants, evokes unknown landscapes, full of minarets and camels, with people in strange garments calling out in liquid tones. Colours and textures combined in ways new to you, but bearing the definite mark of centuries.
These are, of course, all the typical cliches of a Westerner with a liking for reading about parts unknown, but Samarkand does fit those dreams so well. It’s simply filthy with culture and history– conquered by Alexander the Great, sacked by Genghis Khan, the capital of Tamerlane’s empire, a major stop on the Silk Road. It’s a setting in the Arabian Nights. Its markets have been extolled by writers through the ages.
The city is also a cultural melting-pot on a small scale, having been part of many different empires as national boundaries were drawn and re-drawn over the centuries.
Also, when I was in Russia, the yummiest peaches came from Samarkand. What an exciting journey for a piece of fruit to undertake!
Anyway, I’m off to daydream more about travels along the Silk Road. Thoughts of bazaars and mosaics, with just enough of a touch of Soviet architecture to ground it firmly in this world. Bliss.