MIR’s Silk Road Tour: Journey Through Central Asia


[Central Asian music plays] More than two thousand years ago the great trade routes that linked Europe and China opened Central Asia to foreign cultures, customs and religions. MIR’s iconic small group tour, “Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans,” is a modern-day caravan on an epic Silk Road journey to five of these exotic countries: Kazakhstan, once home to nomads and horses; Kyrgyzstan, with its mountains and natural beauty; Uzbekistan, and its lush Fergana Valley; over to Tajikistan, filled with colorful ancient bazaars; back to Uzbekistan, the heart of the Silk Road; and finally to Turkmenistan with its UNESCO-listed ruins. On this journey through Central Asia we admire masterpieces of Islamic architecture; interact with locals in their bazaars, workshops and homes; and witness the daily life of these countries, visiting eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way. In Central Asia there’s lots of dancing! On this tour, we’ll see how the steps and movements vary from country to country. Each of the five ‘Stans has its own national cuisine and specialities, but “plov” is one rice dish that’s on the menu in every Central Asian country, with family recipes handed down from generation to generation. MIR’s tour, “Journey Through Central Asia,” begins in Kazakhstan, the largest and richest country of the five ‘Stans. [Music of Kazakh horses] Almaty is a thriving city set against the majestic Tien Shan Mountains. It’s called the “Capital of Apples,” believed to be where apples first originated on earth. We explore one of Almaty’s historic landmarks, Zenkov Cathedral. It’s an Orthodox wooden church built to withstand earthquakes – a very colorful building from times of the czars. Outside of Almaty we visit a Kazakh falcon farm, with an up-close look at these beautiful birds, for centuries used in hunting. From Kazakhstan, we travel along mountain roads to Kyrgryzstan, an unspoiled country of soaring peaks and broad valleys – truly Central Asia’s best-kept secret. Lake Issyk-Kul is the second largest high-altitude lake in the world, a saline lake that never freezes. Horses are revered in Central Asia. In Kyrgyzstan, thrilling horse games are a big part of the culture, with men fiercely competing on horseback. Burana Tower was built in the 11th century. It’s one of the only existing watchtowers left left on the Old Silk Road. On clear days, the snow-capped Ala-Too Mountains loom over Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan’s capital city. The views are spectacular. [SInger recites from “Epic of Manas”] Another highlight is listening to just a small portion of the traditional Kyrgyz poem, “Epic of Manas.” Accompanied by music, this riveting poem has nearly half-a-million verses. [Singer recites from “Epic of Manas”] It’s on to Osh in the lush Fergana Valley, with a visit to a sacred mountain that’s considered one of the holiest Islamic places in Central Asia. Fergana Valley is shared by three of the ‘Stans. We drive to the area in Uzbekistan where silk is a speciality. [Sound of loom] It’s where silk threads are dyed bold colors and woven into complex designs known as “ikat.” [Sound of loom] Ceramics also date back a thousand years. In Rishtan, ceramics are known for elaborate floral and geometric designs in bright blue and green hues. These skills have been passed down from father to son for generations. We head west to Tajikistan, a country infused with the influence of Persia, Islam and Russia. Khujand is more than 2,000 years old, once a religious center and an important stop on the Old Silk Road, with its colorful covered bazaar filled with fruits, spices, and farm-fresh produce. From Tajikistan, we journey back into Uzbekistan with some of the most famous sights of the Old Silk Road. One of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan, Tashkent is a modern capital today, rebuilt after a massive earthquake in 1966. Independence Square is the heart of Tashkent, with a globe and Motherland statue as the centerpiece. Tashkent also safeguards the Uthman Koran, considered one of the oldest Korans in the world. As in so many Central Asian towns, here among the old streets and buildings you just might come across a joyful celebration! [Music] Samarkand is called the “Crossroad of
Cultures,” and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The heart of Samarkand is Registan Square, considered the most majestic in all of Central Asia, with its blue-tiled mosaics, mosques, and madrassahs. It’s easy to imagine life as it was lived centuries ago, in the days of Tamerlane and those now buried in the ancient tombs and mausoleums of Shah-i-Zinda. And of course, in this Silk Road town there’s most likely a silk fashion show! [Music] Another UNESCO World Heritage Site is Shahrisabz, birthplace of Tamerlane the Conqueror. The ruins of his White Palace is called “Ak Saray,” built in the 14th century. Bukhara’s Old Town is also a UNESCO treasure, an oasis in the desert for Silk Road camel caravans long ago and modern travelers today. Minarets pierce the sky with intricate tile patterns adorning the walls, ceilings, and domes of Bukhara’s ancient buildings. The heart of Bukhara’s Old Town is Lyabi-Hauz Plaza, an oasis surrounded by winding streets, colorful markets, and teahouses called “chaikanas.” [Music] The old town of Khiva is called “Ichon Qala,” and a UNESCO-listed site that has been preserved and restored, looking much as it did centuries ago. [Karakalpak music] Nukus is the capital of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, known for its trove of once-banned avant-garde Soviet art at the Savitsky Museum. It’s the second-largest collection of its kind in the world. The last of the five ‘Stans on this tour is Turkmenistan, a country of tribal culture and camels as well as modern cities and transportation. Three UNESCO-listed sites are Turkmen highlights: the ruins of Khorezm’s Kunya Urgench and Kutlug-Timur Minaret; the Parthian city of Nisa – more than 2,000 years old; and the mythical city of Merv, one of the most important way stations along the Old Silk Road. The modern capital of Ashgabat is dotted with so many white marble buildings – more than 500 – that it set a Guinness world record. Outside of Ashgabat is a horse-breeding farm known for the Akhal-Teke horse, one of the oldest and most beautiful horse breeds in the world, with their metallic sheen, long legs, and grace – revered throughout Turkmenistan. The exuberance of a Turkmen dance performance in Ashgabat reflects the vitality of these five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan on MIR’s iconic tour, “Journey Through Central Asia: The Five ‘Stans.”

3 Replies to “MIR’s Silk Road Tour: Journey Through Central Asia”

  1. Very nice Video. Afghanistan historically, culturally and geographically also belongs to Central Asia but war has done bad to this country.
    The People of Tajikistan and from Samarkand and Bukhara are ethnically Tajiks, same like in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is also the Country with the highest Tajik population in the world(Tajik is actually just a synonym for Persians in Central Asia). It is really unfortunate to see what happend to Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is the perfect example for how Afghanistan would be if there was no war there for more than 40 Years now 🙁

  2. Beautiful! We will use it during our event and refer those who are interested in visiting these countries!

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