Home to one of the oldest civilizations in the word, my beloved poet Hafez, spectacular Islamic architecture and silk road heritage. I had been looking forward to visit this intriguing country for so long, as I was often told that Iran must be the safest country in the world, the Persian people the kindest on the planet, and that a visit starts with opening your mind and saying “yes” to everything.
“Welcome to what could be the friendliest country on earth”, the Lonely Planet opens its most recent guidebook, two of the mayor subtitles being “The beauty of Islam” and “Redefining hospitality”. Talking about setting standards high!
When starting my journal about this country, however, I can’t help but look back on the above quotes with bitterness. I feel like I was ill informed, by the guidebooks, the forums, the traveller’s reviews,… While Iran is no more dangerous than the average country, a big shadow looms over my experiences of the past three weeks: a bitter taste that is related to the exact opposite of the things mentioned in the guidebook. I would call them “The oppression of Islam” and “A great deal of harassment”. In summary, I would highly suggest any female traveller to not say “yes” to everything. If I had, I’d probably be fucked a hundred times by now.
My arrival in Almaty instantly revealed how different the city is from Shymkent, and in a good way.
After having a semi-comfortable sleep on the overnight train and spending the morning fruitlessly trying to communicate with the Russian crowd around me, I walked down into the shiny new metro and up to the rooftop terrace of my hostel. Nice!
On my last day in Samarkand, I decided to make a little day trip out of the city to the ancient town of Shahrisabz. Jean and I had met a local in the Registan that came over to help me bargain the price for the shared taxi down, and after that I was on my way.
The drive was beautiful, over a small mountain that offered hazy views. It was the first time that I saw anything than flat desert in Uzbekistan, so I was indeed very pleased when the driver offered to stop so I could take some pictures.
Samarkand is what most people imagine when they think of Uzbekistan. Well, that is… most people who know something about it’s heritage (others probably just imagine desert). It’s the classic post card picture, pretty in every way, and the mosques and medrassa’s that are restored here put a spell on me right after I first heard about them. Now I was indeed very much looking forward to my visit, and dearly hoped it wouldn’t be an anti-climax (like, in a way, Bukhara had been).
While my previous post was all superlatives about Uzbekistan, I realised Bukhara would be different from the moment I started walking through town. I wasn’t too happy with it’s first impression, and had a hard time coming to terms with the town. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that almost everything I wrote about Khiva, has been somewhat countered in the ancient city of Bukhara.
After having spent 2,5 days in beautiful Khiva, today I’ve journeyed on towards Bukhara, my second stop in Uzbekistan. I’m writing this entry while sitting in a shared taxi, in the sweet company of Dominique and Françoise, a French couple I’ve met yesterday while on a tour to the desert’s castle ruins.
My take on the world and the things I love. Prominently among them: travel, art and the ordinary. I share my discovery of our beautiful world, my self and the arts I'm trying to develop (photography, sketching and writing) in a way that is both honest and poetic. Please join my journey.