SILK ROAD ’STANS

Uzbekistan • Kazakhstan • Krygyzstan

August 30-September 20, 2020

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SUN, AUG 30 — DEPART NEW YORK

 

You need to arrive at JFK before 9:00 p.m. to check in for our flight to Istanbul, which departs shortly after midnight.

 

MON, AUG 31 — ARRIVE TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN

 

We arrive in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, shortly after midnight and transfer to our hotel.

 

Miran International Hotel

 

TUE, SEP 1 — TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN

 

Two thousand years ago, Indian spice merchants and Chinese silk-sellers passed through Tashkent’s famous bazaars — at the meeting point of the Silk Roads — on their way to Europe. Uzbekistan, a predominantly Muslim nation, has a diverse cultural heritage, and Tashkent is a cosmopolitan, multi-ethnic city. The entire day is at leisure to rest, relax, and explore on your own before our welcome dinner this evening.

 

Miran International Hotel (D)

 

WED, SEP 2 — TASHKENT

 

This morning we photograph the colorful Chorsu Bazaar where the locals shop for almost anything and everything, including fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, dried fruits, textiles, brooms, baskets, etc. It’s a great opportunity to photograph people. We also visit the medieval Kukeldash Madrasah, which is still an active religious school, and Juma Mosque. Late this afternoon we photograph the impressive Khast Imam religious complex in the old city.

 

Miran International Hotel (BLD)

 

THU, SEP 3 — TASHKENT-SAMARKAND

 

Today we drive to Samarkand. As Uzbekistan’s second city, Samarkand is home to some of the world’s finest Islamic architecture, some of its most exotic bazaars, and many of its friendliest people. It’s a city of blue domes, slender minarets, and intoxicating smells. Late in the afternoon we explore the photogenic Siab Bazaar where women wear colorful local dress. This is one of the most interesting bazaars in Central Asia, offering a tremendous opportunity to photograph the local people. Next to the bazaar is Bibi Hanim Mosque, built in the 15th century, an impressive building with a great blue dome. We then visit Registan Square, which consists of three photogenic madrassas, a real jewel in the heart of the old city. We will photograph it at dusk.

 

Hotel Grand Samarkand (BLD)

 

FRI, SEP 4 — SAMARKAND

 

This morning we photograph Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, the burial place of royal persons and nobles dating back to the 14th century. This complex contains several mausoleums highlighted by domes and blue-tiled porticos; here, there are great opportunities to photograph pilgrims against beautiful backgrounds. We return to Registan Square to view the interiors of the madrassas and the beautifully decorated mosque. In the afternoon, we visit a village with a workshop that makes traditional silk paper using the bark of mulberry trees. In late afternoon we visit the Gur-Emir Mausoleum where Amir Timur (Tamerlane) and his descendants are interred. Timur was a 14th-century Turko-Mongol military leader who conquered most of the Muslim world, Central Asia, and parts of India. The Timurid Empire rivaled the size and power of the Mongolian domain forged by Genghis Khan a century earlier.

 

Hotel Grand Samarkand (BLD)

 

SAT, SEP 5 — SAMARKAND-BUKHARA

 

Today we drive to Bukhara, once a center of learning renowned throughout the Islamic world. Since its founding in the 13th century B.C., its fortunes waxed and waned through succeeding empires until it became one of the great Central Asian Khanates in the 17th century. We enjoy a walking tour in the old city, including domed bazaars, the Poi-Kalyon Ensemble, and Ark Fortress. Dinner this evening is in a family home where one room has been converted into a cozy restaurant, and they will show us how to make the traditional Uzbek dish of pilav.

 

Omar Khayyam Hotel (BLD)

 

SUN, SEP 6 — BUKHARA

 

Early this morning we photograph the impressive domed buildings and minarets of Bukhara at dawn, then return to the hotel for breakfast. In the afternoon we visit a blacksmith workshop and continue exploring the old city. Dinner is in an old madrassa with a show of Uzbek traditional clothing and a performance by local dancers. It’s an ideal place to photograph models in traditional dress.

 

Omar Khayyam Hotel (BLD)

 

MON, SEP 7 — BUKHARA-KHIVA

 

Today we drive to Khiva through the Kyzylkum Desert, with a stop in the desert en route to photograph the square-shaped “sand stoppers.” Khiva is a thousand-year-old fortress city, with its old section well preserved. For photographers, it’s also one of the most interesting cities in Central Asia. We arrive late afternoon and photograph the impressive city walls from one of the towers.

 

Hotel Arkanchi (BLD)

 

TUE, SEP 8 — KHIVA

 

This morning we photograph a number of interesting spots, including Djuma Mosque with its ancient carved-wood pillars, an old graveyard with the city walls in the background, and local people. In the afternoon we photograph musicians playing in an old madrassa, which will be private for our group, then explore the residential part of the city.

 

Hotel Arkanchi (BLD)

 

WED, SEP 9 — KHIVA-TASHKENT

 

Today we fly back to Tashkent from either Urgench or Nukus and overnight in Tashkent.

 

Miran International Hotel (BLD)

 

THU, SEP 10 — TASHKENT-ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN

 

The morning is free before our afternoon flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty, the capital during Soviet times, is a beautiful city surrounded by snow-capped peaks. The capital was moved to Astana in 1997. Almaty (whose old name of “Alma-Ata” means “father of apples” in Kazakh) is officially recognized as the origin of all apples because Malus sieversii, the ancestor of the domestic apple, grows wild in the nearby Tian Shan mountains.

 

Hotel Dostyk (BLD)

 

FRI, SEP 11 — ALMATY

 

This morning we photograph a church with a great reflection in a pond, then have a private photo session with local people in national costumes, Kazakh men on horses, elderly ladies spinning wool. We learn about Kazakh traditions and enjoy a delicious private lunch in a yurt. In the afternoon we explore the colorful Zelyony (Green Bazaar) where local people sell fruits, vegetables, and meat, and photograph Zenkov Cathedral (Ascension Cathedral) with its typical Russian architectural style. Among the eight highest buildings in the world constructed entirely from wood, the cathedral is situated in Panfilov Park, one of Almaty’s most beautiful parks.

 

Hotel Dostyk (BLD)

 

SAT, SEP 12 — ALMATY / CHARYN CANYON

 

An all-day excursion takes us to Charyn Canyon, a vibrant amber rift and geographical wonder near the Chinese border that looks a little like the Grand Canyon but much, much smaller — though it’s still impressive at 56 miles in length. The Valley of Castles is the famous bit of Charyn Canyon. Standing on top, looking down to the river below, it’s an inspiring sight. Especially when the sun is low in the sky, the walls take on colors that are not their own, and eroded stone formations cast strange shadows on the valley floor. We leave Charyn Canyon in late afternoon to return to Almaty, with dinner en route.

 

Hotel Dostyk (BLD)

 

SUN, SEP 13 — ALMATY-BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN

 

Free time this morning before we fly to Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

 

Ramada by Wyndham Bishkek Centre (BLD)

 

MON, SEP 14 — BISHKEK

 

This morning we drive into the countryside to photograph horse milking at a farm where horses are raised for milk to make kymyz, the healthy national drink (very healthy, but strong in taste). Local people go to this farm just to buy and drink fresh horse milk. The area offers great landscape photo opportunities as well, with mountains, nomadic people, and huge herds of sheep and goats. In the afternoon we explore and photograph a typical Central Asian market, the Osh Bazaar, where one can buy food products, almost any common household good, traditional Kyrgyz clothes, souvenirs, and even musical instruments. It’s a good opportunity to photograph local people, products, and vendors.

 

Ramada by Wyndham Bishkek Centre (BLD)

 

TUE, SEP 15 — BISHKEK-ISSYK KUL

 

Our first stop today is at Burana Tower, all that’s left of the city of Balasagun, which was the capital of the Karakhanid Empire in the 9th century. A small museum shows the diversity of the region and Kyrgystan’s storied place on the Silk Road. We enjoy a delicious homemade lunch at the house of a local family in a beautiful village en route to Issyk-Kul. In the afternoon we photograph the interesting felt-making process, then proceed to our charming boutique hotel in the sleepy lakeside village of Kaji-Say.

 

Art Hotel Al Hayat (BLD)

 

WED, SEP 16 — ISSYK KUL-BISHKEK

 

This morning, in an area with a lovely mountain backdrop, we photograph national horse games called Kokpar or Buzkashi (commonly known as Goat Polo). This is a traditional nomadic horse game, a bit like soccer, but the players are on a horse and it’s played with a goat carcass instead of a ball. We also have an opportunity to photograph a Golden Eagle hunter in traditional dress. These photo shoots are private for our group. Lunch in a village house before returning to Bishkek in late afternoon.

 

Ramada by Wyndham Bishkek Centre (BLD)

 

THU, SEP 17 — BISHKEK-ISTANBUL, TURKEY

 

The morning is at leisure before we transfer to the airport for a mid-afternoon flight to Istanbul. Our hotel is situated in the Sultanahmet area with a magnificent view of Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Bosphorus, and the Marmara Sea from the rooftop restaurant, and within easy walking distance of most of Istanbul’s main attractions.

 

Hotel Arcadia Blue (B)

 

FRI, SEP 18 — ISTANBUL

 

The entire day is free to explore, photograph, shop, and dine on your own.

 

Hotel Arcadia Blue (B)

 

SAT, SEP 19 — ISTANBUL

 

Another day at leisure before our farewell dinner in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant this evening.

 

Hotel Arcadia Blue (BD)

 

SUN, SEP 20 — ISTANBUL-NEW YORK

 

About mid-morning we transfer to the airport for our return flight to New York, arriving in early evening.

 

B

 

 

Note: Included meals are indicated by B, L, and D for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


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