The main task of today was to travel by train from Tashkent to Samarkand. A bus took us to the station where we loaded ourselves into 12 seats in a 2nd class carriage. The train left exactly on time and shortly afterwards the overhead video kicked into life and showed a series of Uzbek pop video clips and a full concert of various singers performing a mix of modern and traditional songs accompanied by dancers in national costume If you're a dancer you may know of Laurel Grey and The Silk Road Company in the US who perform the Central Asian dance styles. The conductor came round taking everyone's orders for tea (pronounced choi here). The most important question in Uzbekistan is “Green or Black”.
|Amir Timur mausoleum, Samarkand|
We headed out to have lunch in a local restaurant and I met plov for the first time. If vodka is the national drink of Uzbekistan, then plov is the national dish. It's like a pilau consisting of rice with vegetables, usually carrots, with chunks of meat on top. Its eaten for lunch mainly and restaurants only make enough to sell and once its gone – that's it until tomorrow. It's common practice if someone is looking for a late lunch to phone a several restaurants to find out which one has some plov left over. Uzbeki's claim there are 100 different ways to cook plov and that the best plov is cooked by men outdoors. Our guide Bahador remarked that an Uzbek man would not be considered a good husband unless he can cook an acceptable plov, which is interesting considering how macho Uzbek society seems to be. After lunch we went on to the the mausoleum of Amir Temir, better known in the west as Tamerlane, “The Terror of the World”. Tamerlane lies beneath a glorious dome, his grave marked by a black-green slab of marble, surrounded by the graves of various of his teachers and several of his sons. The tombstones are markers for the actual graves which lie in exactly the same layout in the crypt underneath.
|The Registan, Samarkand|
The final madrassa is Tillya Kari with magnificent mosaics covering every wall in floral and geometric patterns. Construction of the Tillya Kari started in 1646. One of the hujara (student rooms) contains a small carpet workshop and Cathy and I watched a couple of nimble fingered ladies sitting crosslegged at an upright loam weaving on a silk carpet.
I've been surprised by the popularity of gold tooth fillings here. These went out of favour in NZ in my father's generation but it seems that in Uzbekistan everyone, even young people, have mouthfuls of gold.. The fillings possibly are like jewellery or an investment, the gold can be extracted and sold if times are tough. Some Uzbek smiles are quite literally 'pure gold' and reminiscent of Odd Job, the toothsome villain in one of the James Bond movies.