The flight from Khiva (Urgench) to Bukhara was on a spiffy new Airbus with explicit safety instructions in 3 languages -- distinct contrast to the previous flight.
I think Bukhara will become my focus for items to import as I grow my business: the selection, quality and prices are fabulous. And I've made some great connections too. Since credit cards are seldom accepted and then only for big ticket items like carpets, all transactions are in US dollars (crisp and new only!). The psychological impact of handing over wads and wads of cash has surprised me -- it's much more powerful than handing over the plastic. I spent over $2000 yesterday on scarves and cushion covers and table runners and felt like I'd been hit by a truck!
The young man at the hotel desk has told me there is an Internet cafe with "amazingly fast" connection. If that's true, I'll get some pictures up! [no surprises here...]
Bukhara to Shahrisabz to Samarkand
Needless to say the amazingly fast connection that we were promised didn't deliver. Not even close. Last time I was in Samarkand the excuse was was that the IT workers were all harvesting cotton. Now it just seems that the IT infrastructure is still very limited. On the other hand, the evidence of economic development is once again very evident, lots of renovation and new construction that translates into jobs. A repressive regime with a growing economy is much less vulnerable to political dissent and criticism.
With the help of our guide, Mirza, I have visited private workshops and homes of some remarkably talented artists. The only remaining artist who painstakingly cuts cardboard templates for golden embroidery design invited me to stay in her home on my next visit. So many incredible people, living modest lives with such spirit, warmth and generosity.
Since the tourist season is coming to a close there are still a number of visitors but the streets and trading domes aren't packed. Vendors are anxious to sell what they can, calling "just look" or "best price, practically free!"
Now that my stomach is better, I'm really enjoying the food. Since it is the end of harvest season, the fruits and vegetables are abundant and delicious. Tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, squash and pumpkins all fragrant and delicious. And the melons make me understand why they were the subject of poetry.
Yesterday we drove to Samarkand via Shahrisabz, the birthplace of the fabled Tamerlane (Timur) who is now the fabled hero of Central Asia-- at least in the view of the Uzbeks who needed a nationalistic focus following the abrupt departure of the Soviets following the collapse of the USSR. The Western review of Timur is not so generous. 2016 will be the 680th anniversary of his birth and the amount of renovation since I first visited in 2013 is breathtaking. The major monuments have been linked with a giant green parkway of trees, flowers and grass at least 8 blocks long and a block wide with fountains and waterways. Except for the monuments the area is practically unrecognizable.
We arrived last night to a very windy and cold Samarkand. After quickly getting settled at our hotel, we walked to a restaurant for dinner. Thoroughly chilled by the time we arrived, I finally learned to appreciate vodka: warmth!