Friday, May 8, 2009

The modern day Silk Road

These 'adras' and 'atlas' silk textiles are from Margilan, Uzbekistan in the Fergana valley. 'Abr,' which means 'cloud' is the term used to describe the process of hand dyeing the warp threads prior to weaving in order to create a blurred effect. This technique is known in the West by the Malay name 'ikat.' My close friend Farhod Mahmadkhanov is an ethnic Uzbek from Osh, Kyrgyzstan. He and I both have young daughters so we've been brainstorming about possible ways to provide for our families. We decided to try our luck at importing traditional Uzbek silk. His father sent a friend to Margilan to buy the silk and bring it back to Osh. From Osh, Farhod's brother carried the silk to Urumqi where Farhod's wife Zulfia and daughter Kamila are staying temporarily. Uzbek speakers can understand the Uighur language so day to day life is easier in Xinjiang than in the rest of China for someone who doesn't speak Mandarin. From Urumqi Zulfia gave the silk to Ulan, a friend from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, who was catching a train to Xi'an to visit his little brother Nurlan. All in all, it took about 5 days from the time I paid Farhod for the silk to be delivered to my door, and we never used the post office once! Proof that the Silk Road is as alive as ever in the 21st Century.

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