Saturday, 29 October 2016


My husband and I have just got back from an amazing tour of Uzbekistan, on part of the Silk Road: Tashkent,  Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand. The very names, especially the last, sound exotic and conjure Kubla Khan of Xanadu.  'Where?' asked my friends. Or worse,  'Why?'  We had loved the Islamic tiles and architectural influence in Andalucia. Photos in Uzbekistan guide books showed the stunning turquoise of domes, the blue and white, or blue and gold geometric designs on mosques and madrassahs. It looked wonderful.

But the more I read up about the place, the more I regretted our decision to go:  the cruelty of the Khans who had criminals and adulterous women thrown from the minarets, the pyramids of skulls that Tamberlane left outside defeated forts, the horrible fate of the spies Connolly and Stoddart (during the 19th c Russo-British scramble for Central Asia) thrown into a pit full of scorpions and snakes, until finally after months, brought out to be executed. Occupied by the Soviets, it only achieved independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union. A week before we left, their first and only President, Karizmov died. We wondered about its stability. The Foreign Office website was not encouraging.  Health hazards and terrorism. But too late, we had paid our deposit, so with sinking hearts, we went ahead with it. 'There've been 30 terrorist attacks in London last year. It's probably safer in Uzbekistan,' said my husband.

And then I had a fall, on slippery gravel in the rain, two weeks before the trip was due. I became crippled with pain and was temporarily unable to walk. It looked as if Fate had stepped in and I would be able to escape the trip and get my money back through insurance. 'You go by yourself,' I encouraged my husband. 'You need a holiday. I don't mind.'  I really didn't.

My xray showed nothing broken. It was thankfully only bruising and my doctor gave me the thumbs up for the journey. Also with the wonderful Special Assistance Service of the airports, a wheel chair could be provided to zoom me through the miles of Heathrow.  And the tour company, Cox and Kings, also offered to provide a wheelchair for me throughout the trip.  So only two days before the trip, I had no excuses left.

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