The Silk Road, Your Style

The Silk Road, Your Style

Silk is such a rich, shimmery fabric, dyed into shades and colors never seen by the Western world before the advent of the Silk Road. To even catch a glimpse of silk was to covet it – in ancient times and even today the world yearns for this fabric. Long ago, markets sprang up clamoring for silk, and the traders of China set out on their arduous treks to supply this demand through Central Asia, Iran, and on to the Mediterranean.

Silk scarves for sale along The Silk Road, here in Margilan, Uzbekistan <br>Photo credit: Michel Behar

Silk scarves for sale along The Silk Road, here in Margilan, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Michel Behar

The network of roads they traveled with this treasured fabric was called the Silk Route, or more commonly, the Silk Road.

There are so many ways to explore these legendary routes, in groups and on custom journeys that focus on travelers’ specific and special interests. Perhaps it’s ceramics, or tiles, or architecture, or silk-making. A few ideas include:

CaravansFollow in the footsteps of ancient caravans, focusing on the center of Central Asia in Uzbekistan where silk production once began with two cocoons hidden inside the headdress of a royal Chinese bride. You could choose to focus your entire time on silk-making alone, but you might be tempted to take in the sights of sounds of Silk Road oases towns like Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

Ancient tiled domes in the Silk Road city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan <br>Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Ancient tiled domes in the Silk Road city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Photo credit: Douglas Grimes

Silk Road CavesThe Silk Road is already off the beaten path, but to make a journey even more unique, consider exploring Western China’s UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves with its Buddhist frescoes. Stories abound about how pilgrims and traveling monks created and decorated the caves. Creative artisans flourished then and now, with their studios and workshops of ceramics and silk.

UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves are also called the "Caves of the Thousand Buddhas" Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

UNESCO-listed Mogao Caves are also called the “Caves of the Thousand Buddhas”
Photo credit: Martin Klimenta

Aral Sea and Savitsky MuseumThe Aral Sea in Uzbekistan is a shadow of its former self, in large part because the Soviets diverted the two major rivers flowing into it and used the water to grow cotton.

Over the years the waters receded, and the remaining water grew saltier. Fishermen were unable to pursue their living because there were so few fish in the sea. Huge hulks of ships are left, high and dry, in the desert: a sight to behold on a custom journey to this region.

Combine this revealing journey into human-caused environmental disaster with an overnight stay in Nukus, the capital of autonomous Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan. Here you’ll witness the creativity, wit, and genius of Russian artist Igor Savitsky at the Savitsky Museum,  where he spirited away 40,000 forbidden pieces of Russian avante garde art, and hid them in plain sight in Uzbekistan’s desert.

The Savitsky Museum in Nukus holds many once-banned Soviet art treasures  Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

The Savitsky Museum in Nukus holds many once-banned Soviet art treasures
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

More than 40,000 paintings were tucked away in the desert, thanks to Igor Savitsky's artistic dedication <br>Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

More than 40,000 paintings were tucked away in the desert, thanks to Igor Savitsky’s artistic dedication
Photo credit: Lindsay Fincher

The documentary Desert of Forbidden Art  brought world-wide attention to this museum and its bold founder. Now it’s become a “must-see” on the travel list of many exploring the Silk Road in groups and on their own.

For tours and custom travelers alike, the Silk Road remains an area of the world that stuns and moves the inquisitive spirit – then, and now.

Travel the Silk Road with MIRThese are some of MIR’s scheduled tours that highlight these different paths for exploring the Silk Road, your style:

You can also book a custom, private journey anywhere along the Silk Road, which is MIR’s long-time area of expertise.

(Top photo credit: Michel Behar – All sorts of silks are sold along the Silk Road, here in Margilan, Uzbekistan.)

PUBLISHED: November 14, 2014

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