D252. May 11. Inside a nomad trailer

As snow is starting to fall on Tash-Rabat, a woman offers to shelter us in her trailer…

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Thousands of abandoned train wagons like this one have found a second use in the middle of nowhere…

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The trailer is split in two rooms. Kitchen, stove and table above, bedroom below.

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She will cook for us.

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Capture d’écran 2014-05-13 à 14.07.19 Frieds donuts. They are empty but you can fill them with jam. On every table in the country you will find two cups filled with jams, generally made from red fruits.

Capture d’écran 2014-05-13 à 14.06.57A delicious potatoes salad.

And of course the tea. We will have here a delicious, precious, unbelievable moment.
While Nick and David warm up and dry, I learn to the little girl how to watch pictures on my LSR camera she catches it very quickly, in a moment she won’t need me anymore. Then, we watch different videos on my phone. The touch screen has no secrets anymore.

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I don’t remember their name. I don’t think I even asked I must confess, knowing that anyway I wouldn’t remember, but I will never forget the couple of hours we spent together.

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…Neither will the little girl…Capture d’écran 2014-05-13 à 14.04.38


D252. May 11. Reportage from the Caravenserail…

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The above sketch is Tash-Rabat imagined by my Dad, while reading my stories…
On my side, I think of Ella Maillart, a traveller born in Switzerland one century ago.

Her book, “Des monts célestes aux sables rouges”, made me discover Central Asia twenty years ago – English translation of the book : Either “Turkestan Solo, One Woman’s Expedition” or “Turkestan Solo, A journey through Central Asia”.

In 1932, she passes through Turkestan and Kirghize lands on a horse, she climbs the “Celestial Mounts” (Tien Shan) on skis, next to China. She visits Tachkent, Samarcand, Bukhara, before dealing with the “red sand desert”, East of the Aral Sea, on a camel….

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I am now walking on the very places she passed by, in places that have amazing names : Silk road, caravenserail, Celestial Mounts (Tien Shan), Pamir… Next time I’ll go to China and will pass through Turfan, Uruqmi, Kashgar, and the Tacla Makan Desert. And next week, I should discover the “Red Sands), next to the Aral Sea…

Coming back to my story, I’d like to encourage you in downloading the following videos. It might take some time but it’s less than 10 minutes watching, and, frankly, what you will see is worth it…

D252. May 11. The Tash-Rabat Caravenserail…

Tash-Rabat… A stop on the silk road. Let me remind you what where those roads in a few paragraphs, and you will understand how mythical this place is…

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Parthia, on the Iranian plateau, was the most voracious foreign trader and consumer of Chinese silk at the close of the 2nd century BC, having supposedly traded an ostrich egg for its first bolt of silk. In about 105 BC, Parthia and China exchanged embassies and inaugurated official bilateral trade along the caravan route that lay between them. With this the Silk Road was born – A fragile network of shifting intercontinental caravan tracks that threaded through some of Asia’s highest mountains and bleakest deserts.

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The network had its main eastern terminus at the Chinese capital Ch’ang-an (Xi’an). West of there, the route reached the oasis town of Dunhuang and exited China through the Jade Gate. Here it divided, one branch skirting the dreaded Taklamakan Desert to the north through Turfan, while the other headed south via Khotan. The two forks met again in Kashgar, from where the trail headed up a series of passes into and over the Pamirs and Tian Shan (two such passes in use today are the Torugart and Irkeshtam, on the Chinese border with Kyrgyzstan).

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Traffic ran both ways. China received gold, silver, ivory, lapis, jade, coral, wool, rhino horn, tortoise shell, horses, Mediterranean coloured glass (an industrial mystery originally as inscrutable to the Chinese as silk was in the West), cucumbers, walnuts, pom- egranates, golden peaches from Samarkand, sesame, garlic, grapes and wine, plus – an early Parthian craze – acrobats and ostriches. Goods arriving at the western end included silk, porcelain, paper, tea, ginger, rhubarb, lacquerware, bamboo, Arabian spices and incense, medicinal herbs, gems and perfumes. 

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In the middle lay Central Asia, a great clearing house that provided its native horses and camels to keep the goods flowing in both directions.
Rabat (caravanserais) grew up along the route, offering lodgings, stables and stores.

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The Silk Road was delivered a major body blow when China turned its back on the cosmopolitanism of the Tang dynasty (618–907) and retreated behind its Great Wall. The destruction and turbulence wreaked by Jenghiz Khan and Timur (Tamerlane) dealt a further economic blow to the region, and the literal and figurative drying-up of the Silk Road lead to the abandonment of a string of cities along the southern fringes of the Taklamakan Desert. The metaphoric nail in the Silk Road’s coffin was the opening of more cost- effective maritime trading routes between Europe and Asia.

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So here I am, entering the Tash-Rabat caravenserail, 25 km from the Torugart pass, on the boarder with China, at 3000 meters of altitude. When entering the place, going through this corridor, entering the different small rooms, the three of us were very moved.

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The snow is starting to fall. From the caravenserail roof, I have an amazing 360° horizon view. a few hundreds meters from here, a yurts camps. The snow is starting to fall…

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