The Orient Silk Road Express
Updated: May 28, 2020
- Karishma Revankar
Silk Road has always been about images of camel caravans, turbaned traders, desert crossings and oasis cities, and, even today, the route delivers on these romantic dreams. Yet travelling its ancient trails is, at heart, a trip through history. You will pass great treasures of Buddhist art and Islamic architecture, clamber through ruined cities once visited by Marco Polo, Alexander the Great, Timur Lang, Babur and Genghis Khan, and traverse some of Asia’s wildest geography.
Take a deep breath – this is truly an epic trip.
History of the Silk Road
The silk road is often talked about its impact and stories related to it. Very little do we know about its emergence. The route did not arise out of a vacuum. In the fifth century B.C. the sprawling Persian Empire had already improved travel through western Asia, while Alexander the Great’s eastward expansion helped lay the foundations of trans-Asian trade. A Chinese diplomat – Zhang Qian was instrumental in laying the foundation on a transcontinental trade route, known today as the Silk Road. Zhang Qian served in the court of Han Dynasty during 2nd century BC. This emissary’s remarkable adventures were important early steps in creating the Silk Road.
Crossroads and Encounters of Faith
When the Silk Road flourished, goods weren’t the only things exchanged. The route also played a pivotal role in the exchange of ideas – scientific, cultural and religious. Merchants, missionaries and other travellers would spread their beliefs, values, and religious convictions with travellers and locals. Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Manichaeism were one of many religions that were spread through the Silk Roads. These religions relied on the trade routes of classical times to extend its influence on new lands and people.
Arts & Crafts – Signature of Civilization
Set astride millennia-old trade and migration routes, Central Asia has long blended and fused artistic traditions from Turkic and Persian, Islamic and secular, settled and nomadic worlds, creating in the process an indigenous Central Asian aesthetic. The creation and tradition of folk craftsmen going back thousands of years, you'll discover handicrafts including Rishtan Ceramics, exquisite enamelled lacquered boxes and jewellery; and colourful, intricately embroidered and dyed textiles, Suzani and Ikat embroideries, pottery and papermaking. Majority of the crafts as we know today were shaped during this golden age.
Architecture – The Art that Speaks Itself
Nothing connects Central Asia to its storied past quite like its mosques, minarets and madrassas. Few sights symbolise the region more evocatively than the swell of a turquoise dome, a ruined desert citadel or a minaret framed black against a blazing sunset. Tilework is the most dramatic form of decoration in Central Asia, instilling a light, graceful air into even the most hulking of Timurid buildings. Decoration almost always takes the shape of abstract geometric, floral or calligraphic designs, in keeping with the Islamic prohibition on the representation of living creatures. These patterns and ideas can be found in India’s Taj Mahal (Agra), Spain’s Alhambra complex (Granada) to China’s Emin Minaret (Turpan).
The Arabian Nights – The Picture of Ancient World
The vision of crowded market, genies in lamps and flying carpet – takes us back to the golden age. The Thousand and one nights is a collection of folktales drawn from traditional Arab, Persian, and Indian. Aladdin & Ali Baba are the most popular tales that etched cities like Samarkand and Bukhara in the minds of all.
Bazaars - a Riot of Colours and Scents
Ever wondered how the typical image of bustling Bazaar came along? Sure markets existed since times immemorial but what truly made people call a market - “a Bazaar”? It all started when traders stopped at oasis towns along the silk route. They would lay out their wares alongside of roads and as one walked down the road – aromas of spices and leather attracted them, accompanied with the sound of coppersmiths’ hammering mixed with the mesmerising mumble of vendors and customers bargaining on goods. In modern days though, these Central Asian bazaars have become a delightful experience for tourists to buy souvenirs.
The Remarkable Landscapes
Silk road travelling through the land-locked Central Asia covers an incredible range of landscapes, from snow-capped peaks to burning deserts, immense inland seas and rolling steppe. It is nothing less than the transition between Europe and Asia. Years of Soviet rule have taken a massive toll on the environment and serious problems remain, fuelled mainly by economic hardship. Despite this, Central Asia still hides some of the wildest and most pristine corners on earth.
Some of the oldest inhabited places in the world can be found along the Silk Road. Each faith has left its signature there, in ideas, art, music, and buildings, and in traditions of learning, remembering, celebrating, and sharing.