Once the main thoroughfare between eastern Asia and the West for pilgrims, merchants, and conquerors, the Silk Road routes hold a rich reward for the curious. Over thousands of years of history and representing a wide mix of ethnicities, religions, and traditions, the merchants of the Silk Road traded not just in goods, but also in culture and knowledge.
Long hidden from the West, the countries of Central Asia along the fabled route have emerged from Soviet rule as autonomous nations. In 2016, as each of these states celebrates its 25th anniversary of independence, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kazakhstan are taking on identities as strategic economic and political players and the newest destinations for adventurous travelers.
Zulya Rajabova, a Silk Road educator and travel expert, serves as guide for an evening focused on the history and culture of these Central Asian nations. Beyond the ancient archaeological treasures, gems of medieval Islamic architecture, and wealth of UNESCO World Heritage sites, Rajabova introduces vibrant, modern cities juxtaposed against traditional nomadic villages, yurt camps, and pristine landscapes. The regions’ stunning mountain ranges, glittering mountain lakes, and vast stretches of steppe and desert are home to snow leopards, nomadic herdsmen, Akhal-teke horses, Kyrgyz eagle hunters, and village weavers and felt-makers.
Experience traditional Central Asian hospitality as you’re welcomed by men and women in traditional dress, sample authentic Uzbek foods, and enjoy a musical and dance performance by the Silk Road Dance Company, a local ensemble.
Rajabova is a former professor at the University of Bukhara and was chief guide for the Uzbekistan Ministry of Tourism.