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The most wondrous tiled dome, the biggest and best-ever food bazaar, the most handsome man in the world… Uzbekistan, as Min Hogg discovers, inspires a profusion of superlatives, even if she tangles with the transport. In Samarkand, Tamerlane’s fabled capital, she finds herself lost for words. Photographs by Min Hogg
The Silk Road, Samarkand, the River Oxus – what words to set the pulse racing. As we landed in Uzbekistan last March, the anticipation of unlocking their promise was exceedingly keen.
There are five ‘stans’: Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Turkmen and Tajik, but until 1924, when Stalin sliced them up into separate republics, this huge land-mass sandwiched between Russia to the north and India, Iran and Afghanistan to the south, had been lumped together as Central Asia, part of the USSR. The carve-up could not be done on strictly ethnic principles because for 2,000 years conquerors from all points of the globe had marauded the area with their armies, depositing their peoples in passing, and, in the case of the Turks, their language too. Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and Stalin himself are just a few who attempted to govern this steppe and its unruly nomadic tribesmen.
The moment a traveller lands in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, the melange of races becomes evident in the faces of its people: Mongols, Turks, Persians, Slavs and Orientals mingle in one nation, but with individual ethnicity shining through.
The börek has an extensive place in Turkey’s culinary repertoire, and the choice of fillings is infinite. From cheese to spicy ground meat or suateéd meat cubes with nuts and raisins; from chicken or turkey to fish and lentils; from offal such as brain or tripe to vegetables – the list is almost endless.
More cookery features
Brave new wines from Turkey. Kevin Gould on the independent spirit of Turkish wine makers. Photograph by Berrin Torolsan
Old favourites and new attractions: Andrew Finkel samples Istanbul’s best meyhanes. Photographs by Simon Wheeler
After years of wandering in western China, Afghanistan and Pakistan, a group of Kirghiz have finally made a lasting home in the highlands of eastern Anatolia. The historian Hasan Ali Karasar, who as a boy in Van witnessed their arrival, recounts their extraordinary tale. Photographs by Jonathan Henderson
After years of delving deep into the origins of writing and language Kâzım Mirşan has put forward an astonishing claim: that at the root of it all is an ancient, proto-Turkish mother tongue. Genius or dreamer? Christian Tyler meets a man whose hypotheses threaten to turn the very history of man on its head.
A special report on the Royal Academy’s amazing ‘Turks’ exhibition
Kate Clow, creator of Turkey’s first official walking route, has done it again. Caroline Finkel joined her on the new St Paul Trail, which crosses southern Turkey’s giant Taurus range. The photographs in this stunning 14-page article are by Kate Clow with Terry Richardson
TÜMATA The Traditional Turkish Music Research and Promotion Society, Dr Rahmi Oruç Güvenç
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