What is it about the rhythmic and harmonic counterpoints between a lone stringed instrument, a drum, and throat singing that fire up the blood and make you want to conquer the world? This must have been the music that ran through the veins of the formidable khans and Tamerlane. As if my heart was not already drumming wildly, the perfect soundtrack for how I felt greeted me through the train speakers — music so visceral, so empowering and liberating.
It was a day that started with a huge bowl of yogurt and honey, crisped walnuts that I did not expect to be so flavorful, plump dried apricots, raisins that had retained their blue, all these topped with crumbled cottage cheese; and a cup of coffee to further fuel an excitement that I had not felt in a long time.
I left for the train station amidst a glorious Tashkent sunrise while half of me was still in disbelief that I was finally going to a land that had achieved mythical status in my mind, a land I thought I would only be able to visit through books.
But today I walked into a poem. I found myself welcomed to a courtyard with a garden framed in abundant grapevines. My wonder must have been apparent that the owner of the guest house started pointing at each fruit-bearing tree and incanted, “Fig, apricot, orange, apple, quince, plum, persimmon, pear, peach, walnut, cherry, mulberry…”
“Mulberry? What the silkworms eat?” I asked.
“Yes.” She rummaged through the renowned leaves of silk history and held out gems of a deep magenta towards me.
As the mulberries burst into color and flavor in my mouth, I realized how perfectly symbolic this initiation was to a place that was once known to the Greeks as Maracanda — metropolis of the Sogdians, the wealthiest and most successful merchants of the silk roads.
What a most beautiful thing to finally be able to write in my journal, that today I arrived in Samarkand, the heart of the Silk Route.