Day 6 – Friday, April 26 – Fergana – Margilan, Kokand and Rishtan
The Tien Shan Mountains frame the Fergana Valley. The Syr Darya River tributaries flow into the valley and feed its crops. It is the most fertile part of Central Asia.
Alexander the Great built a city here on the Silk Route at the mouth of the valley in 329 B.C. Chinese traders passed through here on their way over the Silk Road network.
The city of Fergana was established by the Russians here in 1876 as a garrison town.
Fergana is located at the foot of the 18,000 foot high Alai Mountains.
Thousands of trees were planted here by the first settlers that arrived and it is one of the greenest towns in Uzbekistan.
We have arrived in the city of Kokand. Its population was 187,477 in 2014. It has been here since before the 10th century.
It is on the Silk Route between India and China. It has been a prosperous trading and religious center for centuries. It was a power center in the 19th century.
Today we walked through Khudayar Khans Palace today. He ruled Kokand between 1845 and 1875. There was a civil war then and his reign was not continuous. He was the son of Shir ali Khan. The Emir of Bukhara was also giving him some problems at this time.
The palace was built in 1873. Kokand was once filled with madrasas and Mosques.
Today Imams are watched closely by the state. The Islam in this area is of a moderate variety and there are few problems here related to religion. Most of the people here are secular Muslims.
After the tour of the palace we went to Margilan, Samarket. The city was founded by alexander the Great. The name comes from him eating chicken and bread at lunch here. Murgh is the Persian word for chicken and nan is Persian for bread. Although non is the word used here.
The city was on the trading route along the Alay Mountains and Kashgar.
There were many mosques here, but they were destroyed by the Russians in the 19th century.
We visited a silk fabric manufacturing plant today and watched the process. It was an interesting visit and reminded us of how much manual labor still goes into the making of silk.
We then came to Rishtan.
The author of the Hidaya, Burham al Din al Marghiani was from this town.
In the 16th century, Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty mentioned that the Sarts, the residents of the area are “a fiesty people.” This reputation for toughness extends to modern times.
Rhistan is a city famous for its ceramics.
We had lunch at a ceramics center and were watched over wile we ate by their resident “watch cat.”
We watched an artisan turn a ball of clay into several small bowls and then watched the painters decorate many pieces of dry clay before firing them.
It is always interesting for me to watch a talented artist or craftsman or woman at work.
Sadly, we didn’t see anything there that wanted to come home with us.
This area is well known for its raw materials for ceramics and for its talented artisans.
Our guide, as always, is taking good care of us.
Our local female guide is full of information and very funny. She is a “modern” woman living in a not so modern place. It makes her life interesting to say the least.
Islam is a bit more conservative here in Rhistan.