Turkmenistan: Riding a Time Machine at an Archaeological Site

I met up with the tour Wednesday and have been on a hell of a schedule ever since.

Yesterday we caught a 7 am plane to Mary and returned to Ashgabat on the 7 pm plane. Mary is just next to Merv, a UNESCO archaeological sight. The ruins can be traced back to the 7th century BC when the area was first settled by the Zoroastrians. It was then taken over by the Greeks, the Mongols,and eventually the Russians in the middle of the 19th century so we've once again been taking a rapid ride on a time machine. You can still see the walls of the first settlement. In fact, I climbed one of them.

One marvelous aspect of this tour is that there are local guides who are extremely knowledgeable. In addition these local guides are able to get local specialists to provide lectures. We went to a rug museum yesterday here in Ashgabat and a charming researcher provided the lecture and tour. She usually doesn't provide tours but agreed to do this. She was especially good in that her mother had been a rugmaker. She had me sit beside her at a loom and then provided me with my first lesson in knot making. I was all thumbs. In another area of the museum we joined her inside a Yort where she talked about how the nomads had lived, made use of the rugs for sitting and sleeping and how they had entertained themselves with musical instruments. One of the members of our tour group, John, is a retired professor of music at Illinois State University and after a few plucks provided us with an example of the music of what he called a stick fiddle. This was a treat.

I need to sign off now. It is 7:30 in the morning, I've already had breakfast, my suitcase is outside my door waiting to be loaded, and the bus will be picking us up at 8:00 to go to the Sunday Bazaar and then on to the stables of the Akhal-teke horses and Nissa, the second archaeological UNESCO site in Turkmenistan before we board a plane to the North for the third UNESCO archaeological site.

More about the horses next time.

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  • Is your life becoming a bit hectic? The woman who was working the rug loom - I would wonder how many years she has and will be doing that. Is such a profession considered at what we would call middle or working class? Does she support a family with her efforts? Is her position as an 'independent' worker or does she work for someone else? just curious.

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