central-asia

Bride’s Story playlist

I made a playlist to 8tracks, which includes traditional folk music from Central Asia. Here are the ethnic groups and locations of the protagonists of Bride’s Story. 

  • Eihon family, Pariya’s family, Camora 
  • Uyghur / Uzbek | Uzbekistan
  • Halgal family (Amira’s family):
  • Kazakh / Kyrgyz | Kazakhstan / Kyrgyzstan
  • Laila & Leyli
  • Tajik | Tajikistan
  • Talas:
  • Karakalpak | Karakalpakstan
  • Anis & Shirin:
  • Persia

Track list:

  1. Laïli Djân
  2. Three Stars Of Uzbekistan (Uzbekistan)
  3. Glorious Morning (Uzbekistan)
  4. Dudarai (Kazakhstan)
  5. Kambarkan Folk Ensemble - “Jolughabuz az kündö” (Kyrgyzstan) 
  6. Nigina Amonkulova - Dil az baram raft  (My heart abandoned me) (Tajikistan)
  7. Davlat Nazri - Ovozi Kabki Darvoz (Tajikistan)
  8. Gulistan Temirxanova - Nolish (Karakalpakstan)
  9. Tomos Brangwyn -  Chaharmezrab Nav (Persia)
How to Get Out of Turkmenistan When You’re Out of Cash

If you should ever find yourself, as I recently did, in Turkmenistan and out of cash, on the run from a restaurant in which you dined and dashed, and in desperate need of a $60 ride to the border on the day your visa expires, do not fret. Your situation is not good, but it’s not hopeless. You can make it to Kazakhstan, but you must maintain faith, commit to courage, and above all, don’t tell anyone.

First, some backstory: Turkmenistan is perhaps the strangest country to emerge from the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s a police state sealed off from the rest of the world and ruled by an eccentric dictator who poses for billboards with a dove perched on his shoulder.

I’ve spent five days in Turkmenistan. In that time, I’ve slept beside a burning crater, inadvertently stayed in a hotel run by the Soviet-era secret police, escaped an attempted abduction, and used the Internet three times. I also ran out of cash, discovered none of my bank cards worked in the country, and, last night, I skipped out on a check for the first time in my life. In short, I am ready to leave.

My visa requires that I exit Turkmenistan into Kazakhstan via a border crossing on the Caspian Sea. This is extremely inconvenient, because the border is not located on a road. To get there, I have to hire a Jeep to drive me across the desert.

The shared Jeeps congregate beside the railway station, where, the day before, I’d arranged to share a ride, negotiated a price, and neglected to mention I had no way of paying. My plan is to remain very silent.

Our driver is a young Turkmen man with a wife and small children at home; my companions: three older, weathered Kazakh men. It’s very unclear why anyone besides me is making this trip. There’s vague mention of family: one of the Kazakh men seems to be the Turkmen driver’s uncle, and it seems families are scattered on both sides of a border that was once more like a state line.

Two of the Kazakh men are short, round, and difficult to tell apart, but one is easily distinguishable. He’s tall and thin and has dressed for the ride in a worn suit and withered cowboy hat.

His two stout friends smile convivially; the Kazakh cowboy shoots me a pointed question: “Do you have a husband and children?” he asks.

I tell him I don’t.

“I am not married,” he declares. His tone is less flirtatious, more wedding guest about to request “Single Ladies.”

I smile and say nothing, reminding myself that I have no way of paying for this ride, and therefore no right to complain.

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Guest gers - Mongke Tengri, central Mongolia - photograph by Ken Kochey - CNTraveler February 2016

  • A gers is a portable, round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia
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Ceiling of the Museum of Applied Arts in Tashkent, Tashkent, Republic of Uzbekistan, unknown photographer, source: eurasia.travel. Possibly the best-looking museum in Tashkent, the Museum of Applied Arts is situated in the former home of Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev. This museum is as popular for its setting as for its many beautiful exhibits. Polovtsev was an avid collector of handicrafts and his personal possessions still form the heart of the museum’s superb collection of decorative arts. Tsarist diplomat expressed his appreciation of Uzbek architecture by having his residence built by masters from Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, Ferghana and Tashkent. He was transferred before completion in 1907, so never saw the finished courtyard of verandas and reception halls, vibrant with colour, ganch and wooden carving. The first public exhibition was held here in 1927, and it was classified as a national collection a decade later, source: eurasia.travel.