5 Stans in 18 Snaps!

Any mention of Central Asia and the five Stans must begin with its central place in the history of the Silk Road–now more likely to be called the Silk Routes–the series of trade routes bringing goods from China to the west during the Han Dynasty  between 130 BCE and 1453 CE. Central Asia was the pivot point of the various routes going west to Europe and south to Arab and ultimately African markets. Being so strategic to this intercontinental commerce in goods and, ultimately, ideas, Central Asia was also an area ripe for infighting among its nomadic residents and conquest from the outside. Consider for instance  the Arab armies spreading Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries and the mighty Genghis Khan’s invasion in the 13th century. As recently as the 20th century the area fell to the dominance of the Soviet Union, existing as Soviet Socialist Republics for 70 years.

As Google pictures it the Silk Roads looked like this:


The 5 Stans: Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and the Kyrgyz Republic (a.k.a. Kyrgyzstan) are located in the area above Persia east of the Caspian Sea at the point where the northern and southern routes (in red) coming from China converge. They are a place of deserts, steppes and mountains, a place much more hospitable to nomads than to farmers.

My three week visit to the Stans offered evidence of all this history and more, far more than I am either able or willing to report on.  As proof of that, the photos below are not at all intended to represent any more than just my current favorites as snaps.


First a few generalizations:

  • The people of these countries are unfailingly friendly. As often as not they’d ask to be photographed with us. Once, while listening to our guide give us the rundown on a particular mosque, a traditionally dressed teenager wearing an ankle-length dress and multi-colored head scarf snuck up next to me to take a selfie with me!
  • Foodies, vegetarians and any others seeing food as anything more than fuel will struggle here. These are all nomadic cultures with precious little arable land. Consequently there is no great priority given to cuisine. The basic dish, plov, is simple and nutritious seasoned rice topped with a stir-fry which, in all likelihood, will be overcooked if it is vegetarian and tough if it is meat. Ice cream, however, is always good and cheap and omnipresent.
  • Any tour will serve up mosques, marketplaces, non-art museums–Islam frowns on representational art–and ruins throughout. All are worth seeing, but the repetition leads ultimately to mind-mix. Still there are stand-outs. For me the ceiling of the Mosque of 40 Pillars, Moschea Bolo-Khauz in Bukhara Uzbekistan is my ultimate star. As with the Shahriston Pass mentioned next, any photo of this ceiling will be worth the framing.
  • If you do go, make sure to motor the Shahriston Pass thru the Pamier Mountains separating Khujand and Dushanbe in Tajikistan. Any photo taken of the snow-capped mountains will surely delight you as will the experience of simply stepping outside your vehicle to breathe deeply.
  • Vodka everywhere is not only cheaper than water but always better. The local vodkas are dependably superior to the ones we routinely spend vastly more on, and each country has a vodka all its own.
  • For me–of course, for me–who else is writing this?–Khiva Uzbekistan with it’s walled-in old city was the absolute highlight of the trip. There is a feeling of timelessness walking the dirt and fieldstone streets through adobe buildings and tiled mosques past traditionally dressed folks of all ages who smile in welcome.

Here are the snaps:

Unfinished minaret, Khiva Uzbekistan


Hillside near Medeu Skating Rink, Almaty, Kazakhstan


Reflections, National Museum of Antiquities, Dushanbe, Tajikistan


Samarqand Uzbekistan


Samarqand Uzbekistan blurred ladies


Mosque of 40 Pillars, Moschea Bolo-Khauz, Bukhara Uzbekistan


Three women, Bukhara Uzbekistan


Sufi retreat, Turkmenistan


Khiva City Wall Gate, Uzbekistan


Micki–with whom I’d travel anywhere–Khiva City Wall Uzbekistan


Khiva Uzbekistan


Khiva Uzbekistan at night


Ashgabat Turkmenistan (thru two bus windows!)


Shahriston Pass, Tajikistan


Lake Issyk-Kul Kyrgyzstan


pomegranates, Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent Uzbekistan


Outskirts of Tashkent Uzbekistan


Khiva Uzbekistan




Published in: on May 9, 2018 at 9:15 pm  Comments (9)  

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9 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Some of your very best work!


  2. “Snaps”? These are wonderful photos, Richard. Thank you for your selective editing so we can see this fine work without being overwhelmed by sheer number of shots. Best to be overwhelmed by beauty, I say.


  3. Here are some comments sent via email:

    Annie A:
    Great pictures!

    Kyle E:
    Fantastic photos, Richard. Amazing color and composition.

    Maura B:

    Fern W:
    These are great!
    Absolutely wonderful, I really enjoyed them.

    Suzanne S:
    Fabulous shots. I will read more when my eyes let me but love the photos. What a great trip to experience.

    Micki M:
    Yes, I did and I DID !! Thanks for the opportunity and thanks for the memories your pics brought forth, and thanks for your kind comment regarding traveling companions. As we said, there’s something special we have, don’t know what, I just feel it and know it is there.

    What were Bobbie’s remarks on the likeness of you/your Father to the art piece I sent ? Hope her daughter is getting better.

    Beck and I did the DC trip, 3 days after I returned from the Stans and when we returned April 26, my Beck had an unshakeable, deep cough so we spent 48 hours getting up every 4 hours so I could administer her cough medicine. Well I couldn’t have HER getting all the sympathy so I decided to share her germs and at this point we both sound like the seals on the pier in San Francisco. But we’re getting better, we have to get better, we leave Monday, May 14 for England, Wales, Ireland and Edinburgh to return May 28th.

    We’re so very fortunate to be able to do what we wish and still have some with which to help others.

    Ok my Friend, keep writing, keep snapping,
    Love and hugs to you both,
    we two

    Mykel B:
    You beat me to it… but I’m not jealous… you’ve paved the way. I’ve never been to a stan… and I’d like to go to three in one trip.
    I’ll hit you up for recommendations… maybe 2 years though. This year is India!

    Luis R:
    Very Nice

    Yungchen L:
    Thank you so much 🙏🌞🙏

    Health and happiness

    Stan F:
    Might impressive Richard.

    You sure get around.

    Robert G:
    to RichardBeautiful work. Thanks.

    Barbara S:
    These are great!
    Richard, these photos are magnificent! Thank you.

    Andy P:
    Hi Goldberg
    Enjoyed looking at the photos
    So many beauties

    Leslie G:
    Wonderful photos, Richard! Thanks for sharing. Looks like an amazing trip.


    Some really outstanding photos
    Introduction interesting

    Teresa H:
    pretty amazing trip.

    Jacob P:
    Beautiful pictures!

    Kathleen L:

    Valerie G:
    Beautiful, Richard! I love the pics and the commentary. It makes me feel as if I was there! You always bring a fresh, interesting perspective to things.


  4. And one on Facebook from Cousin Sharyn:

    How can u choose 18 from 1900 ?


    • To which I did reply regarding the photo editing to which she was referring: It’s a complicated process best discussed over a leisurely dinner.


  5. Some more e mail replies:

    Thanks..loved the photos especially the faces & the quicki-history was an added bonus. What an
    amazing trip….I’d go in a heartbeat.

    The photos from the silk road are outstanding! I assume these are fairly recent, and being from your ongoing blog, were posted much later than the photos you put up of the Spain trip which was a year ago, Your Iberian Voyage photos were good – but the silk road photos are off the scale. I am in great awe at your work.

    Judy S:
    Loved these pics and hope you cull through all the others and send out more delights. I liked the warning about food and the encouragement of ice cream and vodka. This trip does not seem to be for the feint of heart. Or is that faint?


  6. Peter W:

    Great pix, as usual, even for a non-spiritual viewer.


  7. Connie:

    Amazing professional shots of your trip. So talented. Enjoyed them all. Thanks for posting.


  8. From west/foyle in Ecuador:

    Some real gems there, Goldberg! You always did well with the Stans of
    this world: ) And your eye for composition just keeps getting better
    (if not always sharper: ) I especially loved the Kazak woodlands,
    seeming to stream their colors like ribbons across the landscape, gold
    and lavender and green; and the layering of the mountains in the Tajik
    Shahriston Pass, each color different; the monumentality of the gate
    in the Uzbeki Khiva City Wall; and those amazing Uzbeki eyebrows!!!
    Congrats, you’re coming on spectacularly well.

    Keep encountering the world and always coming back to your own beloved
    home town, happy and replete.


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