My travelling companion would get out the guide book and study hard. The Hasan Murad Kushbegi Mosque as opposed to the Ata Murad Matriza Kushbegi Mosque. Sophie would know what was built in 1809 or 1657, what corner the diminutive white washed minaret stood or the graceful pillars reminiscent of chopsticks, and my contribution to this pre visit research? Well I’d lie on my bed, watch a fly buzzing at the window, wonder if the fly was once a soldier fallen on a battle. Buddism passed this way after all.
“Are you ready?’ she would ask.“Yea, sure” I’d reply, dismissing the fly and finding my shoes.We’d sally forth, Sophie clutching her guide book while I clutched my wits; they are apt to wander. We pass aqua marine domes, lashings of ceramic tiles and cool mysterious doorways. They look interesting, but they are not our target. At last we are there, Sophie delves into her guidebook,
In Istanbul, where we waited two days for our delayed plane connection to Osh. The Mullahs could be heard calling the faithful to prayer but I bet that they use a recording nowadays. I wonder what Sophie thinks but she brings me back to the present. “Look there it is”, she points and I agree. To what? I’m a little fuzzy, maybe its the minaret. I know they stick up like erect penises like church steeples, but God forbid you say so.
Concentrate LIL, Sophie is off again, this time it is a mausoleum. The Pahlavan Mahmud or is it Sayyid Ala’uddin? One enters a pleasant courtyard with a Khanagha and a Hujras – Or is my memory playing tricks and wasn’t that something we ate last night? Sophie is serious, she’s keeping a diary, she likes to get her facts correct. And me? Well I’m a little dodgy about fact.
But back to Khiva, or was it Bukhara, anyway the Poi Kalyon was fabulous, even to my wilfully ignorant eye I could see the ceramics glowed and the mud brick minaret rose majestically.
I too, kept a diary, an account of how to mimic an upset tummy in a chemist where no one spoke English or trying to work out how much lunch cost if 1000 som is worth 30p and the bill came to 25000som. I wrote about the embarrassment I didn’t feel while feeling for my purse wrapped round my waist and exposing my midriff. Shock, horror, I had a bevy of middle aged ladies lunging at me and pulling down my t’shirt to make me decent.
I wrote about the the censorious boarder control man who asked us crossly where our husbands were. As if two middle aged ladies should not be allowed out alone unless their male relatives escorted them. I felt brave walking back to our guest house in the dark clutching a torch. And as for going on the donkey ride, just don’t.
I wrote, I notice, that I enjoyed it all, I am the better for my month long visit but just ask me to differentiate between the Kulkedash Madressa and the Nadir Divan Beghi and I might have a little difficulty in answering, the people on the other hand were amazing