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The Silk Road: The Artery of Ancient Life, The Romance of Names
                                               August 4 – 22, 2019

Aug 4  Arrive Tashkent, Uzbekistan. You’ll be met on arrival and transferred to our hotel. After lunch we’ll take an excursion into the old city: to Tila Shaikh mosque and their archives, known for a rare copy of the Koran written by the third Caliph Osman; to the old Chorsu Bazaar, the oldest in Tashkent; and the Museum of Applied Art with its 7000 pieces of traditional folk art.

Aug 5  After an early breakfast we’ll transfer to the airport for our flight to Bukhara, one of the most famous cities in medieval Islam. We’ll spend the entire day exploring this fascinating city, home to hundreds of registered monuments and landmarks, including mosques, madrassas, museums. O/n in hotel.

Aug 6  This morning our exploration of Bukhara will continue with a visit to Sitora-i-Mokhikhosa, the summer residence of the former emir of Bukhara with its carved alabaster throne.  Late afternoon we’ll take the high-speed train to Samarkand. O/n at hotel.

Aug 7  A full day in Samarkand, the oldest existing city in Central Asia. Built on the site of Afrosiab, which dated from the 4th millennium BC. Samarkand was known to the Greeks as Marakanda. We’ll visit the Registan Square with its exquisite monuments and buildings; the 15th Century Ulug-Bek Madrasah; Tamerlane’s mausoleum Gur Emir; Bibi-Khanum, the grandest structure of Tamerlane’s time; and the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis.  O/n hotel.

Aug 8  Starting early, we’ll drive to the Tajik border and continue to Panjakent, the site of the ancient city and near the eastern-most point reached by Alexander the Great.  Continue on to Dushanbe, capital of Tajikistan for o/n at a hotel.

Aug 9  Starting out early by 4x4, we’ll drive south into the Pamir Mountains, crossing 7000’ Shuraba Pass along the way. By the end of the day we’re just across the Panj River (the Oxus River of old) from Afghanistan, on the route taken by Marco Polo. O/n at a hotel in Kalaikhumb. 220 miles, 7 hours.

Aug 10    Continue our drive along the Panj River with Afghan villages on the other side and the high Pamirs all around, with various stops along the way. Arrive in Khorog for overnight at a hotel. Visit the local Botanical Gardens and the Khorog Museum.  150 miles, 6 hours.

Aug 11  Drive further upstream along the Panj River through Ishkashim to Yamg. En route visit the hot-springs at GaramChashma. Across the river is the route taken by Marco Polo to Badakshan.  Along the way we’ll visit Namadgut village to see the Kushan Empire fortress of Kah-Kah, as well as some nice Ismaili Islam shrines. Overnight in Yamg village in a local home.  120 miles, 5 hours.

Aug 12    In the morning we’ll walk through Yamg village to visit the museum of the local 19th C astronomer and poet Sufi Muborak-i-Vakhoni. Our guide will be his great grandson, who is himself a master of making and playing the traditional stringed musical instrument called the rubab. Visit Bibi Fatima hot-springs in this most scenic Pamir valley. Return to Yamg for lunch, then visit the nearby villages of Zong and Vrang. Later drive 60 miles to Lyangar for our overnight in a traditional Tajik Pamiri house. Before dark we’ll climb 1000’ to see the large gallery of stone-age petroglyphs.

Aug 13     With an early departure we’ll drive along the Pamir River and cross Khargush Pass, 14,250’ where we meet up with the Pamir Highway. Cross Kyr Pass, 13,000’ with a beautiful view of Lake Yashikul. Descend into the Alichur Valley and visit with some Kyrgyz people in their summer camp, where we’ll spend the night.  100 miles.

Aug 14   Early morning drive to Yashilkul Lake enjoying the lunar landscape of the eastern Pamir. Return to Alichour for lunch, then proceed to Jarty-Gumbes hot-springs. Overnight in a basic local hunting camp.

Aug 15    First thing in the morning we’ll take a short excursion into the mountains to watch Marco Polo sheep grazing on the hillsides. Continue driving north to see Neolithic paintings, then cross Shor-Bulak Pass, 14,270’, with stunning views of Muztag-Ata, 24,765’, and Kongur, 25,320’, both located in China. Descend to the Ak-Su River to see the giant meteorite crater, and pull into Murghab for o/n at a hotel.

Aug 16    Drive a short distance to Pshart for a 5 hour day-hike through the colorful Pamirs, up to 15,000’, ending at a Kyrgyz summer camp in Kyrgyz yurts for overnight.

Aug 17   Drive into China over Kulma Pass, 14,300’, and on to Kashgar for the night in a hotel.

Aug 18    A full day in Kashgar to experience the Sunday market, the oldest, wildest and largest bazaar in Central Asia. On sale are hand-made items like silks & cotton, ceramics, pots and pans, knives, hats, carpets and jewelry, as well as fruits and vegetables, camels, horses and a host of others things. After lunch we visit Idkah Mosque, the largest in China, built in 1442 by Shakesimirzha, the ruler of Kashgar. Later visit the ApakKhoja tomb, the holiest place in Xinjiang Provence for Sufis, built in 1640 and housing the coffins of 5 generations of family, including the Fragrant Concubine.  Late in the day we’ll fly to Urumqi and transfer to a hotel.

Aug 19     After breakfast take the train to Turpan to visit the World Heritage underground channels and vineyards. The streets are covered with grape vines to shield them from the hot summer sun. Overnight in a local hotel.

Aug 20     Return to Urumqi by train, then after lunch fly to Dunhuang and check into our hotel. Starting 1700 years ago Dunhuang was the most important gateway at the eastern end of the Silk Road.

Aug 21      Visit the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, an enormous series of grottoes carved out a hillside between the 4th and the 10 C, and housing many wall paintings and sculptures, most in very good preservation. Tens of thousands of manuscripts and drawings were sealed off in the 11th C and only discovered in 1900. After noon we’ll Mingsha Singing Sand Dunes where the Takla Makan desert meets the Cresent Moon Lake. If you like, ride a camel to the top of the dunes. On our final night, enjoy the sunset view from the best desert  scenery on the entire Silk Road. Return to our hotel in Dunhuang for o/n.

Day 22     Flights home.

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