Monthly Archives: September 2011

Rediscovering the Silk Road

Silk Road map

The Silk Road was never one long road. Rather, it was a series of smaller land (and later, maritime) routes, which formed an intricate network between the Occident and the Orient. It linked Europe, India and the Far East via Central Asia. Take a look at this map, and you’ll see that Somalia, Thailand and even Indonesia were en route. For over one thousand years, these ancient pathways were the most important and best-known route in the world, transporting not just silk but all manner of exotic goods such as pepper, jade, glass, oranges, peaches, crossbows, gunpowder and rhubarb.

Who traversed these trails through deserts, mountains, steppes and seas? Not just merchants but monks, scholars, clerics, artists, armies, musicians, plunderers and nomads. Unlike what we imagine, people rarely travelled the entire journey. Instead, goods and ideas would change hands and minds, multiple times along the way, before reaching their final …

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Jewellery That Speaks

Niello Cross Pendant

The Berbers wear only silver. It has something to do with silver being the preferred metal of the prophet. Archival pictures show Berber women completely laden with the most unbelievable silver adornment. Today of course, these images are fewer thanks to the skyrocketing price of silver, but still, jewellery continues to be important, not just for its decorative value. It has protective symbolism, it is the family’s bank, to be melted and traded in lean times, bought and remade in good. The jewellery a woman wears is a symbol of her family’s status and wealth. So, interestingly, the woman and not the man is the family financier plus showpiece and bearer of its reputation.

Design of Berber jewellery is strongly influenced by the ancient Berber script, Tifinagh, based on which Berber languages are written. The characters in Tifinagh reflect a simple geometry of corners, circles, triangles and dots. This abstract …

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Intriguing Berbers

Young Berber woman

Everything about Morocco is intriguing… especially to someone like me who has never been there. The gorgeous tilework, the latticed windows, the tadelakt lamps, the tribal kilims… ahhhh, I want to go there…. Now!!!!!!!

So, when Nisha pulled out piece after piece of stunning Moroccan Berber jewellery, I couldn’t bear it any longer. If I wasn’t going to be on next flight to Marrakech, I had to get there by another route. Feeling quite like the Ibn Battuta of Richards Town, I set off instantly… up the High Atlas mountains and through the stark Sahara, to finally come face-to-face with chiseled Berber men and gorgeous women bedecked, from head to toe, in silver jewellery…. So ok, Battuta didn’t go out in search of Berbers, but he did leave Morocco and ended up travelling the silk routes for 33 years, on foot and horseback. That was Ibn and it was the …

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Arastan Exhibition at Raintree

Arastan at Raintree

If you are in Bangalore you may find one of these dropped in your mailbox in the next few days. If not, please join us anyway at RainTree on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th September for our first ever exhibition!

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A Day to Remember!

First major shipment – cleared customs today and will be delivered tomorrow morning.

First set of invitation cards – arrived from the printers today and after a lot of stuffing of envelopes will start being distributed tomorrow.

A carpet sale – to someone equally passionate about her new business, that of selling unique sarees.

A photo shoot – of brass platters that are concave but insist on looking convex! The Karen silver sets though were meant for the camera.

An interview for Time Out magazine – our first!

Getting the story boards done for our upcoming exhibition – a moment to stop and appreciate seeing others enjoying researching the Silk Road as much as I have.

The journey and the excitement of it continues!

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More Postal Woes

Missent to Indonesia

Following on from our Indian Speedpost issues, we recently received some samples in the mail from Uzbekistan, sent using the normally reliable Uzbek Post, which took an interesting route to India!

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And They Call it “Speed”post…?

There has been lots happening recently behind the scenes at Arastan, despite the lack of blog activity. Unfortunately some things in India can take a lot longer than they ought to. We had a small package to send to a supplier in Srikalahasti, a temple town in Andhra Pradesh, less than 300km from Bangalore. Nothing too complicated, a simple next day delivery, so we used the Indian Post Office’s Speedpost service. Turned out our package was off on a week long grand tour of the state…

Date & Time From Office To Office Event Remarks 02/06/2011 15:50:01 BANGALORE Article Received 02/06/2011 20:02:35 BANGALORE TIRUPATI Article Bagged 02/06/2011 21:24:44 BANGALORE M-34-IN Bag Sent through PVT VAN Scheduled Dep.02/06/2011 21:30:00 hrs. 03/06/2011 18:21:32 ____ TIRUPATI Bag IS Opened 04/06/2011 00:37:50 TIRUPATI SRIKALAHASTI HO Article Bagged 04/06/2011 08:10:19 ____ SRIKALAHASTI Bag IS Opened 04/06/2011 16:46:56 SRIKALAHASTI TIRUPATI Article Bagged 04/06/2011 21:52:04 ____ TIRUPATI …

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

    Relive our travels and stories by browsing our articles and archives from the menus below.

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