Yearly Archives: 2011

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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Our idea of a holiday: 3000km driving later…

Tiya at Kizkalesi

We drove from Antakya to Kizkalesi (Maiden’s Castle) which was just what the doctor ordered. Sand, sea (with fantastic views of a castle thrown in for good measure) and fish.

From there we drove on to Mamure Castle and Anemurium. The former is a child’s ideal of a medieval castle: fantastic location by the sea, ramparts walk with impressive battlements, surrounding moat, and almost deserted. And a mosque in the middle! Anemurium was pretty but eerily quiet. I had that sinking sensation in my stomach when I realised I was walking on (and crushing) 1400 year old bits of brick, mosaic and pottery (the town was abandoned in the 7th century AD so I did the maths!). Years ago I once stopped my taxi while travelling in Punjab, ostensibly following the path of the Saraswati river – I know, one of the many strange things I have done – and loaded …

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Nemrut Dağı and Antakya (ancient Antioch)

Antakya Mosaic

We drove to Nemrut Daği, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is probably the most common image everyone sees of Turkey. I have to say I found the “heads” a bit bizarre but could see why Antiochus I (69-34 BC) built this funerary mound where he did. Looking around, you are above the clouds and do feel on the top of the world.

Antakya (Antioch), different to everywhere else in Turkey in every which way, is only 60 miles from the Syrian border crossing and indeed once was part of Syria under French rule. It was a bit of a trudge from Nemrut Daği but I am glad we went. It is a happy buzzing town steeped in history. Established in 300 BC by one of Alexander the Great’s officers, the city became an important centre for religion. What is possibly the world’s earliest Christian church, the Cave Church of …

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South-east Turkey: Gaziantep and Urfa

Zincirli Bazaar, Gaziantep

Sorry, this post has taken a long time in coming. Lots happening, mostly good, so should be keeping up with things again from now on…!

And that was the end of my sourcing trip and the beginning of a short holiday. Mike and Tiya joined me in Istanbul and we all flew to Gaziantep (“Great” Antep). I was expecting a sleepy old town and was in for a bit of a surprise. Gaziantep is a buzzing city that is the machine-made carpet and pistachio capital of Turkey. It has its own unique handicrafts and whilst the copperware was excellent I didn’t much care for the thickish mother of pearl work. It is also famous for its food. We ate at the Imam Cagdas two nights in a row where the kebaps and pistachio baklava (they only make the pistachio filling in this town) were delicious – their website is in Turkish but …

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Istanbul – Sightseeing and Carpets (of course)

Rüstem Pasha Mosque

Everyone clapped when we landed and I felt like joining in – I love Istanbul and it feels good to be back. The immigration officer rattled away to me in Turkish. I think he was commenting on the couple who were in front of me and had been sent off to get their visa but who knows. When I explained that I was Indian and did not understand he seemed truly surprised. So I have now been mistaken as Turkish, Uzbek, Iranian, Moroccan, Israeli, Spanish, Arabian. I’m beginning to feel like a true world citizen. 🙂

Giving myself the day off I went to see the fabulous Rüstem Pasha and Süleymaniye mosques. I will let the photographs speak for themselves. It was very cold and I am beginning to wonder why it is that I attract freak (always cold) weather wherever I go.

Carpet heaven! I spent the day with a wholesaler …

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Morocco and Me

The place I was most apprehensive about doing business was Morocco (Iran and Turkmenistan which come next should probably worry me but don’t). Having spent the last couple of weeks here, I feel like Morocco and I can be friends. I have understood and accepted their system of working, which is that everyone gets a piece of the pie – taxi drivers, hotel staff, guides, policemen … and whilst it still registers, it has stopped bothering me as it did initially. That, finding a partner who is nice, has a zillion contacts and lovely helpful staff, and of course the carpets, lamps, sabra, metalwork, silver jewellery etc. has made this trip a huge success. I leave tired and content.

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Marrakech and Tiznit

Touareg style Berber Silver Pendant

My last few days have been in Marrakech with a mad day trip to Tiznit which is the last major town before the Western Sahara. It was so worth the hours of driving. Most women were dressed in what can only be described as saris but shorter with the pallu wrapped around the head and over the face so only the eyes show. Others had on traditional skirts with white embroidered dupattas covering their hair and faces. All very different from the djellaba I had seen elsewhere. I so wanted to take a photograph but thought it too culturally insensitive. The silver was overwhelming in choice and quantity. It’s understandable but sad to see Berber families coming to sell their family silver (gold is considered evil so this is their wealth), presumably to buy the cheap “Made in China” goods being sold on the streets. I couldn’t understand the negotiations …

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Grand Taxis and Clocking Lots of Miles

Medersa Bou Inania

I spent the morning in Fes with a quick detour to the Medersa Bou Inania, built between 1350 and 1357. No longer used as a theological school, the decoration is spectacular. Opposite is the strange and mind-boggling 14th century water clock. Of course, I had to go back to Café Clock and liked it as much this time as I did the last. The food and wi-fi are both winners!

And then had my first taxi negotiation! Within cities and towns you can use both grand and petit taxis with the latter being these banged up red bits on wheels that do surprisingly charge by the metre. For non-local travel you need a grand taxi and these have a fixed price that the ‘Controller’ will tell you. The discount when you ask for one is always the same, 100 dirhams no matter what the total cost is – percentage discounts …

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    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.

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