Tag Archives: bukhara

Stitches and Loops: Suzani Embroidery in Central Asia

Vintage Kazakh Suzani

It all started a long, long time ago. Sewing is the oldest of the textile arts, beginning in the Palaeolithic era. Before spinning yarn and weaving fabric were even imagined, Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles, and thread made of various animal body parts such as sinew, catgut, and veins.

Very inventive and resourceful! Here’s another example of sartorial ingenuity: in ancient Japan, traditional clothing was often sewn together with loose chain stitches that were removed so that the clothing could be taken apart and the assorted pieces laundered separately.

From being a necessity, sewing eventually evolved into an art form, in the shape of decorative embroidery for homes and garments. Over millennia, decorative embroidery came to be valued in various cultures worldwide. Stitching methods originating in different cultures are known throughout the world today. Some examples are …

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A tribute to Abdurauf Avezov, the gentleman Bukharan master craftsman

Abdurauf Avezov 1955-2012

Abdurauf Avezov was born in the old town of Bukhara in 1955 and completed his secondary schooling in a local Russian school. He started working in copper-chasing when he was twenty under the tutelage of Hasan, a master in the craft. Over the years he developed his own unique style using mainly vegetal patterns. He travelled widely showcasing his work especially to the countries of the former Soviet Union but more recently stayed home and completed orders that went to Germany, France, Italy, England and to us in India. Over the years he trained four students who eventually migrated from Uzbekistan and gave up the craft.

Yesterday I heard that Abdurauf passed away. I liked him. He was my best supplier and symbolised all that is Arastan. He knew I trusted his sense of design and never disappointed, sending me stunning work every time always on time. He took it …

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The Enduring Suzani

Suzani from Tashkent

No single artefact can represent the silk roads, their legacy and the Arastan journey, better than a Suzani. Arastan seeks out beautiful products with stories that often began on the fabled Silk Route. The suzani is one such perfect story of an enduring craft that has forever bound into every stitch and motif the hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears of its makers who lived in what was perhaps the harshest landscape in the world. See Arastan’s selection of vintage and new suzanis, or read on to discover more about the  culture and traditions behind this wonderful craft.

Suzani is a common term for embroidered dowry pieces (coverlets for the bridal bed, but also for made to decorate horses, tables, walls) produced for hundreds of years by the nomadic and settled women of Central Asia. Its roots are believed to be in the Fergana Valley that spreads across eastern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan …

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Bukhara in a Cold Sweat

Goods heading to Chorsu Bazaar

We’ve spent the last two days in Bukhara, a complete contrast to the glaze and glamour of Samarkand. I’d say, Bukhara is the face behind the façade. The mud-brick behind the coloured tiles. It’s earthy, small, more old world… cobbled streets, domed bazaars, a mosque here, a mausoleum there and a stunning minaret towering above it all.

I took off for the day with a local guide, while Nisha and Zahid met with the coppersmith, local artists, etc. All tiled out by Samarkand, the fascinating brickwork of the Ismail Samani Mausoleum caught my attention. 18 different designs using bare brick. Take a look at the photographs to see what I am talking about… just beautiful, in a down to earth way.

Next stop: The Hamam. Kunjak Hammom is a ladies only bathhouse. Knock on the black elm door and the lady in-charge lets you in through a narrow corridor that …

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Bukhara Brass Platters

Bukhara Brass Platter

These superb brass platters were made by a master craftsman in Bukhara and are now available for sale by Arastan. They are carved multiple times to traditional patterns, with each platter being a one off piece created from the craftsman’s imagination and never repeated.

The heavier, more intricately patterned, platter weighs 1.046kg and is 2mm thick and the other is 0.916kg and 1.5mm thick. They are made of brass with a purity of approximately 80% copper and 20% zinc: the copper is mixed with zinc to become yellow copper, or brass.

How they are made (translated from description given by the craftsman himself):

There is no stencil used for the design: it is made manually using a hammer and chisel. The overall design is divided into eight parts in order to make the complete pattern as consistent as possible. At first the design is done on one of the eight parts and then …

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Winding Down from Uzbekistan

Arastan in Suls, Farsi, Riqo, Kufi scripts

My bags, cartons, odd parcels are all unpacked. The clothes have been laundered and put away. The stock is ready to be photographed to go on the web site.

I am back from a fantastic two weeks in Uzbekistan. Being back there, sharing it with a friend, meeting master craftsmen so talented and so humble, eating at family run restaurants that serve the most delicious food, talking to people about their hard but fulfilled lives, seeing the Shah-i-Zinda again has all been wonderful. Working out how one does business there has been well – interesting!

There were many moments that made this trip memorable:

Discovering that Orasta in Uzbek means exactly what Arastan does in Persian – it’s a special compliment used for a woman who has made herself look very attractive and it is used very sparingly. Finding a calligrapher who inscribed Arastan in the four key languages of …

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We Didn’t Just Shop, We Also Ate…

Non, Non, Non

The food in Uzbekistan is absolutely divine. Here are some of our favourites (with links to The Art of Uzbek Cuisine if you’d like to try some at home!):

Non: Every region had its own special bread – from the raised rim sesame seed topped version in Fergana to the layered pastry version of Samarkand Kefir: a thick drinking yogurt often served with breakfast which we happily dosed with stewed apricots or strawberry jam Suzma: The delicious yogurt dip with fresh herbs helped us polish off a lot of bread when we were too impatient to wait for our main course Samsa: Their samosas made with a variety of fillings. We’re still lusting after the pumpkin samsas at Fergana and promise to not be shy and eat the whole plate the next time we’re there. The mince lamb tandoor version in Bukhara was well worth second and third helpings! Chuchvara: …

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Day 11: A Royal Breakfast, Bukhara Artisans, Chatty Uzbek Dinner

Coin Necklace

After a rather cold and miserable day in Bukhara, we woke up feeling hungry and ready for a new day. Our lady at Amelia served us breakfast fit for queens. The table was loaded with pancakes, rice porridge, potato pies, sausages, cheese, non, yoghurt – a treat that was tucked in with great enthusiasm by both of us. With all that nutrition in our systems, we set off to explore the many domed (covered) bazaars of Bukhara famous in the good old days for trading gold, spices, prayer caps and more. The walk through the crossroads of these markets gave us leads to master artisans in the area.

We met the master of copper chasing (the art of decorating metal items in relief). His tiny workshop was lined wall-to-wall with his handiwork. Each piece had been meticulously etched three times – which gave every plate its depth and sturdy weight. …

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Day 10: Windchilled in Bukhara!

Hoja Nasruddin's Statue at Lyabi Hauz

We woke up to a cold, frosty morning in Bukhara. There were several versions of what the days weather would be. Predictions ranged from a “mild” minus two to a “cold” minus eight!

All bundled up, we set off to explore the old town. Bukhara was gearing up for a round of Samarkand style reconstruction with working crews on overdrive all over the old town. This was disappointing for Nisha who had memories of the way the old town was before – unspoilt with its own old character and few signs of all this unnecessary polishing.

We started at Lyab-i Hauz: a tranquil old pool that defines the heart of the old town. In summer the old mulberry trees are in full bloom and provide shade to residents and tourists alike. The pool sat there uncomplaining in the midst of the reconstruction activity. It was peaceful and stoic, just like …

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Day 9: Three Show Stoppers, ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ in Shakhrisabz, Rip-off in Bukhara

Lakai panel (red) - Nisha's favourite

The best thing about travel is that, every once in a while, you stumble upon a gem that was nowhere in your to-do list (in Nisha’s case, her to-buy list). We had a really good break when we literally bumped into a display of captivating ceremonial hangings from the Lakai tribe. As we looked at them we were quiet for a while (a rare feat for the both of us); they were so beautiful. The Lakai tribe has played a historic role as horsemen, fighters and brigands in Inner Asia for centuries. Women of the Uzebk Lakai tribes embroider hangings that are exceptional, bold and extremely hard to get. The Arastan collection now has three of these prized pieces (though Nisha says she is not parting with the red one).

Giddy after the day’s find, we decided to cancel our train tickets to Bukhara and take the road instead. We …

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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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