Samarkand’s spell

Pia Chatterjee has a nice article in the San Francisco Chronicle about her recent visit to Samarkand. This city was an important stop for the Mennonite pilgrims on their way to Khiva. 

Perhaps they had a similar experience more than a century ago:

“I am at Siab bazaar buying figs for breakfast. The man – he is tall for an Asian, his eyes are green, there is an oddly Grecian cast to his face though he speaks quickly in tajik – he is sorrowed at how little I buy – and tries to persuade me with walnuts and grapes. And then the moment I have foreseen comes to pass – my trader withdraws from his pocket a small silk wrapped bag – I smell its contents even before he speaks – Saffron? he asks me – from Iran? And the bazaar tilts a bit around me – and I feel the magic from the past, and the dust at my feet feels ancient and the silks on the next stall are transformed. Suddenly I notice that the lady selling rice has Chinese features and that man in the corner looks exactly like one of my Italian friends, and the Tajik ladies speak a language that is not dissimilar to Hindi. Once the whole world had gathered here, in Samarkand, bartering, selling, buying. The small pouch of saffron seems to glow with the promise of other times…”

Check out the full article.