In an attempt to meet up with a Couchsurfer that I had spotty contact with, I took the short bus ride up to Margilon from Fergana. I had no way of contacting my potential host other than email, which he might not check for days, so I spent my afternoon wandering the town waiting for a phone call or darkness, whichever came first.
As luck would happen, darkness came first, so I started looking for a hotel. Uzbekistan has a similar policy to China in that tourists have to stay at certain hotels and register. It's questionable how often you have to register, but from what I've heard you should have at least a handful of registration slips when you try to leave the country. Unfortunately, the first hotel I checked out had lost their license and couldn't accept foreigners, they pointed me instead up the road to the other hotel in town. A couple of local kids who I had just met wanted to help me out, so they came with to show me the way.
|The 2nd and 3rd from the left were my guides on the first night, the furthest right is Ahmed, my guide for day 2.|
Once we got there, we were told that a single night at this hotel would cost me $55, at the cheapest. Wah wah. Being used to spending between $0 and $6 on accomodation for the past two months, I was shocked, and got ready to find myself a camping hole somewhere in suburban Uzbekistan.Not so fast. One of the boys (I can't pronounce his name and definitely won't try to spell it here) pulled out his phone, called his mom, and within minutes was guiding me back to his house to stay for the night.
Luckily, this was Uzbekistan, and instead of a cold, lonely night in my bivy in a ditch somewhere, I was treated to a hot meal, some hilarious language-barrier-battling conversation (with help from four dictionaries and through three languages, plus gestures), a warm bed and an invitation to stay yet another night to get a tour of the town and to celebrate the beginnings of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha with them.
|An unfortunately terrible quality family photo|
|The cocoons are in the vat in the foreground, then the thread goes to the second lady, who coils it|
Another mosque and mausoleum
|Ahmed, me and Humayun in front of the mausoleum|
|The air filled with smoke as thousands of families began to cook plov at the same time|
to celebrate the eve of Eid-al-Adha. The holiday itself is described by wikipedia as,
"an important 4-day religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his young firstborn son Ishmael as an act of submission to God, and his son's acceptance of the sacrifice before God intervened to provide Abraham with a ram to sacrifice instead."
In practice, they spend the morning of the holiday at the mosque in prayer, and the night before is kind of like a reverse Halloween, without the costumes. Everyone makes a huge steaming vat of plov, then they send the kids out with small plates full to take to all of the neighbors. The result is a street filled with happy kids (often sampling their deliveries on the way) and a table covered in at least 6 different family recipes of plov. As my friend, Joy, told me after my last post that when I get back, "plov! that's either gonna become your middle name or your favorite word!" I think she may be right. I could measure my current weekly plov intake by kilograms, easily.
|Two varieties on the table|
|The family batch|
Ok, that is all. I just wanted to pass on another example of the exceedingly generous hospitality of the Uzbeks, and some cultural awareness. I continue to be impressed. Until next time!