Showing posts with label Dish Girls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dish Girls. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Old Town | Dish Girls

This time of the year in Bukhara the sun rises about 7:00. Every morning fifteen minutes or so before sunrise I leave my guesthouse and wander around the city. There is hardly anyone on the streets at this hour and I pretty much have the place to myself. One morning the city was dusted with fresh snow. I walked through the First Trade Dome and past the old Magok-i Attari Mosque to the Second Trade Dome. The old codger who looks after the tomb of Ahmed I Paran, located inside the trade dome, was there, as he always is come rain, snow, or shine. He studiously ignores all foreigners and I do not bother greeting him
 Trade Dome #1 with fresh snow (click on photos for enlargements)
Trade Dome #2 with fresh snow
Abdullah Khan Tim
 Snow of the domes of Abdullah Khan Tim
From the Second Trade Dome I walked north past the Abdullah Khan Tim and through the Third Trade Dome into the so-called Old Town, located on slightly higher ground just east of the Ark, or Citadel. This is the very oldest part of Bukhara. Archeological findings here date back almost 2500 years. When Chingis Khan invested Bukhara in 1220 most of today’s old town was known as the Shahristan, or Inner City, and was surrounded by a wall. This inner wall was probably destroyed in the sack of the city and the fire which followed, and it is not clear if it was ever rebuilt. The outer wall, around the rabat, or outer city, was rebuilt or repaired, only to the damaged or destroyed again several times until the final version of the Outer Wall, sections of which still remain to this day, was built. 
Street in the Old Town
Wandering down one narrow street I pass by a man who looked to be in his sixties sweeping the snow off his steps with a twig broom. He greeted me in Russian and asked what country I was from. I said I was from America (I am an American citizen although I have not actually lived there in many years). Switching to English he said, “Come in and have tea.” I have never turned down a bowl of tea in my life. He welcomed me into his house and after I had taken off my shoes ushered me into a room furnished with nothing but carpets, a thin pad on the floor, and a low table. Actually, it pretty much like the tea room of my hovel in Ulaanbaatar and I felt very much at home. “Would you like black or green tea,” he asked. Since it was still early morning I said black. “Wait one minute, my daughter will bring you tea.” After a minute or two the door opened and in strode a young woman with a tea tray. Much to my surprise, it was one the “Dish Girls” I had met on my previous trip. She was momentarily startled to see me sitting in her home, but quickly recovered. Her sister, who also sells dishes and who I had also met, came and in and sat down. Both young women of course sat on their knees with their shins tucked under them. I find it almost impossible to sit this way and assumed a half-lotus position instead. A full lotus hardly seemed appropriate for morning tea with two young ladies. “Well, this is really a coincidence that I should meet you again,” I offered. “Bukhara is a very small place. It is not strange that we should meet again,” said the first young woman. We then chatted for half an hour about tea (the women allowed that they themselves never drank black tea), carpets (the carpet on the floor  was remarkably like the machine-made wool carpets produced in Ulaanbaatar), the dish business (already a lot more tourists in town this month as compared to this month last year), and of host of other ephemeral topics.

The women said that I must stop by the street where they sell dishes and visit them again. I did not say that I had been avoiding this street. Last time I was in town I had promised them day after day I would buy something and then finally sneaked out of town without getting anything. I had planned to stop by just to say hello near the end of my trip, when they would have little time to cajole me into buying anything, but now I said I would stop by today. 

I continued my peregrinations and at about ten o’clock wandered down the street where the girls sold their wares. This year their dishes were set out right by the side of the Mir Arabi Madrassa. They saw me coming two hundred feet away and started shouting “Don! Don! Come here, Don!” As I approached one woman with hair dyed a curious shade of orange ran up to me with arms outspread and gushed, “My darling, you are back!” This jest elicited gales of laughter from the other girls, since an old goat like me could hardly be anyone’s darling. The girls get bored standing out here all day, especially on cold and blustery days like this when they see very few tourists, and are eager for any diversions. I guess I qualify as a diversion. They had lots of news. The Queen Bee of the group had gotten married and was quick to show me a photo of her husband on her iPhone. To my amazement her husband was the co-owner and salesman of the Abdullah Khan Tim Carpet Store who I had talked to the day before. I had met him several years earlier when he was working at the different store. Small world! One of her friends pointed out that she was already pregnant, although she had only been married since last November. “Not wasting any time, are you?” I offered. She smiled demurely. Although I talked to the Dish Girls for at least thirty minutes, oddly enough not one of them said a word about buying any dishes. Apparently they had already decided that as a customer I was pretty much of a bust. 
Dishes for Sale
Breathtakingly lovely Dish Girl whose father invited me in for tea. Be still my heart!
Dish Girl married to the co-owner of the Abdullah Khan Tim Carpet Store on the right, and mouth-wateringly gorgeous friend.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Trade Dome #3 | Dish Girls

From the Abdullah Khan Tim I proceeded 286 feet north to the entrance of the Tok-i-Zagaron (Jewelers’ Bazaar), or Trade Dome #3. Most sources say that this trade dome was built in the 1570s, at the same time as Trade Dome #1 and Trade Dome #2 (See Map of Trade Dome Locations). Based on the construction techniques used in the building, however, some observers say that it may date back to the Timurid Era in the 1400s. This dome once specialized in gold, silver, coral, and other kinds of jewelry. Now it sells the usual assortment of wool, cotton, and silk goods, copper utensils, and spices. A shop on the street just outside the eastern entrance to the dome sells high-quality hand-made knives, both stainless steel for display and black steel for use. 
Trade Dome #3
Another view of Trade Dome #3
Trade Dome #3 with the turquoise domes of Mir-i-Arab Madrassa in the background (Enlargement for a mes)
Western entrance to Trade Dome #3 at night (Enlargement for a mes)
Interior of Trade Dome #3 at night, when the shops are closed
There are also several small shops in the trade dome which open out into the street. This one is run by a husband and wife pair: she designs and makes silk and cotton goods, including dresses, night gowns, and coats; her husband does the selling. 
Woman with silk coat she designed and made, and her husband (Enlargement for a mes) The husband ended up being my unofficial and unpaid guide to the city. Many afternoons he would lock his shop and we would stroll around the city for two or three hours.
Silk Coat (Enlargement for a mes)
Detail of Silk Coat (Enlargement for a mes)
Coats and silk night gowns. The woman told me that biggest buyers of the silk night gowns are Arabs from the Gulf States who come to Bukhara in the summertime (Enlargement for a mes)
Another view of Trade Dome #3 at night (Enlargement for a mes)
From Trade Dome #3 I proceeded 280 feet west to the hangout of the Dish Girls. These are five or six young women who sell ceramics in the street. As I was the only Occidental tourist in town at the time I got a lot of attention from these charming young ladies. My first day in town I made the mistake of telling them my name. For days afterward I would no sooner walk out of Trade Dome #3 280 feet away than they would start jumping up and down and baying at the tops of their lungs, “Don! Don! Don! Come here Don! Don’t forget us Don!!!” Although I was not in the market for ceramics, I would sometimes stop for a chat. They were bored and cold (it was snowing a couple of days), and were eager for any distractions. I noticed that the ringleader of the gang had a new iPhone and commented that she must be making a lot of money selling dishes. “Her boyfriend bought it for her,” shouted one of the other girls. “Your boyfriend must really like you,” I offered. “He’s crazy about her!” shouted another one of the girls. The iPhone owner just smiled demurely. All of these young women spoke very good English; some also spoke French and Japanese, in addition to the local languages of Uzbek, Dari, and Russian. The ringleader said she had never studied English in school but had learned the language from homestudy of a few phrasebooks and tapes and by chatting up tourists like myself. They had a strict hierarchy as far as sales were concerned. If I bought anything I had to buy from the ring-leader first, and then on down the line to the low girl on the totem pole, who appeared to be no more than sixteen years old. I kept telling them I would buy something the next day, but then absconded from town without buying anything. They will probably be lying in wait for me the next time I return to Bukhara. 
One of the Dish Girls (Enlargement for a mes)