Ferghana is a watered, fertile and temperate valley in this dry and mountainous region. It’s been the centre of ancient empires, and fought over many times. Now it is mostly part of Uzbekistan, spilling into Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, with very complex borders that don’t match the (mostly old Soviet) road and rail networks. Until a month before, travelling from Tashkent into the Ferghana Valley meant going via Tajikistan, which involves two border crossings and significant wasted time – and for the round trip we’d needed a double entry Tajik visa and a triple entry on our Uzbek! But only three weeks before we embarked, a new rail line was opened, which stays entirely on Uzbek territory, albeit pretty winding, and thus slow, for a significant part. The carriages were new, and by UK standards, extremely roomy and comfortable. One suspects a UK operator would put twice as many seats in the space, and charge at least double. The line was built with Chinese help, and includes a substantial tunnel. Which we never saw. Because, it’s secret! As the train approaches it, the staff draw the curtains, and then, one stands at each end of the carriage to ensure nobody peeps. Goodness knows what they keep in there – the world’s only plov mine, perhaps? Anyway, it does translate to a splendidly attentive train crew for the rest of the journey.
Margilon, being roughly in the centre of the valley, was a great place from which to explored by bus and shared taxi, with Al Cave, another travelling retired teacher from the UK.
Yodgorlik silk factory Margilon – Clare
Yodgorlik silk factory Margilon – Gideon
Rishton ceramics museum
Where the clay is so pure that they only need to add water before putting it on the potters wheel.
Kumtepa Bazaar, Margilon
Kokand / Qo’qon – Khan’s Palace
And, in case anyone thinks the entire Ferghana Valley is only full of old things, here’s a photo of downtown Ferghana itself: