Textiles of Uzbekistan 2

Embroidered jackets.

Embroidered jackets.

October 6 – 21, 2020    This trip is FULL!
Arrive October 6, depart for home Oct. 22.

Our 16-night all-new textile tour of Uzbekistan checks another fabulous adventure off your bucket list!

Overview:

Uzbekistan was an important trade center on the Silk Route, the ancient trade route linking China to the Mediterranean. And the textiles of Uzbekistan are stunning. It’s home to exquisite, hand-embroidered and dyed ikat textiles as well as four UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. An Uzbek native textile expert will accompany our small group during the trip to be sure we meet the most talented artisans, and see the best textiles and most stunning architecture. The weather will be pleasant at this time of year.

The trip begins and ends in the exciting city of Tashkent. Along the whole route, we will visit exquisite blue-tiled madrasas and museums, as well as bustling handicraft bazaars. And true to our name, everywhere we’ll go ‘Behind the Scenes’ to meet silk ikat dyers and weavers, wood block printers, embroidery and ceramic masters, and more.

Next we’ll head for the Ferghana Valley, home of the most renowned ikat weavers. Over the course of four days there, we’ll visit many artisans, have a cooking class, see the textile bazaar and a silk factory. Later we’re off to Samarkand by fast train. This interesting city lies right on the Silk Road. Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we shall see why.

Next we’ll visit Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will travel there either by car or via the sleek, new train, if it is up and running. Blue mosques and textile bazaars also abound in this fabulous historical city.

Khiva is the next stop. We’ll skirt the Kyzylkum or Red Sand Desert, to see its wondrous architecture and carpet knotters before heading back to Tashkent for our last day. Next morning we’ll head to the airport for our homeward bound departure flights. Some convenient flights will be suggested.

Trip Details:

Stamps used to decorate the traditional Uzbek tandoor bread.

Arrive in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, on October 6. The guide and I will meet you at the airport then we’ll check in to our hotel. We’ll eat lunch and/or dinner as a group this first day, depending on what time you arrive. You can spend the day relaxing, or go out with us to explore the neighborhood. We may visit modern building of Chorsu Bazaar, or the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan, or the Human House Studio and Gallery where you can shop Uzbek arts and crafts, or enjoy cup of tea or coffee. (If you are interested in having interesting clothes custom-made, you can order them today. Then when we return to Tashkent at the end of the trip, your order will be ready for pick up.)

Camel parade painted on tiles by Joyce Carlson.

Blue tile decorations in Khiva.

In Tashkent, we’ll admire the turquoise-tiled domes of the historical  buildings such as the 16th Barak-Khan Madrasa complex. While in the old city, we’ll also visit a famous woodblock print studio and an embroidery workshop. The State Museum of Applied Arts showcases some of the best historical artistic examples of the textiles of Uzbekistan.

Long ago, the Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev built a mansion to display his extensive collections of unique national handicrafts. After the Soviet revolution, the government nationalized his cherished home opened it to the public as a museum. Polovtsev’s rare examples of folk art such as rugs and wood carvings are on display here. Collections also include traditional ikat weave garments. The museum often holds exhibitions and sales of works by contemporary Uzbek artists.

Famous Ferghana Valley

Man taking bread out of oven.

Baker with traditional Uzbek bread.

Our route to Ferghana Valley leads us via the low Kamchik pass at around 7400 feet. After 4 hours drive, we’ll stop in Kokand, to visit the incredible Khudayarkhan Palace and the Juma mosque, and to eat lunch. Taste the delicious homemade honey halva sold in the mosque courtyard!

In Margilan, an ancient Fergana Valley city, we’ll meet ikat dyers and weavers who are the most skilled in Central Asia.  Margilan was already well known in antiquity for the superb quality of silk was created here. A highlight will be the Kumtepa Bazaar, one of the best places to buy ikat fabrics (with resist-dyed warp) which are the most renowned textiles of Uzbekistan. It’s a great local market with an extensive area devoted to local textile crafts. Here you can buy ikat yardage to make robes, quilts or pillows, and other textile treasures.

There is also a workshop where you can buy the ikat fabrics directly from the weavers. Later we’ll visit the training center of the most renowned ikat weaver, whose workshop did custom work for Oscar de la Renta. We’ll visit the Yodgorlik Margilan silk factory, established in 1972. Today about 450 people, mostly women, work there, and the visit is fascinating. Every month the factory produces about 6500 yards of fabric including natural silk and silk blend fabric. Over the course of our four days  in the Ferghana Valley, we’ll visit many other artisans, the textile bazaar and a silk factory where we’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished ikat. We’ll also learn to make some authentic dishes in our cooking class.

Samarkand

Bibi Khanym Mosque, Samarkand.

From Margilan we go back through Tashkent, then we’ll board the air-conditioned fast train to Samarkand, today the third largest city in Uzbekistan. Once the capital, and an important trade stop along the Silk Road, Samarkand sits at the center of the country. UNESCO included Samarkand in the list of the World Heritage of Humanity almost twenty years ago. Samarkand was at the forefront of Islamic architecture, witnessed in the old town built in typical medieval fashion. There, numerous mosques, madrasas and homes line the narrow streets. We can visit a silk carpet factory, the famous Afrosiab museum and the Observatory of Ulughbek.

Prominent landmarks include the Registan, a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, majolica-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries, and the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity and old historical grace. The western part of the city is more modern, with architecture reflecting 19th and 20th c. European design and style, influenced by the Russian aesthetic. The city is often referred as a crossroad of cultures.

Next stop Bukhara!

The ancient city of Bukhara remains an exciting place to explore the architecture and textiles of Uzbekistan. This city has amazing mosques, galleries and museums. The age-old caravansarai and madrasas have often been converted into artists’ studios and workshops. And several ancient, domed bazaars here offer carpets, suzanis (embroidered panels) and jewelry. We’ll explore these as well as an artisan center where we can learn how some typical crafts are made.

While in Bukhara, we must see the Emir’s summer palace, Sitorai Mohi Hosa. It’s an ‘over-the-top Russian/Central Asian confection built in 1911.’  The palace also houses the excellent Bukhara Museum of Decorative Arts where the suzani collection will enthrall the embroidery lovers among us. The main building houses royal furniture of the 19th – 20th centuries, Japanese and Chinese porcelain, palace artifacts from Russia, and jewelry by well-known Bukharan masters.

At the center of the garden there is the octagonal pavilion, with an exhibition called the ‘Clothes of Urban Dweller of Bukhara in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.’ The exhibition includes an interesting collection of wealthy citizen’s clothes, belts, scarves, and shoes decorated with gold embroidery. We’ll visit other architectural wonders such as the 9th century Ismael Samani Mausoleum, a perfect cube made of baked bricks in basket weave pattern.

Khiva

Onward from Bukhara to Khiva! This is a long drive, but the desert landscape is compelling: vast steppes, shepherds and their flocks, odd villages, military outposts and unusual vegetation. We’ll cross the Amu Darya river, known as the Oxus in ancient times. Ichan Kala, the walled, ancient, inner city of Khiva made an important stop on the Silk Road. Traditionally known as Khorezm, Ichan Kala was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and also the largest surviving walled city in the central part of Asia.

Once famous for its ruthless emirs, Khiva is now touted as the most intact and remote of Central Asia’s silk road cities. Today it’s considered the most homogeneous example of Islamic architecture in the world.  The city’s rulers, the Khans of Khiva, originally built the wall to keep out colonial threats. However, Itchan Kala was later preserved by Russian colonial rulers.  Nearly sixty largely Islamic historic monuments are preserved in the old city, as the State Historical Archaeological Museum. These tiled and mosaic-encrusted treasures include palaces, mosques, minarets and pillars.

Textiles abound in Khiva. We’ll visit another spectacular museum of handicrafts, and several grand architectural wonders. There is a particularly wonderful carpet shop in Khiva also. Hand-knotted examples here show patterns that were inspired by the designs of the tiles and doors of the city.  One exciting visit in Khiva will be to the Khiva Suzani Center to see stunning embroidered examples from all over Uzbekistan, below.

Sacred Uzbek bread

Bread sellers showing off decorative stamped designs.

We’ll eat delicious food everywhere and learn about the local cuisine in at least one cooking class. The diet includes grilled meats and stews such as pilaf or plov, with lamb/mutton. Usually cooks serve Uzbek meat dishes with vegetable kebabs and fresh salads.

Traditionally, lamb is the most popular meat among Uzbek people; They don’t eat a lot of beef but people of coastal regions naturally catch and consume varieties of fish.

Bread is considered sacred by Uzbek people. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka,  and is baked in a tandyr/tandoor (clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy. Bread of each region has own particular method of leavening, its own baking techniques and its own inimitable taste. For instance, delicious flaky bread – katlama non, each layer smeared with oil or sour cream – typifies the Fergana Valley version. Some lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat baked inside the dough.

Traditionally Uzbek dinner guests never cut bread with a knife. At the start of the meal, they  break the bread into pieces by hand and place it on the table near each place setting. And they take care not to act disrespectful by setting the bread upside down on the table (with its flat side up). We will learn about the cusine as well as as the polite Uzbek way of dining. Two evening meals will be on your own, to lounge at the hotel with a picnic of bread, cheese and fruit, or to find an interesting place to try.

At the end of our adventure, after seeing a million suzanis and ikats, we’ll drive to nearby Urgench for early flights back to Tashkent. The rest of today is free to explore this city on your own — to see something you missed the first time, visit more museums, see the 6pm performance at the Theater of Opera and Ballet, or visit the local Chorsu bazar for some final gift treasures. Or just relax at the hotel and organize your luggage. Lunch on your own. Pack up bags tonight, before our Farewell Dinner.

October 21 is the last included night of hotel accommodation.

On October 22 we’ll fly home. We will suggest some convenient flights.

Trip Cost:  $4250

Single Supplement: $450

The 16-night tour cost includes:

  • Transportation by air-conditioned Minibus with 24 seats
  • Accommodation in double rooms with private bathrooms.
  • Expert Uzbek English-speaking guide.
  • 15 Lunches and 15 Dinners (2 meals will be on your own)
  • All breakfasts in the hotels.
  • Entrance fees to all sites and monuments.
  • Flight from Urgench-Tashkent
  • All Tashkent airport transfers
  • Train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand
    and Bukhara (and Bukhara-Khiva if launched by 2019).
  • Transfers Samarkand railway station to downtown.
  • Transfers Bukhara railway station.
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day.
  • Cooking master class, embroidery master class
  • Wood Block printing lesson
  • Ikat textile weaving demonstration/lesson

Not included:

  •  International flights to and from Uzbekistan
  •  Visa and passport fees
  •  2 Dinners (buy fruit and cheese to eat at the hotel, or go out)
  •  Tips for guide and driver; amounts will be suggested.
  •  Mandatory travel insurance (more about this later)

 

 

Blue tiled building  by Kathleen Walsh.
Bread stamps by Dreamstime © 45304376. Antonella 865
Baker: DT © Mariusz Prusaczyk
Blue tile camel caravan by Joyce Carlson
Photo #11 DT © Evgeniy Fesenko
Photo #12  DT ©Sergey Dzyuba
Map: ©Ontheworldmap.com

 

 

 

 

Textiles of Uzbekistan

Chapan, coat of long panels of silk warp ikat, from Bukhara.

May 3 – 18, 2020
Arrive May 3, depart for home May 19.
THIS TRIP IS FULL. Sorry.
The second Uzbekistan trip is also full. Check back occasionally for 2021 and send an email to get on the announcement list.

Our 16-night all-new textile tour of Uzbekistan checks another fabulous adventure off your bucket list!

Highlights:

Uzbekistan was an important trade center on the Silk Route, the ancient trade route linking China to the Mediterranean. And the textiles of Uzbekistan are stunning. It’s home to exquisite, handwoven silk ikats (right) as well as four UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites. An Uzbek native textile expert will accompany our small group during the trip to be sure we meet the most talented artisans, and see the best textiles and most stunning architecture.

Two smiling women hold up a suzani textile.

Uzbek ladies at the market. Photo credit: K.Walsh

The trip begins and ends in the exciting city of Tashkent. Along the whole route, we will visit exquisite blue-tiled madrasas and museums, as well as bustling handicraft bazaars. And true to our name, everywhere we’ll go ‘Behind the Scenes’ to meet silk ikat dyers and weavers, wood block printers, embroidery and ceramic masters, and more.

Next we’ll head for the Ferghana Valley, home of the most renowned ikat weavers. Over the course of four days there, we’ll visit many artisans, the textile bazaar and a silk factory. We’ll also learn to make some authentic dishes in our cooking class. Later we’re off to Samarkand by fast train. This interesting city lies right on the Silk Road. Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we shall see why.

Inside dome detail of intricate glazed ceramic tile work.

Next we’ll visit Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will travel there either by car or via the sleek, new train, if it is up and running. Blue mosques and textile bazaars also abound in this fabulous historical city. Next we drive to Khiva, skirting the Kyzylkum or Red Sand Desert, to see its wondrous architecture and carpet knotters before heading back to Tashkent for our last day.

Next morning on May 19th we’ll head to the airport for our homeward bound departure flights. Some convenient flights will be suggested.

Trip Details:

Arrive in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, on May 3. The guide and I will meet you at the airport then we’ll check in to our hotel. There you can spend the day relaxing, or go out with us to explore the neighborhood. We may visit modern building of Chorsu Bazaar, or the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan, or the Human House Studio and Gallery where you can shop Uzbek arts and crafts, or enjoy cup of tea or coffee. (If you are interested in having interesting clothes custom-made, you can order them today. Then when we return to Tashkent at the end of the trip, your order will be ready for pick up.)

Depending on what time you arrive, we’ll eat lunch and/or dinner as a group this first day. In Tashkent, we’ll also admire the turquoise-tiled domes of the historical  buildings such as the 16th Barak-Khan Madrasa complex. While in the old city, we’ll also visit a famous woodblock print studio and an embroidery workshop. The State Museum of Applied Arts showcases some of the best historical artistic examples of the textiles of Uzbekistan.

Long ago, the Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev built a mansion to display his extensive collections of unique national handicrafts. After the Soviet revolution, the government nationalized his cherished home and opened it to the public as a museum. Polovtsev’s rare examples of folk art such as rugs and wood carvings are on display here. Collections also include traditional ikat weave garments. The museum often holds exhibitions and sales of works by contemporary Uzbek artists.

Serving the national dish of rice and lamb, called plov.

Famous Ferghana Valley

Our route to Ferghana Valley leads us via the low Kamchik pass at around 7400 feet. After 4 hours drive, we’ll stop in Kokand, to visit the incredible Khudayarkhan Palace and the Juma mosque, and to eat lunch. Taste the delicious homemade honey halva sold in the mosque courtyard.

In Margilan, an ancient Fergana Valley city, we’ll meet ikat dyers and weavers who are the most skilled in Central Asia.  Margilan was already well known in antiquity for the superb quality of silk was created here. A highlight will be the Kumtepa Bazaar, one of the best places to buy ikat fabrics (with resist-dyed warp) which are the most renowned textiles of Uzbekistan. It’s a great local market with an extensive area devoted to local textile crafts. Here you can buy ikat yardage to make robes, quilts or pillows, and other textile treasures.

There is also a workshop where you can buy the ikat fabrics directly from the weavers. Later we’ll visit the training center of the most renowned ikat weaver, whose workshop did custom work for Oscar de la Renta. We’ll visit the Yodgorlik Margilan silk factory, established in 1972. Today about 450 people, mostly women, work there, and the visit is fascinating. Every month the factory produces about 6500 yards of fabric including natural silk and silk blend fabric. Over the course of our four days  in the Ferghana Valley, we’ll visit many other artisans, the textile bazaar and a silk factory where we’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished ikat. We’ll also learn to make some authentic dishes in our cooking class.

Samarkand

Bibi Khanym Mosque, Samarkand.

From Margilan we go back through Tashkent, then we’ll board the fast train to Samarkand, today the third largest city in Uzbekistan. Once the capital, and an important trade stop along the Silk Road, Samarkand sits at the center of the country. UNESCO included Samarkand in the list of the World Heritage of Humanity almost twenty years ago. Samarkand was at the forefront of Islamic architecture, witnessed in the old town built in typical medieval fashion. There, numerous mosques, madrasas and homes line the narrow streets. We can visit a silk carpet factory, the famous Afrosiab museum and the Observatory of Ulughbek.

Prominent landmarks include the Registan, a plaza bordered by 3 ornate, majolica-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries, and the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity and old historical grace. The western part of the city is more modern, with architecture reflecting 19th and 20th c. European design and style, influenced by the Russian aesthetic. The city is often referred as a crossroad of cultures.

Next stop Bukhara!

The ancient city of Bukhara remains an exciting place to explore the architecture and textiles of Uzbekistan. This city has amazing mosques, galleries and museums. The age-old caravansarai and madrasas have often been converted into artists’ studios and workshops. And several ancient, domed bazaars here offer carpets, suzanis (embroidered panels) and jewelry. We’ll explore these as well as an artisan center where we can learn how some typical crafts are made.

While in Bukhara, we must see the Emir’s summer palace, Sitorai Mohi Hosa. It’s an ‘over-the-top Russian/Central Asian confection built in 1911.’  The palace also houses the excellent Bukhara Museum of Decorative Arts where the suzani collection will enthrall the embroidery lovers among us. The main building houses royal furniture of the 19th – 20th centuries, Japanese and Chinese porcelain, palace artifacts from Russia, and jewelry by well-known Bukharan masters.

At the center of the garden there is the octagonal pavilion, with an exhibition called the ‘Clothes of Urban Dweller of Bukhara in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.’ The exhibition includes an interesting collection of wealthy citizen’s clothes, belts, scarves, and shoes decorated with gold embroidery. We’ll visit other architectural wonders such as the 9th century Ismael Samani Mausoleum, a perfect cube made of baked bricks in basket weave pattern.

Khiva

Onward from Bukhara to Khiva! This is a long drive, but the desert landscape is compelling: vast steppes, shepherds and their flocks, odd villages, military outposts and unusual vegetation. We’ll cross the Amu Darya river, known as the Oxus in ancient times. Ichan Kala, the walled, ancient, inner city of Khiva made an important stop on the Silk Road. Traditionally known as Khorezm, Ichan Kala was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and also the largest surviving walled city in the central part of Asia.

Once famous for its ruthless emirs, Khiva is now touted as the most intact and remote of Central Asia’s silk road cities. Today it’s considered the most homogeneous example of Islamic architecture in the world.  The city’s rulers, the Khans of Khiva, originally built the wall to keep out colonial threats. However, Itchan Kala was later preserved by Russian colonial rulers.  Nearly sixty largely Islamic historic monuments are preserved in the old city, as the State Historical Archaeological Museum. These tiled and mosaic-encrusted treasures include palaces, mosques, minarets and pillars.

Textiles abound in Khiva. We’ll visit another spectacular museum of handicrafts, and several grand architectural wonders. There is a particularly wonderful carpet shop in Khiva also. Hand-knotted examples here show patterns that were inspired by the designs of the tiles and doors of the city.  One exciting visit in Khiva will be to the Khiva Suzani Center to see stunning embroidered examples from all over Uzbekistan, below.

Sacred Uzbek bread

Bread sellers showing off decorative stamped designs.

We’ll eat delicious food everywhere and learn about the local cuisine in at least one cooking class. The diet includes grilled meats and stews such as pilaf or plov, with lamb/mutton. Usually cooks serve Uzbek meat dishes with vegetable kebabs and fresh salads.

Traditionally, lamb is the most popular meat among Uzbek people; They don’t eat a lot of beef but people of coastal regions naturally catch and consume varieties of fish.

Bread is considered sacred by Uzbek people. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka,  and is baked in a tandyr/tandoor (clay oven), after which it comes out toasted and crispy. Bread of each region has own particular method of leavening, its own baking techniques and its own inimitable taste. For instance, delicious flaky bread – katlama non, each layer smeared with oil or sour cream – typifies the Fergana Valley version. Some lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat, baked inside the dough.

Traditionally Uzbek dinner guests never cut bread with a knife. At the start of the meal, they  break the bread into pieces by hand and place it on the table near each place setting. And they take care not to act disrespectful by setting the bread upside down on the table (with its flat side up). We will learn about the cusine as well as as the polite Uzbek way of dining. Two evening meals will be on your own, to lounge at the hotel with a picnic of bread, cheese and fruit, or to find an interesting place to try.

On May 18th, at the end of our adventure, after seeing a million suzanis and ikats, we’ll drive to nearby Urgench for early flights back to Tashkent. Today is a free day to explore this city on your own — to see something you missed the first time, visit more museums, hit a 6pm performance at the Theater of Opera and Ballet, or visit the local Chorsu bazar for some final gift treasures. Or just relax at the hotel and organize your luggage. Lunch on your own. Pack up bags tonight, before our Farewell Dinner. May 18th is the last included night of hotel accommodation.

On May 19th we’ll fly home. We will suggest some convenient flights.

Trip Cost:  $4250

Single Supplement: $450

The tour cost includes:

  • Air conditioned Minibus with 24 seats
  • Accommodation in double room with private facilities.
  • Expert local guide.
  • All breakfasts in the hotels.
  • Entrance fee to all sites and monuments.
  • Flight Urgench-Tashkent
  • All Tashkent airport transfers
  • Train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand
    and Bukhara (and Bukhara-Khiva if launched by 2019).
  • Transfers Samarkand railway station to downtown.
  • Transfers Bukhara railway station.
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day.
  • 17 Lunches and 15 Dinners (2 dinners will be on your own)
  • Cooking master class, embroidery master class
  • Wood Block printing lesson
  • Ikat textile weaving demonstration/lesson

Not included:

  •  Flights to and from Uzbekistan
  •  Visa and passport fees
  •  2 dinners (buy fruit and cheese to eat at the hotel, or go out)
  •  Tips for guides and driver.
  •  Mandatory travel insurance (more about this later)
  •  Any excess baggage charges

Photos # 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 14  by Kathleen Walsh.
Plov – rice dish by DT © Anna Zazdravnaya
Photo #11 DT © Evgeniy Fesenko
Photo #12  DT ©Sergey Dzyuba
Map: ©Ontheworldmap.com

 

 

 

Textiles,Temples: Odisha

Man at loom weaving ikat, India

Weaving pre-dyed ikat threads at a village in Odisha.

Webpage in progress: Price to come!

DATES: November 15-29, 2020

Fly home November 30.

Sensational ikat weaving, ancient Hindu temples, and sixty-two distinct groups of traditional peoples make the Indian state of Odisha an exceptionally interesting place to visit.  Some claim that the ‘architectural legacy of the period is its greatest attraction.’ Others find the 62 distinct tribal groups fascinating.  Odisha does have the most variety of ethnic peoples of any single state in the country. But for our small group of travelers, both the local people and the single and double handwoven ikat-patterned cloth will be equally important to the stunning temple architecture. Silk and cotton saris from this state are sought after within the Indian diaspora, and treasured among knowledgeable textile aficionados world-wide.

Intricate carvings on a stone wheel in the ancient Surya Hindu Temple at Konark, Orissa, India. 13th Century AD

Intricately carved base of the Konark Sun Temple.

 TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • City tour to see the best of Kolkata  (Calcutta).
  • A visit to Kala Bhoomi – Textile and Crafts Museum
  • Excursion to Gopalpur to meet local weavers
  • Visit to Pipli appliqué center to see artisans at work.
  • Explore Raghurajpur – A heritage crafts village
  • Explore Nuapatna textile village; see Siali crafts.
  • Meet the weavers of Sambalpur village, renowned for their ikat saris.
  • Visit to the unique Yogini temple of Ranipur Jharial
  • Explore Kotpad weaving village to see their exceptional fabrics
  • Drive to Rayagada to visit Chatikona on Wednesday’s traditional market
  • Visit the Padmasambhava Mahavihara Monastery in Chandragiri
  • Excursion to the village of Padmanvapur famous for its cotton weaving.
  • Explore Berhampur – oldest city of Ganjam District in the State of Orissa
Market scene of ikat cloth.

Ikat vendor in Odisha.

Trip Details

We’ll arrive in Kolkata (newer name for Calcutta) a bustling and fascinating city and relax from the long flight. Then we’ll assemble for a Welcome Dinner. The next day we’ll explore the city with its colorful markets and historical architecture. Then we’ll fly to the capital of Odisha State, Bubaneshwar, dubbed “The Temple City” of India. It’s home to hundreds of temples, most notably the intricately-carved Mukteshvara Temple and the Konark Sun Temple, above.

A tour through the Kala Bhoomi Museum in Kolkata will offer us a preview of the many kinds of textiles and handicrafts that we’ll be seeing in Odisha. The museum has display galleries, and also many craft workshops where we can watch artisans creating their particular regional specialties.

We may offer a pre-tour of Kolkata that will include a cooking class and a market/photography tour. Ask about this when you sign up for the textile tour.

ODISHA CRAFT CENTERS

Pattachitra painting from Odisha

Pattachitra painting of gods and goddesses in a swan boat.

We’ll visit Raghurajpur, a heritage crafts village in the district of Puri. This village is recognized for its folk art called Pattachitra, an art form which dates back to the 5th century B.C. It is situated about 10 miles from the Hindu pilgrimage town of Puri, on the southern banks of the Bhargabi River.

The tradition of decorating the homes with hand-painted murals has made Raghurajpur a living museum that is delightful to stroll through. Situated amidst coconut palm groves, the main village has two streets with over 120 houses, most decorated with mural paintings. There the painters reside and paint colorful and detailed works of art.  The painters, known as chitrakars, prefer to make their own vegetable and mineral-based paints. They paint on earthen houses, paper or canvas and on palm leaves.

Other pattachitra paintings are made on a piece of cloth known as Patta, or on a dried palm leaf. The artists paint colorful and intricate pictures of various Gods, Goddesses, and mythological scenes with flowers, trees and animals. We’ll visit some of the artists to watch them at work and perhaps purchase some masterpieces. Many other artisans also work in this interesting village, creating traditional masks, papier mâché, sculptures, and wooden toys. The village also has a series of temples dedicated not only to Bhuasuni, the local deity, but also to various Hindu gods.

IKAT WEAVING: SILK AND COTTON

Cotton ikat sari cloth from Sambalpuri.

Cotton ikat sari cloth from Sambalpuri.

In Odisha, it’s all about the ikat! Artists here bind some of the most intricate designs in the world into threads for the weavers here. The precise and careful person who binds the threads into a complicated pattern to be resist-dyed is not necessarily the same person as the weaver. This specialization helps to create even more complex patterning because the artisans have help with the processes and can concentrate more completely on their particular skills. We will visit many ikat dyers and weavers so you can understand the techniques and see as many different examples as possible. Vendors in many towns will offer many motifs, styles and qualities of silk and cotton fabrics for sale. You’ll learn about excellent quality ikat and the skills involved to achieve it. Sometimes we may buy directly from the weavers themselves, which always makes a more personal experience and memory. Most fabric in Odisha is woven in long 6-9 yard lengths for saris. This allows for plenty of yardage if you want to make clothes yourself at home, or have it made into pants, tunics or dresses  by a local tailor.

PIPLI APPLIQUE

Pipli is the center of appliqué and where the Indian version of the craft of originated. Here we’ll meet some of the many artisans in their workshops. And we can watch them practice the appliqué technique, creating both traditional and contemporary items. The Pipli applique work owes its origin to Lord Jagannath culture during 12th century. Long ago, umbrellas and canopies were prepared by gajapatis for the annual Jagannath ceremonies of  Ratha Jatra, the Hindu festival of chariots. And some specific appliqué items are still used mainly during rituals/jatras of the deities. Nowadays the technique has also been adapted for household, decorative and similar festival products; you may find some colorful treasures in the shops here.

Variety of Spices from INDIA

Seasonings used in typical cuisine, such as nutmeg, cinnamon, fenugrek and chili.

CUISINE OF ODISHA

The foods of eastern, coastal India are delicious. Little containers at right show some of the typical ingredients, such as star anise, fenugrek and cardamom. Panch phutana is a blend of five spices that is widely used in Odia cuisine. It contains mustard, cumin, fenugreek, aniseed and kalonji.  Garlic, onion and ginger are used in most of the food.  Turmeric and red chillies are used regularly, but typically cooks use less oil and dishes are not as spicy as elsewhere. Mustard oil is used in some dishes as the cooking medium. Fish and other seafood are of course eaten mainly in coastal areas. Several curries are prepared from prawn and lobster with spices. A favorite Odia (Odisha) dish is Prawn Curry, served with the rice that is the staple food of this region.  Freshwater fish is available from rivers too. Delicious food like we will eat in Odisha!Unusual ingredients used in Odia cuisine are plantains, jackfruit, and papaya. Curries are sometimes prepared with curry leaves and tamarind, and garnished with dried raw mango. There are many versions of pilaf, rice and lentil dishes, and dozens of varieties of vegetable combinations. Yoghurt is used in many dishes. Many sweets of the region are based on chhena (cheese). In the past, food was traditionally served on banana leaves or disposable plates made of plantain leaves.

When we dine in Odisha, some meals will be excellent buffets at hotels and other times, you will order your choice from the menu. In some small towns, there may not be hygienic local places to eat so we will take meals at our hotels.

 

 

We’ll head out to Nuapatna and Maniabandha countryside villages for a special weaving experience. Most villagers make a living by being involved in some process of sari weaving. Weavers’ cottages line the lane between the two towns. You’ll hear the rhythmic beating of working handlooms, and you’ll see stretched warp yarn in the streets.  Multicolored, dyed yarn hangs to dry around the dyers’ workshops.

The Lingaraj Temple complex, dating to the 11th century, is set around sacred Bindusagar Lake. The Odisha State Museum is focused on the area’s history and environment.

Spice dishes photo: WikiCommons by Joe Mon Bkk.

Textiles of Bhutan

Weaving on loom in progress

Exquisite silk textile in progress; Bhutan.

Textiles, Temples and Tshechus: Bhutan

Space available!  February 28- March 15, 2020
(Fly home March 16. See bottom of page for details.)

November 30 – December 17, 2019 trip is FULL. Fly home December 17 late or December 18.

Join us on a fabulous 17-night textile tour of Bhutan to see exquisite weaving, pristine wilderness and stunning Buddhist temple monasteries! We’ll attend a festival called a tshechu where spectators show off their best traditional clothing, and costumed dancers wear carved wooden masks. And we’ll meet warmhearted people and eat delicious new foods.

Bhutan is a tiny landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, with a progressive young king, and a beautiful queen who promotes textiles and weaving. The country is a recently-added destination for Behind the Scenes and we are very excited about it. Many people had asked me about a textile tour of Bhutan so I, Cynthia, traveled there last fall with some travel professional friends to plan two new tours. I loved everything about the country -the ultra-decorated buildings, the crisp air, the dark green forests, the kind people and the amazing handwoven clothing. I met charming guides and affable, professional drivers. Our guide was both funny and informative, and he will accompany us on the new trips. The amenable driver even hiked up to the Tiger Nest Monastery with us to help on the steep trail.

This trip reflects authentic Bhutan. The Bhutanese have safeguarded their Buddhist culture and ancient way of life, and it’s the traditional aspects that lend great charm and value to the country. We’ll spend time in the less-visited and more rural eastern regions where the weaving and little villages are spectacular.

White house in Bhutan countryside.

Valley landscape in western Bhutan.

Beautiful Bhutan!

As we travel, you’ll be amazed at the lush paddies in the valleys, and the hills covered with thick forests. Because of an avid Forest Management program, protected blue pine, spruce and cypress forests cover over 60% of the country. Bhutan was closed to outsiders for centuries but now is welcoming travelers. The infrastructure of Bhutan improves annually, thus there are now better roads and hotels than in past years.

Traveling from west to east, our group will meet in New Delhi, and conquer our jet-lag with two nights there. We’ll have a city tour (including seeing the Crafts/Hand-Loom Museum there), then fly to Paro, Bhutan. Then the adventure begins! We’ll visit both Paro and Thimpu and see a fabulous festival before heading east. See details below for the fabulous Tiger’s Nest Monastery visit, outside of Paro.

In the capital of Thimpu, we’ll visit the important and up-to-date Textile Museum, started by the modern, young Queen. Then we’ll check out a weaving center, and the Handicrafts Emporium where they sell various crafts plus handwoven fabrics.

Bhutan Tsechu festival dancer with wooden mask salutes the crowd.

Masked dancer at a Buddhist festival, Paro.

We’ll visit several large towns such as Bumthang plus many villages in the areas where the art of weaving excels. The whole eastern region is relatively undiscovered compared to the west, and it’s the area famous for the high quality woven textiles made here. Many of these destinations also have spectacular dzongs or ancient fortress-type building complexes.

Dzongs are unique architectural forms in Tibet and Bhutan. Built mainly in the seventeenth century as fortresses and centers of religious authority, today they continue to serve as important administrative and monastic centers.

As recently as 1998 by royal decree all new and remodeled buildings had to be be constructed with multi-colored carved wood façades, small arched windows, and sloping roofs. Architecture typical of Bhutan includes highly decorative window frames, carved columns, and painted beams. We will stay in hotels with this sort of decoration and will stop to check out other buildings with intriguing painted images.

Tiger Nest’s Monastery Details

Tiger's Nest Monastery perched on the cliff near Paro, Bhutan.

Tiger’s Nest Monastery clings to the cliffside.

And this wouldn’t be a trip to Bhutan without the chance to see the famous Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang) Monastery in the forested mountains outside of Paro. The day-trip to the cliff monastery begins in Paro and we return to our hotel for the night.
It was constructed on the side of a cliff in 1692, near the cave where Guru Rinpoche first meditated. It’s said that he’s the person who introduced Buddhism into Bhutan. A legend relates that Guru Rinpoche was flown from Tibet to this steep cliff on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

Cynthia Samake riding to the Tiger's Nest Monastery on sorrel horse, in Bhutan.

Cynthia, riding to the halfway point of Tiger’s Nest.

The trek will be optional with the ascent either on foot or horseback. Horses climb only to the tea house at mid-point up the trail; you’ll have a good view of the Tiger’s Nest from here. The horses are healthy and don’t have to wear a bit, so they can pick their way along the rocky trail to find the best route. Many people walk up the rocky trail, so if you are fairly fit, it’s possible to climb up the trail on foot. (Good hiking shoes are essential for this trail.) For the last and steepest part from the tea house to the monastery, the guide will walk with those who want to climb.

Meanwhile, the rest of us can sit below at the tea house, relaxing among the prayer flags, drinking milky chai tea, and staring upward at the beautiful buildings on the cliff. It’s necessary for everyone to hike back down on foot. The descent isn’t bad if we go slowly; some people might want walking sticks for this part. And if a mountain trek isn’t your cup of tea, you can relax at the hotel or explore Paro instead!

Textile Traditions

In 2005, the Queen of Bhutan  created The Royal Textile Academy that we will visit in Thimpu. She also encouraged weaving centers so that the country’s youth may learn to appreciate, conserve and promote the weaving and fabric arts done all over the nation. She writes that “…the thagzo or art of weaving is a symbol of national identity that continues to play a significant role in all religious, official and social events. Weaving represents the very heart and soul of the country…” It’s interesting to note that while the women weave the clothing and fabrics, it’s the men who embroider and appliqué items such as temple hangings, saddle covers, shoes, hats, and ceiling canopies.

Men in traditional gho.

The guide and driver show off their typical gho.

In the past, Bhutanese citizens followed an imposed dress code. Everyone wore handwoven traditional clothing: the gho for men and the kira for women. Nowadays that has changed, and it’s required only for government and office workers, and for school uniforms. Some young people have begun to adopt jeans and sweatshirts, but many people still proudly wear typical outfits everyday. And for festivals and special occasions such as weddings, everyone dons their very best and latest styles of handmade national dress.

Traditional Dress for Men and Women

Men wear the gho, a wrapped knee-length robe with deep white cuffs, tied at the waist by a woven belt known as kera. The pouch which forms at the front traditionally was.used for carrying food bowls and a small dagger. Today men store their cell phones and wallets in the pouch; see photo at left of men in gho with bulging front pouches.

Complex weaving technique, typically used to make a wrap-dress in three panels.

Detail of supplementary weft weaving of one kira panel, out of three.

Women wear the kira, an ankle-length dress made of handwoven panels wrapped around the body and pinned at the shoulders. Over the kira they add a satin or brocade outer jacket known as a tego, with an inner blouse or layer called a wonju. However, people of ethnic groups such as the Bramis and Brokpas of eastern Bhutan generally wear traditional clothing that differs from the rest of the Bhutanese population.

Women dance at a festival in Bhutan, wearing traditional weaving in the form of skirts.

Women dance in traditional kira.

We’ll visit many weaving households and some larger weaving organizations in various towns and we’ll learn about the incredibly labor-intensive techniques used to make the women’s wrap dresses called kiras. The best place to see the women showing off their most exquisite outfits is of course at the three Buddhist celebrations that we will attend.

For the finest pieces, weavers use complex pickup techniques that sometimes involve wrapping the weft around the warp in specific patterns. This is called trima, and often looks like a chained embroidery technique. Because a finely detailed kira (right) can take almost a year to weave, a very intricate piece can cost several thousand dollars. Belts are stunning too, and quite affordable. As we visit the weaving centers, we’ll appreciate the huge variety of designs and color combinations, and perhaps find some textiles to buy!

TOUR COST:  $5620
 17 nights
Single Supplement:  $700
Maximum 12 travelers.

Terraced bright green rice fields, Bhutan

Bhutan landscape with rice fields.

Includes visa for Bhutan (see below), 17 nights in comfortable hotels in double/twin rooms with private bath, all meals (often buffets), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, airport transfers for all flights, city tour of New Delhi, two flights from Delhi to Paro and Paro to Delhi OR Kolkata; English-speaking Bhutanese licensed guide during the trip, all in-country ground travel by private van with professional driver, tips for guide and driver, horseback transport to Tiger’s Nest Monastery tea house, entrance to all museums and sites on the itinerary, and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip.

Not included: International airfare, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry charges and any between-meal snacks or drinks. A generous tip per person for the guide and the van driver has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping.

IMPORTANT! Travel Plans

Monks playing horns in a festival, wearing orange robes in Trashigang, Bhutan.

Monks at a festival in Trashigang.

Plan your flights to arrive in NEW DELHI on February 28. At the end of the trip, we will drive from the Bhutan border to the Guwahati Airport, India. On March 16 in the morning, you will fly from Guwahati to either Kolkata or New Delhi, whichever your return flight leaves from. Please check with us before confirming your flights, as this is a bit tricky! Details about flight possibilities will be sent when you sign up. There may be a pre-tour in Kolkata too, more info later.

Happy Bhutanese father and daughter, both wearing traditional dress.

Little girl in a mini-kira with Daddy in his traditional gho.

VISAS

YOU will need a MULTIPLE ENTRY VISA for India; once you sign up, you will be sent the website link to get your one-year INDIA visa online. Or if you want a 10-year visa, you can fill out the forms and send your passport to the nearest visa office.

We will arrange the BHUTAN visas for you; you will need to send a scanned colored copy of your passport to the agent handling the visas; it’s all safe and official. When you arrive, you will get a piece of paper that serves as your official visa until you get a small stamp in your passport when we enter the country at Paro.
More info about visas and how to apply once you have signed up.

All photos by Cynthia except festival shots (Shutterstock) and Tiger’s Nest by Sudhir Joshi who traveled with me to Bhutan.

Textiles, Tajines: MOROCCO


September 20 – October 2, 2019   Fly home October 2.
Our popular textiles and cuisine tour is back!

Arrive on September 20; fly home on October 2 from Casablanca.
Total 12 nights.

Round pits hold dye for the sheep skins to be dyed for making leather purses and shoes.

Leather dyeing pits in the Fes Medina or old town.

Highlights: This custom-designed tour to an amazing and exotic country emphasizes not only the food and textiles of Morocco, but also the ceramics, architecture, and archeology. You’ll meet many charming and friendly local artisans and craftspeople, happy to show you the best of their country. Travelers are very welcome here; no visa is necessary for most visitors!

Morocco has remote kasbahs of striking architectural design that contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and the chaotic medina of Marrakech. Our small group will marvel at FIVE stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites. We’ll go behind-the-scenes to experience traditional Moroccan hospitality! And we’ll meet Berber women who are excellent rug weavers and button-makers, and men who are leather dyers, felt makers and ceramic artists.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases, except for that night in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In each town we visit, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices, textiles, and other treasures to take home. Everywhere we go, our delightful guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet.

Trip Details:

Decorated tins full of Moroccan cooking spices.

Tajine and Couscous spices in the souk.

We’ll start our textile and cuisine tour by flying in to legendary Casablanca.

You will be met by Cynthia and the guide, or an official tour driver at the Mohammed V International Airport (CMN) upon arrival anytime (preferably morning) on September 20. Then we’ll check in to our hotel, have lunch if the timing is right, then relax at the hotel, or wander in the neighborhood.

Next day we’ll go inside the fabulous Hasan II mosque with a special guide, at seaside Casablanca.

Variety of Moroccan cooked mezze vegetable dishes with goat cheese salad and fresh bread; Casablanca restaurant.

Variety of mezze dishes with goat cheese salad.

Then we’ll drive south to marvelous Marrakech. In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakech was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City. Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly. In the old fortified city area, called the medina, we will meet master artisans at work as we wander through the little stalls or souks.

Medina of Marrakech

We will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan furniture, rugs and accessories. The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys. The little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry.

A countryside setting will be the venue for our entertaining cooking class. We’ll create a gourmet lunch of a homemade bread, tajine, a succulent stew, and a couple of salads. Our culinary creations, seasoned to our personal taste, will be our delicious lunch. At some point we’ll visit the food and spice market to find specific ingredients necessary for the unusual flavor combinations that are now familiar to you in Moroccan cuisine. You can pick up some spices in a souk for foodie friends too.

We will also see the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the Berber Museum. We’ll visit the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna where snake charmers vie for space between tiny barbeque grills and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, the central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping is good here too

UNESCO heritage adobe city

Ait Ben Haddou, UNESCO site for its historical earthen architecture.

Next we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate, seeing the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, the spectacular ksar or fortified city of Ait Ben-Haddou makes a perfect stop along the way. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The earthen castle effect and the decorative motifs sculpted into the reddish adobe walls make Ait Ben Haddou an aesthetic wonder.

In Ouarzazate we can go through the Museum of the Cinema. Dozens of ‘swords and sandals’ films have been made in this desert area. For instance, Ben Hur was filmed here, but also Cleopatra, Gladiator, and Lawrence of Arabia were set in this desert landscape.

Berber Weavers and Carpets

A colorful wool Berber rug with a variety of motifs and techniques.

Berber wool handwoven rug.

And along the way, we’ll check out the glowing handmade carpets in favorite shops (right), and meet some Berber weavers who will show us their textiles and techniques. We continue into the arid and spectacular eastern region, towards the Algerian border. In the mid-afternoon, we’ll go by 4-wheel drive across the stark landscape to the golden-orange Saharan sand dunes of Erg Chebbi. Then we’ll climb aboard camels for the short trek into the dunes to watch the sunset. We’ll have a traditional couscous dinner and fall asleep in comfy Berber tents under the stars.

After breakfast next day, we head back in the Jeeps and then we’ll begin our drive through the Middle Atlas Mountains. Most of the day will be spent traversing beautiful forests, dramatic rock formations, and little villages on the route north to Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site.  As always there will be stops for lunch, photos, and bathroom breaks whenever desired.

Half way along this drive to Fes, we will stop in the town of Midelt for lunch. The town is famous for its minerals – geodes, trilobites and ammonite fossils and interesting crystals from the nearby mines at Mibladen. Beautiful mineral specimens are for sale in Midelt. Don’t you want to take home a few pounds of rocks?!

Typical tapestry textile of sunset colors and beautiful shading.

Tapestry rug in glowing sunset colors.

Famous Medina of Fes

We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area. Wander here to find a carpet, or a pair of earrings or a painted plate. A carpet collector friend will show us carpets and textiles from many areas, and will talk about how they are woven. Motorcycles are not allowed in Fes medina so we can relax here. Shopping and visiting the mosques and madrasas is much easier than in Marrakech.

Often referred to as the country’s cultural capital, Fes has over a million inhabitants. However it’s primarily known for its ancient, sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. Additionally Fes is another UNESCO World Heritage site.

Craftsmen still work and sell their products in the medina. The huge space is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, dyers, textiles, ceramicists and so forth. Both the guide and driver live in Fes; because of this they’ll make you feel at home as they show you this fascinating city.

In Fes, we will meet weavers who work at old-fashioned looms to make fabric with a very modern look. We’ll see the machines that plait and braid the complex trims on traditional Djellabas, the hooded robes for men and women.

Volubilis is site of dozens of intricate floor mosaics.

Colored stone floor mosaic at Roman site of Volubilis.

Roman Site of Volubilis

Next stop is to marvel at the detailed stone mosaics and ancient structures of Volubilis, another UNESCO World Heritage site. We may see the resident storks that make their nests high on the columns of the Basilica. Founded in the 3rd century B.C., Volubilis became an important outpost of the Roman Empire and had many fine buildings; extensive remains of some survive at the archaeological site. UNESCO says: “Covering an area of 42 hectares, [Volubilis] is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development, Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire, and the graphic illustration of the interface between the Roman and indigenous cultures.”

Brightly colored striped shoes stacked in the market.

Colorful babuches -slipper shoes of handwoven cloth; Marrakech souk.

Then we’ll return to Fes for our Farewell Dinner when we take leave of new and old friends. October 1 is the last included night of hotel.

We’ll pack our suitcases, ready for the drive from Fes to Casablanca. Plan flights HOME on October 2, anytime after 2 pm.

After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book that will keep you dreaming of Morocco and your new friends!

 

 

Tour Price: $3790   — This trip has the minimum number of travelers to ‘GO!’

Note that there is a minimum number of travelers for a trip to ‘go’ and that varies by country. Please don’t buy air tickets until you are sure the trip will happen; email us to ask.

Single Supplement: $  800     To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

  • Includes the following:

    Man uses friction and soap/water to felt sheep's wool at the Fes craft market.

    Artisan in Fes makes hand-felted purses; see below.

  •  UNESCO World Heritage sites
    12 nights accommodations: (double occupancy, in charming riads (small private villas with central courtyards), a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night], and centrally-located, modern hotel in Casablanca – 2 nights)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches* and a dinner on your own (*depending on cooking class participation)
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport for arrival/departure.
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional and charming guide to accompany whole itinerary.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany whole itinerary.
  • Flight or drive from Fes to Casablanca at end of tour
  • Cooking class with gourmet cuisine for your lunch
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent after you get home.
Modern felted slippers in Fes medina souk.

Bright hand-felted slippers for sale.

Not included: Tips to guide and driver (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), personal items such as laundry, sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking class, the lunch included during class time is on your own that day, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many other countries do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  [email protected] if you have any questions, or call 707-939-8874.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

 

 

 

 

Textiles & Blue City

Textile and Crafts Tour to Exotic Morocco
September 8 – 17, 2019  Depart for home on September 18.

Textile tour crafts art and architecture small group travel Chefchaouen Morocco

Lovely blue lane in Chefchaouen, the Blue City.

Highlights: This 10-night custom-designed tour to see the textiles of Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine, in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 8, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on September 18.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in 4-5 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll first go south to charming Marrakesh, see exciting places along the way, and end up in the north at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to see the textiles and to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Cooking class Maison Arabe Marrakech tajine lunch

Hand-painted traditional tajine dish. Marrakech.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of delightful ladies who will also serve us an amazing lunch! As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. In cooking classes we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Morocco cuisine textile tour food Marrakech souk medina 2019


Trip Details:
Arrive in Casablanca on September 8; depart for home from Tangiers on September 18. We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque, inside and outside, at seaside Casablanca, then we’ll head south to fabled and friendly Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional furniture, rugs, mosaics, and textiles of Morocco.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good.

Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. The old medina is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. Major monuments in Fes date to that era. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine. We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas.

On the route north, we’ll visit a family where they make the famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is one of the most interesting textiles of Morocco, used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men. It defies the usual spinning methods; see if you can figure it out!

Sleeping in ceramic couscous dish, Fes market

World Heritage symbol

Next, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then we’ll drive to Tangier. We’ll explore the Kasbah of this city and see St Andrew’s Church, one of Tangier’s most interesting sites. Completed in 1905 as a gift from King Hassan I of Morocco, the church is a fusion of different architectures and religions, reflecting Morocco’s multicultural population. Although the church is a focal point for Christians in Tangier, it also exhibits Quranic inscriptions on its Moorish interior and marks the direction of Muslim prayer to Mecca. A visit to this religious holy site gives a new meaning to the interfaith experience. “If only we could all just get along….!”

Morocco crafts tour, mosaic art architecture 2019

Intricate mosaic or zellij floor of palace in Marrakech.

After lunch, stroll around the kasbah-medina area, and have an afternoon break of mint tea.  One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work.

Kathy & Sue relax at the leather shoe souk, Fes.

Salima Abdel-Wahab, Moroccan fashion designer, has a boutique in the Tangier kasbah. Last year we found some interesting clothing here and unusual jewelry and gifts in shops nearby. On our last included night of hotel (September 17) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of September 18. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 8 and to fly out of Tangiers on September 18, 2019. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip. We welcome your photos to add to the book, so after the trip, send us some great group people pictures to be included.

Tour Price:  $  3695 for 6-8 travelers; $3525 for 9-12 .
Single Supplement:  $ 700

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

Vegetal silk made from Agave fiber or rayon, dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 10 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 8 through 17), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1 lunch and 1 dinner on your own.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates.
  • English- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going and professional guide to accompany the tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary.
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent once you get home, with group pictures, sites and recipes from our classes!

Not included: Personal items such as internet fees [our hotels have free/not-very-fast wi-fi]; laundry; overweight luggage; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

Note that not all hotels have hair dryers. Bring a dual-current hair dryer if you really need one.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  [email protected] if you have any questions, or call 707-939-8874.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

 

All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:
Chefchaouen blue lane

Textiles of India Tour

Our popular Textiles of India tour will be repeated in 2021. Check back for dates.

Family we met in Rajasthan on textiles of India tour.

A Rajasthani family. Women in this area are expert embroidery artists.

Come with us on the exciting Textiles of India trip, to the fabulous textile-producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, then finally relax in tropical Kerala!
• Print or dye your own fabric in three private textile workshops.
• Go on a desert Jeep safari to see elegant wild asses of Kutch.
• Travel with expert textile guide in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
• Visit our friends among the artists and craftsmen of the north.
• Meet Rabari women and learn their unusual embroidery stitches.
• Finally, head to Cochin and relax on a wooden houseboat in tropical lagoons.

This is a trip for creating, learning and observing the textiles of India as well as meeting the welcoming and wonderful Indian people. To start out, we’ll visit several museums to see historical textiles including the world-famous Calico (textile) Museum with its exceptional cloth and clothing collections. As we visit textile artists, we’ll learn the detailed techniques of the dyeing and printing processes, beginning with a visit to the place where slabs of wood are carved into intricate designs for the printing blocks. At the block-print studio, we will be welcomed to watch the artists stamping designs onto the cotton fabric to get the hang of it, before we start our own projects. After we have mastered block-printing, we’ll meet a Master dyer and he will show us how to make silk Bandhini-style dyed scarves. The Bandhini technique involves tying off or stitching the areas to be resisted from the dye, and results in exquisite scarves that you will be proud to wear at home. There may be an opportunity to purchase some of the Master artist’s beautiful work also, below.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

Silk tie-dyed bandhini scarf before white threads were pulled out.

One afternoon, local women who are experts in intricate shisha mirror embroidery, one of the best-known textiles of India, will show us their secrets in our embroidery workshop. After shopping in the local market full of textiles, we’ll head north to meet the famous double-ikat weavers of Patan. They have organized an amazing private museum of the ikat technique with examples from all over the world. Seeing their own complex silk warp dyeing techniques and finished masterpieces is totally fascinating.

DETAILS:
During the trip, we’ll travel by private van and plane, and stay in fascinating Heritage hotels in towns, [even a Majarajah’s palace!]. A couple of nights we’ll sleep out in the country in new, traditional bunghas in the little-visited northern Gujarati area of Kutch. The round earthen bunghas with thatched roofs are embellished with floral scrolls of bas-relief mirror. Hand-formed mud decorations around the windows and doors add a charming touch.
We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Adalaj and Rani Ki Vav stepwells. These ancient and elaborate fresh water wells were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, with carved marble columns and decorated niches.

Amber Palace carved and inlaid flower panel

Cynthia with flower panel at Amber Palace in Jaipur.

In Jaipur we’ll meet the director and the girls at a workshop and home established to help girls stay in school and learn skills. Experience in sewing and craft projects that they learn to make and market will eventually help the girls to make a living on their own. If you’d like to bring them some sewing or school supplies, they would be thrilled! They need good quality scissors like Fiskar snips, trims, cloth scraps, and so forth. And they can always use pens, art materials, pencils and notebooks.

Later, in Jaipur, we will also visit the excellent Anokhi Printing Museum for a great introduction into our next workshops of wooden blockprinting! In a nearby village, we’ll visit an expert block print artist for a complete introduction into block-printed or stamped fabric. At his studio, you can print 2 yards of light cotton cloth suitable for clothing or a tablecloth, or a cotton scarf.

Then when we have made some wonderful projects in our workshops, and have seen all the art and architecture that we can possibly absorb, we will fly south to the state of Kerala. We land in pretty coastal town of Cochin, and see the Chinese fishing nets at the beach, India’s oldest synagogue, and Mattancherry Palace. The palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–61), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. There is also an excellent privately-owned folk art museum that we will visit, and we’ll see traditional Kathakali dances.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her mud-resist stamped piece in the indigo dyebath.

Finally we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend twenty-four hours floating on luxurious, private wood and wicker houseboats with our own chefs!

Smiling man holding Indian hand-printed fabrics

Deepak gathers up new block print cloth at his Gujarat workshop.

We will float by trees full of weaver bird nests, as we enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Bring a ‘real’ book or a book on your iPad or Kindle, your knitting, or your yoga moves! Thoroughly relaxed from our houseboat cruise, at the end of our great tour, we return to our modern hotel on the water,  for the Farewell Dinner.
Next day, we fly home from Mumbai on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9:30 pm.

TRIP PRICE:  $4960    (Single Supplement: $875)    Maximum 12 travelers.
Includes:
17 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in charming heritage hotels, modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the houseboat, the comfortable, A/C cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
The itinerary for the Textiles of India tour has been carefully planned to cover a lot of ground, but also not to move around every night. We spend 2 or 3 nights in each destination; for example, 3 nights in both Jaipur and Bhuj.

We’ll cruise tropical lagoons of Kerala in a lovely wooden houseboat!   

Finally, there will be a pre-tour of the Taj Mahal and SOS Bear  Rescue Center in Agra for those interested, at a modest extra cost. Info to come after you’ve signed up.

The following are included.

All meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals.
Local transportation in good vans with professional, good-natured drivers.
Three interior flights to see as much as possible.
Bottled water on road trips and on houseboat.

All village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary.
All temple and cultural site visits as on itinerary.
Airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days).
Luggage porter tips.
Professional English-speaking guides, with expert on textiles in India joining us for the Gujarat region.
American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary
Plus a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip.
Breakfast and Lunch only are included on September 18, departure day.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India, required travel insurance (recommend Travel Guard); alcoholic beverages, tips for guide and driver, laundry, between-meal snacks and water (although we will have bottled water in the van for all the day trips); internet charges if any, and camera/video fees if required. You will need a visa for India; information will be forthcoming for online application.
Tipping Guidelines will be sent with trip information.

Artist using small chisel to cut flowers into wood block for printing.

Hand-carving a woodblock to print Indian fabrics.

Indian Lord Ganesha elephant god of success and good fortune.

Fancy Ganesh, God of Prosperity statue at a temple in Gujarat.

 

Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

June 27 – July 13, 2020

Cynthia with a renowned indigo ikat weaver.

The best SE Asian Textile Tour! You’ll be met on June 27 at the airport in Luang Prabang (Laos). At the end, we’ll all fly home from Siem Reap, Cambodia (home of Angkor Wat) on July 14.  More flight info later.

HIGHLIGHTS

Go Behind-the-Scenes to a fabulous wax candle festival in little-known north-eastern Thailand. See the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos. This is more than a textile tour, but there will be plenty of textiles. We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they tie and dye threads to create exquisite ikat patterned fabric in both silk and cotton. We travel in a big loop, seeing the best of all three countries — the most interesting textiles, architecture, archeology and culture — including three UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Weaving with a very complex system of pattern-keeping.

TRIP DETAILS:

We’ll fly into Luang Prabang to see the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples, and you’ll be able to explore this laid-back and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance! We will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll make natural dyes and dye silk scarves. We’ll watch talented silk weavers and eat lunch at the Ock Pop Tok restaurant by the Mekong River. Food is delicious in Laos. At dinners, see if you are brave enough to try the spicy, fermented water buffalo skin condiment! The crispy-fried river moss is delicious.

The local market is interesting, and nearby there is an excellent new textile museum and shop. You can try shopping at the Night Market with all its handicrafts and art. Although it is getting rather commercialized, there are still some interesting things to be found. Along with the magnificently decorated temples, a significant part of the old town’s appeal is the many French provincial style houses, the riverside location, and the tropical ambiance. Luang Prabang is a delightful place to relax and learn about Lao culture.

Golden wax float in Ubon Ratchathani, during the parade.

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos, the city of Vientiane. There we’ll visit the enormous textile/fabric market, and meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village with a Laotian friend. We’ll also tour an innovative silk weaving studio, and see the famous Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

BACK TO THAILAND

After Laos, we’ll drive across the Friendship Bridge over the Mekong River, Next we’ll cross the border south into Udon Thani, Thailand. Our next few destinations are in Isaan, the local name for the northeast. One article says, ‘Here is part of Thailand with all of the acclaimed Thai hospitality, culture, and food but none of the backpackers! Just south of the border with Laos, lies this entire region that has been little-visited  by outsiders. The area is rural Thailand at its best: farmland meets sleepy villages [and lots of textiles!]. It’s proof that Thailand isn’t completely trodden with tourists.’

Example of cotton indigo dyeing in Thailand.Blue handwoven cloth with varying weft patterns, in Thailand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

INDIGO DYEING IN THAILAND

In the northeast, we’ll visit delightful friends who dye cotton threads with natural indigo. We’ll see the entire process from tying and dyeing the weft, to weaving the cloth. Some weavers in this area use an ingenious method to vary the patterns on their yardage. The weaver on the left makes her own indigo by fermenting indigo leaves and later adding overripe star fruits. She has many pots of dye going at once, in different stages of fermentation and readiness. The weavers love to show off their skills and these visits are fascinating. On the right, the weaver displays her stunning yardage. She has bound and dyed the weft threads so that the fabric pattern changes every yard or two. Her warp is unbound, plain navy blue threads.

WAX CANDLE FESTIVAL

Next stop is the riverside town of Ubon Ratchathani, known for the fabulous Wax Candle Festival. The Thais call it Khao Phansa, the start of the Buddhist Rains Retreat. We’ll arrive a day or two early to visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are finishing up for the event. You can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! We’ll spend several days in Ubon, seeing preparations and attending the  festival. In the parade, groups of beautiful Thai dancers carrying flowers alternate with the wax floats. Each wat around town enters a float (that they have worked on for many months). There is a contest for the best float creation, and there are beauty queens chosen also. As with all festivals, there are food booths with traditional dishes, desserts and soft drinks. Bring a small umbrella or good hat; the sun can be very hot during Khao Phansa. However this fabulous festival only takes place in July! We’ll also head out of the center of town to see some of Ubon’s amazing architectural design in the form of innovative wats and temples that the town is also famous for.

AMAZING ANGKOR!

Then we head south over the border by van, into Cambodia, to Seim Reap and the fabulous carved stone temples of Angkor Wat! A UNESCO Heritage site, Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples form a world-class temple complex, with sophisticated wall carvings. We always hear about just Angkor Wat but there are hundreds of temples to visit.

“Angkor is one of the most important archaeological sites in South-East Asia. Stretching over some 400 km2, including the surrounding forested area, Angkor Archaeological Park contains the magnificent remains of the different capitals of the Khmer Empire, from the 9th to the 15th century. They include the famous Temple of Angkor Wat and, at Angkor Thom, the Bayon Temple with its countless sculptural decorations. UNESCO has set up a wide-ranging program to safeguard this symbolic site and its surroundings.” (UNESCO site info)

Cambodia also has some of the most intricate silk ikat weaving anywhere in the world. We’ll go into the countryside near Siem Reap to visit the premier silkworm breeding and silk reeling facility. Here we’ll watch the weavers to see how different their techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk mat-mi artisans. We’ll also visit a weaving project near the hotel in town; you’ll see that conditions are very different at the two workshops.

While visiting Angkor Wat temples and the surrounding sights, we’ll stay 6 nights in this lovely hotel (above) in Siem Reap. It boasts a refreshing pool and good restaurant. During this time, we will learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai) in an optional hands-on cooking class. We’ll also see the sobering but important Landmine Museum. Our Farewell Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics!

TOUR COST: $4395   Single Supplement: $775
Minimum 6, maximum 12 travelers.

Cambodian Cooking class in Sim Reap.

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap.

Includes:

17 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (a couple of the hotels have a pool), all meals except three lunches and two dinners in Siem Reap and Luang Prabang on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat), all soft drinks and bottled water with meals, flight from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, all in-country travel by private van with professional driver, three days of entrance fees at Angkor Wat, all transportation in the Park, entrance to the archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary, a Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap, the Phare Circus show and dinner (https://pharecircus.org) — and an 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!

A generous tip per person for the Luang Prabang and Angkor guides and the van driver(s) has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping.

Fly into Luang Prabang (usually through Bangkok), arriving on June 27, and fly home from Siem Reap on July 14.

Not included:

International airfare, visas upon arrival [Laos USD $35 and Cambodia USD $40] at the airport or at the border when we enter, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, several meals as indicated on itinerary, personal items such as luggage porter tips and between-meal snacks and drinks.

Stack of wax decorations ready to adorn float figures for Wax Candle Festival.

Thailand doesn’t require a visa, just a stamp in your passport and a filled-out simple form that they hand us at the border when we drive in.

Anyone who helps transport your bag should be tipped the local equivalent of about $1 per bag.

Textiles & Culture: Ghana

February 5 – 17, 2020  Fly home on February 18.

Kejetia market cloth display

Vendors arrange the huge selection of patterned dress cloth.

Ghana is sometimes called “Africa for beginners” because of the ease of travel, the friendly, welcoming people and the relative level of modernity compared to other West African nations. This is not only a textile tour, but also an arts and culture tour of Ghana that explores the creative aspects as well as the historical and ecological features of this fascinating country. Ghana is safe and politically stable. Fortunately the people have retained many cultural and artistic traditions such as use of patterned Kente and Adinkra cloth – and have created some others, such as the fairly recent mode of fantasy coffins. Arts such as bead-making, Kente weaving, batik printing, adinkra stamping, music, and dance are all thriving, alongside the modern aspect of the capital city of Accra.

Hand-woven kente strip cloth.

Arts and Culture Galore!

This Ghana tour includes three hands-on workshops of traditional crafts. Expert Ghanaian artist-friends will teach us how to make batik wax-stamped cloth, adinkra-printed fabric, and glass beads. You’ll go home with some beautiful creations. An enormous bead market, kente cloth weaving centers, and the studio of the best art coffin carvers make other exciting destinations during our Ghana tour. We’ll also visit an elementary school at the Jamestown fishing village, and spend a morning at the biggest fabric market in West Africa.

Led by Malian Barou Samake, this adventure includes the very best of Ghana. Barou is an upbeat leader with a positive, can-do attitude to ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you. Professional English-speaking local guides at historical sites, including the slave forts or castles, will add depth to your knowledge by explaining the historical context and background of the sites.

Tour Details

You will be met by the trip leader and driver at Kotoka International airport, in the capital city of  Accra, on February 5 when you arrive. We’ll go from ocean beaches to forest canopy, with lakes and traditional villages in between!

On this wonderful adventure, we will cover as much as possible of the fascinating southern part of the country. We’ll spend several days around bustling Accra, then head off to specific areas such as Kumasi, so that we get a good feeling for Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas.

Man wears Adinkra cloth, Ghana

Distinguished elder in traditional Adinkra cloth wrapper.

First we’ll head west to tour Cape Coast Castle with a licensed local guide. This important UNESCO World Heritage site was one of thirty large commercial forts built by European traders on the Gold Coast of West Africa (now Ghana). Originally it was built by Swedish settlers to trade timber and gold, but later used in the tragic trans-Atlantic slave trade. We’ll tour the Historical Museum here also. The town of Elmina is believed to be the location of the first point of contact between Europeans and sub-Saharan Africans. Now Elmina is a fishing village with colorful scenes of fishermen and boats on the beach. There we’ll spend the night in modern versions of traditional African round huts – with swimming pool.

Next, we’ll head to Kakum Park and the wonderful canopy walk in the cool forest. Later we’ll go north to Kumasi. There a local friend will navigate the Kejetia Market’s cloth lanes with you, so you don’t get lost; see photo at bottom of girls arranging bolts of fabric. This is a quilter’s paradise and the fabrics are inexpensive.

Then we’ll drive to Odumase-Krobo where you will make recycled glass beads with the famous and congenial Cedi, foremost Ghanaian bead artist. The enormous Bead Market will tempt you to add to your collections! At Cedi’s, there will be supplies to thread beads to create your own simple necklaces and bracelets.

Barou with Ewe kente cloth.

Barou examines a beautiful piece of kente strip cloth.

Next stop in the Volta Region is pretty Lake Volta, before driving back to Accra. At the end of the trip, we’ll stop in the fishing town of Jamestown, with its fresh fish market, tuna smoking ovens and fishing scene on the beach. We will meet with a friend who works there. He’ll show us the boats being crafted by hand, and will explain how the communal fishing organization works. He will also show us the little school for the fishermen’s children (built by Canadians) and you can donate school supplies here if you wish.

Kente Cloth, Adinkra and Batik

The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places. We’ll meet a weaver in Bonwire (near Kumasi) who will show us weaving techniques and you can sit at a loom and try your hand. He will also explain the significance of the beautiful designs and color combinations. There are over 300 kente patterns, each with its own name and meaning derived from proverbs, historical events, and important chiefs. We’ll meet the weavers in individual and coop settings to see weaving demonstrations by both Ewe and Ashanti people.

Also you’ll be able to buy their work directly from them and observe their working techniques.We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several half-day workshops mentioned above. We will print adinkra motifs with stamps made from sections of hand-carved dried gourd. Another day we’ll stamp hot wax on cotton yardage for a gorgeous batik and also we’ll make recycled glass beads with famous bead artist Cedi. At a fabulous weekly Bead Market, dozens of vendors offer an amazing variety of handmade beads, for great prices. Later we’ll create necklaces and bracelets from our handmade beads and newly acquired ones. These hands-on workshops represent typical arts and culture of Ghana that are being both maintained and re-invented by the artisans.

Fantasy Coffins

On the way back into Accra, we’ll visit the most prominent coffin carving workshop, to see what they are working on. These wooden, custom-made coffins reflect the career or aspirations of the deceased, for the Ga ethnic community. Fishermen might be buried in a huge colorful fish or a carpenter in a big plane-shaped coffin. Ghanaians can request burial in a carved wooden version of their favorite automobile, or airplane. Farmers can order cocoa pods or chili peppers for the journey to the other life. Some men choose a beer bottle or an over-sized Coca Cola bottle. Popular women’s coffins include huge chickens, with smaller wooden “chicks” at her feet, one representing each of the lady’s children. We’ll see the coffin construction and carving process, and some different models currently on hand. ‘Fantasy coffins’ have become art pieces in  America and other countries, appearing in many museums and private collections.

Beaders, Quilters and Other Fabric Enthusiasts

Patchwork quilt made from Ghana cloth

“Africa” Quilt by Melanie Grishman.

Bring an empty suitcase to hold all the beads and amazing roller-printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with a charming, local friend who knows the labyrinth of stalls and where to find the best fabrics – and whatever else you may need – great fun!

Arrive on February 5 and fly home from Accra on February 18.
February 17
is LAST included night of hotel but on the 18th, you have free time until you need to go to the airport; you may leave your bags and hang out at the hotel or go into Osu,
etc. Many flights leave Accra late at night.

 

Behind the Scenes Adventures IN ACTION:
We have a project to help local schools where we travel; we’ll visit an elementary school in a village and offer school supplies.  BTSA travelers have been wonderfully generous about donating pens, pencils and notebooks during our visits, and the children are so sweet; this is really a heart-warming experience!!  See the BTSA Helping page here.

Price: $4295 for 4-6 travelers for Arts and Culture of Ghana. (Arrive Feb. 5 and depart late on Feb. 18.)
$3995 for 7 – 12 travelers
Single supplement: $550

Girl selling fish takes a break to flirt!

Includes:

  • 13 nights hotel accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms)
  •  All transportation by private vehicle with professional driver
  • All meals, except two lunches in Accra (Order dishes of your choice from menus)
  • All soft drinks, beer, and water with meals
  • Bottled water in the van on the road
  • Airport transportation on group arrival and departure days
  • All entrances to historical sites and museums on itinerary
  • Professional guide at Elmina Castle
  • Expert shopping guide for Kumasi market tour
  • Kente cloth weaving demo
  • Three workshops: glass-bead making, Adinkra stamping, and batik printing.
  • 2 yards of cotton cloth are provided for the batik printing workshop.
  • Tips for the professional guides at historical sites are also included.

Not included:

International (roundtrip) airfare to Accra, your easy visa for Ghana ($100 from Texas USA consulate; we will send info); personal items such as laundry, any between-meal snacks, hard alcoholic drinks (beer is included), and the cloth to print Adinkra on.

There will be a group market outing in Kumasi to buy your choice of cloth for Adinkra printing. Batik cotton is included for your wax printing workshop.

Fishing boats in the harbor.

NOTE #1
If you arrive or depart on a different day than the designated group arrival/departure date, you will need to pay the taxi from airport to hotel, and any additional nights of hotel.
Plan flights to arrive after 10am or before 8pm if possible. Barou will meet you at the airport, with the driver on the group arrival date. Otherwise, we will arrange for the hotel to send a known and safe taxi driver for you. The Ghana airport is enclosed and fairly un-chaotic.
NOTE #2
After you have paid the $500 deposit for Arts and Culture of Ghana, and several months before departure, we will send you the form to fill out for your visa to Ghana. You will send the forms and check to TEXAS, USA, for the easiest method.
Please don’t use another way because other visa places are inefficient and it can get really complicated. You’ll also receive an emailed information packet with lists of what to bring, heath and cultural info, maps, etc.
NOTE #3
It is impossible to plan in advance attendance at traditional musical or dance events or even holidays and festivals, from afar. We love these events, and we’re happy to be flexible and spontaneously attend traditional performances in villages along the way, if the chance should arise.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here.