Bhutan Private Tour 2022

Private Tour for Hawaiian Weavers and Friends!

February 22 – March 11, 2022 (18 nights)

Fly home evening of March 12.

Join us on a fabulous 18-night textile tour of Bhutan [and a bit of India] to see exquisite weaving, pristine wilderness and stunning Buddhist temple monasteries! The must-see Taj Mahal will be our first destination before we arrive in Bhutan.

Traveling from east to west, our group will start out by meeting in New Delhi. We’ll  spend three nights in India, to see the fabulous Taj Mahal and the heart-warming SOS Wildlife Bear Rescue Center. Our jet-lag conquered, we’ll next fly to Guwahati as the jumping off spot for Bhutan. A quick drive brings us to the border and the Bhutan adventure begins!

Bhutan weaver working at a slanted loom.This trip reflects authentic Bhutan. I’ve traveled to sixty-odd countries searching for textiles, and NOWHERE have I seen weaving as fine and intricate (and labor-intensive) as in Bhutan. We’ll visit many textile villages and centers around the country, each with a distinctive style and motifs. Lunch and tea with several weaver families will give us an insight into their techniques and dye materials too.

We’ll attend a festival called a tshechu which the local people attend, showing off their best handwoven, traditional clothing. Costumed monks perform didactic Buddhist legends, wearing carved wooden masks and brilliantly embroidered outfits. Travelers on the previous  tours loved the ultra-decorated buildings, the crisp air, the festival dancers, the dark green forests, and the stunning handwoven clothing. And we’ll meet warmhearted people, stay in pretty hotels, and eat delicious new foods.

I (Cynthia) accompany all the BTSA trips, and already reserved for our 2022 adventure are the guide and driver that I love to travel with. These two are charismatic and cheerful, and they go far beyond their usual job descriptions to make our trip delightful. They’ll make us laugh and teach us many things as they tell personal stories about their families, traditions  and customs. Scroll down to see their profiles here: Trip Leaders.

Land of Happiness

Dancer with wooden mask salutes the crowd.

Masked dancer at a tsechu (festival) in Bhutan.

Bhutan is a small landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, with a progressive young king, and a beautiful queen who promotes the traditional textiles and weaving. 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 the most time in the less-visited and more rural eastern regions where the weaving and little villages are spectacular – but the roads are bumpy! However since Bhutan has been in serious lockdown for the past year, road crews have been able to improve many routes.

As we travel, we’ll traverse lush rice paddies in the valleys, and then hills covered with thick forests. Because of an avid Forest Management program, protected blue pine, spruce and cypress forests cover over 70% of the country. Bhutan’s government did not allow outsiders to visit for centuries, but now the people welcome travelers. The infrastructure of Bhutan improves annually; there are now better roads and hotels than in past years.

Trip Highlights

We’ll start our adventure in the eastern, less-traveled part of Bhutan, visiting several towns and many villages along the way, where the art of weaving is paramount. The whole eastern region is relatively undiscovered compared to the west, and it’s the area famous for the high quality handwoven textiles of Bhutan. We drive to Trashigang, then back to Mongar and north to a weaving area. Then we head for central Bhutan and fly from Jakar to Paro, thus avoiding many hours on a large section of road known for being under construction and full of switchbacks.

We’ll visit both the town of Paro and see the Tiger’s Nest Monastery nearby. Then we’ll visit Thimpu, the capital, and see the excellent and modern Textile Museum, started by one of the Queens in the Royal Family. We’ll check out a weaving center, and the Handicrafts Center where they sell various crafts plus handwoven fabrics. In the west we’ll also attend a colorful festival or tsechu, with masked dancers in brilliant embroidered costumes.

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

Tiger’s Nest Monastery clings to the cliff side.

Tiger Nest’s Monastery Details

One day we’ll climb to 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 Rinpoche flew from Tibet to this steep cliff on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

The trek to the monastery 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, if you decide not to hike all the way up.

Cynthia in Bhutan on horse.

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

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 rocky path.) 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 (spiced tea), and staring upward at the beautiful structures on the cliff.

It’s necessary for everyone to hike back down from the tea house 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 Mother of Bhutan  created The Royal Textile Academy that we will visit in Thimpu. She 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 often the men who embroider and appliqué items such as temple hangings, saddle covers, shoes, hats, and ceiling canopies.

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

Women dance in traditional hand-woven kira.

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 below of men in gho, with bulging front pouches.

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.

Note how the weaver works from the front and lets the ends drop to the back!

Weaving

We’ll visit many weaving households and some larger weaving organizations in various towns, learning about the incredibly labor-intensive techniques. Women’s wrap dresses called kiras constitute the most spectacular weaving form, but men’s clothing and other pieces are also important. The best place to see the women showing off their newest and most exquisite outfits is of course at the Buddhist celebrations that we will attend.

As they weave, the women pick up warp threads (usually two at a time) with a pointed stick or their fingers, and interweave the weft in complex ways.  The technique sometimes involves wrapping or twining 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 (above) can take almost a year to weave, a very intricate piece can cost several thousand dollars. Belts are stunning too, and more 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!
(March 11 is the last included night of hotel; we’ll fly back to New Delhi [DEL] airport to connect with homeward flights on March 12. Details later.)

Fly home in the evening on March 12; details and suggested flights to come.

A beautiful YAK by the side of the road in a remote eastern region.

Email for TOUR COST
 18 nights

  • Includes visa for Bhutan (see below)
  • All accommodations: 18 nights in comfortable hotels in double/twin rooms with private bath
  • All meals  (often buffets in our hotels) and some picnic lunches in villages
  • All soft drinks and bottled water with meals
  • Airport transfers for arrival and departure flights
  • Short domestic flight TBA depending on final festival itinerary
  • English-speaking Bhutanese licensed guide during the trip
  • All in-country ground travel by good Toyota mini-bus with professional driver
  • Bottled water available in the van at all times; roadside tea breaks included.
  • Natural dye workshop at village center to dye yarn or roving.
  • Horseback transport to Tiger’s Nest Monastery tea house; everyone must walk down.
  • Entrance to Royal Textile Museum and all other sites on the itinerary
  • An 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip after you return home.
Men in traditional gho.

Dorji and Sonam show off their typical gho.

Not included: International airfare, INDIA visa, alcoholic beverages, *tips for guide and driver (count on about $150-200 total for both), personal items such as laundry charges and any between-meal snacks or drinks.

Plan your flights to arrive in NEW DELHI on February 22, in the morning if possible. We will meet you at the Delhi airport with a sign with your name! Details about flight possibilities will be sent as soon as available after you sign up.

VISAS

We will arrange the BHUTAN visas for you; the cost is included. You will need to send BTSA a scanned colored copy of your passport which will be sent to the Bhutan agent handling the visas. When we enter the country at Paro, they scan your passport and you are already in the System! Bravo, Bhutan!

YOU will need a MULTIPLE ENTRY VISA for India; cost not included. Wait on this one; the visa requirements change often, but are easily fulfilled. Once you sign up, you will be sent the website link to get your one-year INDIA e-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; you can do this any soon as long as you won’t need your passport for about 2 weeks; they are quite fast and generally efficient. More info about visas and how to apply once you have signed up.

All photos by Cynthia except festival with masked cat by Shutterstock. Tiger’s Nest, and me on a horse, by Sudhir Joshi, who traveled with me to Bhutan the first time.

 

Three ‘Stans Textile and Craft Tour

THREE ‘STANS TEXTILE & CRAFT TOUR
September 25 – October 12, 2022
Depart for home October 13.

18-night all-new textile tour of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan!

Rikki Quintana from HoonArts Fair Trade and Cynthia Samaké, textile expert with Behind the Scenes Adventures, have created an authentic and fascinating experience for you! We’ll visit three of the famous Central Asian ‘Stan countries: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and finally Kyrgyzstan. Our guides in country are textile-focused, and know all the artisans that we’ll visit.

Check another fabulous adventure off your bucket list!

Strip of handwoven silk warp ikat, Margilan.

The trip begins in the exciting city of Tashkent, Uzbekistan, crosses an interesting corner of Tajikistan and ends in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. 

Suzanis and suzani-style hand-embroidered pillows for sale; Tashkent.

The ancient trade passage called the Silk Route, linked the western Mediterranean to China. This legendary route traversed Central Asia from Bukhara and Samarkand in the west, through Margilan and then to Osh in Kyrgyzstan, before crossing into China. Our “Three ‘Stans” adventure follows this section of the Silk Route. The countries we have chosen for this adventure exhibit a variety of unusual textiles and skillful crafts s well as stunning architecture. Artisans create hand-embroidered suzanis, hand-dyed, handwoven ikat textiles; thick and cozy felted rugs and slippers, fine wood carving, and cobalt-blue ceramics and tile work.

Local textile experts will accompany our small group during the trip to be sure we meet the most talented artisans and enjoy several hands-on workshops. Along the whole route, we’ll see stunning turquoise-domed buildings, bustling handicraft bazaars and superb mountain scenery. True to our name, we’ll go ‘Behind the Scenes’ to meet silk ikat dyers and weavers, embroidery and ceramic masters, wood block printers, and more. We’ll also see four UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Tiled arch and niches with the traditional glaze.Trip Highlights

  • We’ll meet you at the airport in beautiful Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
  • Turkish Airlines is usually the best way to arrive.
  • Meet the premier ikat weaving master and watch him tie, dye and weave jewel-toned ikat fabrics.
  • Create your own felted silk scarf with your choice of traditional patterns!
  • Jump on a fast train for the ancient town of Bukhara with its amazing mosques, galleries and museums.
  • Marvel at UNESCO-designated Samarkand and the blue-tiled Registan plaza.
  • Meet suzani embroiderers and contemporary felt designers; purchase their original work.
  • Spend a cozy night in an authentic felted yurt and learn about the nomadic lifestyle.
  • Watch the masters create colorful rugs and take one home if you wish!
  • Day trip to observe a potter making beautiful blue traditional ceramics.
  • Visit a silk carpet factory and the Museum of Decorative Applied Arts.
  • See four UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Relax in comfortable hotels and eat delicious local cuisine.

Hand-painted intricate designs on ceramic bowls.

Three ‘Stans: Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan

Each country has something different to offer! The three countries we will experience were part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution, and we shall see remnants of this in the Soviet-style architecture. But in 1990, each republic declared sovereignty and became independent. Officially the countries are named the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic. We’ll learn more about the very complex history of the region from our guides, but most of our time will be spent admiring the arts, crafts and architecture, meeting the artisans, marveling at the mountains and lakes, and enjoying the delicious fresh foods!

Our route goes from Tashkent west to Samarkand and Bukhara, then back east into Tajikistan. Then we’ll swing back into Uzbekistan to the Ferghana Valley, and on into Kyrgyzstan. We’ll fly home from the Kyrgyz city of Bishkek. Once you sign up for the trip, we’ll send details for flights, visas, what to take, etc.

School children at the mausoleum of Timur’s family. Bukhara.

First stop: Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Hi-speed and comfortable train.

In Tashkent (as in many Uzbek cities) the cerulean domes of historical buildings such as the 16th Barak-Khan Madrasa complex form one of the exciting photo opportunities and attractions. We’ll also shop at a famous crafts bazaar, as well as visit a woodblock print studio, an embroidery workshop and the Applied Arts Museum. The State Museum of Applied Arts showcases some of the best historical artistic examples of the embroideries and ceramics of Uzbekistan. Long ago, the Imperial Russian diplomat and visionary Alexander Polovtsev built a mansion to display his extensive collections of unique national handicrafts; it is now open as a museum with collections that include traditional ikat garments.

Samarkand

Next we‘ll board the air-conditioned fast train to Samarkand. This interesting city lies right on the ancient Silk Road and its historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand as one of the most beautiful cities in the world and we shall see why. Today it’s the third largest city in Uzbekistan. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity and old historical grace. Once the capital, and an important trade stop along the Silk Road, Samarkand sits at the center of the country. Prominent and iconic landmarks include the Registan, a plaza bordered by three ornate, tile-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries. We’ll see the towering tomb of Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire. 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.

Hand-embroidered Suzani from Uzbekistan.

Next stop, Bukhara

The ancient city of Bukhara (also a UNESCO site) remains an exciting place to explore the architecture and textiles of Uzbekistan. This city has overflowing textile bazaars and an active art scene! Blue-tiled mosques and museums also abound in this fabulous historical city. 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. We’ll visit architectural wonders such as the 9th century Ismael Samani Mausoleum, made of baked bricks in basket weave pattern, below.

The ‘perfect cube’ – Mausoleum of sun-baked bricks.

Into Tajikistan

After a few days in Samarkand and Bukhara, we’ll cross the border at Panjakent and enter Tajikistan. We’ll check into our hotel then walk around town to get our bearings. One morning we’ll take in the bustling Panjakent Bazaar, in an unusual round arched building.

Panjakent has many crafts centers and Armughon will be our first visit. They make unique felted Tajik crafts such as pillows and ornaments. Next we head for Madm to see the carpet making, which has a long tradition of many generations in some families.

Later we’ll drop by to see the woodcarvers. They are called kandakori. With chisels, rasps and mallets, craftsmen make bookstands, latticework, pencil cases, molding for traditional tables and more. The most ambitious application of the craft is when large logs are shaped into finely worked columns and beams for mosques and the homes of the wealthy.

Young Tajik woodcarver designs box decoration.

Famous Ferghana Valley, Ikat Heaven!

Next we’ll head for the Ferghana Valley, home of superb and glowing ikat resist-warp dyed fabrics, the most renowned of Uzbek textiles. Our route to the 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 (Friday) mosque with carved wooden pillars. Taste the delicious homemade honey halva sold in the mosque courtyard! We’ll have lunch and continue to Margilan.

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 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.

Ikat yardage at the market, Margilan.

Over the course of three days there, we’ll visit many ikat weavers and artisans to see how they weave, tie and dye. We’ll learn to make some typical dishes in a cooking class, pore over the textile bazaar and visit a silk factory. 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 artisans, and the textile bazaar. At a silk factory, we’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished ikat. There is also an excellent shop where we can purchase reasonably-priced ikat jackets, coats, purses, and other items.

On to Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan is a beautiful country with exquisite mountain scenery, often called the Switzerland of Central Asia, and makes a marvelous contrast to the landscapes of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
We’ll get to know some of Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, before delving into the crafts traditions. Bishkek is a green city – it has 20 parks and a huge Botanical Garden.

Typical Kyrgyzstan landscape with hand-felted yurt.

The botanical garden is the pride of Bishkek and one of the most beautiful places in the city, so we will stroll though a corner of it one morning. Established in 1938, the Botanical Garden is one of the largest and most diverse in Central Asia.

Laying fleece on the base to make felted rug.

The Garden is named after a famous Kyrgyz biologist, Gareev, and it’s now part of the National Academy of Sciences. There are 2,500 species of trees and shrubs, 3,500 species of flowers and greenhouse species, and over 8,000 species of fruit plants in the Botanical Garden. In autumn the leaves of many trees turn yellow and red, creating a bright color palette.

Visit Tumar Studiio, a modern Kyrgyz felt boutique shop, which produces all manner of felt items from ethnographic horse trappings to simple, contemporary slippers. The goal of Tumar studio was to create livelihoods for women in the wake of the Soviet disintegration in 1991. Then we’ll travel to Kochkor village, 260 kms from Bishkek. This is where we’ll visit the Altyn Kol Women’s Handicraft Co-operative and other renowned felt artists. At one Felt Master’s we will learn how nomadic Kyrgyz women made felt rugs called Shyrdak, Ala-Kiyiz- a floor covering made by pressing felt of various naturally dyed colors. You will see a show of the process of felt carpet making. This is different than the modern art felt we have seen before.

Tea and desserts served on typical Cotton Blossom patterned porcelain.

Lunch will be served at Felt Master Mariam’s  house in Kochkor.  Kochkor is a famous province for farmers and woolen felt makers. Used to be one of the billionaire soviet kolkhoz (collective farms). It is also a birthplace of Extra VIP Usubaliev Turdakun (the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Soviet Kyrgyzstan).
Afternoon visit Karasuu village to explore local felt makers’ and embroiderers’ home workshops. Back to Kochkor village for dinner and overnight.

Then we drive to Tash-Rabat Caravanserai on the Great Silk Road. This is a carefully restored stone building that once housed an inn on the Great Silk Road. Its date of origin is unknown – but there is archaeological evidence to suggest that the site was occupied in the 10th century. It lies up a small, beautiful valley in the foothills of the Tian Shan in the At-Bashy Mountain Range, 100 km before Kyrgyz-Chinese border, Torugart.

Man taking bread out of oven.Upon arrival, time to explore Tash-Rabat canyon with similar to Mongolian landscapes. We’ll have a traditional dinner in the yurt and spend a warm and cozy night with thick blankets at altitude of 9000 feet. Later, we will drive to Kyrgyz’s pride: Djety-Oguz Gorge, a lush valley with striking red sandstone rock formations – the ‘Seven Bulls’ from which the valley takes its name. Later drive to Karakol town, one the first Russian military outpost founded in 1869. Here we’ll walk around town to see the houses with blue framed windows – “gingerbread” style.

Next day, drive back to Bishkek for flights home. You can fly directly back to Istanbul internationally and connect to home, from Bishkek, so no need to go back to Tashkent.

Sacred Bread

We’ll eat delicious food everywhere and learn about the local cuisine in our cooking class. The diet includes skewered vegetables, salads and dishes such as pilaf or plov, with beef or lamb. Skewers of grilled chicken or ground beef are also popular and delicious. Vegetarians will have no trouble at all; many cheeses and fresh (and safe) salads such as grated carrots or beets with walnuts, or tomato and cucumber are popular and found in most restaurants. Delicious and refreshing cold yogurt soup with fresh dill and parsley is a common starter. Bread is divine and plentiful!

Bread is considered sacred by Central Asian peoples. 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, layered with butter 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 cuisine 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 freshly baked bread, cheese and fruit, or to find an interesting place to try.

At the end of our adventure, after seeing a million gorgeous suzanis and stunning ikats, we’ll drive to the Bishkek airport for flights home.

Until time to depart for the airport, you are free to explore on your own — to see something you missed the first time, visit more museums. Or just relax at the hotel and pack up all your exquisite textiles for the trip home. Lunch on your own. Pack up bags tonight, before our Farewell Dinner.

Flights home the next day.
Once you sign up and pay the deposit, we’ll send you the detailed itinerary and other information about the countries and the tour.

Map of routh through the 3 Stans countries.

Map of our route, beginning in Tashkent, UZB, crossing Tajikistan (TJK) and ending in Bishkek, KGZ.

PRICE  $6495
Single Supplement $700

Two vaccinations against COVID are mandatory to join this trip. We will also need proof of travel/trip cancellation insurance.

  The 18-night tour cost includes:

  • 18 nights accommodation in double rooms with private bathrooms.
  • Single supplement available for a single room (except in yurt).
  • Expert English-speaking textile specialty local guides.
  • Rikki Quintana of HoonArts, trip coordinator will accompany the trip.
  • Cynthia Samake, textile expert will also join the tour.
  • All breakfasts in the hotels.
  • All Lunches and Dinners ( except 3 meals on your own)
  • Transportation by air-conditioned Minibus.
  • Entrance fees to all sites and monuments.
  • Flight from Urgench-Tashkent
  • All Tashkent and Bishkek airport transfers
  • Train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand
    and Bukhara
  • All train station transfers – Samarkand, Bukhara, etc.
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day.
  • Cooking master class, felt scarf workshop
  • Wood Block printing lesson
  • Ikat textile weaving demonstration/lesson

Not included:

  •  International flights to and from Uzbekistan
  •  Visas and passport fees
  •  Several meals as indicated on itinerary (buy fruit and cheese to eat at the hotel, or go out)
  •  Tips for guide and driver; suggested amounts will be included on the trip info.
  •  Mandatory travel insurance (more about this later)
Blue tiled building  by Kathleen Walsh.
Bread stamps by Dreamstime © 45304376. Antonella 865
Baker: DT © Mariusz Prusaczyk
Photo #11 Bread Sellers DT © Evgeniy Fesenko
Photo #12  DT ©Sergey Dzyuba
Map: ©Ontheworldmap.com
D-time.Tashkent Top photo: UZBEKISTAN.Evgeniy-Agarkov.57387916

Herpetology of Amazon

Herpetology and Photography Tour of the Peruvian Amazon
January 22 to February 2, 2022

Depart from Iquitos on the last flight to Lima on February 2; more about flights later.

If you want more information, contact Mike Pingleton at [email protected] or Matt Cage at [email protected].

The amphibians and reptiles of the Amazon range from the incredibly beautiful to the stunningly weird. And there are lots of them!

This expedition includes stays at two field stations where we routinely find more than 100 species of frogs, toads, caecilians, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodilians. Some species we encounter almost every trip, while others are so rarely encountered that even jaded “veteran” herpers get excited. Of course, there is no such thing as “jaded” when it comes to these fascinating and diverse animals!

We’ll all fly to Iquitos, Peru, by way of Lima to meet and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. Then early next day, we’ll travel to the first site by motorboat.

Our expeditions are land-based at biology research  stations operated by Project Amazonas. Splitting time between the  stations lets us take advantage of the unique specialties of each site. We also have an open skiff for exploring aquatic habitats, and one station has some kayaks for paddling (and maybe fishing?) in the river. Our use of the field stations helps fund and protect these special sites, and we are also adding substantially to knowledge of the herpetofauna of the region. Having a “home base” allows us to explore the rain forest by day and night. Each field site has its own specialties.

The first site where we’ll stay is the Madre Selva Biological Station. The area is excellent for a large number of hylid frogs that favor aquatic emergent vegetation. Atelopus spumarius, the Amazon harlequin toad is fairly commonly found.

The second site where we will spend the rest of our time is the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve, the site of Peruvian records for several frogs and caecilians. It has also become the “go-to” place for finding the legendary Lachesis muta, or South American bushmaster.

While at the two remote stations, we’ll sleep in comfortable “tambos” (a Quechua word meaning ‘wayside stopping place’) or little screened buildings on legs, see photo. Inside each tambo are two single beds with sheets, foam mattresses and of course pillows, all encased in mosquito netting. There are ‘Western’ toilets and air-temp showers in the bath block, so while you are experiencing a remote environment, you will be still be comfortable! We’ll eat three delicious ‘buffet-style’ meals a day in the dining hall, just off the kitchen. The Peruvian cook and his assistants who travel with us make an excellent variety of delicious dishes daily, often utilizing local fish, fruits and vegetables such as yuca and cocona.

An amazing diversity of creatures will be encountered on this fabulous trip! In 2020, we found interesting birds, weird insects, and tropical flowers as well as 100+ species of herps! The organizing company, MT Amazon is the ONLY tour company in the Peruvian Amazon that dedicates 95% of its resources toward the preservation and welfare of the Amazon rainforest and its people.

Be sure to bring lots of mosquito and chigger repellent; some years are better than others but you will want to be prepared! Once you sign up, Matt and Mike will send out lists of other suggested items to bring.

(Organized by MT Amazon Tours.)

Tour leaders for herpetology and photography tour:
Mike Pingleton:
(Expedition Leader/Photographer/Herp & Bird Expert)  For more than forty years, Mike has been pursuing amphibians and reptiles in the field. Along with covering much of the United States, Mike has also pursued herps in Mexico, Cuba, Panama, Thailand, Belize, Peru, and Paraguay.

He has written extensively about field herping, including articles for Herp Nation and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation. Mike’s excellent new book, The Field Herping Guide: Finding Reptiles and Amphibians in the Wild (with Joshua Holbrook) was published in 2019. Mike is also the author of a how-to manual on Redfoot Tortoises and he has written several children’s e-books about herps. So Much Pingle is Mike’s entertaining and popular podcast about herpetology and herpers, now moving on to Season 2.

Matt Cage: (Expedition Leader/Herpetology/Photographer).  Matt has extensive experience finding elusive herps, guiding trips and traveling to the American tropics.  He has been a trip leader for MT Amazon Expeditions since 2010. Matt has traveled extensively and photographed wildlife in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. You can see Matt’s photos in many published books and papers (and the boa and horned frog here). Matt is a Wildlife Biology major from Colorado State University and currently lives in Florida.
Most recently Mike and Matt have traveled to Paraguay and Mexico, ever on the search for new and interesting herps!

Laos, Cambodia & Thailand

Textiles, Temples and Festivals

July 1 – 19, 2022
Fly home July 20.

Salad prepared in Tigre de Papier oooking class, Cambodia.

Yummy and beautiful Green Papaya Salad, Siem Reap cooking class.

Join us on this exciting SE Asian Textile and Culture Tour! We’ll all meet on July 1 at the airport in Luang Prabang (Laos), probably connecting in Bangkok. Scroll down for flight info and trip price.

HIGHLIGHTS

Go Behind-the-Scenes to see fabulous hand-woven silk and cotton ikat textiles and an amazing traditional festival in little-known north-eastern Thailand! You’ll see the fabulous wax candle festival called Khao Phansa. We’ll also see the carved and painted masks and the costumed dance typical of the Phi Ta Khon festival. The two festivals happen on different dates in two different towns, about a month apart, so we have chosen to attend the most spectacular one. But Neeraha, the friend who owns our hotel, and I are arranging a special mask and dance evening at the hotel, so you can experience the best masks and costumes from Phi Ta Khon, as well as the wax candle procession and candle carving competition. Both these festivals showcase some of the best traditional artists in Thailand. We’ll also see the superb UNESCO site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and the golden Buddhist temples of Luang Prabang, Laos.

Cynthia with a talented indigo ikat weaver.

Besides festivals and temples, we’ll see plenty of stunning textiles! We’ll watch weavers at work, and learn how they create ikat-patterned and supplementary weft (khit) 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.

TRIP DETAILS:

We first fly into Luang Prabang and check into one of my favorite, comfortable tropical hotels. Next day, with a local licensed guide, we’ll explore the ancient royal capital, now designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. We will visit important Buddhist temples and learn about the Lao version of Buddhist practices. You’ll also be able to explore this laid-back, safe and friendly town on your own. Time to soak up the tranquil, tropical ambiance!

One day we will spend the afternoon at the textile center of Ock Pop Tok where we’ll chop wood and extract seeds from prickly achiote pods to make natural dyes. Then we’ll dye our silk scarves. We’ll be able to watch talented silk weavers and have a gourmet 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! However, the crispy-fried river moss is really delicious.

Dramatic Phi Ta Khon masks in the parade.

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 golden 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 for our introduction into Lao culture.

Then we fly south to the pleasant riverside capital of Laos, the city of Vientiane. There we’ll meet the driver and van that will be with us for much of the trip. I love to visit the enormous Salat Tao, the daily market for locals, with many stalls of exquisite examples of silk weaving. A Laotian textile collector friend will take us to meet the weavers in a nearby weaving village. We’ll also tour the innovative silk weaving studio called Lao Textiles, started by American fabric designer Carol Cassidy who revived Lao handwoven silk weaving. She has lived in Vientiane for over 30 years, creating an international market and reputation for fine Lao silk fabrics. Vientiane also has fabulous wats (Buddhist temple complexes) that we will visit, such as Wat Si Saket with its 10,000 Buddhas.

INTO THAILAND

Example of cotton indigo dyeing in Thailand.Leaving Laos, we’ll drive across the Friendship Bridge, over the Mekong River and get our passports stamped at the Thailand border (no visas required). We’ll continue by private van to the village with the important Phi Ta Khon festival traditions.

Working within typical age-old and innovative styles, the mask painters and the wax carvers create stunning festival art. Phi Ta Khon costumes relate to celebrations asking for rain and fertility (thus plenty of phalluses as dance batons!); the name means Ghosts Following People and we’ll learn the whole significance.

The participants receive blessings from Buddha and the local abbot. We’ll go through the small Phi Ta Khon museum that shows the history of the event and some older masks. Our hotel in the festival town (as mentioned) is owned by a friend Neeracha. The place is especially beautiful, with its water buffalo theme (and real creatures too!) and large infinity pool. (Be sure to bring a bathing suit.) Townspeople that she knows, who participated in the June event, will bring masks and demonstrate the dances and the traditions Phi Ta Khon.

After the “Ghost Festival” demonstration, we’ll drive east into the region called Isaan, the local name for the northeast. Lonely Planet describes Isaan: “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.”

BAN CHIANG ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE

Typical Ban Chiang pottery, the real stuff. Good reproductions sold in nearby village.

One day, we will take a day trip out to the UNESCO archeological site at Ban Chiang, to learn about the fascinating culture being excavated here. We’ll also go through the museum, full of unique cream-colored  ceramics with rust swirls and spirals. Ban Chiang is considered the most important prehistoric settlement so far discovered in South-East Asia. Metalworking technology here has proven to be among the earliest discovered in Asia. Preliminary excavations began in 1967 but in 2003, Ban Chiang gained international attention when the United States Department of Justice prosecuted smugglers and museums for trafficking in Ban Chiang antiquities.

The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site consists of a large, previously undisturbed earthen mound which, when excavated, was found to cover a prehistoric habitation site of some of Southeast Asia’s earliest farmers. The site, which had been abandoned and buried underground for at least two millennia, has now been partially excavated by Thai and international archaeologists. However only a small percentage has been uncovered thus far.

Excavations have revealed an unbroken stratigraphy of human habitation, use, and burial over two thousand years, covering the period when prehistoric humans in this part of the world first settled in villages, took up agriculture and began the production of metal tools. Ban Chiang, along with other surrounding villages in northeast Thailand, contains many bronze artifacts that demonstrate that metallurgy had been practiced in small, village settings nearly four thousand years ago.

Blue handwoven cloth with varying weft patterns, in Thailand.

Advances in the fields of agriculture, animal domestication, ceramic and metal technology are all evident in the archaeological record of the site. Also evident is an increasing economic prosperity and social complexity of the successive communities at Ban Chiang, made possible by their developing cultural practices, as revealed through the many burials, rich in ceramic and metal grave goods, uncovered at the site.  The Ban Chiang Archaeological Site is also the richest in Southeast Asia in the number and variety of artifacts recovered from the site. [UNESCO]

INDIGO DYEING IN THAILAND

Indigo dyeing villages are our next destination. There we’ll visit some friends who dye cotton threads with natural indigo.  These Master dyers of cotton ikat, above, will show us their indigo pots and their tying and dyeing methods, as well as the actual weaving process. The weaver above makes her own indigo by fermenting the leaves and later adding overripe star fruits. She has many pots of dye going at once, in different stages of fermentation and readiness. In our mini-workshop, you can make a cotton indigo-patterned scarf with your choice of design!

The weavers love to show off their skills and these visits are fascinating. The weaver in red displays her stunning fabric that shows her ingenious method of varying the patterns on their yardage. She has bound and dyed the weft threads in changing patterns so that the fabric pattern changes every yard or two. Her continual warp is unbound, plain navy blue cotton 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.

Another name for Khao Phansa is “the Rains Retreat” because it occurs at the beginning of Thai rainy season; Buddhist monks take this opportunity to retreat inside their temples for a three-month period of study and meditation. This tradition of a “rainy season retreat” predates Buddhism, but it was followed by Buddha during his lifetime, which encourages many to emulate him today.

Many monks enter monastic life on Khao Phansa Day, staying in monasteries and temples until the rainy season ends on Wan Ok Phansa Day, 79 days later.

We’ll arrive a day early to visit friends who will show us the incredible wax floats they are finishing up for the event. Both monks and lay people spend hours working on the wax float decorations. Each intricate wax motif is rolled out then trimmed, as if you were making cookies…see below. You can even make Buddhist merit by cutting around some of the wax shapes to decorate the floats! The embellished life-sized wax figures arranged on the floats represent stories and legends from the life of Buddha.

We’ll spend a few days in Ubon, seeing festival preparations and watching the parade. Alternating with the wax floats are groups of elegant and beautiful Thai dancers carrying flowers  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.

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

As with all festivals, there are food booths with traditional dishes, desserts and soft drinks. Bring a small umbrella or a good sun hat; the sun can be very hot during Khao Phansa. But the 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 famous for.

AMAZING ANGKOR!

From Ubon Ratchathani, we’ll head into Cambodia, to Siem Reap, to see 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. Tuk-tuks will take us through the park to see some of the most stunning sites. A professional guide will explain the history of each temple. Just the renovation processes, or the lack thereof, are fascinating. The temple at right has been designated NOT to be touched, and to let the forest continue its encroachment. Other temples are being re-built, using ancient stone blocks when available.

UNESCO site info notes that “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.”

SIEM REAP TOWN

Siem Reap is a very pleasant place and we can walk almost everywhere. While visiting Angkor Wat temples and the surrounding sights, we’ll stay 4-5 nights in this lovely hotel (below) in Siem Reap. It boasts modern rooms, a refreshing pool and a super restaurant. One morning, we’ll learn the subtleties of delicious Cambodian cuisine (similar to Thai) in an optional hands-on cooking class in a popular local restaurant. First we’ll visit the produce market to learn about some of the more unusual ingredients. Then we each choose a few appealing menu items, and we chop, slice and sauté our way to a delicious lunch! The recipes will be available for us afterwards. And in the market, you can buy some typical spices to make Cambodian dishes at home, or for your foodie friends. We’ll also tour the sobering but important Landmine Museum.

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 ikat techniques are from the Thai and Lao silk ‘mat-mi’ or ikat 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. Our ‘Farewell to Cambodia’ Dinner will be followed by a performance of Phare, the renowned Cambodian youth circus – no animals – but great acrobatics by young people!

On the day after the Phare Circus performance, July 20, we’ll fly back to Bangkok to connect with homeward flights.

******************************************************************************************************************
This is a 19-night trip. July 19 is the last included night of hotel. On July 20 after breakfast, we’ll fly from Siem Reap to Bangkok (flight included) and then connect to homeward flights.
If necessary, it’s possible to spend the night at a hotel at or near the BKK airport.

MORE about flights later; please don’t buy plane tickets until further notice, when we confirm the flight schedules into BKK and LPQ. We’ll give suggested flights later. Cathay Pacific and Eva have the best deals sometimes.

TOUR COST: $4995   (19 nights in double/twin accommodations)
Single Supplement: $750
Minimum 8, maximum 12 travelers.

Delicious Pumpkin Curry with Tofu; Thailand

Cambodian Cooking class in Siem Reap – Fun!

Includes:

  • Tour begins in Luang Prabang on July 1 and ends in Bangkok on July 20 after breakfast and flight from Siem Reap.
  • 19 nights in comfortable A/C hotels in double/twin rooms (2-3 hotels have pools)
  • All meals except three lunches and two dinners on days when the group is scattered (we will suggest possible places to eat)
  • All soft drinks and bottled water with meals
  • Group Flights: Luang Prabang to Vientiane, Laos – and flight from Siem Reap to Bangkok.
  • All land travel by private van with professional driver
  • Three days of entrance tickets at Angkor Wat
  • Transportation in the Angkor Wat Park and licensed guide for 2 days.
  • (Another day w/ guide is optional on your own; you’ll have tickets to enter for 3 days)
  • Tips for Luang Prabang and Angkor guides
  • Entrances to temples, archaeological and museum sites on the itinerary,
  • Cambodian cooking class at an excellent restaurant in Siem Reap
  • Phare Acrobatic show and dinner (https://pharecircus.org)
  • An 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip!
  • A generous tip per person for the Luang Prabang and Angkor guides for 3 days has already been added to the trip cost, so you don’t have to worry about tipping guides.
Indigo dyeing in Luang Prabang, Laos.

Pat dyes with natural Indigo; Ock Pop Tok, Luang Prabang, Laos.

Not included:

International airfare, driver tip (count on about $35-40 per person), 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, and between-meal snacks and drinks. We will have bottled water in the van for day trips.

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 from Vientiane, Laos.

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

Textiles & Arts: Ghana 2022

Women in traditional Ghana cloth

Cynthia and Comfort, friend and textile market guide in Kumasi.

DATES: February 3 – 16, 2022 

Fly home on February 17.

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. Ghana is safe and politically stable, with a tourism infrastructure of hotels and restaurants that improves every year.
We’ll explore not only the textiles of Ghana, but also other creative arts such as the exciting cuisine. You’ll also learn about the historical and ecological features of this fascinating country.
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.

Barou and the Chief of Yabi village, Kumasi.

Arts and Culture Galore!

This 14-night Ghana textile 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 and Cynthia Samake, who have done this tour for the past 10 years, this adventure includes the very best of Ghana. Barou is an upbeat person who will ensure that your travel experience enchants and enriches you. Cynthia will explain the context and techniques of the traditional textiles that we’ll see as we travel.

Cynthia mixing colors in dye workshop in Ghana.

Cynthia mixing batik dye for the workshop; her dress is batik, made here.

Our driver, Robert is an unflappable professional who has traveled with us for many trips in Ghana. Professional English-speaking local guides will join us at historical sites, including the slave forts or castles. They 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 3 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 and the Volta Region. This will give us a good feeling for typical Ghanaian life away from the busy coastal areas.

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 to cool off in nearby.

Man wears Adinkra cloth, Ghana

Distinguished elder in traditional Adinkra cloth wrapper.

On to Kumasi & Kente

Later we’ll head 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.

The famous Ghanaian kente cloth is still woven in several places. We’ll meet weavers 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 weaving techniques.

Then we’ll drive to Odumase-Krobo where we’ll make glass beads with the famous and congenial Cedi, foremost Ghanaian bead artist. The enormous Bead Market will tempt you to add to your collections!

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 turning south to Tema and Teshie. After our batik workshop and the visit to the art coffin carver, we’ll return to Accra. One day 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 is the Director 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.

Three Workshops: Adinkra Printing, Batik & Beads!

We’ll try our hand at some traditional crafts in several 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. Also we’ll make recycled glass beads with 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 culture and textiles 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.

You can see more about art coffins by our friend Eric, here: Eric Adjetey Anang, coffin artist.PBS

Beaders, Quilters and Other Fabric Enthusiasts

Example of Travelers' Art with African fabrics.

African Village Quilt by Melanie Grishman, with fabrics from Ghana and Mali.

Bring an empty suitcase to hold all the beads, antique and new kente cloth, and amazing roller-printed fabrics you’ll discover in the overflowing markets! We will go on a special market tour in Kumasi with Comfort, 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 3 and fly home from Accra on February 17.
February 16
is LAST included night of hotel.

Many flights leave Accra late at night. So on the 17th, you have free time until you need to go to the airport; you may leave your bags safely at the hotel and hang out by the pool or in the restaurant. Or walk into nearby Osu for some last-minute shopping, etc.

See the Ghana Image Gallery here. 

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.  If you would like, bring some basic school supplies that will be  most appreciated. 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.

Printing Adinkra cloth with traditional gourd stamps.

Cynthia uses Adinkra stamps to embellish a factory-printed fabric.

Price: $4395 

(Arrive Feb. 3 and depart late on Feb. 17.)

Single supplement: $550

Includes:

  • 14 nights hotel accommodation in comfortable local hotels (double rooms) with private bathroom.
  •  All transportation by private van 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.

Girl selling fish takes a break to flirt!

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.

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 post office Money Order to TEXAS, USA, for the easy and quick 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.

Fishing boats in the harbor.

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.

 

 

 

Textiles, Tajines: Morocco 2021

November 2 -19, 2021
Our popular Textiles of Morocco trip is back!

Camel in Morocco wearing textiles and tassels.Fly home November 20.     Two spaces left!

Tour Price:
$5750 for 18 nights

Single Supplement: $995

This Fall 2021 custom-designed 18-night tour to an amazing and exotic country emphasizes the textiles of Morocco, plus the cuisine, ceramics, architecture, and archeology. Scroll to bottom for price and details.

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.

We’ll go behind-the-scenes for an authentic experience of traditional Morocco and Moroccan hospitality! 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.

Everywhere we go, our delightful guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet. And our amazing driver navigates the Sprinter around the country with unflappable confidence. Click here, and scroll down to the Morocco Team for their profiles.

As we travel around the country, our small group will marvel at SEVEN stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites! Morocco has remote kasbahs of striking architectural design. These contrast with the bustling cities of Casablanca and the chaotic medina of Marrakech.

We are proud of our new partnership with the California-based Morocco Library Project. Bring books and we’ll visit a school library to donate them in a remote community.

Charming little hotels or riads will be our home bases, except for that night glamping in a Berber tent on the sand dunes! In each town we visit, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas and watch craftsmen at work. We can poke around in the traditional little souks for spices, textiles, and other treasures to take home.

Superb lunch at Cafe Maure, Casablanca.

Trip Details:

Arrive on November 2 in Casablanca.
November 19 is last included night of hotel.
Fly home on November 20 from Casablanca.
Total 18 nights hotel included.

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 November 2. We’ll spend that first night settling in to Morocco, in Casablanca.

Next day on our way out of town, we’ll go inside the fabulous Hasan II mosque at seaside Casablanca. It’s the largest mosque in Africa, and has exquisite mosaic work and painted ceilings. The mosque was completed in 1993 after 7 years of construction. We’ll visit with a specialized guide who’ll explain the high-tech features that include a heated floor and a roof that glides open to let in the ocean breezes on holidays when it is especially crowded.

El Jadida Site

After seeing the mosque we’ll drive south for a look at the seaside fort and photogenic underground cistern at El Jadida. The cistern was probably built originally as an underground warehouse in the late 1500s by the Portuguese. Old town El Jadida with its fortified ramparts was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It’s considered an “outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures.” The cistern’s reflective visual qualities are such that several movies have been filmed within the cavernous space. Orson Welles’ dramatic Othello is the best known of these.

Seaside Essaouira, MoroccoEssaouira by the sea

Then we’ll continue to the beautiful ocean-side city of Essaouira for the next two nights. We’ll wander in the small medina (UNESCO WH site) and check out the crafts shops and art galleries where many of us have bought stunning original paintings. Our heritage hotel looks down on the crashing waves of the ocean to lull you to sleep! A charming local friend, Latifa, will host a typical home cooking class for our lunch, in her kitchen. There we will learn how to make a traditional tajine cooked over a charcoal fire, with salad and  dessert.

Next day, we head to marvelous Marrakech, enjoying a picnic along the way. In Neo-lithic 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 in yet another UNESCO World Heritage site.

Morocco textile tour travelers with friend who makes trim for clothing.

Group shares a laugh with Bouchra, friend who came to the hotel to show us how she makes sfifa or djellaba trim.

Medina of Marrakech

The medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys. We will stay at a beautiful hotel, as always decorated with traditional Moroccan mosaics, furniture and accessories. In our high-tech and entertaining cooking class we’ll create a gourmet lunch of homemade bread, tajine, a succulent stew; and a couple of cooked vegetable ‘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 the souk for foodie friends too.

Moroccan baker slides another loaf into the wood-fired oven.

The baker at our cooking class shows us how to slide the dough rounds into the wood-fired oven, Marrakech.

Majorelle Gardens

A Marrakech must-see is the Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle. It’s full of pristine specimens of exotic succulents from around the world. The new Yves Saint-Laurent Museum is spectacular also. This sleek, modern brick museum is in the same block as the Gardens. Its superb displays of fashion showcase Saint Laurent’s multi-cultural creations on dozens of mannequins. Another room exhibits hand-loomed shaggy, colorful Berber carpets, the first exhibit to recognize this village art.

Lunch this day will be in the Majorelle Garden Restaurant. Later we’ll visit the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna where snake charmers vie for space between tiny barbecue 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.

After a few days, we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate. In this area we’ll see more textiles in the form of carpets, as we visit some women’s groups of rug makers. Along the way, we’ll see the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben Haddou. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, this spectacular ksar or fortified city makes a an interesting stop. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls is another 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.

Girls look over books in a new Olive Seed library in a remote village.

In Ouarzazate we can go through the quirky 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. We’ll also drive through the spectacular Todra Gorges, carved by the forces of two rivers, the Todra and the Dades. On the final 25-mile stretch through the mountains, the water carved out a colossal red sandstone canyon measuring 33 feet across, with spectacular cliffs more than 500 feet tall on either side.

In the date capital of Erfoud, we’ll visit the local market to buy some succulent sweet dates. We’ll visit a date plantation to see the unripe yellow dates hanging in the date palms, and learn about how they are harvested and dried. In one desert town, we’ll have the treat of visiting a new school library started by the non-profit  Morocco Library Project. If you would like to bring some books to donate to the students here, we’ll send you the list of most requested titles. I met recently with the dynamic founder of this wonderful California-based project. She is as excited as I am about collaborating to offer books to students in this remote and under-served area.

Textiles of Morocco: Berber Weavers and Carpets

A colorful wool Berber textile, a rug with a variety of motifs and weaving 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. We’ll traverse beautiful palm groves, dramatic rock formations, and little villages on the route northward. As always there will be stops for photos and bathroom breaks whenever desired.

Half way along this drive to Fes, we will stop for the night in the town of Midelt. 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?! Next day we’ll drop by a weaving and embroidery cooperative before continuing to fascinating Fes, another UNESCO World Heritage site.

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 many examples of carpets and other textiles of Morocco. His collection comes from many areas and exemplifies many different techniques. Here and at other places along the way, we’ll learn about the regional varieties and how the rugs are woven and knotted.

Leather tannery of Fes, Morocco

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 it’s another UNESCO World Heritage site. Motorcycles are not allowed this medina so we can relax here. Shopping and visiting the mosques and madrasas is much easier than in Marrakech. The little market shops here offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry.

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. Men are the leather dyers (above), felt makers and woodworkers.

Volubilis is site of dozens of intricate floor mosaics, some of them depicting textile or rug patterns..

Colored stone floor mosaic at Roman site of Volubilis.

Both the guide and driver live in Fes, and they’ll make you feel at home as they show you their 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. One afternoon, we’ll visit a ceramics workshop and see their exquisite hand painted pieces. Both men and women paint the colorful designs on the ceramic pieces, but men make the zellij mosaics that we will see covering walls and fountains all over the country. Learn about the painstaking zellij process of hand-chipping each individual piece, and you’ll marvel at these mosaics for the rest of the trip. We’ll also see how the famous buttons are made, with a complicated knotting process over a core. The best men’s and women’s djellabas have 120 buttons marching down the front!

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.”

Blue city Chefchaouen MoroccoChefchaouen, Blue City

After Fes, we’ll head north to the famous Blue City of Chefchaouen. Built on a hillside, the town is blue from top to bottom! The city was founded in 1471 as a small kasbah (fortress) by Moulay Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami. He founded the city to fight the Portuguese invasions of northern Morocco. Many Moorish and Jewish people settled here after the Spanish Reconquista in medieval times.  In 1920, the Spanish seized Chefchaouen to form part of Spanish Morocco. Then Spain returned the city after Moroccan independence in 1956.  Nowadays there is a town committee to help people freshen up their pretty blue steps and walls, but nobody seems to know exactly why all the buildings are sky blue.

More textiles of Morocco will be seen in the Blue City when we visit a weaving atelier or two. A free day in Chefchaouen will give you time to explore the arts and crafts and take all the charming blue alley photos that you want – dodging the young tourists who bring special outfits to wear as they pose by blue walls for their Instagram shots!

Then we’ll drive to the coast to admire the charming little seaside town of Asilah. We can wander around admiring the murals painted on all the medina walls. These paintings that fill the white washed walls are one of the town’s main attractions and attract art lovers all year round. We’ll eat lunch overlooking the stone ramparts built oceanside by the Portuguese in the 15th century. Then we’ll drive on to Rabat for the night.

Ali tastes olives in Morocco

Ali tastes olives in Marrakech bazaar.

Next morning we’ll see the main sights of the city, such as the Kasbah Oudaya and Mohammad V’s Mausoleum, before returning to Casablanca. We drive from Rabat to Casablanca at the end of the tour.

Tonight (November 19) will be our Farewell Dinner at the hotel’s good restaurant. We’ll say goodbye to new and old friends and get a good night’s sleep. November 19 is the last included night of hotel; we’ll be back in Casablanca, where we spent the first night.

Departure details to be arranged; we will suggest some convenient flights. Plan flights HOME from CMN Casablanca, on November 20, anytime.

Sometime after the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book, complied by Cynthia, that will keep you dreaming of Morocco and your new friends!

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.

To sign up for the trip, click here for instructions and forms.
Email:  [email protected] if you have any questions.

Morocco art tile craft zellij mosaic

Tile mosaic (zellij) floor of palace, Marrakech.

Textiles of Morocco Tour Price:
$5750 for 18 nights

Note that maximum group size is 12. Please don’t buy air tickets until you are sure the trip has the minimum number of travelers; email us to ask.

Single Supplement: $ 995

  • Includes the following:
  • 18 nights accommodations: double occupancy, in charming riads (small villas with courtyards) and a comfortable Berber desert tent [1 night] and a centrally-located, modern hotel in Casablanca [2 nights].
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages with meals–except 2 lunches and 2 dinners on your own, so you can discover different eating places.
  • Licensed English-, French- and Arabic-speaking guide to accompany the group, with French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake.
  • All ground transportation by new Mercedes SPRINTER van with excellent, professional driver.
  •  7 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Bottled water in the van at all times.
  • Transportation to/from airport for arrival/departure on dates indicated. Extra charge on other dates.
  • TWO Hands-on Cooking classes with authentic, typical cuisine for lunch; one is in a private home.
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary.
  • Colorful custom photo book, created and sent after you get home.

Not included: Tips to guide and driver (we’ll suggest guidelines for this), four meals as listed on itinerary, any sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal bottled water and snacks. (Water included on van trips, and our meal servings are so generous that it’s a rare person that needs a snack!)

If you don’t want to join the cooking classes, the lunches included are 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!

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

(Click here for details on 2022 trip: September 7 -23, 2022.)

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.

Photo Credit: Tannery at Fes: Dreamstime.81298498. David Hall. Fes. Morocco

 

 

 

Textiles & Arts of Uzbekistan 2021

Uzbek school children visiting one mosaic-covered mausoleum of Emir Timur’s family. Bukhara.

Few spaces available!
October 6 – 21, 2021   •  
Fly home October 22.
or ad
d the
Kyrgyzstan Extension
October 22 – 28   •   Fly home October 28 or 29.

Cynthia with local women who asked for a group photo.

Our 16-night all-new textile and arts tour of Uzbekistan checks another fabulous adventure off your bucket list! Uzbek people are welcoming and generous, and the country is modern and safe. It was an important trade center on the Silk Route, the ancient trade route linking the Mediterranean to China. And Uzbek textiles are absolutely stunning. The country is home to exquisite, hand-embroidered suzanis and hand-dyed, handwoven ikat textiles, as well as four UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.

Cynthia and an expert in Uzbek textiles and culture will accompany our group during the trip to be sure we meet the most talented artisans and see the most stunning blue-tiled architecture. The weather will be pleasant in the fall, at this time of year.

Along the route, we will visit exquisite blue-tiled madrasas, mosques, and museums, as well as bustling markets and 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.

Prolific and talented embroiderer with father and babe.

Where we will go:

The trip begins and ends in the exciting and booming city of Tashkent. Arrive in Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, anytime on October 6. (You can also arrive a day earlier if you like.) 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. Later, you can spend the day relaxing, or perhaps go out with us to explore the markets. Big sycamores line the wide avenues and mosaic-decorated apartment blocks alternate with sleek new glass and steel edifices.

Suzani-style hand-embroidered pillows at a private shop.

In Tashkent’s old city, we’ll admire historical buildings with iconic turquoise-tiled domes, such as the 16th Barak-Khan Madrasa complex. We’ll also visit the home/studio of a famous embroiderer’s workshop and school, and see her beautiful jackets and other pieces.

We’ll be sure to see the Museum of Applied Arts which showcases some of the best historical artistic examples of the arts of Uzbekistan, in the mansion of the Imperial Russian diplomat Alexander Polovtsev. He commissioned the intricately decorated mansion expressly to display his extensive collections of unique handicrafts and textiles. 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 vintage ceramics, handmade rugs, and wood carvings are on display in the wondrous house with its colorfully decorated ceilings.

Cotton ikat yardage for sale at the Kumptea Bazaar, for less than $2 a meter.

Ferghana Valley of Ikat

Next we’ll head for the Ferghana Valley. Our route to Ferghana 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.

Margilan, an ancient Fergana Valley city, is home of glowing resist-warp dyed (ikat) fabrics, the most renowned of Uzbek textiles. Margilan town was already well-known in antiquity for the superb quality of silk created here. We’ll meet ikat dyers and weavers who are the most skilled in Central Asia. Over the course of our days there, we’ll visit ikat masters to see thread binders, weavers, and dyers. Stunning ceramic plates and bowls will be available at the master ceramicist’s studio we’ll visit. All the pieces are intricately hand-painted and the artists here are so welcoming.

 A highlight will be the Kumtepa Bazaar, one of the best places to buy inexpensive ikat fabrics (with resist-dyed warp) which are the most renowned textiles of Uzbekistan. It’s a great local market with an area devoted to local textile crafts. Here you can buy ikat yardage to make robes, quilts or pillows, and other textile treasures.

Silk warp threads hang in the boiling dye.

Later we’ll visit an ikat dyeing workshop and will see how the warp threads are tied to make the bold patterns once they are dyed and woven. We’ll visit the Yodgorlik Margilan silk factory, established in 1972. We’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished ikat. Today hundreds of people work there, and the visit is fascinating. Every month the factory produces several thousand yards of fabric including natural silk and silk blend fabric; narrow yardage about 18″ wide is produced by hand, or with clanking Soviet-era electric looms. There is also a good shop here with ready-made ikat coats and jackets.

Along the route to Ferghana, we’ll stop several times, for lunch and to visit the bakers slapping dough rounds onto the walls of fiery domed ovens, then pulling the crusty loaves off when done.

Samarkand

From Margilan we go back through Tashkent for one night then board the air-conditioned fast train to Samarkand.  Seasoned travelers consider Samarkand as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, not only for the stunning historical monuments but also for the tree-shaded avenues, great food, and lovely green city parks. Today it’s the third largest city in Uzbekistan.

Workers rinse newly-dyed ikat warp threads.

Once the capital, and an important trade stop along the Silk Road, Samarkand sits at the center of the country and is referred to as a crossroad of cultures. 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’ll visit the mausoleums of Shah-i-Zinda, where Tamerlane built elaborate tiled mosaic tombs for his favorite wives, his wet-nurse and his sisters, among others (top photo of school field trip). We can visit a silk carpet factory, the famous Afrosiab museum and the fascinating Observatory of astronomer, Ulughbek. We’ll see the towering tomb of Emir Timur (Tamerlane), founder of the Timurid Empire (top photo with Cynthia). Prominent landmarks include the iconic Registan, a plaza bordered by three ornate, majolica-covered madrasas dating to the 15th and 17th centuries.

The Registan Square is fun to visit at night when it is lit with floodlights and looking magical. Modern Samarkand is a unique city: it combines the spirit of modernity with 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 – as well as 21st c. towering modern glass and steel buildings.

The ‘perfect cube’ of sun-baked bricks; Ismael Samani Mausoleum.

Next stop Bukhara!

Next we’ll visit the ancient city of Bukhara, another UNESCO World Heritage site. Blue mosques and textile bazaars also abound in this fabulous historical city. 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 superb suzani collection will enthrall the embroidery lovers among us. The main building with its tall ceramic fireplaces houses treasures such as royal furniture of the 19th – 20th centuries, 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 citizens’ 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, above.

A vintage embroidered Suzani in the Suzani Museum.

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 skirt the Kyzylkum or Red Sand Desert, to see Khiva’s wondrous architecture and carpet knotters. 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.

Stamps used to decorate the traditional Uzbek tandoor bread.

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. Another visit in Khiva will be to the Khiva Suzani Center to see stunning embroidered examples from all over Uzbekistan.

Sacred Uzbek bread

Bread is considered sacred by Uzbek people. The traditional round and flat bread, called non or lepeshka, and is baked in a tandyr/tandoor (round 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 – typifies the Fergana Valley version. Some yummy lepeshkas are prepared with onion or meat baked inside the dough.

Bread sellers showing off decorative stamped designs.

Traditionally Uzbek dinner guests never cut bread with a knife. At the start of the meal, the youngest person breaks 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 cuisine as well as as the polite Uzbek way of dining.We’ll eat delicious food everywhere and learn about the local cuisine in at least one cooking class. The diet includes vegetable skewers, salads and dishes such as pilaf or plov, with beef or lamb. Skewers of grilled chicken or ground beef are popular and delicious. Vegetarians will have no trouble at all; many cheeses and fresh (and safe) salads such as grated carrots or beets with walnuts, or tomato and cucumber are popular and found in most restaurants. Delicious and refreshing cold yogurt soup with fresh dill and parsley is a common starter. Bread is divine and plentiful!

Man taking bread out of oven.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 hundreds of gorgeous suzanis and stunning ikat jackets or yardage, we’ll drive to nearby Urgench for early flights back to Tashkent (or to Bishkek for the EXTENSION). The rest of this day is free to explore Tashkent on your own — to see something you missed the first time, visit more museums, or visit the local Chorsu bazar to buy more bread stamps for your foodie friends. Or just relax at the hotel and pack up all your exquisite Uzbek textiles for the trip home. Lunch on your own. Pack up bags tonight, before our Farewell Dinner.

Flights home the next day.
Once you sign up and pay the deposit, we’ll send you the detailed itinerary and other information about the country and the tour.

ASK about the Kyrgyzstan Extension, after the Uzbekistan tour. The itinerary includes 6 nights and loads of textiles and fabulous scenery, completely different than Uzbekistan! We’ll send info if you are interested.

Trip Cost:  $4450

Single Supplement: $520

The 16-night tour cost includes:

  • 16 nights accommodation in double rooms with private bathrooms.
  • Expert Uzbek English-speaking textile expert guide.
  • All breakfasts in the hotels.
  • 15 Lunches and 15 Dinners (2 meals will be on your own)
  • Transportation by air-conditioned Minibus.
  • Entrance fees to all sites and monuments.
  • Flight from Urgench-Tashkent
  • All Tashkent airport transfers
  • Train travel between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand
    and Bukhara. Mini-bus to Khiva.
  • All train station transfers – Samarkand, Bukhara, etc.
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day; you buy more as needed.
  • 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)
  • Info about foods and typical dishes to come.

    Ikat yardage bought in Margilan market.

Bread stamps by Dreamstime © 45304376. Antonella 865
Baker: DT © Mariusz Prusaczyk
Photo #11 Bread Sellers DT © Evgeniy Fesenko
Map: ©Ontheworldmap.com

BALI – Tropical Textiles

Our pretty, tropical hotel near Denpasar.

TEXTILES OF BALI

June 12-24, 2022
Fly home on June 25.

Just the word “Bali” evokes a tropical paradise with swaying palm trees, balmy weather, friendly people, glorious beaches and stunning temples. Less known is the long history of textile and art production that we will experience on this 13-night trip. We’ll start in the bustling capital of Denpasar, and explore the island by private van, with art and textiles of Bali as our focus. Batik artists, weavers, painters and wood carvers will greet us to visit their studios and workshops. We’ll also see some fabulous traditional dancing and music, and the most important temples and museums.

Brown and rust double ikat cloth; Bali.

Double ikat cotton ceremonial cloth called Geringsing.

The trip is designed for everyone who loves handmade textiles and seeing different weaving processes. The heavenly food and lovely tropical hotels are a big plus! Quilters rejoice! You will find lots to exclaim over. You’ll not only have a chance to see and purchase a wide variety of Indonesian textiles but also you can load up on yards and yards of hand-dyed cotton or rayon batik cloth. In Denpasar, we’ll shop for oh-so-inexpensive Balinese batik quilt fabrics at a couple of places with incredible selections. You’ll also create your own yardage at a local batik mini-factory. In this workshop, we’ll stamp lengths of plain cloth with patterns, and dye with colors, of our choice.

Our wonderful Balinese guide for the trip.

Highlights:

Travel with a Balinese native, meeting the local artists.
Visit a traditional double ikat weaving village.
Stamp and dye your own Batik fabric.
Watch a traditional Balinese dance show.
Shop for an incredible selection of batik fabric.
Tour the Bali Provincial (ethnographic) Museum.
Learn to make Balinese dishes in our cooking class.
Design a batik cloth painting in our class.
Visit stunning temples; learn about their traditions.
Take weird photos at Upside Down World Bali.
Savor delicious dishes on our Street Food tour.
Optional, included: Workshop with silversmith to create your own silver ring.
Optional: Snorkeling will be possible in at least one place (boat fee not included),
and the last hotel of the trip is right on the beach for free time.

Weather

Chic prints for men and women, in cotton and rayon from Milo’s clothing company, temptingly close to our hotel in Seminyak.

Bali is about 600 miles south of the equator, so the weather is tropical – hot and gloriously sunny. Daylight continues for a cheery 12 hours, and daytime temperatures average between 80º F (27ºC) to 90º F (32ºC). It’s humid, so often it feels warmer. But the mountain areas are cooler, around 70º F (21ºC) to 80º F (27ºC). I have always felt the charm and beauty of the country make it worth the heat. The hotels have air-conditioning or good fan systems. Do bring a bathing suit because many of our hotels have lovely pools.

Bali’s tropical monsoon climate has two distinct seasons: dry (between May to September) and wet (between October to April). Monsoon refers to the wind, not the rain. However even in the wet monsoon, in this tropical paradise it is still likely to be sunny for much of the day.

May, June and July are generally considered to be the best time to travel to Bali in terms of the weather.

Hotel entrance in Balinese architecture style.

Typical Balinese architecture with protective deities at the entrance.

Textiles of Bali

The variety of weaving is stunning. The most common fabrication techniques by Balinese weavers are single and double ikat, supplementary weft and discontinuous weft. If these aren’t familiar terms, you’ll learn to distinguish cloth made with these methods as we observe weavers in several different locations.
And of course: Batik!  The best-known textile of Bali (and next-door Java) is the fine, silky cotton, hand-stamped, batik-dyed fabrics, prized by quilters the world over. We’ll print our own fabric, suitable for quilting or clothing too! And coming to the source ensures the best prices and best selection of course. We’ll have an optional shopping excursion in the capital of Denpasar to renowned shops with a stunning choice of Bali batik cotton or rayon, at great prices.

Geringsing

And in the east, we’ll watch weavers aligning the pre-patterned threads to weave the famous rust and ecru double ikat called geringsing, pictured above. Both men and women wear long pieces of it for traditional ceremonies.

The labor-intensive double ikat process, and the fact that geringsing is produced in only one village, make it one of the rarest and most valuable of Indonesian textiles. Geringsing cloths are characterized by bold, highly intricate patterns in white, morinda red, and indigo-blue-black colors produced from natural dyes. Geringsing literally means “against sickness” in Balinese. The cloth is believed to have protective qualities and magical power and thus is used ceremonially as offerings or clothing.

Blue-green cotton printed cloth in Bali.We’ll visit the Museum Negeri Propinsi.
Here vast collections of ethnographic displays include classical paintings from East Bali, and treasures such as antique textiles, wayang kulit shadow puppets, theatrical masks, costumes and musical instruments.

The spiritual aspect of the small island of Bali also makes a visit extra special. Around every corner are carved stone deities and temples set in lush grounds. You’ll marvel at the intricately woven and carefully arranged food offerings for the gods, and the guide will further enlighten us as to the significance of the spiritual objects and temple ceremonies.

“Hinduism and Buddhism reached Bali sometime in the first millennium, after the appearance of ‘Indianized’ kingdoms in Sumatra and Java. These religions blended with native animism and ancestor worship, and with a profound respect for the mountains, rivers, caves and other natural features found in abundance on this island. The need for balance between humanity, the unseen world of the gods and spirits, and the environment – a concept called tri hita karana – is at the core of modern Balinese Hindu philosophy and practice.” (From Threads of Life, Ubud, Bali)

Typiucal dinner of rice and vegetables in Bali, Indonesia.

Typical healthy lunch of rice and vegetables plus condiments.

Tour Price: $4095

Single Supplement $550

INCLUDES:

  • 13 nights in beautiful tropical hotels with pool, double/twin rooms.
  • Travel by private van with professional driver.
  • Airport transportation on arrival/departure days, June 12 and June 25.
  • All meals (your choice from menus) except 2 dinners & 2 lunches on your own.
  • Occasional buffets, or picnic lunches on the road.
  • All breakfasts in hotels.
  • All non-alcoholic soft drinks and water with meals.
  • Cynthia Samake at the Tanah Lot temple, Bali.

    Cynthia in Denpasar at Tanah Lot Temple by the sea.

    Entrance to all sites and museums.

  • Visit to double ikat weaving village.
  • Bottled water on road trips.
  • Private batik fabric printing workshop.
  • Private batik painting workshop.
  • Ikat textile weaving and dyeing demonstration.
  • Two gourmet Balinese cooking classes; lunch.
  • Textile expert Cynthia Samake to accompany the itinerary.
  • Maximum group size 12 people.

Note that Travel and Trip Cancellation insurance is mandatory on all trips.

Not Included:

International airfare, alcoholic beverages, tips for driver,  and any fees for other activities you choose to do but which are not not on the itinerary.
Snorkeling is optional, (about $90 to go out with the boat or free with rented equipment [$] from the beach).

Green rice terraces where the Balinese staple food is produced.

Typical scenery of stunning green terraced rice fields.

All photos ©Cynthia LeCount Samake unless listed.
Geringsing photo: www.threadsoflife.com, Ubud, Bali.
Plate of lunch by Simon Gurney; Dreamstime.

 

 

 

TURKEY: Off Beaten Path 2022

 

Balanced stone shapes form the gate to Blaundos.

We’ll visit this interesting and little-known ancient city site in western Turkey.

Rug vendor holds up a handmade blue carpet.

Carpet vendor holds up handmade tapestry rug; Konya.

March 27 – April 13, 2022.
Fly home April 14, 2022.
Scroll down for price. 

2 spaces left!

Off the Beaten Path Tour Highlights:

  • 18-night textile, archeology and cuisine tour, to some fascinating, less-visited areas.
  • Begins and ends in Istanbul; see trip map at the bottom of page.
  • Explore 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites! Ephesus, Çatalhüyük, Hattuşa, Byzantine churches, and more.
  • Watch artisans as they knot and weave carpets in several workshops.
  • Shop in the famous Grand Bazaar for crafts and textiles.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.
  • Tour historic Ottoman homes; see vintage textiles & clothing.
  • Whip up a Turkish meal in a private home cooking class.
  • Float over Cappadocia in a hot air balloon!
  • Sample all the authentic Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • See unusual archeological sites in remote areas.
  • Watch the women make tiny needlework flowers for scarves.
  • Visit active archeological sites and famous museums such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey. (I’ll give you a cheat-sheet!)

Trip Details

We’ll fly in to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Turkish Airlines and others do this efficiently; we’ll send flight suggestions later. Hopefully our visit will coincide with the beginning of tulip blooming season so we can revel in the millions of blooms planted around the city. Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. For our UNESCO site visit of historic Istanbul, we’ll have a local specialist guide to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque.

We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque. The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry.
Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now very pleasant. In the bazaar, there is a fabulous restaurant owned by some friends, where we’ll have lunch. We may also be able to see a friend’s upscale textile gallery near the hotel.

 

Ottoman era homes in old Safranbolu.

After two nights in Istanbul we’ll meet up with our excellent guide and driver and head east into rural Turkey to begin our ‘off the beaten path’ adventure!

Safranbolu

The UNESCO-designated town of Safranbolu is our first stop. From the 13th century to the advent of the railway in the early 20th century, Safranbolu was an important caravan station on the main East–West trade route. The Old Mosque, Old Bath and Süleyman Pasha Medrese were built in 1322. Safranbolu enjoyed great prosperity as a trading center. As a result, it set a standard in public and domestic architecture, with its apogee in the 17th century. The Safranbolu Ottoman styles exercised great influence on urban development over a large area of the Ottoman Empire.

The old Çarşı district contains hundreds of preserved, red-roofed Ottoman houses on cobblestone streets. Cinci Han is a 17th-century caravansary with rooftop views over town. Nearby, Tarihi Cinci Hamam is a restored 17th-century bathhouse, still in operation. You may decide to experience a traditional Turkish soak and scrub!

Lion's gate at Hattusha ruins UNESCO site.

Ancient lion gate at Hattusa.

Safranbolu is famous for saffron of course, and Turkish jelly candy called lokum. We’ll take time to explore the old part of the city with lots of saffron and lokum shops, and we’ll sleep in a traditional Ottoman home-turned-hotel.

Hattusha

Continuing eastward, we come to Bogazkale, and our next destination: Hattusha (Hattuşa), the Hittite capital. The Hittites were an ancient group of Indo-Europeans who moved into Asia Minor and formed an empire at Hattusa in Anatolia (modern Turkey) around 1600 BC. The Bronze Age site consists of the Hittite city area  and the rock sanctuary of Yazılıkaya among other sections.

A monumental enclosure wall about 8 km in length surrounds the whole city. Archeologists from Germany and Turkey cooperated to uncover a large variety of buildings such as temples, palaces and dwellings, but also technical and communal installations such as large buried granaries and artificial water ponds. These discoveries have given access to one of the most fascinating ancient cities of the Near and Middle East. The site is impressive and this visit will add another puzzle piece to our view of the complex history of Turkey!

Room at our lovely cave hotel.

Cappadocia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadocia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

We’ll also visit a carpet gallery in Urgup to learn about local styles and techniques. Here most of the women will be knotting lengths of wool for pile rugs. But as we travel around the country, we’ll see them making rugs using regionally characteristic techniques, patterns and colors. We’ll see how they knot a pile rug and weave a kilim with discontinuous weft, or wrap the warp for the cicim  (jijim) technique.

One day in Cappadocia will be spent exploring the astonishing eroded rock shapes and valleys that make the area famous. In one valley of spires and “fairy chimneys” is a large group of fascinating Byzantine-era cave churches, excavated from the soft volcanic tufa stone.

Landscape in Capadocia is even more exciting from the air; Goreme, Turkey.

Exciting hot air balloon ride over the dramatic landscape of Goreme.

It is believed that the first signs of monastic activity in Cappadocia date to the 4th century when hermit-monks lived in rooms dug out of the tufa rock formations. Later, in order to resist Arab invasions, people began banding together and hiding in underground villages which served as places of refuge. They also needed to worship in concealed churches hollowed out of the rock. Though interesting from a geological and ethnological point of view, the incomparable beauty of the decor of these Christian rock-cut churches makes Cappadocia one of the leading examples of the post-iconoclastic Byzantine art period.

Uchisar town at sunset, Cappadocia.

The density of Cappadocia’s cave-houses, secret churches, and subterranean cities within the rock formations make it one of the world’s most striking and largest cave-dwelling complexes. We’ll clamber up stairs to see some of these churches; the saints’ portraits are colorful and superbly decorated.

In Cappadocia you can soar over amazing, eroded stone landscapes on the highly recommended (and included) hot air balloon ride. The balloons float safely and silently over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the unusual “fairy chimney” volcanic formations.

Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.) From Cappadocia, we’ll drive west to Konya. It’s famous for beautiful flat-weave wool rugs (in discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique), and it has an interesting bazaar and shops in the old town area.

Red and Navy USAK carpet from Metropolotan Museum, NYC. Creative Commons Zero license.

Antique Usak carpet of type made famous in the 16th C by European painters. The designs are still made today.

Konya

Konya is also famous as the home of famous Sufi poet, Rumi. His mausoleum is a pilgrimage site and a fascinating museum. Several stunning mosques and madrasas (traditional Koranic schools) make Konya an interesting place to visit. We’ll also go out of town to see the remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhöyük. There are ongoing excavations and new displays; it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and believed to be the oldest city in the world!

“The taller eastern mound [at Çatalhöyük] contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.” (UNESCO)

From Konya, we will head northwest to Afyonkarahisar for lunch and a view of an abandoned, empty castle on top of the outcropping that dominates the town. Then we’ll continue to Uşak to see the carpets for which it is famous, and a nearby ancient city site that is little-visited but fascinating. Archeologists continue to excavate the site which features the largest known rock-tomb necropolis in Anatolia. A temple, theater, stadium, a colonnaded street and well-preserved city walls are other features of the city. Recently discovered lengthy inscriptions on thick stone pillars in the bath building have thrilled archeologists.

Selçuk and Ephesus

Separating saffron strands from the purple crocus flowers; Safranbolu.

Then we’ll head west to the pretty town of Selçuk (close to Izmir). We’ll visit the hilltown village of Sirince and have lunch at a friend’s country restaurant. Sirince is popular with tourists but still has a charming ambiance and interesting little shops that sell the local wine, baklava and handmade textiles. The famous archaeological site of Ephesus is next to the modern-day town of Selçuk. It is different from the other archeological sites we have seen. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and an amphitheater capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Selçuk also has a number of interesting shops with carpets and interesting crafts on a tranquil pedestrian street in the old part of town. And before we head back to Istanbul, we’ll drive out of Selçuk one day, to attend the local weekly market in a charming town where the women make scarves called yazma, with little flowery oya edging. These were typically worn by women all over Turkey, but yazma are worn more in the countryside nowadays. The little flowers traditionally served as a language to convey feelings that couldn’t be openly expressed, such as ‘I’m not getting along with my mother-in-law, or I’m feeling sad and lonely,’ and so forth.

Back to Istanbul

And finally, we’ll take a quick flight from Izmir back to Istanbul in the late afternoon. The next day in Istanbul (April 13) is a free day – yours to explore the city, see something new, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps walk to the nearby hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or ask a taxi man to drop you off at the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. You might want to check out The Archeology Museum (an easy walk from our hotel) or the Yerebatan Cistern, right at the end of our street. Or on this free day, you might want to return to admire the Blue Mosque or just wander this beautiful city and see how many tulips are blooming – your choice.

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

(Lunch will be on your own, and we’ll regroup in the evening for our Farewell Dinner at the hotel.)

I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs. We could also drop in at the yarn bazaar (if we didn’t go earlier) where they sell mostly acrylics but it’s fascinating to see. And/or we could visit the place that sells loads of needle-worked flowery scarf trims. These can be added to a commercial scarf if you are handy with a needle! (Lunch on your own on the 13th.)

(Last included night of hotel is April 13.)

Pack up and organize for flights home tomorrow, April 14. The hotel will arrange departure transport to the airport for you. Good-bye to Turkey!

PRICE: $6285

Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights accommodations (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones, when best available.)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide accompanying trip with Cynthia.
  • All meals – except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • All non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran yoghurt drink, water, cherry juice called vişne.)
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants; see Food Notes below.*
  • Interior flight from Izmir to Istanbul.
  • Hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia’s surreal landscape.
  • All ground transportation by private Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Bottled water available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on official arrival date (March 27).
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home
  • Entrance to all six UNESCO sites on the itinerary: Çatalhüyük ancient city, Byzantine cave churches, Ephesus, etc.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return home.

    Route for Turkey 2022 tour.

    Map of the route for 2022 trip.

Not included: Turkish visa fee (around $20 for U.S.), departure airport transportation for flight home from Istanbul; airport transportation for early arrivals, alcoholic drinks, and guide and driver tips (suggested guidelines to come).

Typical scarves edged with needlework flowers called oya.

FOOD NOTES: Occasionally the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious homestyle Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family-style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians will find usually find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably.

Vegan diets will be more difficult, but salads are available in many places, and pilaf dishes. Many typical Turkish dishes have a small amount of minced meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. They also eat lots of shish-kebabs of chicken or beef, but not huge chunks of meat like American steaks. More on food later.

Tile rooftops of the Hamam (bath house) in Safranbolu.

Be sure to check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.

Photo Credits: Copyright Cynthia Samake except the following:
Dreamstime.com: Saffron Safranbolu crocus flowers; Mturhanlar
Cappadocia Uchisar hill; Xantana.
Blaundos ruins; Emiralikokal.
Hattusha Lion Gate, Selçuk Koc.
Grand Bazaar by Evren Kalinbacak.
Usak Carpet: Metropolitan Museum NYC, Creative Commons Zero license.
Ephesus Celsus Library: WikiCommons, Binh.
MAP: Rome2Rio.com

TURKEY: Textiles & Tulips

 

Rug vendors. Steven Chun photo.

TOUR DATES:  April 15 – 30, 2022.
Fly home May 1, 2022. Two spaces available!

Scroll down for price.

Highlights of Turkey: Textiles & Tulips Tour

Cynthia prints her scarf under the watchful eye of the master YAZMA printer.

  • 16-night textile and cuisine tour, begins and ends in Istanbul.
  • See the breathtaking Blue Mosque, and Hagia Sophia, now a mosque again.
  • Stamp a traditional block-printed scarf in our workshop.
  • Visit the Byzantine-era cave churches in Cappadocia.
  • Watch artisans knot carpets, make needlework flowers, and print cloth.
  • Tour famous museums and archeological sites such as Topkapi Palace.
  • Shop in bazaars and markets for handmade rugs and textiles.
  • See authentic Ottoman costumes and clothing at the Ullumay Museum.
  • Visit UNESCO Greco-Roman site of Ephesus.
  • Meet a Turkish family for a cooking class of authentic local dishes.
  • Hike in the Ballica Cave nature park and visit the stunning cave.
  • Sample all the amazing Turkish foods in each region we visit.
  • Learn about the complex and fascinating history of Turkey.
  • Explore the traveler-friendly town of Bursa and the Koza Han Bazaar.

Trip Details

We’ll fly from home to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities in the world! Hopefully our visit will coincide with tulip blooming season so we can revel in the million blooms planted around the city, one bulb for each Istanbul city inhabitant.

Some of the millions of spring tulips in Istanbul.

Our pretty hotel is located in the heart of historical Istanbul, two blocks from world-famous architectural and cultural treasures. We’ll have a local Turkish guide (expert in Istanbul) to tell us about treasures such as the exquisite Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, and Topkapi Palace of the Sultans. We’ll also visit the nearby Hagia Sophia, and learn its complex story as the superb building was changed from church, to mosque to museum and most recently, back to a mosque.

The Grand Bazaar is within easy walking distance to the hotel so we’ll familiarize ourselves with the easy route to that shopping mecca of art, rugs, textiles and jewelry. Vendors are no longer pushy like in the past; bazaar edicts encouraged a more laid-back attitude and vendors are now pleasant. I have several favorite places to look at textiles in the Grand Bazaar, and we will have lunch with old friends in their restaurant in the bazaar.

Block-Printing Center

Next we’ll fly east, meet our guide for the whole trip, driver and van, and take off into the Turkish countryside. First stop is a small and charming, traditional riverside town with historic architecture. Our hotel is right at the river in a picturesque location. Next day, in a town known for woodblock-printing,  we’ll have a private printing workshop. The master printer will show us how to stamp cotton scarves (above), called yazma–using your choice of the hand-carved wood-blocks traditional to the area. We’ll savor the local foods, including a famous and delicious regional dish called manti, teeny filled tortellini-like pasta shapes.

Nighttime vew of our Cave hotel in Cappadocia.

In this area we’ll walk through and explore one of Turkey’s tentative UNESCO sites: the beautiful Ballica Cave. “…the Ballıca cave provides geological and geomorphologic richness with its unique onion stalactites, well-developed curtain travertines, settling ponds and column structures. It’s unlike other caves because of the huge variety of different stalactites, stalagmites and other formations.

Cappadoccia

Continuing south, we head to the Cappadoccia area with its dramatic eroded landscape. There we’ll sleep peacefully near Urgup village, in cozy rooms at our unique and delightful cave hotel, right. In our cooking class in a village home, we will learn to make delicious traditional dishes, perhaps bouerek or dolma, with fresh local, organic ingredients.

Delicious authentic dish called Manti, my favorite!

The geological history of the area is fascinating. After the eruption of Mount Erciyes about 2.6 million years ago, ash and lava formed soft rocks in the Cappadocia Region, covering a region of about 20,000 square kilometres (7,700 sq mi). The softer rock was eroded by wind and water, leaving the hard cap rock on top of pillars, forming the present-day (phallus-shaped) ‘fairy chimneys.’

You can have the amazing experience in Cappadoccia of silently gliding over these sensational, eroded tufa stone landscapes in a hot air balloon (optional). Manned by an expert Balloon Pilot, the balloons float safely and quietly over the area, offering the passengers unparalleled views of the “fairy chimney” volcanic formations! Contrary to expectations, the early morning ride is not freezing cold; passengers are kept toasty warm by the balloon heaters. (Anyone not ballooning may sleep in, as the balloon crew leaves at 6am and returns for breakfast around 9am.)

Hand-block printed scarves crated by 2011 group.

YAZMA selection printed by BTSA travelers.

Thousands of years ago, the people realized that these soft rocks could be easily carved out to form houses, churches, and monasteries with cells for monks. One day we’ll visit the fascinating rock-cut churches of the Goreme Open Air Museum. These 9th and 10th century Christian sanctuaries are beautifully painted with saints’ images, often called frescos.

But instead of the fresco method (painting on wet plaster), cave church artists used the technically more simple secco method. This means the pictures were painted on dry plaster.* These pictures are less durable because the color is only a thin external layer, not part of the wall. The churches contain many examples of Byzantine art from the post-iconoclastic period, depicting scenes from the life of Christ. The icons of Christ Pantocrator in the churches, dating to 850–1100 AD, are among the oldest surviving artistic depictions of Jesus. Dark Church (Göreme) features the finest images of Christ Pantocrator in Cappadocia. Bright and penetrating, they appear in three consecutive domes. All the secco images are a unique artistic achievement from this tumultuous period.

Room at our cozy cave hotel in Capadoccia.

From Cappadoccia, we’ll drive west and visit remains of the fascinating ancient city of Çatalhuyuk, believed to be the oldest city in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage site:  “The taller eastern mound contains eighteen levels of Neolithic occupation between 7400 BC and 6200 BC, including wall paintings, reliefs, sculptures and other symbolic and artistic features. Together they testify to the evolution of social organization and cultural practices as humans adapted to a sedentary life. Çatalhöyük provides important evidence of the transition from settled villages to urban agglomeration, which was maintained in the same location for over 2,000 years. It features a unique street-less settlement of houses clustered back to back with roof access into the buildings.”

Textiles of Turkey

Amazingly tiny and detailed needle-worked flowers trim scarves in Turkey..

Tiny and colorful handmade needle-worked flowers called oya, ready to buy and stitch onto scarves.

Turkey is famous for exquisite carpets and kilims, historical regional dress of infinite variety, and remarkable little flower edgings on the hand block-printed scarves. Everywhere we go, we’ll explore museums, studios and workshops to see examples of these brilliant creations.

Besides making our own hand block-printed cotton scarves, we’ll see rugs being knotted in Cappadocia. And in Konya, we’ll search out the beautiful flat-weave (discontinuous weft, kilim, or tapestry technique) rugs they are famous for.

Pide with toppings, puffy bread, and other delicious Turkish foods.

Konya is also the home of famous Sufi poet Rumi and we will visit his mausoleum. From Konya, we will head for the charming town of Selcuk to see the famous archaeological site of Ephesus. This UNESCO site was an ancient Greek city, built in the 10th century BC. The city flourished after it came under the control of the Roman Republic in 129 BC. Ephesus was famed for the nearby Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus (below), and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators.

Later, we’ll drive north to Bursa, where we stay in a cozy hotel in the old town. There we’ll visit the country’s best textile museum with its many fully-accessorized mannequins in traditional dress from all over Turkey. We’ll also visit the old silk cocoon market in a wonderful building called Koza Han, with its hundreds of scarves and textile shops. There you’ll meet some antique textile dealers who will show us the incredible embroidery and needle lace in their collections. Prices here range from moderate to expensive, but there are textiles to buy here that are not found elsewhere.

Back to Istanbul

Celsus Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, Turkey, UNESCO site.

Library at the ancient Greek/Roman city of Ephesus, another UNESCO site.

Then we’ll take a modern ferry back to Istanbul to see more of that exciting city. Lunch on the ferry is on your own. Later we’ll see the excellent Archeology Museum (near our hotel) and a friend’s upscale textile gallery. Our final day in Istanbul is yours to see something new in the city, or return to a favorite place. Perhaps try a hamam for a sudsy scrubdown, or visit the exquisite Chora Church with its stunning frescoes – called the Byzantine marvel of Istanbul. Or you might return to admire the Blue Mosque or see other stunning architectural wonders of the city – your choice. I’m always happy to return to the Grand Bazaar with whoever wants to shop for final souvenirs and also stop by the place that sells needle-worked flowery scarf trims, above.

Lunch on your own this day; there are many restaurants within walking distance from the hotel where we can have lunch. Farewell Dinner with group at our Sultanahmet hotel. Pack up and organize for flights home. (Last included night of hotel is April 30.)

Fly HOME: MAY 1.    Be sure you check out the Photo Gallery of TURKEY here.

Tour Price:  $ 5320
12 people maximum.
Single Supplement: $850

Includes the following:

  • 16 nights accommodations, (double occupancy, in charming boutique hotels, or good modern ones when necessary)
  • English-speaking, licensed, professional Turkish native guide
  • All meals –except 2 lunches and 2 dinners.
  • Unless a meal is family-style, you may order your choice of dishes in restaurants.*
  • Non-alcoholic beverages with meals (tea, coffee, ayran [yoghurt drink], water, cherry juice, etc.)
  • Interior flight to Samsun.
  • All ground transportation by private, high-top Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver
  • Wood-block printing lesson in Tokat; Turkey.Bottled water always available in the van for road trips.
  • Transportation from airport to hotel on set arrival date.
  • Museum visits to see the textiles and archeology of Turkey.
  • Cooking class and lunch in a private home.
  • Entrance to all historical sights on the itinerary such as Çatalhuyuk ancient city, Ephesus, etc.
  • Private Tokat scarf printing workshop with your creation to take home.
  • SPECIAL! Photo book of your adventure once you return.

Not included: Turkish visa fee [$50 for U.S.]; free-day optional activities, airport transportation for early arrivals, departure transportation, guide and driver tips (we will give you guidelines), and optional hot-air balloon ride [pay around $200 directly to the balloon company]. Most hotels have complementary bottled water and free internet.

FOOD NOTE: Occasionally in a restaurant, the guide will order a generous selection of different dishes so you can taste everything, to familiarize yourself with delicious home-style Turkish cuisine. And sometimes in a family style home-based restaurant, everyone will be served a delicious set meal. At these events, vegetarians who can be a bit flexible will find enough vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pasta to survive quite comfortably! But many typical Turkish dishes do include meat, such as stuffed eggplant or stuffed peppers and zucchini. Kebabs of eggplant, tomatoes and onions are common alongside the chicken and beef kebabs. More on food later.

*Excellent website on the churches and history of Cappadocia with tips for the church visitors. Information on frescos and seccos and websites below by Jason Borges.

https://www.cappadociahistory.com/post/goreme-open-air-museum

https://www.cappadociahistory.com/post/10-pro-tips-for-church-visitors

For more information, E-mail Cynthia: [email protected]
or call 707-939-8874.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Textiles of Uzbekistan 2022

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

Two trips for 2022:

May 3 – 18, 2022
Arrive May 3, depart for home May 19.

The MAY trip is full.

October 14 – 29, 2022
Arrive October 14, depart for home Oct. 30.

The OCTOBER trip is full.
E-mail to join the waiting lists for either tour. 
Maximum is 12 travelers.

Our 16-night all-new textile tours of Uzbekistan check another fabulous adventure off your bucket list! Scroll to the end for COST and SIGN UP INFO.

Email for itinerary and info about the 7-night Extension to Kyrgyzstan.
May 19 – 25, 2022 OR October 30 – November 5, 2022

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 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 textile masters and see the most beautiful weaving and embroidery.

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. Later we’re off by fast train to Samarkand. 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. Blue mosques and textile bazaars also abound in this fabulous historical city. Later we drive to Khiva, skirting the Kyzylkum or Red Sand Desert, to see its wondrous architecture and carpet knotters. Then we head back to Tashkent, with luggage full of wonderful treasures and heads swirling with unforgettable memories!

Trip Details:

We’ll fly into Tashkent, the Uzbek capital. The guide and I will meet you at the airport then we’ll check in to our hotel. There you can spend the rest of the day relaxing, or go out with us to explore the neighborhood. We may visit the modern building of the 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 its superb quality of silk. Over the course of four days here, 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. 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/market 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 and the textile bazaar. A highlight will be the silk factory where we’ll witness the entire process from silkworm’s cocoon to the finished elegant and glowing 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 but chicken is widely available too.

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 cuisine 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 gorgeous suzanis and stunning ikats, we’ll drive to nearby Urgench for early flights back to Tashkent. The rest of this day is free to explore Tashkent 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. Flights home the next day or continue to Kyrgyzstan.

Ask about 7-night Extension to Kyrgyzstan after Uzbekistan trip.

Trip Cost:  $4750

Single Supplement: $600

SIGN UP HERE:  https://btsadventures.com/sign-up/
QUESTIONS? Email to Cynthia:  [email protected]

The tour cost includes:

  • Air conditioned Minibus with 24 seats
  • 16 nights accommodation in double rooms with private facilities.
  • Expert local textile specialist guide.
  • All breakfasts in the hotels.
  • Entrance fee to all sites and monuments.
  • Flight Urgench-Tashkent
  • All Tashkent airport transfers
  • Fast-Train travel in modern carriages between Tashkent and Samarkand, Samarkand and Bukhara, and Bukhara to Khiva.
  • Transfers Samarkand railway station to downtown.
  • Transfers Bukhara railway station.
  • 1 liter of bottled water per person per day.
  • 16 Lunches and 14 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)

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 and Temples of Bhutan 2022

            December 4 – 18, 2022

Dancer at a tsechu or Buddhist festival.

Join us on a fabulous 15-night textile tour of Bhutan to see exquisite weaving, pristine wilderness and stunning Buddhist temple monasteries! (December 18 is the last included night of hotel; we’ll fly to New Delhi to connect with homeward flights on December 19. Details later.)

Bhutan and COVID19:
The Kingdom of Bhutan has had only ONE death during the whole pandemic so far, because the King firmly closed the borders on March 12, 2020. And Bhutan has had impressive success with their COVID vaccination program; the great majority of the people have had at least one shot. Vaccination teams even went by helicopter or slogged through snow to protect the people in the highest, most remote villages.

Traveling from west to east, our group will start out by meeting in New Delhi (or Bangkok), and conquer our jet-lag with a night there before flying to Paro. And the Bhutan adventure begins!

This trip reflects authentic Bhutan. We’ll attend two fabulous festivals called tshechus which the local people attend, showing off their best handwoven, traditional clothing. Costumed monks perform didactic Buddhist legends, wearing carved wooden masks and brilliantly embroidered outfits. One festival takes place in a town, the other in rural highland village, so the different experiences will be fascinating. Travelers on the previous  tours loved the ultra-decorated buildings, the crisp air, the festival dancers, the dark green forests, and the stunning handwoven clothing. And we’ll meet warmhearted people, stay in pretty hotels, and eat delicious new foods.

I’ve traveled to sixty-odd countries and NOWHERE have I seen weaving as fine and intricate (and labor-intensive) as in Bhutan! We’ll visit many textile centers around the country, each with a distinctive style and motifs. Lunch and tea with several weaver families will give us an insight into their techniques and dye materials too.

Bhutan weaver working at a slanted loom.Already reserved for 2021 are the guide and driver that I love to travel with. These two are charismatic and cheerful, and they go far beyond their usual job descriptions to make our trip delightful. They’ll make us laugh as they tell personal stories about their families, traditions  and customs. Scroll down to see their profiles here: Trip Leaders.

Land of Happiness

Bhutan is a small landlocked country in the eastern Himalayas, with a progressive young king, and a beautiful queen who promotes the traditional textiles and weaving.

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.

The Punakha Dzong or temple complex.

As we travel, we’ll traverse lush rice paddies in the valleys, and hills covered with thick forests. Because of an avid Forest Management program, protected blue pine, spruce and cypress forests cover over 70% of the country. Bhutan’s government did not allow outsiders to visit for centuries, but now the people welcome travelers. The infrastructure of Bhutan improves annually, thus there are now better roads and hotels than in past years.

Trip Highlights

We’ll visit both Paro to see the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and Thimpu, the capital. There we’ll visit the excellent and modern Textile Museum, started by one of the Queens in the Royal Family. Then we’ll check out a weaving center, and the Handicrafts Center where they sell various crafts plus handwoven fabrics.

Then we’ll head east to the less-traveled part of Bhutan. We’ll visit several large towns along the way, 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 handwoven textiles of Bhutan. In the east we’ll attend a festival or tsechu, with masked dancers in brilliant embroidered costumes.

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

Tiger’s Nest Monastery clings to the cliff side.

Tiger Nest’s Monastery Details

Naturally we must 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 Paro 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 Rinpoche flew from Tibet to this steep cliff on the back of a tigress, thus giving it the name “Tiger’s Nest.”

Cynthia in Bhutan on horse.

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

The trek to the monastery 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, if you decide not to hike all the way up.

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 rocky path.) 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 (spiced tea), and staring upward at the beautiful structures on the cliff.

It’s necessary for everyone to hike back down from the tea house 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 Mother of Bhutan  created The Royal Textile Academy that we will visit in Thimpu. She 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 often the men who embroider and appliqué items such as temple hangings, saddle covers, shoes, hats, and ceiling canopies.

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

Women dance in traditional hand-woven kira.

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 below of our guide and friend in gho with bulging front pouches.

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.

Bhutn textile tour knitting at the Pass         BTSA knitters at the high pass!

Weaving

We’ll visit many weaving households and some larger weaving organizations in various towns. Also, 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 Buddhist celebrations that we will attend.

As they weave, the women pick up warp threads with a pointed stick or their fingers, and interweave the weft in complex designs.  The technique sometimes involves wrapping or twining 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 (above) can take almost a year to weave, a very intricate piece can cost several thousand dollars. Belts are stunning too, and more 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!

Fly home in the evening on December 19; details and suggested flights to come.

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

Monks at a festival in Trashigang.

TOUR COST:  $4850
 15 nights
Single Supplement:  $750

  • Includes visa for Bhutan (see below)
  • All accommodations: 15 nights in comfortable hotels in double/twin rooms with private bath
  • All meals  (often buffets in our hotels) and picnic lunches in villages
  • All soft drinks and bottled water with meals
  • Airport transfers for arrival and departure flights
  • Short domestic flight TBA depending on final festival itinerary
  • English-speaking Bhutanese licensed guide during the trip
  • All in-country ground travel by good Toyota van with professional driver
  • Bottled water available in the van at all times and roadside tea breaks
  • Horseback transport to Tiger’s Nest Monastery tea house
  • Entrance to all museums and sites on the itinerary
  • An 8″ x 11″ photo book documenting your trip
Men in traditional gho.

Dorji and Sonam show off their typical gho.

Not included: International airfare, INDIA visa, alcoholic beverages, *tips for guide and driver (count on about $150-200 total for both), personal items such as laundry charges and any between-meal snacks or drinks.

Plan your flights to arrive in NEW DELHI on December 4, in the morning if possible. We will meet you at the Delhi airport with a sign with your name! Details about flight possibilities will be sent as soon as available after you sign up.

VISAS

We will arrange the BHUTAN visas for you; the cost is included. You will need to send BTSA a scanned colored copy of your passport which will be sent to the Bhutan agent handling the visas. When we enter the country at Paro, they scan your passport and you are already in the System! Bravo, Bhutan!

YOU will need a MULTIPLE ENTRY VISA for India; cost not included. Wait on this one; the visa requirements change often, but are easily fulfilled. Once you sign up, you will be sent the website link to get your one-year INDIA e-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; you can do this any soon as long as you won’t need your passport for about 2 weeks; they are quite fast and generally efficient. More info about visas and how to apply once you have signed up.

All photos by Cynthia except festival with masked cat by Shutterstock. Tiger’s Nest, and me on a horse, by Sudhir Joshi, who traveled with me to Bhutan the first time.

 

Textiles & Arts: Morocco 2022

September 7 – 23, 2022  Depart for home on September 24.

Highlights: This 17-night trip focuses on textiles and arts of Morocco but also emphasizes architecture, culture and cuisine. And we’ll take in 8 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Travelers are very welcome in Morocco; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors.

This trip takes you behind-the-scenes with a small group of friendly people to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality. The itinerary is special because although we visit justifiably popular sites like Marrakech and Fes, we’ll also spend time in authentic Berber villages and in the Atlas Mountain regions. We’ll meet Berber women making rugs, have a cooking class with a local family, admire the date palm plantations and buy dates from the farmers in this beautiful region.

Girls look over books in a new Olive Seed library in a remote Moroccan village; We will take books and visit.

Charming and comfortable hotels called riads, or kasbahs in the desert, will be our home bases. As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled ksars, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. Moroccan food is divine, in case you aren’t familiar with it. In cooking classes, we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include salads, vegetable dishes, crusty bread and tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide (a bit of a foodie himself!) will show us the best places to eat, the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Trip Details:

We’ll start this marvelous adventure by flying in to legendary Casablanca. We’ll meet you at the Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 7. We’ll check in to the hotel, and get a good night’s rest. (At the end of the trip, we’ll return to Casablanca, enjoy a Farewell Dinner and stay our last night before flying out on September 24.)

Next day we’ll visit the fabulous Hassan II Mosque, at seaside Casablanca. The mosaics inside and outside are exquisite and the statistics of this enormous construction are stunning: It is the second largest mosque in Africa and its minaret is the world’s second tallest at 210 meters. It can hold 25,000 people, has heated floors, and a roof that glides opens to the sky on warm days during crowded holidays. We’ll have a specialized guide for our mosque visit and she’ll explain it all.

Painting by talented Essaouiran artist Youness Touil.

 

Essaouira to Marrakech

Next, we’ll hop in our Sprinter and drive south along the coast to El Jadida, an old Portuguese fortress town. The most exciting feature of the old part is the underground cistern with its striking mirror reflections between the water and the columns. Later we’ll arrive at the artists’ town of Essaouira. Our hotel is right above the ocean so you’ll have crashing waves to lull you to sleep.

My favorite painting in my home is by the young Youness Touil of Essaouira; we will visit the renowned gallery where his works and many others are shown, right. Essaouira was famous as a hippies’ artist retreat decades ago, and Frédéric Damgaard, a Danish art historian, first visited Essaouira during the 60s. When the hippies left, Damgaard stayed and opened the first art gallery in Essaouira in 1988. He displays the impressive whimsical and colorful works of local painters and wood sculptors in his gallery. He has strongly contributed to the understanding of the naive art of local artists and the Essaouiran Gnaoua culture. Galerie Damgaard is one of Essaouira´s cultural icons, known in European art circles as the home of the Essaouira school of painting.

We’ll wander the old town and see crafts shops, as well as art galleries. After two nights here, we’ll head for fabled and friendly Marrakesh. 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 it the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Moroccan baker slides another loaf into the wood-fired oven.

The baker at our cooking class shows us how to slide the dough rounds into the wood-fired oven.

Legendary Marrakech

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. We will be the only guests there, like living in a private home!

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.

Ancient ksar in Morocco

Ait Ben’Haddou, ancient fortified complex in the desert.

Atlas Mountains

After a few days, we leave Marrakech and drive over the Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate. In this area we’ll see more textiles in the form of carpets, as we drive south to visit a women’s groups of traditional rug makers. Along the way, we’ll see the mystical ‘mud castle’ at Ait Ben’Haddou. A striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco, this spectacular ksar or fortified city makes an interesting stop. This group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls is another 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 quirky 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. We’ll also drive through the spectacular Todra Gorges, carved by the forces of two rivers, the Todra and the Dades, and spend several days relaxing in this beautiful area.

Sunset colors of a rug from Morocco.

Beautifully detailed handmade woolen tapestry technique rug.

Bring books to donate!

We’re delighted to partner with Barb Mackraz, the founder of the California-based Olive Seed Morocco Library project to donate books in English to school libraries. Barb has organized libraries in remote places where there were none. In one area, we’ll donate books at a new school library! Both our guide and driver have teenagers (in the city of Fes) and are thrilled to see the advances made by reading and writing programs in these remote under-served villages. We hope you’ll bring some books for teens, to contribute to the Olive Seed library project. According to our itinerary and the need, Barb will plan our visit to a new school library that needs books.

Next we’ll drive north into the mountains to experience Berber culture. A Berber cooking class and yummy lunch with a local family will contrast with our Marrakech cuisine experience. Then we head inland to Midelt, land of fossils and minerals. You can buy some beautiful crystals and trilobites, ammonites, or other fossils. Here we’ll have tea with a group of women in a textile cooperative and see their creations. Next day we’ll head to the Swiss-influenced town of Ifrane, where we always stop for a tea break with flaky European-style pastries.

Our wonderful driver Abdel, with some nice carpets.

The fabulous Fes Medina

That evening we’ll arrive in Fes, a delightful city with over a million inhabitants. But it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world, and another UNESCO World Heritage site with an authentic old world ambiance. Our charming riad has zellij walls and only 8 rooms, all for us!

Fes 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 traditional arts of Morocco: carpets, leather slippers, brass lanterns, or antique silver jewelry.

Ceramics and Mosaics

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory in Fes where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases, above. Other workers there paint tiles and fire them, then cut the intricate glazed 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.

Volubilis, ancient Roman city

Next day, we’ll head east to Volubilis, another UNESCO site. Volubilis contains Roman vestiges of a fortified city built on a commanding site at the foot of the Jebel Zerhoun peak. Covering an area of 42 hectares, it is of outstanding importance demonstrating urban development and Romanization at the frontiers of the Roman Empire.

Royal stables and granary in Rabat.

Because of its isolation and the fact that it had not been occupied for nearly a thousand years when excavations began, it presents an important level of authenticity. (UNESCO info) There is a good site museum that displays some of the artifacts found also. We’ll have lunch nearby in town then continue on to Rabat for the night. Next morning we’ll visit the royal stables and other monuments before leaving town.

Finally we drive a couple of hours back to Casablanca to our hotel; the rest of the day is free to pack up suitcases and/or explore the city. September 23 is our last included night of hotel. At the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new and then get a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast at the hotel if it fits with your schedule, then we’ll take you to the CMN airport for your flights home from Casablanca, the next morning/day of September 24.
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:  $  5795
Single Supplement:  $ 995

Trip leader behind the scenes adventures owner portrait.

Photo by Ali Alami, Fes, Morocco. Cynthia’s dress by Salima Abdel-Wahab.

Includes the following:

  • 17 nights hotel accommodations (September 7-23), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and very good modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 2 lunches and 2 dinners on your own.
  • All ground transportation by private Sprinter van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on official 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 Samaké 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!
Ali tastes olives in Morocco

Ali tastes olives in the Marrakech market.

Not included:

Personal items, visits to sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van. Early arrival/late departure (on another day) airport transport is extra.

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 meals included during class time are 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 Samaké.
Cynthia’s dress by Salima Abdel Wahab.