National Geographic : 2017 Dec
SPIRITS OF THE SILK ROAD 149 holds roughly half a mile of filament that is about .00039 inch in diameter. Such is the fragility of the lustrous thread that bankrupted Rome. That built thousands of caravansaries across Central Asia, where traders sipped clean water from faucets while London’s unwashed citizens waded through ankle-deep slops. That once bound the world together: east and west, north and south. No jinni’s sorcery is more powerful than this. The Fergana sky is waxy, overcast, and cold. The sun hangs dully in it, a pale cocoon. On the frozen road ahead strides Tolik Bekniyazov, my lanky donkey driver. A taciturn nomad. At some old trailside camp he noticed me squinting with book-ruined eyes, toiling to spear a licked thread through the eye of a needle, perhaps while mending my coat. Soon we will part ways at a new border. I will discover many days later, shaking my head in wonder, that he has thread- ed and knotted every needle in my sewing kit. We are all weavers. This is the only lasting lesson of the Silk Road. j Bronze camels at the Afrasiab Museum, in Samarqand, commemorate the city’s long trading history. For hundreds of years Samarqand was one of the most vibrant and sophisticated crossroads between East and West, a magnet for merchants and intellectuals who came here to exchange goods and ideas.