The dude of dough

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One big cauldron of goodness

The alleyways of Kashgar’s Sunday bazaar stretch and twist and steam like so much, well, kneaded dough. And, however hot the work, this baker keeps cool as a cucumber throughout.

Here he spins and knots his savoury dough into big, thick braids, ready for boiling up bagels – a chewy, savoury variety you’ll find all over Xinjiang. And that’s not the only carb-a-licious snack available, either – down every high street, and even every alley, you’ll find options for bagels, seed-speckled naan breads, gooey pork-filled dumplings, or even deep-fried straw bread coiled into delicious wreaths. You can take your pick of bready delights, a pot of strong, black tea, and lunch is utterly sorted.

It is a veritable yum-a-thon of tasty proportions.

 

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One month old!

It feels like a hundred years ago, but it’s only been a month. I’m not talking about babies (although we’re expecting one of those too!), but instead I’m talking about the anniversary of publishing A Eurasian Diary. What better occasion to release a free excerpt?

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A Fergana woman packs taut cellophane tubes full of goodness. These portable lunches of lemon-dressed carrot, cucumber, cauliflower and coriander are delicious – pleasing both the palate and the arteries.

I’ve been humbled and honoured by the interest in this little travel tale so far, and I’m pleased as punch that so many of you have taken the time to take a wee gander. The experience of travelling the old Silk Road is difficult to put into words – that’s why I relied so much on others to do the talking for me. However repressive, bureaucratic, and generally bonkers the governments in Central Asia might be, you nevertheless find loads of incredible people who are friendly, open, honest, and hilarious in equal measure. Time spent with them felt more important (and more illuminating) than any bit of sightseeing, or any studious reflections on the region’s tumultuous history. So, I’m giving up a little example here. This passage from the book comes from a day spent in Fergana, an eastern Uzbekistani market town under vast reconstruction, under the guidance of the country’s authoritarian leader, Islam Karimov. His daughter is famous on Twitter – his subjects, in their millions, are much less well known – but, almost certainly, they’re more interesting. Thanks again for all the interest so far, and thanks for exploring this part of the world with me! To read the excerpt, click “continue reading” … obvs…. Continue reading

Crossing the Saskatchewan

Crossing the Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan isn’t in Eurasia, not is it particularly famous for its towering mountains. So, what on earth is this picture all about?

The source of the Saskatchewan River in the Canadian Rockies is simply too gorgeous a spot to keep off this little blog – however badly it messes up my tagging system.

We traipsed from Jasper to Banff last month in a memorable trip home that included all manner of wildlife – woodpeckers, picas, chubby old chipmunks, elks, one black bear, and mosquitoes that could actually lift me into the sky.

We returned to London invigorated by the space and the scenery, and happy memories of stepping stones – for all the wobbled crossings we made, nary a toe was misplaced!

Hard bargains

Driving hard bargains

Kashgar’s Sunday Market is one of the great bazaars of Central Asia – the market just before Eid celebrations in 2012 meant the place was even busier and more raucous than normal.

This clothes seller offers up an uncertain scowl as her customer hems and haws at the selection on offer. Behind, shashlyk dealers fan their charring skewers, readying lunches for hungry shoppers.

How to judge a book

There’s only one foolproof way to do it, of course. And so, I thought I’d celebrate the end of the week (as well as getting 90% of the way towards the 2/3 mark of the finished manuscript… err, woo hoo!), by sharing…. rolling of drums…. the cover…!x3Moustache1

As you may have seen here before, or on Flickr, this portrait was taken at Renmin Park in central Urumqi, where a great big Uyghur milonga takes place each afternoon. With spirited dancers, a super social atmosphere, and moustaches that I continue to try and cultivate myself, the afternoon I spent hanging round with them was a huge highlight of the journey – and his smile seems to reflect it for me.

This is the cover I’m using for my Authonomy excerpt and will most likely carry with me into the brave world of epublishing when the time comes. So, in advance, thoughts, suggestions, impressions are all welcome!

Chorsu Morning

Chorsu Morning

Chorsu Market, in the northern reaches of Tashkent, is a vision of a future and a past. The bazaar is held inside a vast metallic UFO, seeming to have arrived directly from someone’s incredible 1970s sci-fi imagination – inside, though, the traditional treats on offer harken back centuries.

This man is selling a range of hard, fermented yogurt balls. Pungent, salty, and tough as concrete, they’re meant to go well with beer. Definitely worth buying a bagful – after all, if they aren’t to your taste, you always have the option of golfing with them.

An Urumqi Fellow

An Urumqi Fellow

This Uyghur dancer was one of dozens who visit Urumqi’s central Renmin Park each afternoon for a great big melonga of lively traditional music and beautiful dancing. With a tone and rhythm closer to Istanbul than to Beijing, China’s far-western province of Xinjiang is a universe unto itself.

This was one of my favourite photos from the Eurasia trip – and is one of my leading contenders to work as a cover of the forthcoming BOOK! (now having cracked my halfway point of 25,000 words, I feel able to refer to the travelogue as an actual “book in progress,” and not simply a “pile of meaningless notes, noise and fury, signifying nothing… nothing gaddamnit!”)

To mark the rough halfway-point in this booky project, I’ll soon be launching the cover….. a good session on Photoshop is always a great (and semi-productive) distraction from text, text, text and more text.