They've always called out to me - these azure domes of Samarkand. I've wondered what genius of geometry calculated their proportions, what Scheherazade stories are sealed in their glazed walls, what people live in the warmth of their glow. After years of longing to be here, I am basking, at last, in Samarkand blues.
It's putting it mildly to say that the scale of these domes dwarfs the human - each pitches skyward beyond our pettiness and busyness in commanding serenity. Each turret stands alone, singular, self-contained, god-sized, and has since the 14th century, outliving all who have tried to claim it as their own.
Which is exactly what the word Uzbek means - one who is lord over his or her own self. The fertile land of Uzbekistan carries one long story of invasions and foreign rulers - everyone wants to claim the rivers and orchards, the agricultural riches of this place and all have left a mark upon it - Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Persians, Turks, Arabs, Soviets. And yet, and yet, the Uzbeks, it seems, despite invaders from beyond their borders, stand like these domes, secure on their own ground, serenely commanding their own hearts and imaginations.
The magnificent embroidered suzani's of Samarkand are my favorite. While I admire these large embroideries from every region of Uzbekistan, the sun circles of Samarkand, medallions of blood-red life on an ochre ground are close to the meaning of life as far as I'm concerned. At the old bazaar of Urgut, just outside the city, where traders have gathered for centuries, I find stacks of these beauties (coming home to you) - each one more joyful than the last. They hold the secret of the domes, that strong circle of self-contained peace. Even the bread at every corner market comes in circles, boasting a sweet center imprinted, at times, with the name and mobile number of the baker! The block printer, the ceramicist, the architect, the needleworker, the painter, the baker, the young courtyard dancer - all, I realize, are working in mandala-like circles, seeming to find their center in this. As one local Russian put it, when I asked him to capture the soul of the Uzbeks: They are happy in their lives, in who they are. And out of that happiness, they are extremely generous. They are as hospitable as the domes are high.
So, on this quiet night, gathering up my days in Samarkand, pressing old suzanis into my duffle, I am feeling the peace of this Samarkand surround me. It's as though I have entered the dome at last, this place that has called out to me for years, and can call that serenity, that self-rule, this spacious interior, home.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker