Shopping for Souvenirs on the Silk Road
Tour Manager Michel Behar has traveled the world for MIR since 1998, and especially loves Central Asia.
Here are my insider tips and shopping recommendations for some of the best shopping anywhere while traveling through some of MIR’s favorite destinations along the Silk Road:
- Buy: Silver jewelry, headbands, rings, necklaces, and more. Many are embedded with semi-precious stones.
- Buy Woven ikat fabrics, brightly colored clothing like the locals wear, flowers, and household items. Dresses made of traditional Uzbek fabrics are also popular including Bukharan silk/velvet, silk/cotton, and silk/satin combinations.
- Buy: Tubeteika caps with square peaks that can be folded, the patterns varying region to region.
- Buy: Antique and new suzanis (Persian for needle), which are embroidered hangings and wall covers. Some patterns and motifs are thousands of years old, from moon and stars to coffeepots and roosters.
- Buy: Illustrated manuscripts called “miniatures”, lacquer boxes, gourds.
- Buy: Pichok, knives with slightly curved handles made of bone with blades forged and then hammered with Bukharan skylines, birds, or stars.
- Buy: Karakol, newborn or fetal wool from the Karakol lamb, used in scarves, vests, coats and hats.
- Buy: Last but not least: spices! Cardamom, cumin, cinnamon, saffron, and cloves are favorites.
- Buy: Ceramics and silk scarves.
- Buy: High-quality musical instruments and CDs at Babur’s Workshop. Babur is a craftsman and well-known musician who plays 15 instruments, give or take a few.
- Buy: Hand-crocheted camel and angora wool shawls in the markets; white, gray, pink, and orchid are favorite colors.
- Buy: Naturally-dyed rugs at the rug factory in Samarkand.
- Buy: Ceramics, puppets, rugs, miniatures, and especially woodcarvings. A very popular souvenir is a Koran holder with up to six positions, made from a single block of wood like elmwood, apricot, and walnut.
- Buy: Shyrdak felt pillow covers and Kyrgyz talpak (pointed white hats).
Insider Tip: Almost anything from Turkmenistan is for sale in Bukhara since it’s so close to the Turkmen border and has always been a major Silk Road trade center. Save your receipt!! If you buy Turkmen goods in Uzbekistan, you can bring them into Turkmenistan as long as you have your Uzbek receipt.
(Top photo credit: Michel Behar)
PUBLISHED: November 20, 2014