25 November 2009

The Sambatyon Found?

Marco Polo's journey across the heartland of Asia from Europe to China along the old Silk Road has long been the stuff of mystery and romance.

For 1500 years - until the opening of the world's sea lanes in the 16th and 17th centuries rendered it obsolete - the Silk Road teemed with camel caravans laden with silk, porcelain, tea, paper, medicinal herbs and spices that wended their way from Asia to Europe, returning with gold, silver, wool, horses, colored glass and wine.

Actually, a better name is Silk Route, as it wasn't a single road but a labyrinthine network of caravan tracks, exchange posts and bazaars linking Europe with Turkey, Persia, Central and South Asia and China.

Traversing it from end-to-end took about 200 days, although no caravan went the entire distance. Rather, caravanners were short- or medium-distance haulers who met in various market towns to barter and pass along their goods. Probably the most significant effect of this route was not the exchange of goods but ideas (technologies and religions) between West and East.

Few women are seen on the streets of rural Pakistan, and were heavily veiled. In one very traditional village a woman was supposed to go outside her house only three times in her adult life - when she married, if she needed to go to a hospital, and when she died.

We spotted a father and daughter below in a market stall, and thought about her future as a Muslim woman in an increasingly fundamentalist society. The girl was young enough that a photograph [...could be taken] with her proud father's permission ... perhaps the only photo he would have of her.

The roiling Indus River rushes head-long through this deep gorge from Tibet down to the Arabian Sea. The construction of the highway was a joint venture by Pakistan and China, but obviously not an economically viable one as the traffic along it is minimal. It was intended by China as a gesture of friendship with Pakistan - or, more precisely, a slap in the face at its old rival, India. The road took 20 years to build (1959-79) and cost one life for every 1.5 kilometers of its 1300-kilometer length from Rawalpindi, Pakistan to Kashgar, China

NOTE: “roiling” = verb = to move or proceed turbulently.

“turbulent” = being in a state of agitation or tumult; disturbed: = characterized by, or showing disturbance, disorder: the turbulent years = given to acts of violence and aggression:

Could this be the Sambatyon?

The full story of someone's tour of the area can be read here .


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