Uzbekistan: Stops & Shops

Surrounded by Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan — one of the world’s wildest neighborhoods - Uzbekistan is a top stop along the ancient Silk Road in Central Asia.

The country is rich in natural resources including oil, gas, gold and cotton, and Tashkent, the capital, is today a well-planned modern city with lots of greenery, many museums, wide boulevards and a cool 36-year old subway system with 29 exotic-looking, highly individualistic stations. The city has been rebuilt since the earthquake of 1966 and yet is still home to enough marvelous medieval architecture and mysterious winding streets to keep our attention.

Lots of buzz about exploring “The Stans” these days, but zeroing in on this particular one will reap thrilling cultural rewards.

It is great fun to follow the indefatigable and charming Zulya Rajabova, president and founder of Silk Road Adventures.  Cited as “Top Travel Specialist for Central Asia” by Condé Nast TravelerMagazine, Zulya will lead us deep into the heart of her native Uzbekistan for the shopping spree of the century.

Follow the giant green domes to find the iconic 2,000-year old Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent to see, smell, squeeze and buy samples of every edible native to the country, and then plunge into the exuberantly designed ikat and suzani silks and cottons, silver, gold, brass and copper, intricate embroideries, glorious carpets, spices, crafts, and distinctive silk scarves. Best ethnic bets: the doppi (the high skull caps), and the chapan (the men’s colorful long cotton coats.) Black belt bargaining is the sport of choice.  [There are, by the way, many new shopping malls now in Tashkent, but not for us - and not for this trip.]

Delve into native culture and music, visit paper and silk-making workshops, and homes. Meet artists, snoop around the 19th century Abul Kasim Bazaar for woodcarving, ceramics and miniature painting. Photograph the minarets, mosques and visit medressas (religious schools.)

Fashion designers, museum curators, handicraft aficionados, art and jewelry collectors, photographers, high spirited travelers and intrepid shopaholics – this trip is it. In addition to Tashkent, visit magical 15th century old city of Khiva, World Heritage Bukhara and its 16th c. trade domes, the 2500-year old oasis city of Samarkand and Shakhrizabz, another World Heritage site.

Only 10 travelers max for each 10-day tour.  Departing Sept.15, Oct 3, 2013 and five departures in 2014.  To see the detailed itinerary, click here and/or call 888-745-7670 in their New Jersey office.

Suzy Shops

Beat the rush. Pre-Christmas shopping blitz with Suzy Gershman, author of the beloved Born To Shop worldwide ever-evolving guide book series, and expert hands-on reality guide. Snoop, sniff, taste, try and buy in Paris for 3 nights over the weekend, then on to Lyons and Avignon, wrapping up for 3 nights in Barcelona. Nov.9 – Nov. 20, 2011.

Refreshingly, this is not a formal outing with a set price. Suzie knows to select high-value hotels (around 300 Euros a night), reasonably priced and well-located. This shop-and-drop excursion is run on a pay-as-you-go basis – for hotels, trains, and meals. If you can handle spontaneity and built-in flexibility, if you love flea markets, want to get to know Suzy herself, and would like to fill Christmas stockings with authentic French and Spanish arts and crafts, contact her editor, Sarah Lahey at or call her in California at 415-505-7007 and hop on! And do check out her excellent website:

Do Buy

Duty-free status, thousands of souks (markets) and eye-popping luxurious, megaplex shopping, Dubai has become the mall of the Middle East for fashion, jewelry, equipment, cars…and thanks to low import duties and open port policy, many prices are actually lower than elsewhere.

Second largest of the United Arab Emirates in the Persian Gulf, and Emirates Air will whisk you there from New York on a 12-1/2 hour non-stop flight. Gold is front and center in Dubai’s famous super souk. Wear sunglasses to inspect floor-to-ceiling, tons and tons of gold jewelry that is sold by its weight (not its artistry) and in a marvelous variety of gold colors – pink to yellow to green and on. And although it may not work well in the Dubai branch of Yves St. Laurent, bargaining is basic and expected in the gold souk.

Second biggest market, the carpet souk, offers a treacherous, endless array of Persian and other carpet treasures.

Every type and price of hotel abounds. The sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Hotel, sleepover center to the wildly rich and architecturally-obsessed, has become the iconic image of this desert metropolis. Click:

The Al Maha Desert experience, almost as expensive, houses guests in elegant tents with private swimming pools (we’re in the desert, remember…), with exotic activities such as camel treks and jeep rides into the dunes, archery and falconry.

If you can’t stand the heat, you don’t have to get out of the kitchen. Just check in to the opulent Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, which houses the biggest surprise in the Middle East – not only the most mega of all malls, but an actual, extraordinary indoor ski resort. Honest! Click on:


Buy Buy

If you love ethnic markets, crafts, antiques, jewelry and all the arts that will evoke the essence of the country in which you bought them, do check out the very interesting high-end tour operator, Artisans of Leisure.

Their luxury excursions delve deep into fine marketplaces, shops and private designer showrooms for unique local arts and crafts — one-of-a-kind jewelry in Hong Kong, traditional Spanish country cookware, antique English garden furniture, ironwork in Morocco…and on… The best hotels and sophisticated, expert advice is part of the deal, as are shopping excursions customized to the traveler’s interests, private bi-lingual guides, and the logistics of private transfers, special appointments, packing and shipping – and all within the context of cultural immersion.

“Shopping overseas is a highly experiential way of traveling,” says Ashley Isaacs Ganz, president and founder. “It offers an authentic window into another culture’s history, traditions, and aesthetics… and the objects one acquires overseas remain forever imbued with the stories and memories of that place.” For additional information, call (800) 214-8144 or click on:

Afghanistan Anyone?

Hey, we’re not that intrepid.

Instead of actually traveling there – yet – listen to this: Arzu is the name of a women’s collective created by Connie K. Duckworth recently retired from a stellar career at Goldman Sachs. She has gathered the talents of over 700 Afghani women who live in eight remote villages and weave beautiful tribal rugs the old fashioned way and she has made certain that these women are being paid proper wages used to support many needs especially local schooling and health care. The First Lady, Laura Bush, is a customer and a fan!

The Arzu magic carpets are priced from $900 to about $16,000 and every lovely thread is a lifeline. For details and photos, please click on Or phone: (312) 321-8663.