Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Apocalypse and the Aral Sea

Since we're all cooped up trying to stave off the end of the world, why don't I show you a more Mad Max version of a post apocalyptic landscape I experienced recently. Perhaps by comparison, our temporary situation may feel a little less doom and gloomy.

While in Central Asia, we went to visit to the former Aral Sea, once the world's fourth largest lake, located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Due to decades of environmental mismanagement, it has shrunk to 10% of its original size of 50 years ago, resulting in a completely avoidable man made disaster that will serve as a case study for generations to come. The devastation happened largely due to over use of water for irrigation of cotton fields for the former Soviet Union. Cotton is an incredibly water intensive crop, and with the rise of fast fashion, it is ever more in demand. But I digress.

We drove for hundreds of kilometres through an arid Uzbekistan landscape with views of nothing but desolate scrub, tumble weeds, and cotton fields, before finally arriving at an endless desert expanse which was once the sea floor. Now rather than a body of water with thriving fishing communities along its shores, the only things left to see were a little museum describing the former region, and a small graveyard of rusted out fishing vessels long since beached on the dried up seabed, to serve as a reminder of what was lost. While the boats were in a picturesque state of decay, it was also a shocking sight to behold, and a reminder of our impact on this planet.

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Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Registan, Samarkand

Uzbekistan (no, I didn't just make that name up) was the third country on our Central Asian itinerary. It is a beautiful nation with a rich history of architecture, art and culture, and will soon become the next 'must see' destination for travellers, if it hasn't already. We spent a couple days in Samarkand, an important city along the ancient Silk Road, and got to see the grandeur and splendour of the Registan, a square surrounded by three stunning Madrasahs (religious institutions for higher study). This was also the place where I got to knock off my bucket list item of bribing a police officer (more on the below). I don't have the words to describe the beauty, so will let the photos do the heavy lifting instead. Enjoy!

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We found the cover shot to the Lonely Planet Central Asia guide.

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As the sun was setting, this was the view from inside one of the three madrasah's courtyards. Love that subdued light.

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And after greasing the palm of a police officer, this was the view of the same courtyard from atop the otherwise off limits roof. Not really a spectacular view, but a novelty nonetheless.

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Pano from said off limits roof.

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Close up of one of the domes from the roof.

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Arts and crafts in the making.

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