18766
Central Asia
On the Silk Road in Central Asia
Join experts to discover the preserved ruins, grand cities and cultural monuments that line the Silk Road, discovering how this ancient trade route altered the course of human history.
Program No. 18766RJ
Length
20 days
Starts at
5,499
Flights start at
1,000
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20 days
19 nights
50 meals
17 B 17 L 16 D
Getting There
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DAY
1
In Transit to Program
In Flight

Activity note: Most travelers will arrive in Bishkek either very late in the evening on Day 2 or very early in the morning on Day 3. Upon arrival travelers will be transferred to the hotel with early check-in. Your first field trip will begin late in the morning (11 a.m.) of Day 3.

DAY
2
En Route
In Flight
DAY
3
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Bishkek
L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Browse the State Museum of Fine Arts, which features Kyrgyz embroidery, jewelry and unique felt rugs. Pause at the Village of Manas and the monument "Manas on the Horse." Later this afternoon, enjoy some free time for independent exploration or visit Ala Archa National Park, centered on the steep forested gorge of the Ala Archa River and the mountains that surround it. An alpine park, Ala Archa includes over 20 glaciers and 50 peaks, which range from 12,000 to 15,000 feet. Soviet alpinists used to train at a camp here.

Dinner: This evening enjoy a complementary glass of wine with dinner to the accompaniment of live traditional Kyrgyz music and a Manas performance. The Kyrgyz mythical hero, Manas, fought against the Uighur people in the 9th century. His story, the Epic of Manas, is a Kyrgyz epic poem with nearly half a million verses. Transcribed only in the 19th century, the poem had been passed down by word of mouth for centuries. A performance of selections from the beloved poem is often given at Kyrgyz festivals, accompanied on the komuz, a traditional three-stringed instrument. Fixed menu; table service; tea, water and a glass of wine included.

DAY
4
Highlights of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Bishkek
B,L,D
Golden Dragon Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions. Note: Spiral staircases at Burana Tower involve steep steps inside a narrow passageway with limited light.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning travel outside of Bishkek to the town of Tokmak. Pay a visit to the International University of Central Asia for a chance to meet with professors and students. Next, stop at Burana Tower, one of the only remaining watchtowers on the Silk Road. Here visit the small museum and view its collection of ancient bal-bals, carved stone figures used as monuments.

Lunch: Lunch today is at the private home of a local family in Tokmak. Enjoy the opportunity to meet the host and hostess and sample traditional Kyrgyz dishes.

Afternoon: Following lunch, attend a demonstration of Kyrgyz horse games, such as Ulak Tartysh, a sort of polo played with a goat carcass, and Kurosh, which is wrestling on horseback. Also learn traditional Kyrgyz felt-making techniques at a feltmaker’s workshop.

Dinner: Dine this evening at a local restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea, water and one glass of alcohol included.

DAY
5
Drive to Almaty, Kazakhstan
Almaty
B,L,D
Kazzhol Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Bishkek to Almaty is approximately 150 miles (240 kilometers). Today's travel time is 5 to 6 hours, including the border crossing. Border crossings may require traveling a relatively long distance on foot while handling your own baggage without assistance. The distance between the checkpoints at the Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border is 300 meters.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning after breakfast we depart Bishkek and drive to the Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border. After undergoing customs formalities, change vehicles and continue to Almaty.

Lunch: Have lunch at a traditional yurt restaurant upon arrival in Almaty.

Afternoon: Visit a traditional Kazakh falcon farm on the outskirts of Almaty. Observe the birds and the gear the hunters use when they ride out into the country to hunt. Afterwards continue to the hotel for check-in and dinner.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel or a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
6
Highlights of Almaty, Kazakhstan
Almaty
B,L,D
Kazzhol Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions; a short walk (between 10 and 20 minutes) to and from the restaurant for dinner.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Your introduction to Almaty includes the State Central Museum with exhibits that detail the history of Kazakhstan and its people from the Bronze Age through the Russian Empire, the Communist Period and the present day. The centerpiece of the museum is a replica of the country’s chief archeological treasure, the Golden Man, a warrior’s armor made from 4,000 gold pieces. Next, visit Kok-Tobe, a 3,800-foot hill on the outskirts of Almaty with an aerial tramway leading to a recreation area at the top. The view of Almaty from Kok-Tobe is fantastic and gives a unique perspective on this sprawling, regional business capital.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Explore Panfilov Park with its Zenkov Cathedral and stop by the Green Bazaar, where you can find all types of produce, nuts, and dried fruits. Panfilov Park, a green oasis in Almaty’s central area, was renamed by the Soviets in honor of 28 Kazakh soldiers, led by General Panfilov, who died on the outskirts of Moscow during WWII. A monument in the park honors the soldiers, and an eternal flame memorializes all the people who died during the war. Also in the park is Zenkov Cathedral, a wooden Orthodox church built at the turn of the century without the use of nails. Visit the delightful Museum of Musical Instruments, located in a 1907 Russian-style wooden building, formerly called the House of Officers. Created in 1980, the museum exhibits a collection of traditional Kazakh instruments, including the dombra, a two-stringed instrument ubiquitous in Central Asia.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
7
Fly to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Tashkent
B,L,D
Shodlik Palace Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for the short morning flight to Tashkent.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant upon arrival in Tashkent: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Although it doesn’t look like it today, Tashkent is one of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan. Rock paintings in the Chaktal Mountains about 50 miles away show that humans have been here since perhaps 2000 BC. In the 2nd century BC the town was known as Ming Uryuk. A major caravan crossroads, it was taken by the Arabs in 751 and by Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Tamerlane feasted here in the 14th century, and the Shaibanid khans in the 15th and 16th. The Russian Empire arrived in 1865, and Uzbekistan was not an autonomous country again until 1991. Tashkent lost much of its architectural history in a huge earthquake in 1966, and although it is an old city, most of its buildings has been built since then. Today, the city is a jumble of wide tree-lined boulevards, oversized 20th-century Soviet buildings and reconstructed traces of the old city, with mud-walled houses, narrow winding lanes, mosques and madrassahs (Islamic religious schools). Make an introductory excursion of Tashkent this afternoon, including stops at Independence Square, Courage Monument, Shahid Memorial Complex, and the Museum of Applied Arts. A wealthy czarist diplomat to Turkestan, Alexander Polovtsev, admiring Uzbek architecture, built a traditional mansion in 1898, inviting artisans from Samarkand, Bukhara and Fergana to decorate the interior. Featuring the painted, carved plaster (called ganche), carved wood and tile work, the house itself is a main attraction. Exhibits include Uzbek embroidered wall coverings, called suzani, ceramics, jewelry, rugs and musical instruments.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel or a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
8
Tashkent
Tashkent
B,L,D
Shodlik Palace Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning visit the Tillya Sheikh Mosque. The Uthman Koran, considered by Sunni Muslims to be the oldest Koran in the world, is safeguarded in the library of the Tillya Sheikh Mosque in the Muy Muborok Madrassah, where several of Mohammed's hairs are said to have been enshrined. Written on deerskin 19 years after Mohammed’s death, the manuscript was compiled in Medina by Uthman, the third caliph of Islam. (Shi’a Muslims believe that Uthman’s successor, Ali, was the first true caliph, and his version of the Koran is held to be the only true version.) It has been inscribed into the UNESCO Memory of the World Register. The experience of viewing this 7th-century sacred document is a powerful one. Next, explore the Chorsu Bazaar, which spills out from the tiled dome that shades its merchants from the sun. Open every day, the bazaar is at its most exhilarating on weekends, when traders and shoppers come in from outlying areas to buy and sell everything from spices and produce to woodwork and embroidery. Visit the private studio of a sixth-generation Uzbek ceramicist, whose family has been making pottery since the 1790s. They have revived the lost art of using natural dyes and teach contemporary Uzbek ceramicists these rediscovered techniques.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Our exploration of Tashkent continues with an visit to the city's subway system, known as the Metro. Tashkent boasts the first metro in Central Asia. Begun in 1977, each station has a different theme, some incorporating Central Asian decorative motifs and some resembling Russian palaces. With granite and marble, chandeliers and mosaics, the stations on Tashkent’s three lines are meant to be “art galleries for the people.”

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel or a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

Evening: Schedules permitting, attend a musical performance at one of Tashkent's concert halls (as of this writing, performance schedules for late September 2017 have not yet been posted).

DAY
9
Journey to Tajikistan
Khujand
B,L,D
Sugd Hotel

Activity note: Distance from Tashkent to Khujand is approximately 120 miles (190 kilometers). Today's travel time is approximately 4 to 5 hours, including the border crossing. Border crossings may require walking a relatively long distance while handling your own luggage without assistance. The distance between the checkpoints at the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border is 800 meters. Participants are advised to travel to Khujand with only an overnight bag and leave most of their belongings on the bus in Uzbekistan.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart early this morning for the Uzbekistan/Tajikistan border. After the formalities of the border crossing, continue to the nearby city of Khujand. Khujand, situated at the entrance to the Fergana Valley on the Syr Darya River, is the second largest city in Tajikistan. Its origins have been attributed to both Alexander the Great (in 329 BC) and Cyrus the Great of Persia (several centuries earlier). Whichever is true, the city is an ancient one. A former religious center and a Silk Road hub, Khujand is home to several medieval monuments.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant upon arrival in Khujand: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: This afternoon embark on an introductory excursion in Khujand, visiting the pink-painted, covered Panshanbe Bazaar; the Historical Museum of Sogdiana, with displays that include ancient Sogdian artifacts and exhibits from recent Tajik history; the Muslihiddin memorial complex, dedicated to the 12th-century leader and poet, Muslihiddin Khudjandi; and the remains of the 10th-century Timur Malik Fortress.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
10
Along the Silk Road
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Khujand to Samarkand is approximately 200 miles (320 kilometers). Today's travel time is approximately 8 to 9 hours, including the border crossing.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Return to Uzbekistan and continue along the Silk Road to Samarkand, perhaps the best known of the Silk Road towns, a fabled oasis on the fringes of the Kyzyl Kum Desert that has been settled since the 6th century BC. Because of its location on the plains where the Zeravshan River spills out from the Pamir Mountains, Samarkand became a major Silk Road crossroads. It has been visited through time by many of the world's conquerors – Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane. Alexander said of Samarkand, "Everything I have heard about the beauty of the city is indeed true, except that it is much more beautiful than I imagined." Tamerlane made it his capital city and gathered the finest architects, builders and artisans of the time to enhance its beauty.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant upon arrival in Samarkand: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Discover Registan Square, the centerpiece of Samarkand and the most recognizable landmark for visitors. Three emblematic madrassahs frame the square and loom over the empty space in the center. It was this central space that originally gave the place its name, for "registan" simply means "place of sand." This sandy place was at the center of ancient Samarkand and was a public square and marketplace before Ulug Bek built the Ulug Bek, Tillya-Kori, and Shir Dor madrassahs. In its reconstruction, the square maintains the majesty that it has radiated through the ages. Also visit Gur-Emir Mausoleum, the final resting place of Tamerlane, built at the turn of the 15th century. The interior of the mausoleum has been restored and is brilliant in gold leaf and fresh tile. The heavily gilded central dome opens over the set of tomb-markers resembling sarcophagi. All are marble, with the exception of Tamerlane's, which is a slab of solid jade reportedly from Mongolia.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel or a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
11
Ulug Bek, Son of Tamerlane
Samarkand
B,L,D
Asia Samarkand Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions. Note: There is a fairly steep staircase with roughly 80 uneven steps without handrails at Shah-i-Zinde.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Today continue to discover Samarkand. Visit the Bibi Khanum Mosque, Ulug Bek's Observatory, and a local bazaar. Tamerlane built the Bibi Khanum Mosque to be the largest mosque in the Islamic world and dedicated it to the memory of his favorite wife. Architects from India and Persia were brought in to build the mosque, and 95 elephants were used to transport the marble and other building materials from India to Samarkand. Wander the row of tombs and mausoleums collectively called Shah-I-Zinde, or "place of a living king," which stretches between the present and the past. At its front is living Samarkand, and at its back the dusty slopes at the edge of ancient Afrosiab. Even on hot summer days the mausoleums remain shady and cool and seem to lure the traveler to approach the oldest tomb at the far end. Behind the complex and set into the hill lies an active cemetery with gravesites dating back as far as the ninth century, and as recently as the present day.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Visit the local Carpet Factory Workshop. Observe the processes of thread dying using natural dyes and of carpet weaving. Later stop at the workshop where hand-crafted paper is made according to traditions handed down from the 8th century, when paper making began in Samarkand. Founded in 1997 with the support of UNESCO, the workshop of Abdurakhim Mukhtarov produces lovely paper crafts and stationery as you watch.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

Evening: Attend a dance performance by a young local troupe.

DAY
12
Along the Silk Road to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Bukhara
B,L,D
Malika-Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Samarkand to Bukhara is approximately 170 miles (275 kilometers). Today's travel time is approximately 5 to 6 hours.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Continue along the Silk Road to Bukhara. Stop at a ceramics master’s home and studio in the town of Gijduvan to learn about traditional ceramics and take a private tour of his workshop.

Lunch: Share lunch with a ceramics master in his home.

Afternoon: Upon arrival in Bukhara, take an orientation walk around the center of the Old Town.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel or a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
13
Bukhara: A Surprise Behind Every Corner
Bukhara
B,L,D
Malika-Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Explore the Lyabi-Hauz plaza. With the feel of a true oasis in an oasis town, the Lyabi-Hauz plaza is at the center of Bukhara's old town and is – as it has been throughout history – a place to meet friends, to eat, to drink, and to relax in the shade. The atmosphere is cooled by the long rectangular reflecting pool that makes up the center of the plaza, and by the shade of the trees that ring the plaza. The mulberry trees here are hundreds of years old and frame the 16th- and 17th-century madrassahs that make up three of the four edges of the ensemble. Visit Poi Kalon, also called the Bukhara Forum. The 12th-century Kalon assembly, including the Kalon Mosque and Minaret, and the Mir-i-Arab Madrassah, surrounds an open plaza teeming with merchants and local vendors. Before lunch, learn about Bukhara's rich Jewish heritage. In the mid 19th century 2,500 families of prosperous Jewish merchants were estimated to have been living here. Cut off in the 15th century from contact with other Jews, the Bukharan Jews developed their own dialect of the Tajik-Persian language that incorporates many Hebrew words, their own style of dress and their own unique form of Judaism. The only Bukharan synagogue allowed by the Soviets to remain is an unassuming place near the Lyabi-Hauz pool. Almost underground and still somewhat run-down, the synagogue is the center of life for Bukhara's greatly diminished Jewish community. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, more than 70,000 Jews have left Uzbekistan.

Lunch: Lunch in a local restuarant overlooking the plaza: table service; fixed menu, tea and water included.

Afternoon: Continue to explore Bukhara, including its Ark Citadel – the original fortress of Bukhara that likely dates back two thousand years or more. The current structure has been built and rebuilt on the same site throughout its history and has preserved something of the form, purpose and function of the first ark. Like the medieval castle complexes of Europe, the Bukhara Ark served the Emirs of Bukhara as a residence, audience hall and as protection from neighboring enemies. An expert discusses the bountiful archaeological excavations in the Bukhara region at the Ark Citadel.

Dinner: Dinner at a private house. Dinner today includes a master class in the art of making plov (or pilaf), Central Asia’s most ubiquitous dish. Learn how the freshest ingredients are combined to create the savory concoction that you will then consume.

DAY
14
Bukhara: The Riches & Power of the Past
Bukhara
B,L
Malika-Bukhara Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Explore the Summer Palace of the last emir and its Museum of National Crafts. A short distance outside of the city sits the Palace of Moon and Stars, or the Summer Palace of the last Emir of Bukhara, built at the turn of the century after the Russians took control of Bukhara. The palace itself is something of a showpiece, as it was designed to keep the emir in luxury, but removed from the city, in isolation and politically impotent. The main palace is a mixture of local materials, regional influences and Russian style. Western furniture abounds, but design choices reflect traditional Uzbek decorations. Witness artisans at work in the USAID-UNESCO Handicraft Development Center near Lyabi-Hauz Plaza. Learn about the history of their crafts at a special presentation by the artisans themselves.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Free time.

Dinner: An independent dinner tonight offers an opportunity to explore local fare.

DAY
15
Through the Desert to Khiva
Khiva
B,L,D
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: The distance from Bukhara to Khiva is about 350 miles (560 kilometers). The drive will take approximately 8 to 9 hours, including a stop for lunch.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart Bukhara and drive to Khiva, one of the best-preserved cities along the ancient Silk Road. Legend says that the oasis of Khiva was founded at the place where Shem, son of Noah, discovered water in the desert, and that the city got its name from Shem’s joyful shout, “Hey va!” at the discovery. Today the living city is part museum town, part re-creation of life hundreds of years ago. Archaeologists have found traces of human habitation around Khiva dating from the 5th century BC. It was for hundreds of years a stop on the old Silk Road and a fortress town, but it was not until the 16th century that Khiva became the capital of the Khorezm Khanate. The khanate ruled the surrounding area for over 300 years, and was a well-known slave-trading center.

Lunch: Stop for a picnic lunch at one of the villages along the way.

Afternoon: Arrive in Khiva and check in to your hotel.

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at the hotel: buffet.

DAY
16
Walk Through Ancient Khiva
Khiva
B,L,D
Asia Khiva Hotel

Activity note: A majority of the day's activities will be done on foot.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Spend the day exploring Khiva on foot. An expert-led excursion explores the monuments of the Old Town, or Ichon-Qala, including the Tash-Hauli Palace, or Stone House, built in the 19th century for the reigning khan and his four wives.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Continue exploring Khiva on foot with your local expert. Then, the late afternoon is free for independent exploration.

Dinner: Dinner in a local restaurant, featuring a performance of Khorezmian music and dance: table service, fixed menu, tea and water included.

DAY
17
Cross the Uzbek-Turkmen Border & Fly to Turkmenistan
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Please Note: Regulations require three passport-size (2" x 2"), color photos for receipt and registration of your visa with the Migration Service upon arrival in Turkmenistan. Please ensure that you have these photos with you when you arrive on the program.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning is open to provide you the opportunity to explore Khiva on your own.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Khiva: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Drive a short distance to the Uzbekistan/Turkmenistan border. After completing the formalities of crossing the border, which can be time consuming, you'll be met by your Turkmen guide and drive to the nearby town of Tashauz.

Dinner: Dine this evening at a local restaurant in Tashauz: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

Evening: Take the evening flight over the Kara Kum (black sands) Desert to Turkmenistan’s capital, Ashkabad.

DAY
18
Ashkabad, the Capital of Turkmenistan In All Its Glory
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: This morning visit a horse-breeding farm devoted to the renowned Akhal-Tekke horse, arguably the oldest cultured breed of horse in the world. Next, explore the site of the capital of the ancient Parthian Kingdom of Nisa. More than two thousand years ago the Parthian Empire spread out from Nisa and took its place among such kingdoms as the Achaemenid under Cyrus the Great and the Macedonian under Alexander the Great. Though Nisa was ruled by a succession of dynasties, it remained an important center in the ancient world until the 13th century, when the Mongols sacked it. Today archaeological work continues at Nisa, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007. Meet with a local archaeologist while visiting the excavations that continue to reveal more about this ancient city. On the way back to Ashkabad, make a stop at Kipchuk village to admire Turkmenbashi's personal mosque. The huge $100-million-dollar mosque in former Turkmen President Niyazov's hometown of Kipchuk was inaugurated in 2004. The mosque is big enough to hold 10,000 people. Its 164-foot golden dome had to be lowered in place by helicopter. Verses from Niyazov's own spiritual book, the Ruhnama, are etched on the walls alongside Koranic verses. Niyazov was buried here in the family mausoleum that he built, along with the mosque, with government funds.

Lunch: Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Visit the National Museum of History and Ethnography with its superb collection of carved ivory drinking horns from Nisa. Ashkabad is known for the many elaborate marble monuments constructed by former President-for-Life Saparmurat Niyazov, a.k.a. Turkmenbashi (which means “Leader of all Turkmen”). The tradition has continued: in 2013 Ashkabad was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most white marble buildings in the world. Turkmenbashi was also responsible for building the 250-foot Arch of Neutrality, on which a 40-foot golden statue of himself revolved to continuously face the sun. Sadly, the statue is now stationary, though still imposing; current President Berdimuhamedov promised to dismantle it, but decided not to destroy it. Instead, it has been retired to the Berzenghee Settlement and now tops a less extreme "Monument" of Neutrality rather than the "Arch."

Dinner: Dinner tonight is at a nearby restaurant: table service; fixed menu; tea and water included.

DAY
19
Altyn-Asyr, One of Central Asia's Largest Bazaars
Ashkabad
B,L,D
Archabil Hotel

Activity note: Activities may include boarding and disembarking from the bus; walking up to two miles and standing in place during excursions.

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: After breakfast, set out to explore Ancient Anau, which has been inhabited since Neolithic times. Archaeologists have recently uncovered evidence of a sophisticated town from around 2300 BC, the time of the early cities of Mesopotamia and ancient Iran. Up until a severe earthquake in 1948, Anau was well known for its beautiful 15th-century mosque, decorated with a tiled mosaic of two dragons. Although the site of the old mosque is today mainly of interest to archeologists, a new mosque has arisen, built of bricks from the rubble of the old one.

Lunch: Return to Ashkabad for lunch at a local restaurant: fixed menu; table service; tea and water included.

Afternoon: Visit the Russian Bazaar. The Russian Bazaar in the center of Ashkabad is a large covered market selling all kind of foodstuffs, including prepared foods, fruits, nuts, vodka, high quality caviar and traditional breads. Before independence, this was where most ethnic Russians would shop, but today anyone is welcome. Turkmen women in traditional dress make up the majority of the sales force.

Dinner: Enjoy a celebratory farewell dinner served at the hotel restaurant with a fashion and folk show or Turkmen dancers.

DAY
20
Program Concludes
Ashkabad
B

Breakfast: Available at the hotel. However flights out of Ashkabad depart in the early morning hours, in which case, breakfast is on board the flight.

Morning: Departures. *Note: All flights to Europe with connections to the U.S. depart very early in the morning.