A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road, By Christopher Alexander

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The British author Christopher Alexander travelled to Khiva, an ancient Silk Road outpost in northwest Uzbekistan, to work for a Swedish NGO, and ended up making the place his home. Immersing himself in the country's language and culture, he became fascinated by kilims (hand-woven rugs) and established a workshop in a disused madrassah (school) to help revive age-old weaving techniques cast aside during the Soviet era. He soon found himself exporting his rugs around the world and tangling with corrupt officials greedy for bribes.

Alexander's account of his seven years in Uzbekistan is less a travelogue than it is an object lesson in staying put. Aside from sorties to Tashkent, and the odd hair-raising trip into neighbouring Afghanistan in search of carpet dyes, the book is set almost entirely in Khiva's desert oasis, lending it a richness rare in travel writing. By turns funny and moving, this excellent memoir evokes the joys and frustrations of life in a country "marooned somewhere between Mohammad and Marx".

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