Wednesday, October 22, 2014

UNDP Supply of honey bees and bee keeping equipment to Karakalpakstan / Поставка пчел и пчеловодческого инвентаря в Каракалпакстан



The UNDP Aral Sea Programme has this year provided 30 bee keeping packages including bee hives to enterprises in Kanlikul and Amudarya districts of Karakalpakstan.

As part of her review of achievements made by UNDP Uzbekistan and to pave the way for future initiatives the UNDP Administrator Ms. Helen Clark (former Prime Minister of New Zealand) visited on October 18th the ‘Khojanazar Akhun’ bee-keeping project in Kanlikul to see the successful project.

Source: http://undp.akvoapp.org/en/project/525/update/3355/

Humans must change behaviour to save bees, vital for food production 

Bee colonies have been collapsing in many parts of the globe, and this potentially disastrous decline in bees, a vital pollinating element in food production for the growing global population, is likely to continue unless humans profoundly change their ways, from the use of insecticides to air pollution.

It is known that of the main 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world’s food and over 70 are pollinated by bees.

Some 20,000 flowering plant species upon which many bee species depend for food could be lost over the coming decades without greater conservation efforts. Since the 1980s, there has been a 70 per cent drop in key wildflowers among them the mint, pea and perennial herb families.

Meanwhile the increasing use of chemicals in agriculture is being found to damage bees, weakening their immune systems, with laboratory studies showing that some insecticides and fungicides can act together to be 1,000 times more toxic to bees. They can also affect the sense of direction, memory and brain metabolism, and herbicides and pesticides may reduce the availability of plants bees need for food and for the larval stages of some pollinators.

Air pollution, too is interfering with the ability of bees to find flowering plants and thus food, with scents in industrial countries that could travel over 800 metres in the 1800s now reaching less than 200 metres from a plant. Electromagnetic fields from sources such as power lines might also be changing the behaviour of bees who are sensitive as they have small abdominal crystals that contain lead.

Another factor concerns parasites and pests, such as the Varroa mite which feeds on bee fluids, and the small hive beetle, which damages honeycombs, stored honey and pollen. Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, it has spread to North America and Australia and is expected to reach Europe. Common honey Bees species are also be suffering from competition by “alien species” such as the Africanized bee and the Asian hornet.

Looming over all this is climate change which, left unaddressed, may aggravate the situation in various ways, including by changing the flowering times of plants and shifting rainfall patterns, in turn affecting the quality and quantity of nectar supplies.
The way humanity manages or mismanages its pollinators, will play an important part in defining our collective future.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Another Beautiful part of Central Asia on the Silk Road - Karategin Valley

 

Not directly related to Karakalpakstan except that it is also part of the great silk road. I lived and worked there for 9 months in 1999-2000 for MSF-H.

Gharm where I was based is directly east of Dushanbe and lies one of the most beautiful and interesting valleys in Tajikistan. The official name is the Rasht valley, but it is often known as the Karategin valley.

It forms the upper reaches of the Surkh Ob River, flowing between the high peaks of the Pamirs to the east, and the Zeravshan range to the west. The valley is broader than those in Pamirs, and there is a great variety of scenery and vegetation. There are a number of picturesque towns and villages. The people are very hospitable and give a genuine welcome to visitors.

Travelers will have the pleasure of knowing they are follow along an important branch of the Silk Road, known as the Karategin route. Thousand of caravans would have passed this way making their journey from northern Persia on to Kashgar in China. The route followed the river to its headwaters, and then over the Karamyk Pass to what is now Kyrgyzstan. (not normally open for foriegn national without permission).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kunya Urgench



Photo: Kutlug-Timur minaret and Tekesh mausoleum

INTRODUCTION
Just across the border just  50 Km SW of Nukus is the fascinating city of Kunya-Urgench located in Dashoguz velayat of Turkmenistan near on the left bank of the Amu-Daria River.

Nowadays Konye-Urgench as it is known in Turkmen is a quiet town. But centuries ago the Khorezmshah empire was the center of the Islamic world in the 12th century (until Khorezmshah Mohammed II moved his capital to Samarkand in 1210).

The origins of Kunya-Urgench go back to the 6th or 5th centuries, the early Achaemenid period. In 712, Kunya-Urgench was invaded by Arabs and named Gurgandj. Being at the crossing of trade routes, the town prospered, becoming a major centre from the 10th-14th centuries. It was the capital of Khorezm from the 12th century and the second city after Bukhara in Central Asia. The city, destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1221 but rebuilt, was described as the finest city of the Turks with fine bazaars and impressive buildings. It was ravaged by Timurid troops between 1372 and 1388 and never regained its position.  In the 16th century, the capital was transferred to Khiva, and the city was finally abandoned (the Amu Darya River changed its course at the same time).

The city was newly colonized by Turkmen from 1831: however, the new development took place outside the old town, which later served as a graveyard.Today the old town area of the city contains series of monuments dating mainly from the 11th to 16th centuries.  Most of it however is deserted with only  some remains of ancient fortified settlements, including a mosque, the gates of a caravanserai, fortresses, mausoleums and a 63-m high minaret all that is left of a once great city.


IBU BATTUTA

The great Moroccan traveller and Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta who visited in 1333 visited the city when it was still thriving and reported that:

 "After journeying through this desert we have arrived at Khwarizm which is the largest, most beautiful and most important city of the Turks. It has fine bazaars and broad streets, a great number of buildings... the city is in the dominions of the Sultan Uzbek who is represented in it by the great Emir called Qutludumur. It was he who built the college and the dependencies annexed to it. As for the Mosque, it was built by his wife, the pious Khatun Turabak.”

Genghis Khan destroyed the city (along with many others towns in the territory of Khoresm) because of a short-sighted decision by the Khorezmshah, Mohammed II, who ruled from Urgench.

Ibn Battuta relates to the city when Genghis Khan came in 1219.
“It happened that Tankiz (Genghis Khan) sent a party of merchants with the wares of China and al-Katha (northern China) such as silk fabrics etc. to the town of Utrar (a city in todays Khzakhstan on the banks of the Syr Darya river about 100 miles north of Tashkent)....his governor in the town sent a message to him informing him of this event and enquiring of him what action he should take in regard to them. Jalal ad-Din (son of the King Mohammed II) wrote to him commanding him to seize their goods, mutilate them, cut off their limbs, and send them back to their country.......So when he carried out this action Tankiz made ready to set out in person with an army of uncountable numbers to invade the lands of Islam. When the governor of Utrar heard of this advance he sent spies to bring back a report about him and the story goes that one of them went into a mahalla  (an open area in an for large crowds to pray near a neighbourhood mosque) of one of the emirs of Tankiz disguised as a beggar. He found nobody to give him food and set up a position beside one of their men but he neither saw any provisions with him nor did the man give him anything to eat. In the evening the man brought out some dried intestines that he had with him, moistened them with water, opened a vein of his horse, filled the intestines with its blood, tied them up and cooked them on a fire; this was his food. So the spy returned to Utrar, reported on them to the governor and told him that no one had the power to fight against them.........”
            
By 1333 when he visited the city had recovered but was forty five years later it was once again to fall victim to yet another invader, Timur the Great, known as Tamerlane.

Mausoleumturabag_1The interior dome of the double-domed Turabak Mausoleum

Tamerlane who was not willing to see the  city potentially rival his grand capital of Samarkand, first invaded in 1379 and again in 1388 when he razed it to the ground and in a gesture of finality reminiscent of the Romans’ treatment of Carthage when they ordered the ruins to be covered with salt, ordered that barley be sown over what was left of Urgench.


UNESCO LISTING

In 2005 Konye-Urgench was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list. In giving the city world heritage status they noted that "The tradition of architecture expressed in the design and craftsmanship of Kunya-Urgench has been influential in the wider region to the south and south-west (Iran and Afghanistan) and later in the architecture of the Mughal Empire (16th-century India)".

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

IGOR SAVITSKI Peintre, collectionneur, fondateur du Musée (French Edition)

99In French:

Le mémoire de Mme Babanazarova, basé sur sa thèse de 1990 à l'Institut de Théâtre et D'art de Tachkent, s'appuie sur la correspondance, les dossiers officiels et d'autres documents d'Igor Savitsky et de sa famille, qui sont devenus disponibles dernièrement, ainsi que sur les souvenirs de nombreuses personnes ayant connu Savistky personellement, ainsi que sur sa propre expérience de travail a ses cotés, en tant que successeur designé.

Comme son titre l'indique, le livre se concentre sur les trois dimensions clés de la vie d'Igor Savitsky et de ses contributions à l'histoire culturelle et à la vie d'Asie centrale. D'abord sa propre carrière d'artiste-peintre avec plus de 700 oeuvres, puis comme collectionneur, tout d'abord d'antiquités du Khorezm et d'art Karakalpak, puis d'art avant-gardiste proscrit; et, finalement, son rôle de fondateur puis,pendant 18 ans jusqu'à sa mort prématurée en 1984, de directeur du musée, qui pris son nom a titre posthume.

Source: http://www.amazon.com/SAVITSKI-Peintre-collectionneur-fondateur-Edition-ebook/dp/B008I7ETV8

In English:

Introduction

This monograph about painter and collector Igor Savitsky in the French language written by director of the Karakalpak State Museaum of Arts in Nukus named after I.V. Savitsky by the long term director Marinika Babanazarova published on the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and France. Its aim is to provides a better understanding of the works and role of Savitsky, and his museum to the many French tourists who visit each year.
 
The Karakalpakstan State Museum of Arts named after I.V. Savitsky – also known, simply, as the Nukus Museum – hosts the world’s second largest collection of Russian Avant garde art (after the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg). It includes works by Clement Redko, Viktor Ufimtsev, Alexey Ispupob, Ural Tansykbayev and Alexander Volkov. It is also home to one of the largest collections of archaeological objects and folk, applied and contemporary art originating from Central Asia.
 The museum was named after its founder, artist and ethnographer Igor Savitsky, who had been collecting unique pieces of art all over the Soviet Union for 17 years. Along with avant-garde collection the Savitsky Art Museum in Nukus also has many fine samples of Uzbekistan’s fine art, applied art of Karakalpakstan, the art of ancient Khorezm.  

Igor Savitsky (1915-84) born in Kiev and the Museum’s founder, first went to Karakalpakstan in 1950 as the artist in the Khorezm Archaeological and Ethnographic Expedition led by the great Sergei P. Tolstov. Fascinated by the culture and people of the steppe, Savitsky stayed on after the dig (1950-57)and began methodically collecting Karakalpak carpets, costumes, jewellery, and other works of art. At the same time, he started a collection of drawings and paintings of artists linked to Central Asia, including those of the Uzbek school, and, during the late-1950s/early-1960s, those of the Russian avant garde.  Today, the Museum houses a collection totalling about 90,000 items, including graphics, paintings and sculptures, as well as thousands of artefacts, textiles and jewellery, ranging from the antiquities of Khorezm’s ancient civilization to the works of contemporary Uzbek and Karakalpak artists.

Source: http://www.karakalpakstan.org/what_to_do_art.html
 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Uzbekistan : Itchan Kala, Khiva


The city of Khiva is near the border with Turkmenistan and is has a pop. of around 50,000 was the first site in Uzbekistan to be inscribed in the World Heritage List, in 1990.

It is located on the edge of the Khorezm Oasis, flanked by the the Karakum Desert (Black Sands) to the West and the Kyzyl Kum Desert (Red Sands) to the East, not far from the Oxus River (now called the Amu Darya), Khiva was, along with Samarkand and Bukhara, an important historical site on the Great Silk Road lying on the southern part of the Amu Darya delta and was the final halt for caravans before crossing the desert to Persia.

In the 4th century AD, the town was at the heart of Khorezm (Greek Choresmia) known for its irrigation that transformed the 'black sands' of the region into lush grazing lands, gardens, and orchards. It was first conquered by the Arabs in 712, and then by the Mongols in 1221. After the death of Ghengiz Khan the Khanate of Khiva became part of the huge Chagatai Khanate. In 1388 Tamerlane the Great (Timur) annexed the city to his realm. In 1505, Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani captured Khwaerzm from the Timurids. After Shaybani's defeat by the Safavids in 1510, Persians captured this region. But in 1511, the Uzbek group the Yadigarid Shaybandis installed themselves as Khans of the region after rebellion against Persian rule. Once Old Urgench was finally abandoned due to a shift in the course of the Amu-Darya in 1576, the centre of the region shifted southward, and, in 1619, the Khan, Arab Muhammad I, chose Khiva as the capital of the Khanate. For a long period of time (until 1917), Khiva was the most important slave markets in Central Asia.

Nowadays, Khiva is split into two parts: the older one, museum-like Ichon-Qala or Itchan Kala (within the wall), and the modern Dichon-Qala (outside the wall). Itchan Kala, which retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, majority from the 18th and 19th centuries, was the first site in Uzbekistan to be inscribed in the World Heritage List, in 1990.

In the 4th century AD, the town was at the heart of Khorezm (Greek Choresmia) known for its irrigation that transformed the 'black sands' of the region into lush grazing lands, gardens, and orchards. It was first conquered by the Arabs in 712, and then by the Mongols in 1221. After the death of Ghengiz Khan the Khanate of Khiva became part of the huge Chagatai Khanate. In 1388 Tamerlane the Great (Timur) annexed the city to his realm. In 1505, Uzbeks under Muhammad Shaybani captured Khwaerzm from the Timurids. After Shaybani's defeat by the Safavids in 1510, Persians captured this region. But in 1511, the Uzbek group the Yadigarid Shaybandis installed themselves as Khans of the region after rebellion against Persian rule. Once Old Urgench was finally abandoned due to a shift in the course of the Amu-Darya in 1576, the centre of the region shifted southward, and, in 1619, the Khan, Arab Muhammad I, chose Khiva as the capital of the Khanate. For a long period of time Khiva was the most important markets of slaves in Central Asia until becoming a protectorate of Imperial Russia in 1873.

Nowadays, Khiva is split into two parts: the older one, museum-like Ichon-Qala or Itchan Kala (within the wall), and the modern Dichon-Qala (outside the wall). Itchan Kala, which retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, majority from the 18th and 19th centuries.
The most spectacular features of Itchan Kala are its crenelated brick walls (6 to 8m high, and 6m thick at their base) and four gates at each side of the rectangular fortress: North Gate (Bachtscha Darwase), East Gate (Palwan Darwase), South Gate (Dascht Darwase), and West Gate (Ata Darwase). Although the foundations are believed to have been laid in the tenth century, present-day 10-meters-high walls were erected mostly in the late seventeenth century and later repaired.

Djuma Mosque, for instance, was established in the tenth century and rebuilt from 1788 to 1789, although its celebrated hypostyle hall still retains 112 columns taken from ancient structures. Most of the public buildings are grouped round the main east-west axis, commanded at either end by the successive residences of the Khans of Khiva.

To the north-west, Kunya Ark, the 'ancient fortress', was established in 1686-88 by Arang-Khan; originally a formidable redoubt, it was converted in the early 19th century into a sumptuous palace by Alla-Ulli-Khan. The Tach-Kauli Palace to the north-east, was built in 1830-38, also for Alla-Ulli-Khan. Other exceptional monuments are the Mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud (1247-1325) and the Mausoleum of Sayid All-Uddin, which has retained its 14th-century layout intact.

The Madrasah of Alla-Kuli, built in 1835 in an awkward space near the east gate of the inner town, is a celebrated example of harmonious blending into an ancient urban fabric. Other great architecture of this period includes the Mausoleum of Pahlavan Mahmud and the Madrasahs of Muhammad-Amin-Khan and Islam-Khodja (1908-10), with its beautiful elegant  minaret, at 45 m the highest in Khiva.
 
 

A short, yet enormous, minaret stands before the façade of the Muhammad Amin-khan Madrassa. This is my personal favourite known as the Kalta-Minor - the "Short minaret". It is difficult to imagine Khiva without this monument of oriental architecture the minaret  has become an iconic symbol of the city mainly because of it’s exquisite blue and green tile work and the fact that it remains unfinished.

The minaret and Muhammad Amin-khan Madrassah were intended to finish the plan of the big square near the western gates of Ichan-Qala.  The minaret should have been the biggest and highest (planned to be 70m high) in Central Asia with its massive base of 14.5 m in diameter.


However after the death of the Khiva ruler Muhammad Amin Khan in 1855 after a battle with the Turkmen and the construction of the magnificent minaret stopped.  Apparently the Bukhara Khan found out about the construction of a grandiose minaret in Khiva and agreed with its architect on the construction of a taller minaret in Bukhara. The Khiva Khan became angry and ordered the architect to be thrown from the minaret, which stopped construction. In any case, the structure rose to only 29m.

Decoratively speaking, the bright blue minaret of Kalta-Minor has no equal in Central Asia. It is the only minaret whose surface is entirely covered with coloured glazed tiles. The varied pattern of coloured glazed tiles in white, blue, green and a brownish yellow form a perfect harmony. Even over a century later the minaret of Kalta Minor has been amazing with its size. Its unique decoration strikes an imagination: the minaret (resembling a huge glazed barrel) is completely covered with the glazed tile and majolica, which are still bright and vivid as in 1855.

Desert monitor (Varanus griseus) -- Under Threat




Uzbekistan (Stamp 1993) Varanus griseus - Desert monitor - Uzbekistan This beautiful large lizard Desert Monitor (Varanus griseus) can reach lengths of
1.6 m .

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyVaranidae
GenusVaranus


Desert monitor descriptions

The desert monitor is the most northerly distributed monitor species and one of the largest reptiles in its expansive range Its body is long and robust, with sturdy limbs, and a long, powerful tail which can be used liked a whip in defence. The nostrils of this species are particularly distinctive, comprising diagonal slits much closer to the eye than the tip of the snout.

Colouration is highly variable, but is always far more vivid in juveniles, which are generally yellow or orange with bold black bands running across the body and tail. As the desert monitor ages its colour and markings fade, becoming light brown, yellow or dark grey, with faint or non-existent banding. In some adults the upperside may be marked with creamy spots and mottling  or with small, dark spots extending to the tail and throat. This species is divided into three subspecies which occupy distinct geographical regions and can be identified by size, tail shape, and the number of bands on the body and tail.


Desert monitor biology

Active during the day, the desert monitor emerges from its burrow in the early morning, and basks in the sun at the entrance in order to raise its body temperature. When sufficiently warmed, it begins to forage, using its long forked tongue to detect chemical cues in the air that help it to track down prey. Once its quarry has been sighted, the desert monitor either rushes at it directly, or stalks it to within a few metres, before sprinting forwards. Prey is dispatched by biting the neck, which disrupts breathing, and also by violently shaking the animal in its jaws, after which it is swallowed whole. Desert monitors are opportunistic predators, and employ an impressive range of skills in the pursuit of food, including tree-climbing, swimming and digging. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, eggs and insects, and they will even tackle challenging prey such as hedgehogs, tortoises and venomous snakes.

During a single day, desert monitors range over large distances, usually between five and six kilometres, returning to their burrow before sunset. Although the desert monitor is a solitary species, individuals may occur in relatively high densities over a small area, which is described as a “settlement”. Within settlements, the individuals tolerate each other’s presence, although ritualised combat may occur to assert dominance. Desert monitor mating occurs over a 15 to 20 day period during the first two-thirds of June. Males typically locate a mate by following tracks in the sand, but while tracking may occur over days, and can range over many kilometres, it is frequently unsuccessful. If the male does catch up with the female, he may follow her closely for some time before copulation occurs.

Egg-laying generally occurs from late June to early July, and is preceded by the female digging a burrow with two shafts, one leading to a chamber which the female inhabits, and the other to a chamber in which a clutch of between 10 and 20 eggs is laid. After depositing the clutch, the female tightly packs the shaft leading to the eggs with sand, and then remains in the vicinity of the burrow to defend it from other desert monitors. In early October, after an incubation period of around 110 days, the eggs hatch, but the young do not yet attempt to dig to the surface. Like adult desert monitors, they hibernate through the winter, emerging from the subterranean chamber in the following spring.

Desert monitor threats

The species is listed in the Red Book of the IUCN and the CIS, and also in Appendix I of the CITES Convention on International Trade in endangered species of flora and fauna. The main causes of reduction and fragmentation of habitat. Habitat loss as a result of urban development and expansion of agriculture, which in some areas has caused the desert monitor to become rare or even extinct. Although a degree of habitat modification may be tolerated, major changes, such as the widespread conversion of  steppe to agriculture in Central Asia have proven to be catastrophic for this species’ survival. Other threats are hunting for its skin and its use in the traditional medicinal trade.
 
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