Across Continents

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Tales from Turkistan

Turkistan. At last. Two hundred miles south of Kyzylorda across the inhospitable Kazakh steppe. I’d stopped briefly at a small cafe on the outskirts, seeking directions for the centre. Found a mobile phone pressed into my hand, an English speaking female voice at the other end. Wasn’t exactly sure who the woman was, but explained what I was doing, adding I’d been given a sketch map to help me find somewhere to stay.

After the emptiness of the steppe, a mele of sights and sounds in Turkistan. Vehicles stopping suddenly, forcing others to weave erratically around them. Scant regard for traffic lights. Pedestrians wandering aimlessly across the road, unperturbed by the traffic. Alluring aromas from roadside cafes and market stalls.

Ainur

I drifted around for a while, soaking up a little civilisation. Then off to find somewhere to stay. Chancing on a hotel mentioned in my guide book, I’d suspected it’d be outside my budget but thought I’d enquire in any case. Barely reached the reception desk when a young woman arrived, addressing me in English. Ainur explained that it was she I’d spoken to earlier in the cafe her mother ran. She’d guessed where I might go and had come to help. Which she did admirably. Got an ensuite room for the price of a basic single. About fifteen pounds for a night. Came with air conditioning. And Emma could join me.

All that would have been generosity enough. But no. Returning to the lobby after dinner, I met Ainur once more, quite unexpectedly. She was keen to show me something of her home town. The Mausoleum of the first popular Turkic Muslim holy man, Kozha Akhmed Yasaui, built in the fourteenth century. Beautiful rose gardens.

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