China, Kyrgyzstan

The silent hand: China in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

James Willsher was until recently co-publisher of the Times of Central Asia, and has lived in Bishkek.

I become an acquaintance of an Uighur student in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, a decade ago; he pronounces his ethnic nomenclature as Oi-ghur, not Weegerr, as news reports do at the time of Uighur riots taking place in western China around the time of the Beijing Olympics.

Eight years later and I am a guest in a restaurant owned by someone who can be described only as an Uighur Alan Sugar, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I am in the process of ruining my tie and shirt with spicy noodles and an array of exotic dishes from his ancestral homeland over the border with China.

The restaurant is the cornerstone of his Uighur business centre premises in the Kyrgyz capital, providing countless jobs and a focus for trade and culture. The world empties its pockets for Chinese herbal remedies, so why not traditional Uighur herbal remedies? A new business venture. The enormous, intricately-decorated tea urn outside is exquisitely alien and resembles nothing I have seen previously, nor since. Continue reading

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Central Asia, Exploration, Great Game

Great Game manuscript gifted to RSAA: George Hayward

Dr Rosie Llewellyn-Jones MBE, RSAA Archivist, writes on the gift by Kathleen Hopkirk, widow of the author Peter Hopkirk, to the RSAA of a 19th century notebook written by George Hayward, one of the early players of the Great Game.

He fell among thieves was a favourite Victorian poem by Sir Henry Newbolt, recited in drawing rooms throughout England. It is a highly emotive and somewhat inaccurate account of the murder of George Hayward, an early explorer during the Great Game that was played out between British India and Russia. Newbolt was only a boy when news of Hayward’s death in the Hindu Kush on 18 July 1870, reached England. But there was something both inspiring and fearful about this lonely, thirty-year-old man, disguised in ‘native dress’ who had explored the Pamirs, the roof of the world, with only four Tibetan servants and baggage-carrying animals. Continue reading

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