#SilkRoad to be revived in four Eurasian countries

| July 5, 2017 | 0 Comments

The Turkic Council, a relatively new international organisation, comprised of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, is determined to revive the ancient Silk Road. The Council designed a tour package and expects 1 million tourists from around the world to visit the destinations in the package until 2023. This new route promises a unique experience for tourists interested in cultural tourism and alternative safe destinations, writes Eli Hadzhieva.

The Turkic Council created a tour package, which will be commercialized and online sales will start very soon. Already two Fam Tours were organised in April and May, with tour operators and journalists coming from across Europe, Asia and America. The tour goes through İstanbul, Konya, Nevşehir, Kayseri, Gandja, Sheki, Qobustan, Baku, Almaty, Turkistan, Shymkent, Taraz, Bishkek, Naryn, Issyk-Kul and Tash Rabat.

The tour package makes use of several public and private sponsors in 4 countries for 14 days. There are 11 tour operators in the organisation of the tour, which are coordinated by a Turkish operator. The Turkic Council is leading the negotiations with airlines and hotels to obtain competitive prices.

The secret of the success of the tour will be its unique formula, which allows tourists to pick and choose and design their own tour online. People would be able to combine their destinations and are not obliged to join all the steps of the tour. The tour will be full board and will offer a lot of flexibility, with different options for hotels which appeal to the taste of the middle-income tourists as well as upper-class tourists.

One of the aims of the project is to boost the economy, employment and social development of in the region while allowing Member States to decrease their dependence on oil and to diversify their economy.  According to the Secretary-General of the Turkic Council Ramil Hasanov: “Akin to Italy and Spain sharing a common Latin heritage, the four Turkic Council member states have common roots, language, culture and traditions.” Hasanov adds that these common traits may be instrumental in resolving regional conflicts and shall be seen as an opportunity for the future stability and peace in the region.

The organization plans to strengthen its ties with other Turkic-speaking countries, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The Silk Road may be the first step for the rapprochement of these nations, which were isolated and alienated from their Turkic roots during the Soviet era.

The Turkic Council currently collaborates with the UNDP, UN Office for South-South Cooperation, UN World Tourism Organization, UN Alliance of Civilisations on several projects, including projects dedicated to young people and prevention of radicalization.

According to the Deputy Secretary-General of the Turkic Council, Ömer Kocaman, the Silk Road connects China with Europe, with a daily trade volume of 1 billion dollars, expected to reach $3-4 billion in the near future. By promoting the Central Corridor of the Silk Road passing through the Caucasus and Central Asia, the organisation is aiming at connecting infrastructures and developing new routes to bring the East and West together.

Azerbaijan saw a huge transformation with new ports, railways, roads etc. since 2006. Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan will follow suit, increasing the connectivity in the region. The new railway project Baku-Tbilisi-Kars to be materialised soon is an important example to the fast modernisation of the region.

Ali Faik Demir, Professor at Galatasaray University and one of the participants of the Silk Road Fam Trip, says: “The Silk Road will be a road from heart to heart. There is everything: Culture, history, religion, nature, gastronomy.”

The Silk Road is inspiring and magical, stretching from Turkey’s Erciyes Mountains to Kazakhstan’s celestial Tian Shan Mountains, from the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan to the Issyk Lake in Kyrgyzstan.The journey starts with a boat tour on the Bosphorus, goes on with a hot air balloon flight over the fairy chimneys in Turkey, a train journey through the Kazakh steppes and a camel ride in Azerbaijan’s Naftalan, and ends with a horseback riding adventure in mountainous Tash Rabat region of Kyrgyzstan.

It is a special destination for cultural and historical tourism, which is unspoiled and undiscovered. From Khodhja Ahmed Yasawi to Rumi, the Silk Road is home to numerous mystics. At the crossroads of Jewish, Christian and Muslim pilgrimage routes, traces of shamanism and Zarathustrianism can also be found along the Silk Road. Moreover, the visitors can travel through history by tracing the footsteps of their ancestors through the oldest cave paintings in the world in Qobustan in Azerbaijan and petroglyphs dating 2000 BC to 400 AD in Cholpon Ata in Kyrgyzstan.

The Silk Road is coroneted with writers and poets, such Nizami Ganjavi, Azerbaijani writer of the oriental version of Romeo and Juliet- Leyla and Mecnun. Chingiz Aitmatov, whose books, such as Jamila, The First Teacher and The White Ship were translated into 150 languages, is the pride of Kyrgzystan as is the Manas epic poem, which holds a Guinness record for the longest poem in the world. Great scientists, such as the Turkish Nobel prize-winner in chemistry Aziz Sancar and Al Farabi, are among the jewels of the region.  It goes without mentioning painters, such as Abilkhan Kasteev, the father of Kazakh art, who is painting realist scenes of nomads in yurts, milking horses and making cheese, and musicians such as Azerbaijan’s Vagif Mustafazadeh, who is credited with fusing jazz with mugham.

One can do nothing but admire the splendid nature and architecture along the Silk Road stretching from the Bosphorus Strait of Istanbul and mysterious geological formations of Cappadocia to Kyrgyzstan’s pristine alpine lake Issyk, 7000m snowy peak Kan Tengri, ancient Burana Tower, from Kazakhstan’s endless steppes decorated with ethno villages such as Alasha and Taj Mahal-esque love temples, such as Aysha Bibi, to the green hills of Azerbaijan’s Sheki famous for its khan’s palaces to the land of fire and wind, Baku and its ever-burning mountain Yanar Dag.

Travelling from one caravanserai to another, which are usually at a 40-km distance from one another, as this was seen as a maximum distance a camel could walk for 9 hours a day, makes visitors travel in time. Falcons and gold eagles of Almaty, camels of Naftalan, snow leopards of Naryn and horses of Cappadocia accompany the tourists through this ones-in-a-lifetime journey. While the trade of ancient Silk Road goods such as silk (Sheki) and horses (Kochkor) is still alive, one can also shop for ceramics in Cappadocia, felt carpets in Kochkor and traditional hats in Almaty’s Green Bazaar.

One of the most important and distinguished features of the Silk Road is its nomadic people, who still lead a semi-nomadic life in Kyrgyzstan’s Tash Rabat region, for instance.  It is a unique experience to spend a night in a yurt, decorated with colourful carpets, blankets and chests. Sitting on a floor table in a yurt camp, one can taste regional specialities, such as kumis (fermented mare milk), camel milk and horse meat.

Cappadocia’s Ürgüp region is also known for its authentic cave hotels and home restaurants.

Other gastronomical wonders one should absolutely not miss on the Silk Road include beshbarmak (Kazakh and Kyrgyz ravioli with meat called ‘five fingers”), beef or sturgeon with pomegranate sauce, walnut jam, meat and chick pea meal called ‘piti’ of Ganja (Azerbaijani specialities) and Turkish specialities such as sarma (stuffed wine leaves), dolma (stuffed pepper) and tas kebabı (a special sort of kebab).

By offering these out-of-the-box tourism destinations, the Turkic Council Modern Silk Road Joint Tour Package will bring tourists together with the unique cultural, spiritual, historical and gastronomic life of the traditional Silk Road, which was a source of inspiration for famous travellers, including Marco Polo.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Opinion, Turkey