Travelogue Articles

The Texture of Time
by Tom Cole

My plan was to go to Mazar-i Sharif in the northern sector controlled by the Uzbek warlord, General Rashid Dostum. It had been a full nineteen years since I had visited the north. How much had things changed? What could be found in an area now visited by few Western rug and textile dealers?

Flights went from Peshawar in Mazar on what my Uzbek friend Mohammed Khalid called "Dostum's planes"....The plane was a converted Russian military transport with benches on either side and luggage stacked in the middle, unconstrained. We piled in, as if boarding a country bus...read more

Afghanistan before the Revolution, the Russians, the Wars and the Taliban
by Tom Cole

I first went to Afghanistan in 1970, as a young man taking a leave of absence from my university studies. While not immediately enthralled by the place, I was struck by the medieval quality of life there, as if time had stopped some 500 years before, and I, as a 20th century traveller, had stepped back in time.

Afghanistan existed in a time warp, a truly medieval culture steeped in the turbulent history at the fabled crossroads of Asia......... read more

A Mission To Central Asia - S.M. Dudin's Journey in 1900-1902 To Bokhara, Samarkand, And Beyond
By Elena Kordik (with assistance from Tom Cole in editing the text and selection of photos)

In 1900, the Grand Duke Georgiy II wrote to the Emir of Bukhara: "Being anxious about the addition of new collections to the museum in blissful memory of the Emperor Alexander the Third, I have charged an artist, Mr Dudin, with this task and sent him on a mission to Central Asia."

The vast, remote and inhospitable terrain, with its extreme climatic conditions, posed as many problems for the traveller as the 'barbarian' population whose hostility was only fuelled to a minor extent by religion. The ruthlessness of the traditional Central Asian authorities was not confined to ferenghi but extended to all who were not native to their domain....... read more

Diamond in the Rough or
Peshawar - "The Jewel of the Pathans"
by Tom Cole

Finally, someone out there makes the unlikely request for me to go in search for what must be some of the worst rugs made -- late 19th century aniline-dyed East Turkestan carpets that have literally turned gray -- and they want to pay me for them! One would think that such a task would be easy. After all, 99.9% of the things I see in Asia are almost that bad.

Some years ago I saw literally hundreds of late Yarkand-style rugs in Pakistan, so with high hopes I plannned a return after a relatively long hiatus. Off to Peshawar, capital of the Northwest Frontier Province, ......read more

Breathless in Lhasa or
"Fear & Loathing in Lhasa"

by Tom Cole

Off to Lhasa on the morning plane from Kathmandu. The monsoon recedes in September and my first three days in Nepal in more than year are pleasant enough. Dense cloud obscures the sun most of the day and it really is quite comfortable. No snow mountains to be seen, but at least the hills forming and surrounding the Kathmandu Valley are visible. In the dry season, the dust is thick and the pollution so noxious in what has been deemed the world’s second most polluted city that even these hills disappear in the gray poisonous clouds which pass for air.... read more
Sketches of Central Asia - "Amongst the Turkoman"
by Arminius Vambery

"Struck with astonishment and surprise at the strange social relations, amongst which I was to-day living for the first time, I was sitting in the early morning hours upon one and the same carpet with Khandjan, my hospitable host, listening with eager attention to his descriptions of Turkoman life and manners..." read more.......

Posted September 17, 2004

A Step Back in Time - Journey to St. Petersburg
by Tom Cole

Though the “Iron Curtain” fell away altogether more than 10 years ago, the prospect of venturing to heart of it all loomed on my horizon with anxious expectation and a real sense of excitement. My only experience with Russians had been a distant and hardly savoury one, observing them stroll the streets of Shar-i-Nau (the new city) in Kabul of the 1980's, watchful soldiers bearing Kalashnikovs escorting excursions into the storied bazaars by women as wide as the very tanks that had ushered the Soviet Army into the Afghan abyss, ultimately leading to the downfall of the entire communist system. read more......

Posted October 11, 2004

Sketches of Central Asia - "Marriage"
by Arminius Vambery

"At first I felt amazed that the tenderest of feelings should find room in the heart of a man in Central Asia, accustomed as he is from his earliest youth to robbery and murder, and hardened to the tears of widows, orphans and slaves. But I had the opportunity of convincing myself, that love is here more frequently the cause of the most extraordinary adventures than in other Mahomedan countries." read more...

Posted November 14, 2004

Travels in Central Asia - (excerpt from Chapter IX)
by Arminius Vambery

"At last, having got all ready for our journey, we gradually assembled in the well-shaded court of Toshebaz. I was able that day for the first time fully to appreciate the influence that the pious charity of the Khivities had exercised upon our mendicant karavan. It was only in the case of the more stingy that we could dicern any traces of their former rags: in the place of torn felt caps, worn amongst the Yomuts, my friends had donned the snow-white turban; all the knapsacks were better filled; and what was most pleasing to see was, that even the poorest of the pilgrims had now his small ass to ride upon." read more.........

Posted November 27, 2004

A Ride to India Across Persia and Baluchistan - (excerpt)
by Harry de Windt (1891)

"In the matter of births and marriages the Baluchis, being of the Mohammedan religion, regulate their ceremonies mainly according to the Koran. Marriage is attended with great festivities. The first step s the "zang," or betrothal, which is regarded as of a very sacred nature, the final rite being known as "nikkar." On the wedding-day the bridegroom, gorgeously arrayed, and mounted on his best horse or camel, proceeds with his friends to a "ziarat," or shrine, there to implore a blessing, after which the "winnis," or marriage, is gone through by a moullah...." read more....

Posted on December 3, 2004

Travels of Marco Polo - Tibet (excerpt)

"You ride for 20 days without finding any inhabited spot, so that travellers are obliged to carry all their provisions with them, and are constantly falling in with those wild beasts which are so numerous and so dangerous. After that you come at length to a tract where there are towns and villages in considerable numbers. ...The people are Idolaters and an evil generation, holding it no sin to rob and maltreat: in fact, they are the greatest brigands on earth. They live by the chase, as well as on their cattle and the fruits of the earth."
read more ........

Posted on December 16, 2004

The Journal of William of Rubruck - (excerpt)

"A Flemish Franciscan monk, William of Rubruck (ca. 1210-ca. 1270) wrote the most detailed and valuable of the early Western accounts of the Mongols. William had participated in the crusade of King Louis IX of France to Palestine and there heard about the Mongols from friar Andrew of Longjumeau, a Dominican who had been involved in papal diplomacy aimed at trying to enlist the Mongols in the Christian crusade against the Muslims. Rubruck then decided to undertake his own mission to the Mongols primarily in the hope of promoting their conversion to Christianity." read more.........

Posted on December 19, 2004

Sketches of Central Asia - "The Tent and Its Inhabitants"
by Arminius Vambery

"On first reading this it struck me as a little too strong, and I shall ever protest against such attribution of the title of vagabond, however refined may be the terms in which it is couched. Still I must candidly confess that the tent, the snail shell of the nomad, if I may be allowed so to call it, has left on my memory an ineffaceable impression. It certainly is a very curious feeling which comes over one when he compares the light tent with such seas of stone buildings as make up our European cities. The vice of dervishism is, to be sure, contagious, but happily not for everybody, so that there is no danger in accompanying me for a little while to Central Asia, and glancing at the contrast there presented to our fixed, stable mode of life." read more........

Posted January 1, 2005

Postcard from Singapore - Old and New
by Tom Cole

Singapore, strategically located on the Straits of Melaka separating the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, is a unique destination in Asia. An attractive travel hub with Changi as one of the world's showcase airports, the city is clean, almost antiseptically so, refreshingly safe in terms of crime as well as unpolluted and free of the motorway nightmares that prevail throughout Asia. By contrast, Bangkok and Hong Kong are difficult to navigate and essentially humourless cities, with a seedy underside and a pervasive air of desperation. read more........

Posted January 28, 2005

Persepolis
by Murray Eiland, III

As part of the Grand Persian Carpet Exhibition and Conference in June 1992, the delegates were treated to a tour of Persepolis, perhaps the most awesome ruin of the ancient world. It is located in the modern province of Fars; ancient Elam ruled from Anshan (modern Tepe Malyan), where settlement extends back long before the first use of writing ("Proto-Elamite script") about 3000 B.C. Today Shiraz is the major city of the province, which still has the the country's largest population of nomads. Our visit made for a memorable day. read more....

Posted Sept. 2, 2006

In Search of "The Ideal Image" -
Journey to Kanchipuram
by Tom Cole

For years, I have been fascinated with classical Asian art.  In fact, the impetus to venture out into the world and a life of adventure on the road in India was first provided by my contact with Tibetan thangkhas at an early age.  It was so long before that it seems like a lifetime ago, but more like someone else’s life than my own.  I can barely remember NOT being on the road in Asia in my life. read more....

Posted Sept. 8, 2010

In Search of Paradise?
Goa Revisited
by Tom Cole

With inevitable nostalgia for the the past and lost youth, and the recent 'reunion', many have recently declared Goa to be “finished”, “it’s over” or something similar.  But given the fact Goa has been around for a long time, with the earliest historical reference dating to the  third century BC,  I am guessing such declarations may be premature. read more ......

Posted Sept. 8, 2010

BROUGHT INTO FOCUS
- The Work of Antoine Sevruguin -
by Tom Cole

Antoin Sevruguin was one of the earliest photographer-explorers. As explained here, his pictures of Persia and its people both help to define and transcend the cult of orientalism as well as enlighen us to the detaila and nuances of the lifestyle, dress and customs of the people of old Persia. read more....

Posted Sept. 24, 2015





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To Articles on Chinese & Tibetan Rugs --->

To Articles on Persian Rugs and Weavings --->

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