Silk Route Market Cities Today

The ancient silk route has been one of the greatest trade routes connecting east and west Eurasia. The ancient cities in the ancient world have still retained their prominence in defining world trade across the land. The surrounding desert and large swathes of inhospitable lands make the Silk Road and its cities an ideal location for resting and trade with locals. Also, most of these cities are crossroads and junctions to travel to various locations. From the strategic and commercial point of view, we have listed here some cities that ruled the trade for thousands of years since the advent of civilization.

Now let us travel from east to west along the silk route and visit the important towns along the Silk Route, which has been declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

1)Xi’an, China

Xi’an, at the far eastern end of the Silk Route, is one of the four ancient capitals of China. Xi’an is located strategically right at the centre of China and forms a junction of different religious and ethnic cultures of ancient China. Not to forget, Xi’an is still a major Chinese tourist hotspot and serves as a stop for tourists visiting anywhere in central and west China.

2)Delhi, India

Delhi, the capital of India is right at the junction of crossroads in India. Delhi is also the crossroads of cultures in India where Mughal influence mixes beautifully with Rajput, Punjabi, Marwari, UP as well as pahari influence. It is also a major hub of tourism and is the administrative centre of India. Delhi is also one of the oldest cities of India, and the seat for various major kingdoms and empires in India. The nearby city of Mathura is also an important Silk Route city.

3)Lahore, Pakistan

Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, is also a major trading hub connecting the Silk route between China and the Arabian Sea. The ancient university of Takshashila lies near the city and was an important stop for pilgrims from Central Asia. Today, Lahore is an important market city and a tourist destination visited by almost every tourist coming to Pakistan.

4)Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Osh is another city in the fertile Fergana Valley which served as a centre of trade since ancient times. Proximity to the border with Uzbekistan makes it a major centre of trade even today. Osh market is still one of the biggest in Central Asia, where a mixed population of Central Asians live.

5)Khujand, Tajikistan

Fertile lands of the Fergana Valley served as a major stop for Silk Route traders, and Khujand is one of the best-preserved sites among them. Khujand is not only a centre of travel but also is a centre of trade between Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries owing to proximity.

6)Turkistan, Kazakhstan

Turkistan lies in south Kazakhstan and was once an important trade outpost on the Silk Route. It still is a major tourist hub of tourists visiting Kazakhstan due to its historic monuments, including Khoja Ahmed Yassavi Mausoleum. Turkestan has grown as an important trading hub and a crossroad marketplace in the modern world.

7)Samarkand, Uzbekistan

The city of Samarkand, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the oldest continuously lived cities in Central Asia. It gained importance for its strategic location and served as a crossroads of various cultures and ethnic groups for centuries.
The Registan, the squares, the markets, the mosques, the gardens, and most importantly, its hospitality and friendly people make it one of the most significant tourist destinations in the world.

8)Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the historic city centre of Bukhara served as the resting station along the silk route. Bukhara is known for its carpet industry as well as the spice trade. The great minaret, the ark, the pond, and the main bazaar, all served as a centre of tourist attraction along the silk route.

9)Khiva, Uzbekistan

The border town of Khiva is also the hotspot of tourist activity owing to its inner town or Itchan Kala, a World Heritage Site. Khiva is also an important stop along the silk route near the border with Turkmenistan which handles a significant land trade along the ancient Silk Route. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva form the trio of jewels of Central Asia.

10)Merv, Turkmenistan

The ruins of Merv, one of the ancient capital cities and a major hub of trade, are today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Though the city has been abandoned and currently lies in ruins, it is still one of the best-preserved in the Silk Route. The nearby city of Mary serves as the main marketplace and commercial hub of trade in modern-day Turkmenistan today.

11)Tehran, Iran

The capital of Iran, Tehran also lies along the ancient Silk Route. Ray, a suburb of Tehran has been found to contain ruins of an ancient city flourishing as a stopover of tourists. Tehran largely grew around the old city and is now the seat of the throne of the Iran kingdom. Tehran lies at crossroads to various historic and cultural places of Iran. It also acts as a bridge between the maritime routes in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.

12)Erbil, Iraq

Erbil is inhabited since antiquity, since ancient Mesopotamian civilizations. The modern city of Erbil lies in the north-east part of Iraq, and is the main city of Kurdish people. Erbil continues to prosper owing to its importance in trade and tourism and its strategic location as a crossroad city. With time, Erbil has matched up with the modern society and is today on of the most modern towns of Iraq.

13)Damascus, Syria

Damascus is possibly the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world, inhabited at least 9000 BC. From ancient civilizations to the modern era, Damascus has never lost its importance as the cultural capital of the world. The large markets of Damascus, ancient architecture and its religious importance attracts millions of tourists each year. Being the capital of Syria, it is the seat of administration of modern-day Syria, though to many people Damascus is still the capital of the world.

14)Istanbul, Turkey

Founded by Roman Emperor Constantine, Istanbul is strategically the most important city in the world. It lies on the Bosphorus Strait, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. The city lies in both Europe and Asia continents and serves as a bridge of trade activities. The Hagia Sophia and other mosques, the central market, and the historic city centre all are major tourist attractions in the world. Istanbul is still the biggest centre of cultural and trade activities not only for Turkey but also for major parts of the world.

15)Rome, Italy

Usually considered at the western end of the Silk Road, Rome was the capital of the ancient Roman Empire, and has seen growth during the medieval and modern era as an important centre of civilization. Even today, its importance as sharing cultural, economic and religious aspects has continued to grow, and is still one of the most popular tourist destination around the world. Rome and Italy are still an icon to the rest of the world in terms of cultural activities, architecture and paintings, and most importantly cuisine.

Which of these have you visited or you want to visit? Let us know in the comment section below.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Fortified Rice to End Malnutrition

Even after 75 years of independence, malnutrition is still a major problem for the majority of the population of India. And the main reason for malnutrition is poverty. A large chunk of the Indian population is poor and cannot afford vitamin and mineral-rich food or supplements. Despite the availability of cheap iron-rich food sources, India has one of the largest populations reeling under iron deficiency. The Indian Government now wants to start a new scheme of fortifying rice with iron to lower the iron deficiency by some margin.

Fortified rice has been used to curb malnutrition in some countries of west Africa. Fortification of rice also has shown positive trends in reduction of anemia and other mineral-deficiency diseases. However, nowhere fortification of rice has been made mandatory. India hopes not only to start producing large-scale fortified rice but also to mandate it in the next 2 years. Iron, zinc, vitamin A, B vitamins are expected to be added to rice on fortification. Previously fortification has been allowed but not mandated in salt, wheat, edible oil, and milk.

However, fortified rice does not remain the ultimate solution to solve the malnutrition problem. Brown rice or hand-pounded rice is itself a rich source of iron, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B complex. There is no need to fortify regular rice, which is available cheaply in the markets. Fortification would most likely be a marketing strategy for marketing giants and will likely shoot up the price. Unfortunately, most premium rice varieties available in the Indian markets are white rice, mostly devoid of nutrition. It is not a bad idea to add a few vitamins and minerals to white rice. That being said, there is little evidence that artificially added vitamins and minerals are actually absorbed in our bloodstream and do not interfere with essential nutrients. Other home practices, such as hand pounding, cold pressing, and jaggery-making, can promote home industry and thus reduce poverty and hence malnutrition in our country.

It is always the best practice to process food so that most of its essential nutrients are retained in the food. For example, edible oil cold-pressed in a ghani, with traces of vitamins and minerals, works way better than refined oils, fortified with vitamins A, D, C, and what-not. Making jaggery is still practiced and honoured in rural India not just for taste and flavour, but for its immense health benefits. Jaggery contains a high amount of iron and other minerals, and thus is an excellent substitute for refined sugar. Substituting maida with atta brings a lot of micro and macro-nutrients to our diet. Exploring less used grains, like barley, jowar, bajra, ragi, cornmeal, and oils like sesame oil, mustard oil, groundnut oil can add to a variety of flavours and health at the same time, which the world cuisine is looking for.

Written by – Himadri Paul

Review on Proposed Changes in Lakshadweep

Lakshadweep is the smallest union territory of India, which comprises many tiny coral islands on the country’s south-west coast. Lakshadweep is one of the most peaceful areas of India, with untouched beauty, and unique local culture. The sandy coral islands, that form like a necklace of the Arabian Sea, are rich in corals and biodiversity. For centuries and even for 74 years after independence, Lakshadweep coexisted peacefully as a Union Territory of India, where the locals happily earned their livelihood doing their own business. For the past 3 months, we are seeing an increased agitation in Lakshadweep against some newly introduced policies of the Indian Government.

Some point out the communalism played by the Indian Government against a minority religion. Over 97% of Lakshadweep people are Muslims. Their economic livelihood was supported by agriculture, deep-sea fishing, small home industries and of course tourism. The governance of all these was left with the local panchayats and the locals themselves had got benefited from them. However, Lakshadweep Administrator, who is a representative of the Union Territory and appointed by the Union Government, has now taken full control over all of them. The reason given was unsatisfactory to the locals as well as many Indian political thinkers. The Lakshadweep Administrator introduced a debatable Anti-Goonda Act, that allows anyone to be arrested for 1 year without trial. On an island, where the crime rate is almost zero and the lowest in India, the introduction of such an Act is viewed with suspicion by local leaders, who perceive it as a method of suppressing the rebellion. A new rule on panchayat elections has been imposed, where any local leader having more than 2 children were barred from participating in elections or other Government schemes.

Beef, which forms a very important part of Lakshadweep cuisine, was banned. Schools were forbidden to include any non-vegetarian items in mid-day meals, where fish and meat were the predominant food items of the locals. Alcohol was banned in Lakshadweep since antiquity. The ban is now being lifted mostly to help tourists get access to alcohol. Even the lands of the locals, who belong to the Scheduled Tribes category, are in jeopardy. Lakshadweep Development Authority (LDA) was established for developing the islands of Lakshadweep in the pattern of Maldives. According to the Government, LDA is supposed to boost tourism in the region with world-class resorts, urban facilities and employment of the locals. However, the locals fear that they will be forced to give up their land, will be evicted and sent to mainland India, and will provide land for business to non-natives.

Not only the Lakshadweep people but also many mainlanders oppose such kind of development in the eco-sensitive region. Environmentalists are concerned that large scale construction will destroy the corals. The politicians accused of snatching away the rights of the Lakshadweep people. Many religious groups see it as a disturbance between the peaceful coexistence of Hindu and Muslim culture that prevailed for centuries in the region. Left and Congress are banned from entering Lakshadweep, while tourists with a negative RT-PCR test, can enter Lakshadweep without any quarantine. This mandatory quarantine rule for all tourists was lifted in May 2021 following which Lakshadweep recorded its first-ever Covid-19 case. Now the situation has worsened among the small population as Covid cases increase, reaching 100 a day by June 2021. Though many of the changes were not implemented yet, the Administrator is thinking about withdrawing some of the proposed changes that have drawn the people to protest. While making changes are good for a society to develop, it is equally important to preserve the rights of the locals, their customs and traditions, and also protect the environment at the same time for sustainable development.

Written by – Himadri Paul