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Newsletter 56 - sent on the 9 June 2022
In the footsteps of Mughals
I have recently returned from a fantastic inaugural trip to Turkey: the consensus from everyone was that it was great to get back on the road. Yes, we were all a little rusty at both travel and photography, but there were no airport or travel issues at all. This is the advantage of flying outside of the peak school holiday times, but also not using charter or holiday airlines. The people of Turkey were fantastically welcoming, and any Covid restrictions unobtrusive. There are some places that actually benefitted from the Covid slowdown: the calcium travertines at Pamukkale have had time to recover and are looking fantastic. You can see a gallery of images from this short trip here.
The post-Covid era is a great time to travel. Many places have, quite frankly, become rather crowded over the past few years, and it has been hard to photograph them at their best. Popular destinations around the World have now had time to recover and as crowds have yet to build again: people are reporting back to me that it is like going back to the travel days of twenty or even thirty years ago!
Chetan, the leader I work with on Indian trips, has reported that travellers are being welcomed and treated like Royals on the first post-Covid trips in India. It seems that the whole world is desperate to get back to normal life and welcomes are as warm as they have ever been.
We are in the process of processing all of the survey results from our last newsletter, and should be releasing a series of new tours soon. These are going to include some shorter, and indeed cheaper trips, now that we are all facing a global economic slowdown. If you would like to have you say on future trips, then you can still reach our survey here:
In case you are wondering about the title of this newsletter, the first of the Mughal Emporers, who ruled Northern India from 1526-1857 was Babur, who came from Samarkand in Uzbekistan. If you travel in Uzbekistan, you will see a lot of similarities between the style of mosques, madrassas and forts of Uzbekistan and many of the great Mughal monuments in Delhi and Northern India.
At the moment we only have two tours scheduled with free places – Impressions of Rajasthan and Impressions of Uzbekistan. Each of these will allow you to experience the shared history of these two fascinating countries. You can see more about these tours below.
Impressions of Rajasthan
India is the most stunning and all-encompassing country. Quite literally it is assault on the senses: a kaleidoscope of colours, sights, spices and the most vibrant and exuberant people. Rajasthan is the most colourful and striking state in the country – and this adventurous tour takes in some of the most iconic things that Rajasthan has to offer.
We will visit ancient forts, deserts, bustling cities and traditional towns that are covered in historic paintings and murals. In may of these places life continues in much the same way as it has done for generations.
Most excitingly, we will take in the most iconic of Indian Festivals, the Pushkar Camel Fair. This is held in the desert town of Pushkar, around the shores of the holy Lake Pushkar. Attracting traders who bring thousands of camels, this is a perfect place to walk around and shoot portraits of traders, pilgrims drawn to bathe in the holy lake and the sadhus, or holy men who live in this town.
We also travel to the desert town of Bikaner, where we will stay in a Palace Hotel, and witness the Kolayat Mela. This is a similar festival to Pushkar, but attracts far fewer tourists, and here we can hopefully photograph the pilgrims bathing in the holy lake, which devout Hindus believe will wash away their mortal sins.
One of the most atmospheric places on the trip is the fabled desert town of Jaisalmer. When I authored Unforgettable Places to See Before You Die for the BBC, this was one of my 40 must-see places. A living fort in the sprawling Thar Desert, this is the most atmospheric and breath-taking sights in India. Like a film set, the inside of the fort is made up of beautiful temples, and ancient Palace and crossed by countless tiny alleyways. It is easy to get lost, or have to double-back when your way is blocked by one of the many holy cows that seem to walk around here. The scenery and villages around the fort are fantastic too: and watching the setting sun silhouetting camels on the neighbouring Sam Dunes, is one of the highlights of a visit to Jaisalmer.
Impressions of Rajasthan departs from New Delhi on the 30 October 2022 for 15 days. Under our new variable pricing policy, the cost is from £2395 for 8 people to £2095 for 12 people. You can see the full itinerary on this link and download the pdf for the tour here.
Impressions of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is a seldom visited country. Although close to the classic Hippy Trail, it was just a bit too north, and considerably too Communist to be an attraction. Yet it contains some of the most exotic cities in Central Asia: the names of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva conjure up images of the Ancient Silk Route, and boast ancient Mosques and Madrassas from one of the Golden Ages of Islamic architecture.
Impressions of Uzbekistan visits more than these great cities though. We also traverse the fertile Fergana Valley, explore ruined forts in the remote Kyzylkum Desert and even sample unchanged rural life in the village of Darband.
More than anything though, Uzbekistan is about the people. Long situated at the crossroads of history, the people encompass the many visiting influences to this land. The culture is a blend of the Silk Road travellers, the relaxed Islam of the founders of the Mughal Empire and the old Soviet Union. People are welcoming, and one of the biggest problems of photographing them is avoiding highlights from wide gold-toothed smiles! It is a place where you will often be welcomed into a restaurant with the Islamic greeting of Assalomu Alaykum, and then offered a bottle of local vodka for just a few dollars instead of beer or wine.
In response to a few concerns I have received recently, I would like to remind everyone that Uzbekistan is a very long way from Ukraine and does not share a border with Russia, Ukraine or any other territory which is likely to be drawn into the current conflict. Further, Uzbekistan publicly backs Ukrainian sovereignty, and is still considered a safe place to travel. As with all of our destinations though, we sub-contract all of our land arrangements to Intrepid Travel, who regularly monitor the safety of all of their destinations.
Impressions of Uzbekistan departs from Tashkent on 8 May 2022 for 13 days. Under our new variable pricing policy, the cost is from £2150 if 8 people travel, down to £1895 for the full 12 people. You can see the full itinerary on this link and download the pdf for the tour here.
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