in Tashkent

“Outside the gate, on your way into the market,” I learn at dinner on my first day in Tashkent; I had been looking for the region’s famous melons. The day is welcoming, the weather warm, 102F, the sky clear, the officials at the airport indulgent of my excess baggage, my bicycle box. At the market, unable to communicate to an obliging vendor my wish for a quarter kilo, I purchase a half kilo of rich, dark walnuts, grown locally.

Two weeks later, again on a Saturday, a friend takes me to two more of Tashkent’s large bazaars. Headed into a building of fabric vendors at Chorzu, I pause on a stairway, immediately drawn in by these two, a mother and daughter, they seemed, and by all around them.