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October 4, 2002

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Yesterday evening we hopped off the train and slept in Turkistan on the edge of the Kyzylkum desert. The town presents a grid of dusty buildings, a mausoleum of stunning blue tile amidst the scrubland, and a unique ethnic blend. We see a man who could be a Turkic Paul Newman - slanted blue eyes, high cheekbones, tan colored face, tawny hair. Other people catch our attention with their clothes: felt hats, flowing robes, blue sashes. The people always smile when they hear us speak Russian, patiently helping us order food, book train tickets, ask for a destination on a public bus. For meals we've eaten meat dumplings, chicken kebabs, spicy beef or mutton and rice. Restaurants don't provide English menus or speakers, so we pick out the Cyrillic words that look appetizing and hope for the best.
Kazakhstan's greatest building, the mausoleum of Kozha Akmed Yasaui, built by Timur (Tamerlane) in the 14th century.
Every denomination of Kazakh money, the Tenge, depicts a different aspect of this building (minus the camel).
The mausoleum is an important pilgrimmage site for Muslims; they keep Turkistan streets interesting to watch.