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A Taste of the Silk Road: A Personal Journey


During its heydays, when the Tang Dynasty ruled China, the Silk Road was an inhospitable and utterly dangerous place. It nearly cost the most famous pilgrim to travel the road, the 7th century Chinese Monk Xuanzang, his life. Sadly, despite the dramatic improvements in transport and communications, many parts of it are still difficult and unstable. There is Uyghur unrest in China’s Xinjiang province, the site of such major Silk Road stopovers as Hami and Turpan on the north and Khotan (Zeitan) in the south. Taliban menaces the old Silk Road route to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan (Swat Valley). Add Iran, Baghdad, and the Central Asian Republics, and you get the picture.

Yet it is possible to sample the Silk Road, especially the eastern part of of it, from Xi’an to Dunhuang, which is within Chinese territory and very much accessible. It is the next best alternative to going the full distance.

In Xi’an, one can still visit the place where the Silk Road caravan’s took their first steps in the long and hazardous journey. It is now a small park with stone and concrete horses, camels and traders as well as a detailed map of the Silk Road.