- Hardcover: 191 pages
- Publisher: Abbeville Pr; 1st edition (April 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0896599647
- ISBN-13: 978-0896599642
- Product Dimensions: 1 x 10.2 x 10.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,970,251 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fabled Cities of Central Asia: Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva Hardcover – April, 1990
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From Publishers Weekly
In Samarkand, the Soviet city whose fabled mosques stand as testament to its 14th-century Mongol ruler Tamerlane, debt-ridden farmers work 12- to 16-hour days on 30,000-person collective farms. Bukhara, one of the holiest cities in Islam, once had 250 religious academies; today, only one is in use. The third predominantly Moslem city on this visually spectacular tour of Soviet Central Asia is cotton-producing Khiva, whose prosperity once rested on the slave trade--one million people were snatched from Persia in the first half of the 19th century. British travel writer Magowan here teams with Russian photographer Gippenreiter to capture the architecture, people and sights of this region. They show us a paradoxical world where Persian and an ancient Indo-European tongue are still spoken, where women wear blazingly colorful costumes, where going shopping means "entering into a relationship" and where Moslem faith persists despite official repression.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Although the photography is 25+ years old, the scenes are dark due to selecting early morning or evening to take the picture. Big mistake because a lot of the intricate beauty is lost.
Samarkand and Bukhara by John Lawton has a lot of the same views (although some are also dark). The commentary is much more historical. I found this book to more closely match my own visit to Central Asia. Fabled Cities is also 4-5 times higher in price. I purchased Samarkand and Bukhara.
The fabled cities are Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. Each is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were "garden cities" that over the centuries arose almost magically in the vast expanse of the deserts of Central Asia. They are the sites of some of the most impressive and, to someone raised in the traditions of Western European architecture, some of the most otherworldly Islamic architecture there is. Each of the three cities contains numerous structures that from the standpoints of architecture and ornamental decoration are just as entrancing as the Alhambra.
The only reservation I have with the book is that it now, twenty-five years after publication, is a little dated. My guess is that datedness is not so much a factor with the photographs as it is with the text. Magowan often discusses issues relating to Soviet rule, but shortly after the book was published the Soviet Union collapsed and the three fabled cities are now in the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Magowan's text is different in style and tone than is usual for the text accompanying what is primarily a book of photographs of exotic places. The text is a mixture of travelogue, history, and cultural observations. It is somewhat cursory and it tends to be discursive. Although at times it goes astray, all in all it provides a fine contextualization for the photographs and gives a good feel for actually "being there".
If you know little or nothing about the fabled cities of Central Asia, this book would be a fine introduction. Check out the Shah-e-Zindeh and Gur Emir Mausoleum in Samarkand, the Samarind Mausoleum and Kalyan Minar (Tower of Death) in Bukhara, the Kalta Minar in Khiva, and the colorful bazaars in all three cities. If the book does not trigger a desire to go there in person, you and I are of a different breed.
My volume has a defect: The text on three different two-page spreads is French. Presumably, Abbeville Press printed editions in both French and English, and in the assembling of the volumes the pages from what were supposed to be two separate print-runs were slightly jumbled, at least in my volume. I don't believe the mistake resulted in the dropping of any photographs, but as I go from pages 132-33 to pages 134-35, I go from English to French, both in the text and in the captions to the photographs, and then on pages 136-37 it reverts to English. The same thing happens two more times. Somehow, for me, the defect enhances the charm of the book.
In 1989, two years before the collapse of the Soviet Union, British writer Robin Magowan and Soviet photographer Vadim Gippenreiter teamed up to give us this splendid book about the three cities. The photography is as visually stunning as the ancient buildings. Magowan's narrative is sometimes unusual, moving from architectural history to ethnology, sprinkled lightly with politics and heavily with over-florid prose. Sometimes the history is a little too thin; Magowan doesn't provide a very coherent historical picture, especially of Bukhara and Khiva, and assumes the reader is familiar with terms like Shaybanid and Sogdian. Even so, the gaps aren't enough to detract from the visual presentation. The only other issue is that the book is badly dated (Magowan's speculation about Islamic nationalism show no signs of materializing in the decade since the Soviet Union collapsed).
I recommend this book to enthusiasts of photography, architecture, Central Asia and the Muslim world, and to readers of any background.