Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Gorky: Khiva

And here are some photos from Khiva. Again, hopefully G will come and add some detail.

Mudbrick minaret

Madrasa? Mosque?
Carved timber posts inside mosque
"Djuma Mosque ... was established in the 10th century and rebuilt in 1788-89, although its celebrated hypostyle hall still retains 112 columns taken from ancient structures." (Wikipedia)

Carved timber doors

Incomplete minaret
"The large blue tower in the central city square was supposed to be a minaret, but the Khan died and the succeeding Khan did not complete it, perhaps because he realized that if completed, the minaret would overlook his harem and the muezzin would be able to see the Khan's wives. Construction was halted and the minaret remains unfinished to this day." (Wikipedia)

Mudbrick fortress walls

Wikipedia advises the city has two parts, an inner, old town (Itchan Kala), encircled by brick walls and possibly dating back to the tenth century (fifth and sixth centuries, per Wikitravel), and an outer, modern town (Dichan Kala), formerly protected by a wall with eleven gates.

Gorky: Tashkent

Hopefully G will come and expand on the captions for these pictures from Tashkent.

Khast Imam mosque (per east site); Tashkent madrasa (per G)

Tashkent market

Fine arts and handicrafts

From Wikipedia: The city has risen and fallen several times, and has changed names just as many. Its current name dates back to the tenth century. It was sacked by Khorezmshah in 1214, and again by Genghis Khan in 1219, and revived under the Timurids and subequent dynasties, despite repeated attacks. By 1809, it was considered to be one of the richest cities in Central Asia, but was overrun by the Tsarist Russians only half a century later. It was again substantially destroyed by an earthquake in 1966. Wikitravel notes that modern Tashkent is a very Soviet city that has little remaining from its Central Asian past

Gorky: Ulueg Beg's sextant

The sextant of Ulueg Beg in Samarkand 


In Samarkand, the enormous sextant of Ulueg Beg, grandson of Timurlane
[aka Timur], by which he took sun and star positions and accurately calculated the true length of a year. This could only be possible with a deep Arab learning about the stars, assisted by the Ptolemaic version of the heavenly spheres, a strong practical need for the knowledge (astrology and religious festivals), the Arabic (Hindu) numerals and the decimal system and a very strong Arabic & Khurasani development of abstract mathematics, trigonometry and large numbers. Preceded the Jantar Mantar in Jaipur and Delhi by 150 yrs.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gorky: Paper-making

Paper making to the old Samarkand recipe of mulberry bark. 

Captured Chinese prisoners in 870 brought with them the secret of making paper – bamboo, cotton and cloth substrates. However, cotton paper, the only local material applicable, bled writing ink, although ok for lanterns or posters. After trials, the soft under-bark of one-year-old branches from mulberry trees could be used. 
Sericulture [silk farming] was and is a major industry and generates a lot of fresh mulberry branches harvested for their leaves for the silkworms. The availability of good quality paper allowed the creation of large libraries and linear written argument. This enabled the Abbasid translation movement and the learning of Ibn Sina as well as his huge output because of the much lower manufacturing costs

From my conversations with Dad, supplemented by Wikipedia:
The Chinese invented paper making, but initially used it for wrapping things, for padding and protection. They fiercely protected their methods, and the techniques were slow to spread.
The first paper mill in the Islamic world was founded in Samarkand in the eighth century (C8), and used water power to power trip-hammers to prepare the pulp.
The raw paper was then polished to a smooth surface using shells and stones
The technology slowly spread through the Islamic world, into Europe (C11) and India (C13)

Guess who we saw today ...

Gorky: signing in

Actually, this is Ab, signing up my parents (collectively known as Gorky) as authors.

Given my travel options are somewhat limited (time and money), I thought we might keep you entertained between my trips with stuff about my parents' travels. Recently retired, they have a hectic travel schedule:
  • They've just returned from six weeks away, with nearly four weeks in Uzbekistan, and two weeks in the south of France.
  • They're off again in mid-November for a month in Prato, just out of Florence, where they've signed up with a Monash University one-month intensive studying Dante.
  • They're back for two weeks to host our family Christmas gathering
  • And then they're off to India with us, staying an extra week to go to Darjeeling and others with my sister.
  • Oh, and they're off to Iran in April.
Dad (G) having retired from medicine, most recently in academia, is now pursuing a Masters in History by research. I'll get him to set out his area of study, which is basically a very small subset of his broader interest in the transfer of knowledge from Muslims/Arabs to Christians/Latins in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. I wouldn't be remotely surprised if he does a second PhD out of all this. And/or a book.

In other words, if you want to know why I'm such a polymath study-nut nerd, look no further than my parents.

Note: All photos in Gorky posts are taken by either G or K (my parents), unless attributed otherwise.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Review: Vue Grand at Queenscliff

Website: www.vuegrand.com.au - requires Flash (an incomplete html version is available for Apple-powered devices).

We took advantage of both boys being away at sleepovers on Friday night, and arranged for a fancy dinner and B&B. We've both previously stayed at the Vue Grand for respective work conferences, but I think this was the first time we'd chosen it (rather than being chosen for us). It was a very straightforward exercise to book online (once I was using a Flash-capable device - that is, not my iPad), and a courtesy call the next business day confirmed they had received my booking. Although their dinner/room/breakfast deal was supposed to finish at the end of September, I could still book my choice of room (traditional, balcony, spa or superior spa) plus choice of either the tasting menu or a la carte plus breakfast for the discount rate of $300/couple.

The sample menu in the Entertainment Book looked very enticing, and we later discovered that their head chef was the former head chef at Pettavel. I believe it was on this basis that it was included in the most recent Age Good Food Guide (due to the timing - the book would have been at the printers by the time he came on board.) As one of our top three meals ever was at Pettavel, this was most encouraging. (The other two would be a family dinner at Jimmy Watson's, on Lygon St, yonks ago, and a birthday dinner at Rockpool a couple of years back.)