kalyan minaret girls

Cranky and annoyed, I left the guesthouse after snapping at Ulugbek and went off to see my Kalyan girls for a last sunset shoot. When I stepped into the alley I realized I’m behaving exactly as poorly as I did last month when it grew time to leave Bukhara. I laughed, chagrined that grinning Ulug realized my trouble before I did.

I’ve yet to mention the Kalyan Girls because I want to introduce them properly. Three hours before I leave Bukhara for Tashkent is probably not the best time, but I want. They are ten or so girls who sell souvenirs on the street by the Kalyan Minaret, a structure so grand Ghengis Khan decided to spare it (though little if anything else in Central Asia). By talking to tourists they have learned to speak English remarkably well, as well as some French, German, Italian and Japanese. They speak with an ease that book-learners can’t manage and attack Australian tourists with, “Goood’ay Mate!” Americans with “What’s up?” and so on. Years back, we initally met common ground with our need for making fun of the tourists.

The photo of me on my info page from 2000 is with the baby cousin of one of the girls, with the Kalyan complex in the background.

My first night back in Bukhara, I planted myself on the curb near the minaret and tried to catch up on the past years. We settled in and they braided my hair and asked personal questions. I answered and asked some of them. This pastime of just sitting, relaxing and watching at their sidewalk shops in the shade of the madrassa, is one of my favorites in Bukhara. They fill me up and I feel connected.

My last night, I went to shoot some last photos, collect birthdays, and to buy something from everyone’s shop. Yes, shopping again. I loath it, but they helped. Of course, the original twelve kids became thirteen, then brothers with shops popped up, and mothers and fathers. I cut it off at sixteen, said goodbye and carried my loot (your souvenir presents) back to the hotel with me. I didn’t bring enough cash but they made me take and come back with the money in the morning. When I left to meet Maryam for dinner, tears welled up and I stared through them at beautiful, dusty old Bukhara at sunset. I’ve no idea what God is, but it is positively, definitely present to me in this city.

Their slideshow is better viewed after reading the bulk, I suppose. (Kalyan is transliterated a number of ways. I’ve used both Kalyan & Kalon to help searchers.)

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