Day 5 – Margilan

Today we took a brief walk from the main road to the Jewish cemetery in Margilan, passing this woman working in her garden on the way. People in the lush and verdant Fergana Valley garden in any little space outside their homes.

The Jewish cemetery was founded in the 17th century. At that time grave markers were simple wooden pieces which have long since disappeared. The oldest part of the cemetery is full of unmarked graves.

The newer monuments contain photographs of the deceased, which is an influence from the Soviet period.

The most modern monuments are laser engraved, the images remarkably life-like.

Jews no longer live in Fergana. There may be 30 or so left in the entire valley. When the Soviet system broke down, most of them moved to Israel or the United States.

A cow made its presence known as we wandered through the site. She was tethered so not a threat.

Next we visited a Madrassah, now used as a center for artisans, including block printers.

This man is steam ironing velvet to smooth out the pile.

Then we visited the Gold Silk Factory, three floors with a shop on the main floor, upstairs fabric weaving and downstairs carpet weaving.

I saw many weaving processes I had not seen before, including this man manually preparing a warp from several cones of thread.

This man is wrapping the warp to act as a resist for the first dye dip. He uses cellophane tape to bind the fibers.

This young man is marking a design on the warp to indicate which threads should be bound. He marks the edge of his ruler with some kind of color. The ruler bends allowing him to designate precise curves in the design.

Here the design has been completely laid out to indicate where the various threads are to be tied for the multi-colored dyeing process.

After the threads have been dyed, employees create the warp by selecting threads and tying them together, after which they can be placed in a pile.

The weaving floor is enormous. The director told us he employs 900 weavers in 13 factories. Prior to the pandemic he had 5000 employees, but Covid and changes in trade, particularly Turkish economic problems, made a big dent in the business.

The women get free childcare and education for their children. A free kindergarten is located right next to the factory. Healthcare is also free, along with lunches and snacks.

The women are fast, production weavers, as they are paid by the meter, depending on the type of fiber.

Work in progress.

I went downstairs and saw this woman working on a modern design which must be a commission piece.

These carpet weavers are paid by the square centimeter depending on the fiber and number of knots per centimeter.

Fine silk threads in natural colors make for a gorgeous carpet.

The metal strips on this weft allow the weaver to create a velvet pile.

Back at the hotel, one of our group had a hard time stuffing her purchases into an army duffel bag which she will carry over her shoulder.

More of the group are leaving. Soon we will be down to about half the original size as we go on to Kyrgyzstan.

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