Customer Reviews


65 Reviews
5 star:
 (48)
4 star:
 (17)
3 star:    (0)
2 star:    (0)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 
‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lively and engaging cross-cultural conversation, 5 Jan. 2010
By 
R. M. EDSER "tonks the cat" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
This was my first foray into the "travel" genre, knowing next to nothing about Central Asia in general or Khiva in particular. Although carpets aren't really my thing I admit I was engaged from the first page, chuckling and snorting every couple of pages at Alexander's amusing anecdotes and lively writing style. And I learnt a whole lot about Silk worms too! The book reads like a humorous and informative conversation, departing every now and again from Alexander's personal experiences into juicy little cultural tidbits, observations and relevant Silk Route history and politics.

Alexander is obviously lively company and my favourite minor episodes include him baffling a hawker by referring to 'International Pomegranate Day' and successfully teaching a downtrodden blind lad macrame. The chief thing that drew me in, however was how the relationships developed as he mastered the language and settled into the culture with his beloved host family, despite his ginger kitten and vegetarianism.

There is also the darker gut-wrenching reality of life lived behind the president's mass propaganda, including wife-beating and the awful Andijan Massacre.

There was slightly more about the donkey-related sexual proclivities of local men than was my taste, but I guess that is part of the cross-cultural education.

He doesn't dwell on this aspect, but it is clear that his presence in Khiva benfitted those around him hugely, with his blend of creativity and enterprising business sense bringing income-generation and discovery of hidden talents not only to employees of the carpet and Suzani workshops, but to many others along the way.

The colour plates are engrossing and authenticate the whole narrative. It's great putting faces to the names and being able to examine some of the authentic works of art that inspired the carpet designs.

I recommend this book very highly and feel much the richer in understanding.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The REAL Central Asia, 15 Feb. 2011
Having lived among Uzbeks for the past 4 years, I have to say Chris Aslan Alexander has knocked it out of the park with "A Carpet Ride To Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road." The author shows remarkable ability in walking the fine line between criticizing the preposterous Central Asian world of nonsensicality and seeing the Uzbek people for who they really are - post-Soviet shackles and all. But the real gripper is the love with which Alexander portrays this backwater part of the world which has been forgotten by so many and misunderstood by so many more. Entwined throughout the vivid tales of daily grind and the struggle of what is life are woven threads of admiration and true respect for the people with whom Alexander grows to know and value. It is not often that one finds an author who displays, with shocking nakedness, the true stripes of a culture and people - and who loves them dearly because of it - in spite of it. Honest agape admiration shines through the entire text and draws the reader into a similar sort of appreciative relationship. A wonderful read that accurately portrays the silky magic and the stark mundane of life in Central Asia.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic indeed!, 20 Mar. 2010
By 
G. H. Hall (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
This book is far more than a record of '7 years in the life of...'. Chris Alexander has resisted the urge to make this a book about him and his experiences, but has instead allowed us to 'use' him as our introduction to the remarkable people, history and city of Khiva. There is a huge wealth of information, historical, agricultural, architectural, psychological and so much more, but all of it presented so artlessly and vividly that you feel that you have been there and seen it with your own eyes, rather than 'merely' read about it. I laughed, cried, groaned and learned - but, most of all, the book left me wanting to go to Khiva and see it for myself; I can think of no higher praise.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to categorize, something for everyone, presses my buttons as an insight into post-socialism and develoment projects, 11 Jan. 2010
By 
Daniel Stevens (London, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
Tricky to write this review since I know the author and I was initially reluctant to give it a 5. However, on its own merits the book probably deserves it, though I guess it would be difficult to find one reader who is able to appreciate everything it has to offer. For the book transcends categories, the book cover suggesting it is a travel/memoir but it is part also written for those with an interest in textiles and finally (and the stand out aspect for me) a powerful anthropological insight into the changes occurring in the post-socialist world and how development projects can make a small but significant difference.

As a travel book it wanders off into other parts of Uzbekistan as well as Afghanistan but is at its best when at home in Khiva. The author has a great eye of the absurd, and the book is chocked full of wonderful insights and the recounting of dramatic tales. However those wanting to find out more about, say, Bukhara, might need to know more than that is is the home of cunning competitors and human organ exporters. So it won't replace a good general guide book, but for the traveller whose itinerary would take in Khiva reading this book would enrich the experience enormously as it brings alive the history as well as the present realities of this fascinating city.

As a memoir it packs real emotional punch as the politics of the country cruelly cut short the love-affair with Khiva. To those interested in the history of textiles and the bringing of past designs back to life, this is a must read.

However for me, as someone interested in the development of society in Uzbekistan, the book's greatest value is as an insight into the plight of provincial towns in post-independence Uzbekistan. To spend seven years in a small town, and to make hugely impressive progress in mastering the language and the social norms, means that the author gained a level of trust and acceptance that opened up a window onto the sorrows but also the joys of everyday life. Accounts of domestic abuse and economic injustice are quite depressing, but then there are moments when acts of empathy and compassion deeply move both the author and reader - such as when the fellow weavers club together to buy their colleague a wedding dress. It is telling that while the minarets and murals grab the attention at the beginning, it is the personalities so vividly described that are mourned by the author who can't return, and for whom the reader also feels a sense of loss. For while the workshop projects are admittedly no panacea for the problems the town faces, they did bring both income and dignity to many of the downtrodden, and the project, shaped in part by the author's own stubbornness, was an irritant protest against the corruption that surrounded it. As such it should also be read by anyone conducting community based projects and interested in social change in Central Asia. The account of the project, honestly accepting mistakes made and bringing insight into the difficult choices to be made, make for a revealing, informative and stylishly written introduction.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magic Carpet Ride, 1 Jan. 2010
By 
Mr. R. C. Gould (England) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
Its all there, the happiness and the sadness, the achievements and the frustrations, the facts and the fables, the sites and the smells as Chris Alexander tells us about his seven years living and working in a World Heritage site in the deserts of Uzbekistan. The book takes you from from the humble beginings of going out there to write a guide book for tourists through to the stage where his workshop was the largest non state employer in he city hand making silk rugs using designs from the time of Tamberlaine.
You to meet the women and disabled who work there, others who are jealous of the enterprise and try to spoil it and the bureaucrats who ultimately lead to Chris`s expulsion. His writing shows how a travel book should be, interesting, amusing, informative and with pace. The reader learns about history, silk, design and the people who live and work in a city where a hundred year ago there were still slaves.
Read it and enjoy your own magic carpet ride to Khiva
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Real aid can really work, 6 Nov. 2010
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
It's easy to get cynical about aid and development work so it was refreshing to read about Christopher Alexander's work in Uzbekistan. Here was someone who was willing to get deeply involved in the local culture, properly learn the language and then come up with an imaginative project that would draw on local skills and traditions, in this case revive handmade silk carpets and find a market for them. And what an adventure is told. Finding the designs, dealing with local officials, getting dyes including the one from Afghanistan that was just a white powder which inevitably caused problems and just surviving in the intense heat and intense cold. But scores of local women are given useful employment, often those who were otherwise marginalised. It's a very different world and the reader will find their jaw drop open on occasion-the amazing sexual habits of some of the locals-Borat wasn't exaggerating- but all charitably reported and one senses the warmth of the author among people who had become real friends.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An insightful and honest account of life in central Asia, 7 Jan. 2011
Warning: This is no ordinary travel guide. Although the author describes the sights of Khiva with great enthusiasm, this book provides much deeper insight into local life and culture than any other travel book I have read. The history of the region is fascinating, and peppered with very amusing anecdotes. The description of the establishment of the carpet school, and its expansion into embroidery, although unusual for a travel book, adds great depth. The descriptions of nearby towns and adjacent countries also add to the depth and context, allowing local conditions to be compared.

The book is refreshingly honest. The author doesn't try to gloss over unpleasant facts, like corruption and abuse, but handles them even-handedly. I have visited another country in the region, and can confirm that things which may seem unbelievable to Westerners do in fact happen, for example, historical sites being used as latrines. However, the author's sense of humour and compassion imbue these serious issues with a lighter touch and prevents the book from being a depressing catalogue of disaster.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone planning to work or travel in the region, as well as to anyone wanting to immerse themselves in a very different world for 318 pages.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lively and engaging account of an extraordinary project in an incredible place., 23 Jun. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
This book combines many categories, including travelogue, memoir and diary. Fast-paced and engagingly written, it evokes the central Asian landscape, communities, history and culture with impressive skill. Most memorable for the personalities it records and extraordinary initiative of the author in the face of endless obfuscation, many of the vignettes live long in the mind and offer much food for reflection, alongside many reasons to be grateful for a number of the freedoms enjoyed in the West.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a travel classic, 26 Sept. 2011
This review is from: A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road (Hardcover)
I bought A Carpet Ride to Khiva because I plan to make a trip to Uzbekistan next spring and wanted some background - and I was riveted. It is a brilliant, extremely well written book which succeeds in revealing Uzbek society through the microcosm of the carpet workshop. A lot of what Alexander describes about the corruption etc is horribly familiar to me, as I lived in Russia in the 1990s.
I also found A Carpet Ride a very sensitive and compassionate book, in its portrayal of the locals and their lives. Unlike so many of today's travel writers ("look at me, what a wild time I'm having amongst these funny foreigners") Alexander keeps himself firmly in the background. I found myself actually wanting more personal detail. I loved his mother's friendship with the Afghan general. I was fascinated (and horrified) by the male conversations about women and sex, to which, as a female, I would not be privy.
A classic.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road, 10 Sept. 2010
Having visited the Silk Road this summer for the first time, I was bowled over by reading this book. Khiva is an incredible place and one day to view this ancient site is not enough. So it was an amazing insight into the country and the people. I couldn't put the book down while reading it and was sad when it finished - and in particular for the reasons the author had to leave.

If you have any interest in this area, I would strongly recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 27 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road
A Carpet Ride to Khiva: Seven Years on the Silk Road by Christopher Aslan Alexander (Hardcover - 24 Dec. 2009)
Used & New from: £5.72
Add to wishlist See buying options
Only search this product's reviews