The Turquoise Trail: The Color of Samarkand

The Turquoise Trail

I came into Samarkand late in the day, stepping off the train to see perfect blue domes buffed by the last light. Bone-hued architecture meant that the domes, simple and proud, burned as blue flames on candled mosques and historic structures, alight even as the skies blackened. I had never met this color before. I thought I knew turquoise, but no. All over the city, these soaring blue flames pierced the sky, and with such power and grace that it opened me—a warm-color lover—to this shade in an utterly new way. Turquoise, I realized, was hot

Collage Uzbek Turquoise Architecture

It turns out that the stone, turquoise, is so named in the west because it was introduced to Europe from Turkmenistan— through Turkey. But it has been found in Iran, the Sinai peninsula, on the the tombs of King Tut and the iconography of the goddess Hathor in Egypt. In MesoAmerica, the Aztec god of fire is masked in turquoise (I told you it was hot), and among the Ancestral Pueblos of Chaco Canyon, turquoise found veining through rock became a valuable source of trade and jewelry. Its presence is almost always linked with good fortune, a talisman of protection and calm.

One of our celebrated artisan partners in Uzbekistan, Muhayo Aliyeva, working with Ibu for ten years now, named her enterprise, Bibi Hanum, after a mosque in Samarkand—also standing proud with a glowing turquoise dome. When she crafted the dress we are introducing this fall, the one you see above, I couldn't help but think of those brilliant blue hot flames. I put on the dress. It felt like I was lit up from within.

Bibi Hanum Artisans

Last week, I was pouring over images from my visit to Samarkand, as I work with the Ibu Team to plan a Fringe Road Trip to Uzbekistan next Fall, 2024. It's not just the domes that are lit up, I have to say. The women, above all, are bright with creative minds, illumined by the ancient traditions of their craft, shining with a new kind of hope. Ready to pierce the sky.

All the Best,