Dokodemo Door!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Coming Soon: photos from Kyrgyzstan

Our only realistic option for getting into and out of Kyrgyzstan in the required time-frame was via Tashkent. Among seasoned travellers in Central Asia, Tashkent International Airport has a well-deserved reputation for being pretty awful. Some readers of this space have been there in the past and they will be delighted to know that the facility has lost little of its distinctive charm over time: hundreds of people stuffed into narrow hallways awaiting passport control, unintelligible speaker systems, no information posted anywhere, officials who fondle their pistols a little too much, and so on. Whiners and prima-donnas are advised to stay home.

"The heirs of Tamerlane and Stalin apologize to NO ONE, bitches!"

For travellers in certain former communist airports, this sort of thing is pretty much old hat. But even Kyrgyz people cringe at this place.

Among the Central Asian states, it is relevant to mention here that Uzbekistan has the most vicious reputation. About 7 years ago, Craig Murray, the British ambassador, publicized the fact that he'd been presented with photographic evidence that the regime of Islom Karimov had boiled some of its opponents to death, like something out of the dungeons of Uzbeg Khan himself. (Just to underscore that no good deed goes unpunished in the realm of secret renditions and Realpolitik, the UK Foreign Ministry promptly sacked Murray for exceeding his authority and imperiling relations with an anti-Taliban bulwark.) That's also not the kind of thing that you'd want to talk about too loudly while you're there.

Before leaving Bishkek, we had our checked luggage locked and taped-up in thick plastic sheeting to deter would-be thieves. It also helps to sew any large denominations you have into the lining of your clothes. The four of us brought provisions and our senses of humor; we managed to avoid shake-downs from the notoriously corrupt staff and got through it all fairly unscathed. (A co-worker got about $200 confiscated the year before because he'd failed to properly declare how much currency he was taking-out of the country; I think we got-off pretty light.)

So, yes, 11 hours in the transit lounge. When the crack security team decided it was time to play backgammon, I surrepitiously took some video with a cloth concealing the camera. Enjoy:


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