The king was traveling the Asian Hashish roads to collect and renew the royal cannabidea collection in the royal botanical garden in Dusheti. Tsur shezaf was traveling to see the Silk Roads – to visit Tibilisi of Vachtang Gorgasali – the wolf head king, to Samrkand of Timur the lame, to Taxila following Alexander the great, to Wu di’s Xian & to Beijing – the capital of Kublai – Xan Marko Polo’s emperor.
Baku, Buxara, Tashkent, Dushanbe & Osh. China and the Heavenly mountains, Pakistan & the Karakoram highway that crosses between Pamir & Hindu-Kush. And again to China to legendary Kashgar & Turpan – the Silk Road’s oasis and from there to Don Huang – the flaming torch at the far end of the big wall, to Xian & to the forbidden city & to the junks in Hong Kong.
The journey stitches past & present, imagination & adventure, sailing a ferry on the Caspian sea, rocking on a Chinese lorry in the Pamirs, singing in a slow train to the Khyber pass and in a loaded bus to Dara, a village on the Afghan boarder where weapons are manufactured on the street and plastic begs full of Hash are rolling on the ground. The Silk Road.
Less passive than Bruce Chatwin and more generous than Paul Theroux, Tsur Shezaf transverses the Silk Road and two thousand and something years. He is not seeking horses and the culture of the West, that is India, like the Chinese, nor does he want to peddle Christianity or do business, like many before him who followed the road from west to east….
All doors opened before the writer bearing the British passport, the Israeli ‘chutzpah,’ the thirst for knowledge and the lust for adventure.
He accomplished it quickly and worked hard, and in happy contrast to the few other travel books that have been published in Hebrew, he has also done some reading. His swift and rhythmic prose – in which short descriptions, bits of conversations, and cogent historical summaries – punctuated by quotations, references names and extracts from interviews — is a kind of courtesy: he who has heard, heard, he who has thought, thought, and he who has not is also just fine. The signposts Shezaf has handsomely though not bothersomely sown along the way will make the reader think. Or not. It is possible to enjoy the energetic musicianship even without puzzling out the staccato.
Anyone who has ever dreamt of Samarkand, Don Huang, Marco Polo, Ibn Batuta, Benjamin of Tudela, Shuan Dzang, Errol Stein, Bukhara or Kashgar knows at least in a general way what motivates this book. And after quickly reading through its dense pages, I can only thank Tsur Shezaf for doing so much to bring reality to these magical names, and doing so without diminishing their enchantment.
Dancer in Buchara