Opinion | Shadows on the Silk Road

The Islamic Golden Age of science and art that predated the Italian Renaissance by 400 years was illuminated by Turkic and Persian thinkers from the japanese rim of the Abbasid Caliphate, in what’s right this moment Central Asia, western China and components of Iran.

Ms. Yuvakaeva ticked off some homegrown Einsteins. Muhammad al-Khwarizmi, a ninth-century genius who helped formulate the precepts of algebra, has lent his title to the phrase “algorithm.” A century later, the sensible polymathic Abu Rayhan Muhammad al-Biruni wrote greater than 140 manuscripts on every little thing from prescription drugs to the anthropology of India. (A typical al-Biruni title: “The Exhaustive Treatise on Shadows.”)

Most likely essentially the most celebrated Silk Highway sage of all was Abu Ali al-Hussein ibn Sina, revered within the West as Avicenna, who within the eleventh century compiled an encyclopedia of therapeutic that was nonetheless in use by European medical doctors as late because the 18th century. Avicenna’s “Canon of Medication” precisely identified diabetes by tasting sweetness in urine. Its pharmacopoeia cataloged greater than 800 remedies. A millennium in the past, Avicenna advocated quarantines to manage epidemics. What would he make, I puzzled, of the willed ignorance of right this moment’s anti-maskers in the US?

Pacing off continents is an train in humility. You inhabit the restrict of your day by day strides. To the subsequent tree shade. To the subsequent horizon. In return, the stroll confers a type of equanimity. Name it the lengthy view. The Silk Highway quickly sufficient turns into each street. And simply as some nations sink into their goals alongside your means, others blink awake.

Take Uzbekistan. A crossroads of the previous Silk Highway, the landlocked ex-Soviet republic just lately baby-stepped from police state to modest reform. Dominated a thousand years in the past by Iranian and Turkic kingdoms, the area traded lucratively with China, Persia and India, enriching cities like Bukhara and Samarkand. Greater than six decades of Communism under the Soviet Union compelled the settlement of nomads, suppressed faith and steamrollered the previous feudal hierarchies. By the late Nineteen Nineties, a fundamentalist backlash led by the Islamic Motion of Uzbekistan erupted and was ruthlessly suppressed.

Once I walked by means of the nation, billboards exhorted residents to “Be vigilant!” These Orwellian notices ostensibly focused Muslim militancy. However in follow, they stoked suspicion of any “different,” together with my Uzbek strolling companions, two pack donkeys and me. A paranoid worry of outsiders gripped the muddy hamlets alongside the Amu Darya, the river Alexander the Nice known as the Oxus. Peeking from behind lace curtains, cellphones clamped to ears, native farmers continuously reported us to the police. Uzbek safety forces detained us for questioning 34 times.

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