These women are silk-weavers at the Yodgorlik Silk Factory in Margilan, Uzbekistan. This “factory” is the largest traditional silk factory in Uzbekistan – with silk-worms, mulberry bushes, drying cocoons and reels of hand-spun natural silk.
On the day we dropped by (unannounced), we were the only visitors and I think these weavers were a little put-out that we were disturbing their gossiping. They were also particularly surprised that we were even bothering to visit Uzbekistan. I held up our Insight Guides Silk Road guidebook in explanation at which point one gal, the one in the pink dress above, imperiously held out her hand for the book. I handed it her open on the page referencing the factory. She took it, flipped back a couple of pages, yelped in surprise and called to her co-workers to come see (I’m assuming that’s what she said because they came over – my Uzbek is non-existent). There was much fussing over the book and pointing at pictures and giggling, as we stood by confused and bemused. Thankfully the owner – who was playing tour guide for us – explained: the women had spotted a friend in the photos in our guidebook. If recognized a friend in a guidebook on Ireland (or Seattle) I’d find that pretty trippy too.
Ice duly broken, the women showed us all around the weaving section of the factory. They explained how they translate patterns, showed us how the looms worked and generally made us feel like we could sit down and join the crew if so inclined. Their work was exquisite but unfortunately too large and too heavy for our backpacks. I made do with a green silk scarf that felt like water in my hands. (It ended up almost causing me an Isadora Duncan-style demise in Tehran, but that’s a story for another day…)