November 17, 2007


Koza Han, Bursa

Visiting Bursa was more about the end of the Silk Road, where the Chinese monopoly on Sericulture was broken, than it was about the beginning of my journey. “Located at the western edge of the Silk Road the city became a serious rival in the 15th century with the production of silk cloth and thread for the thriving carpet trade” My destination this evening was the still vibrant 600 year old Koza Han (cocoon market) and Ipek Han (silk Market) known as the Silk Bazaar. Tonight it was crammed with locals Friday night shopping at the “mall”. I was to meet Muhammed Can at the “city center, last stop on the Domas before going into the Bazaar. In this torrential rain, I was not going to wait a minute longer than it took to dash from taxi to souk, knowing one would somehow find the other.

The miracle of all the water was that I had met him earlier that day when we agreed to share a taxi into town. Exhausted from carrying the heavy bags up and down the stairs of the high speed ferry and then from the dock after crossing the Sea of Marma to Yalova. I had at last boarded the bus for the hour long drive to Bursa’s autogar to catch a taxi to the hotel. And this was the short route, rather than the five hour drive around the coast, 60miles south of Istanbul.

It was intuition that guided me to Koza Han and by perambulating the interior square I was able to find him in the maze of silk shops nestled in the arches of this historic building. Over a glass of Chai I learned that Mohammad was a silk merchant from Istanbul and made the ferry crossing to Bursa once a week to collect the cash from his expanding clientele of vendors in the old bazaar. His desire was to do business in China and to visit the same cities of the Silk Road that I had visited; Kashmir, Delhi, Kabul. We delighted in our good fortune and the poetry of having the Silk Road as our common thread. I learned he was a Uigher, born in Turkey to parents who emigrated 36 years ago. I could see the ancestry in his face; broad across high cheek bones that narrowed at the chin, making him handsome, gentled by the slight Asian accents. He brightened when I mentioned I would be going to his homeland next spring, continuing my Peace Caravan to Kashgar, the important crossroads of the Silk Road situated at the western frontiers of China. He spoke of the tight knit Uigher community of 20,000 exiles living in Turkey. One of 5 races within China and much like their brethren the Tibetans, struggling to maintain long honored traditions and customs. It feels good to learn, to understand, and to share in his sadness for the loss for his people and their necessity to maintain their culture. I was struck with purpose and the importance to photograph our soon to be lost legacies. We vowed to meet again, perhaps on my return to Istanbul in two months time.

Mt. Ararat

Marla Mossman

My photo
One woman traveling alone, in search of her religious and cultural heritage.