The early-20th-century adventurer wrote about everyday life in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, in vivid detail – and in many ways the city seems unchanged
Last April, I arrived in springtime Tashkent. Buckets of tiny strawberries filled the markets and Amir Timur Square thronged with tour groups. I’d stopped to rest a while after travelling for weeks through neighbouring Kazakhstan and it was only when I sat down at popular buffet restaurant U Babushki did I realise it was Easter. Waitresses marched past with display baskets of painted eggs and Russian Easter breads called kulich, a cross between Italian panettone and hot cross buns, but denser than both. The holiday was almost over in the UK but Russian Orthodox churches celebrate a week later so the festivities were still going on. After devouring a plate of pancakes, I set off walking south to the biggest church I knew, carrying a copy of Through Khiva to Golden Samarkand, written by Isabella “Ella” Robertson Christie. A formidable and sharp-eyed traveller, Christie was born in 1861, close to my adopted city of Edinburgh, and she came to this region twice, in 1910 and 1912, publishing her adventures in 1925.