“Mr. Finish?” the floor lady asked as we handed the key to her. She asks this whenever we leave, “Finish?”, “Mr. Finish?” I think it is the only English she knows. Oh well, at least she tries. I always answer in Russian, “No, we are staying a couple more days/1 more day, etc.” She is not as bad as some of the Russian women who work in the hotels, oblivious to the fact that the Soviet Union is no more and they are now members of a market economy. Today when we left, some of the Tajik housekeepers who were watching TV with the floor manager, chatted a little with Rowshan. The Russian floor lady even joined in on the conversation in a friendly matter. Maybe the Tajik friendliness is rubbing off.
On the road to Samarkand we saw lots of cotton fields and corn that was “as high as an elephant's eye”. There were sunflower fields, donkeys, sheep, cows, goats and 1 camel. We went from fertile irrigated fields to extremely dry hills like petrified grass covered sand dunes with graceful curves. From there we came to more dry dirt hills-- some looking like they were made from wasp nest paper. Others looked like pieces of the flat earth had been forced up revealing cliffs around the edges of a diagonal plane. For a section, the earth became red and formed curved and rounded red boulders and wind carved shapes. Later we came to mountains covered with rocks. The colors and shapes of the landscapes were surprising in their variety but shared the characteristic of dryness.
The road was the best we've driven on in a while. At one point it even became a 4 lane divided highway. We could almost have been in California. Then the car had to slow down to navigate between a flock of sheep in one lane and a man riding a donkey in the other. We ascended a mountain covered with boulders. The colors of the valley below were softened by the dusk.
We got to Samarkand around 7PM. It was dark but we even through the darkness we could see the tantalizing shapes of domes against the night sky.