Drinking camel’s milk (shubat) and horse’s milk (kumys) in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kazakh nomads say that shubat and kumys lower blood pressure, and swear that they cure all sorts of illnesses and diseases. They are popular throughout Central Asia: on my first trip to Kazakhstan I tried a little bottle of supermarket-brand shubat. But the milks from the bazaar, in recycled plastic bottles, came straight from someone’s herd of camels and horses, somewhere on the steppe outside Almaty. … More Drinking camel’s milk (shubat) and horse’s milk (kumys) in Almaty, Kazakhstan

Photo essay: Armenia’s sorrow (Yerevan to Gyumri by train)

I arrive at Yerevan’s train station just after dawn, and buy coffee and bread from the underpass between platforms – fuel for the four-hour journey to Gyumri, Armenia’s second city.

The train is dusty and dilapidated; it has hard seats and filthy windows. It goes slowly, bumpily, its wheels making soothing clunks on the rusted tracks.

The journey is haunting. The landscape of western Armenia looks abandoned, left for dead. But this isn’t so. This rocky corner of the Caucasus is far from an unwanted wasteland: it is one of the most emotionally charged places on earth. … More Photo essay: Armenia’s sorrow (Yerevan to Gyumri by train)

Waking up in İçərişəhər – Baku, Azerbaijan

Arriving in Baku, I would always come here first. Each time I would explore the maze of narrow sandstone streets within its walls, and walk past every little pale house – some empty, some with chattering coming from inside. I would drink sahlep on a low sofa at a cafe on Boyük Qala, while watching the street outside wake up; always climb up the Maiden Tower for a first sight of the Caspian Sea; always go into the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, to hear again the stories that Azerbaijan tells about itself. … More Waking up in İçərişəhər – Baku, Azerbaijan