Margilan : the Silk Capital of Central Asia and 2000 years of glorious historyJust like people, cities change over time, and Margilan is now enjoying its renaissance or "second youth". Interestingly enough, no one actually knows the exact meaning of "Margilan" but many agree that it may be a reference to Persian "Marg" which means "green pasture land", and "Lon" which could be the old Persian definition of locality. If we combine those two we'd get exactly that – "A Green Place". Look at the abundance of trees in modern Margilan - it's probably not too far off!
No one can ascertain the exact age of Margilan, but the local historians have their opinion. They refer to archaeological discoveries and the fact that Margilan sits on the Great Silk Road and the cities along this road used to trade with China and silk was one of the main goods exported from ancient China. That dates back to 5th century AD. The silk trading route was most probably established in that period and the Chinese imperial envoy and merchant Zhang Qian was among the first to visit Central Asia in the first half of 2nd century AD.
Many ancient manuscripts and studies refer to trading with cities located in Fergana Valley and Babur’s extraordinary book about his life – "Baburnama" - is among them. He describes Margilan of the 15th century and talks about silk manufacturers, jewelers, ceramic artists etc.
By the end of the 19th century Margilan had about 50 thousand in population and the majority were artisans, merchants and quite a few silk weavers and manufacturers. Margilan was a pretty well known center of small businesses and had a few great markets (or bazaars).
Centuries of silk weaving traditions still live and prosper in modern Margilan. A very unique school of silk weaving produces gorgeous fabrics that are very popular among tourists and locals alike. Local silk weaving traditions continue in unique and stunning patterns where fabrics are clearly distinguishable and technically sophisticated.
Manufacturing and coloring process is an interesting combination of very old techniques and unique machinery that was developed locally. Silk manufacturing process is still mostly manual labor and it is extremely interesting to watch artisans work. One of the most famous silk factories in Margilan is family owned and they allow visitors and tourists to watch the process of creating fabrics, all the way from silk cocoons to rolls of beautifully patterned fabrics.
No wonder that silk embroidery is also an integral part of the local artisan market. Suzanis from Margilan are very popular among tourists and local tour operators often bring visitors directly to artisans’ houses.
Locally manufactured silk is also used for making traditional Uzbek hats called "Duppi". Colorful silk embroidery makes these tiny flat hats rather good looking and very popular among tourists.
Even though Margilan’s age is hard to determine, history lives here, is very palpable and visible in traditional silk fabrics. Many agree that ancient traditions of silk manufacturing thrive in Margilan and it is truly the Silk Capital of Central Asia.