... Above old Taraz day was breaking. In the thick branches of a willow bending over the cool river a nightingale sang its morning song. From the high minaret of the market mosque the muezzin called upon the true believers to say the first prayer. The sellers of fire carried red-hot charcoals to their regular buyers and soon over the market place, the gardens of the shahristan, the long rows of caravanserais, along the curved and narrow streets of the place outdoing all other smells there spread a rich odour of bread. It was from tandyrs (arched ovens made of clay) that the odour came; it meant that flat rolls (lepeshkas) stuck to the inside walls were baked. But freshly baked bread was not available to everyone. The breakfast of a poor man consisted of a handful of boiled wild beans (masha) slightly seasoned with sesame oil, a piece of kurt and a little of airan (yoghurt). Whereas for a man with money the askhana-bazaar (food market) offered a lot of nice things. Besides the crisp lepeshkas there was a heap of samsas (meat pies). On small round dastarkhans (tables) decorated with fanciful ornamentation paunchy steaming tea-pots invited visitors. Here are cooking boilers full of besbarmak (meat and dough) and plov (rice dish). Leather bags are full of various drinks: shubat, (camel’s milk), koumiss (mare’s milk), airan. One can taste various types of khalva, made of sesame, nuts, peanuts, stood on soap-root water, grape juice, honey, mutton fat with almonds. The raisins bazaar is full of dried and fresh fruits. At the shala-bazaar one can find sacks of white and pink rice, red winter wheat, barley, amber-colored millet. Some varieties of the cereals mentioned are not to be found now.
European merchants only dreamed of the scale of trade as it was in Taraz. Things made in the east and delivered by the Silk Road were articles of luxury in the west, so not everyone could have them. For goods from the mysterious East Europe often paid with cloth and wines. At caravanserais one always could buy heavy drinks made of grapes grown on the hills of Andalusia, Heres and Champagne; there was a good choice of Burgundy, Cyprian and other European wines; Venetian mirrors were popular too. Many goods were bought with gold and silver.
Some of the prices of those days are known to us. For example, a lyn was equal to five sheep (rams), a well-dried maral horn was paid for with as silver as the horn weighed itself.
Rakip Nasyrov, “Along the Great Silk Road”, published by “Kramds—reklama”, 1991.