Early June 2024

Your guide
Gil Stein
Archaeologist and University of Chicago professor

The price hasn’t been set yet, but the last time this trip was offered, in 2018, it was $7,695; excludes international airfare

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Email Matt Welton at isac-communications@uchicago.edu.

To the untrained eye, Gil Stein admits, a significant archaeological site may look like “a mound with some brick mud walls on it.” That’s where he comes in. Sure, there will be some dirt on this 14-day, three- or four-country (Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and possibly Kazakhstan) tour, but it’s going to be some really cool dirt, like the ruins of Merv, once the world’s biggest city before Genghis Khan’s armies destroyed it in 1221. You’ll join a group of around 18 people and travel by minibus along the Silk Road, including Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley, where residents still focus on woodworking, weaving, and other timeless crafts that fueled trade along the ancient route.

About the guide: Look at the stamps on Stein’s passports, and you might not be inclined to follow his lead: He’s been to Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, where he recently helped restore Buddhist sculptures. “Every country I go to just falls apart,” jokes the U. of C. professor of Near Eastern archaeology. Stein, who also directs the school’s Chicago Center for Cultural Heritage Preservation, has spent time in all the post-Soviet Central Asian republics.

Bring: A towel for the meat sweats. Stein says the area’s nomadic heritage inspires its meat-heavy cuisine, including dishes you may be loath to try. Like horse meat. “Many Americans find it alien and disgusting,” says Stein. “In fact, it’s delicious.”

Watch for: Ikat. It’s a form of ancient silk weaving you will come across in Margilan, Uzbekistan, and it’s one of the most beautiful textiles you’ll ever see.