We keep trying to invent the wheel, putting the shining ashes in motion, and coming up with new conspiracy theories - all to no avail, only more strife, conflicts, and full-scale wars flooding the world. Losing touch with our roots, we watch animated cartoons, featuring heroes, made of dishwashing sponge, new generations screaming in our ears the world is going to blow up. Still, there is a hope for mankind - in turning our eyes back to the History of the Orient. Gulchekhra-begim Makhmudova, Ph.D. in Art Studies, founder of Begim Perfumes and the Parfum Gallery retail chain in Uzbekistan and author of the SilkRoadLand project dwells on what real magic is all about and how it works.

In antiquity and the Middle Ages, the Mediterranean Region and Eastern Asia were connected by the Silk Road, a caravan track, via which as far back as the II century B.C., the cities of Xian and Hotan in China as well as Bukhara and Samarkand in Sogdiana exported their silk, both a commodity and currency at the time. The Chinese route lay across India, Persia, and Bactria, Sogdiana shipping its silk to Spain via Turkey. Exploring the key points of the Silk Road, I decided to collect the legends and fairytales of all tribes and nations, connected with it in the olden days.

The past centuries have seen many civilisations coming, exchanging their cultural and intellectual assets, and going. In the meantime, the legendary trade route kept living its own unique life, filled with great scholars’ and masters’ stories as well as countless mysteries and tales of yore, spread by word of mouth far and wide. Since times immemorial, Grannies around the world have been unwinding ‘the silk cocoon’ of oriental fairy-tales, weaving together worlds, events, wisdom, and the joy of discovery for their grandchildren to partake of.

One fine day, a baby-girl was born into a rich Fergana Valley merchant-Sayid’s family. She was destined to become my Granny, who lived to be 102 years old, catching the times of three centuries in a row. Hers was a life of dignity. A noble and well-educated lady, she never wore a veil, spoke Arabic and French, had an excellent taste for scents and herbs, and never took any medications. Kindling hookah aromas, she would say to us, her grandchildren, ‘See how the rays of light twinkle in the misty hookah? You, too, can make your lives shine and twinkle in most fantastic ways - it’s entirely up to you’.

Thanks to Granny, I’ve become a writer of legends and fairytales, such as ‘The Legend of the Spirit of Time’ - a story of a time travel through the ancient history and culture of the Silk Road countries and across the Universe in search of The Silk Cocoon of Immortality. I’ve also written another trilogy, titled ‘Flask of Crystal Hookah’ - a mystery novel about the treasures of the Great Orient.

Now that I am a grandmother myself, this status inspires me to create new global cultural projects, helping generations to come preserve the treasures and discoveries of the Silk Road and surrounding lands. Children, wishing to become aviators, astronauts, doctors, or zoologists can learn a lot about these professions as well as the world and life from books, feature films, and in entertainment venues. In the meantime, The Ancient Orient, with all its invaluable cultural treasures is basically a terra incognita for many today, which ought to be changed. An easy fairytale-like playing format could attract children to imbibing the cultural legacy of our ancestors to discover eternal values, enabling us all to develop and succeed in life.

For one, how many children and, to this end, adults are aware of the fact that Paris I Pantheon- Sorbonne University still uses the Zij-i-Sultani Star Catalogue, compiled in 1437 by Mirzā Ulugh Beg of Samarkand, a grandson of the great conqueror and king Amir Timur Tamerlane? The ob- servatory built by Ulugh Beg’s order was the most pervasive and well-known one in the Medieval Islamic world, while his unique star catalogue became one of the first celestial maps, correctly charting the number and position of stars in space. How can you learn the principles of the Universe without this knowledge?

Another important project of mine is creating a SilkRoadLand Edutainment franchising net- works of theme parks all along the ancient route, featuring monuments, historic buildings, and prominent figures of oriental history and culture. Our amusement facilities and rides, fashioned after such world-famous attractions as Taj Mahal, Registan Square, The Mausolem of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi, The Great Wall of China as well as caravan-sera’s, medreses, and flying carpets will take young guests on a breath-taking tour of the history and culture of the Orient. Visitors will be greeted not by SpongeBob SquarePants or Spiderman but by Farhad and Shirin, Ali-Shir Nava’I’s literary characters, Sultan Ulugh Beg and East-Iranian Queen Tomyris, major historic figures, or Shirak, Maymun, and Varak, legendary heroes of those glorious times.

There was also the mysterious Maritime Silk Road, connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Mediterranean via the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. Some of its key points, dating back to the X century are still to be found in Saudi Arabia, Al- ‘Ula, the UAE, Abu-Dhabi, and Dubai. Once upon a time, they all, in one way or another, contrib- uted to trading with Spain, Venice, and the rest of Europe via Morocco.

In 2019, at the IAAPA Expo Europe, Paris, co-held by the Uzbek Embassy in France, I shared this global idea of mine with a group of internationalVoltere by Egis theme park operators. Those renowned amusement industry professionals found it very interesting, so we signed a contract for cooperation and implementation of the project in Uzbekistan. As an art historian, I’ve been researching and publishing papers on interrelations and interinfluence of Western and oriental histories and cultures. I do believe my scientific expertise, combined with theirs is sure to bring about fantastic results. Franchising projects always being attractive for investors, all the more so is our Edutainment Park,the first oriental one in the world.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we launched a series of animated cartoons, their visual imagery created by talented Uzbek artist Zilola Khamidova. A good follow-up would be opening a Central Asia Disney studio to develop this and other oriental animation lines. Wouldn’t it be fun to explore a fancy world, where the famous Ibn Sina, commonly known as Avicenna becomes an alchemist? By the way, to this day, many privately owned pharmacies in Paris, Dubai, and elsewhere bear the name of this great physician.

We’ve already made the first part of ‘The Legend of The Spirit of Time’ cartoon series. The name of Time Spirit - the main character – is Zaman- Bobo. Meaning ‘time’ in Azerbaijani, Turkish, Hindu, Arabic, and Uzbek, thus, well-known in the Orient, the word describes Grandfather Time, giving young viewers a chance to enjoy an exciting time travel across the ancient world into the depths of the Universe.

Oriental cultural heritage is an infinite source of ideas for thrilling journeys, amusement rides, and cartoons. For one, the story of the sun god Surya and princess Kunti’s son Karna, a great warrior – one of the main protagonists of the Mahabharata Hindu epic. At birth, legend has it, his heavenly father gave him a gold suit of armour and a pair of ear-rings, making him invincible. One of those earrings contained a huge gem, called ‘The Koh-i-Noor’, which means ‘The Mount of Light’. Yellowish in colour and plain-looking, it, nonetheless, always made Karna victorious in battle. The Kohi-i-Noor travelled along the Silk Road, passing the hands of Tomyris, Queen of the Massageteans, enabling her to defeat Cyrus-the- Great, Amir Timur, helping him conquer half of the world, Mughal Emperors Babur, Jangir, Shah Jahan, who had the diamond faceted and framed by Venetian jewellers, giving it an incredible glow & shine, and his son Aurangzeb to finally get to the Queen Mother’s Crown, a major Crown Jewel of the United Kingdom. Thus, The Kohi-i-Noor is a true link of times, symbolising victory, success, and longevity.

The Kohi-i-Noor’s story resonates with the Treasures Collection fragrance line by Begim Perfumes - Made in France, with KohiNur Diamond, ED Perfume, and Silk Road, ED Perfume being its brightest gems. I had the pleasure of meeting Theresa May at the time she was leaving the office of the British Prime-Minister. She was really happy to hear me say the Begim’s Silk Road fragrances do help to sustain life, exclaiming, ‘Yes, indeed! What I need now is not success but a long life, like our Queen’s!’ And Begim fragrances, based on the great history and culture of the human civilisation are now a bestseller not only in the UK but all over the world – in Dubai, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, India, Azerbaijan, and Malaysia, to name just a few locations.

Resonant with the ideas of continuity, victory, success, loving kindness, and wisdom are my other media projects, an adventure film ‘I am Hodja’, among them. Authored by renowned writer-director Igor Akhmedov, it’s an absorbing story of the famous wise wanderer, bestowing love and giving the good to mankind for ever and a day. Another film of mine to be released is a thriller, titled ‘Silk Road Treasures’ – a screen adaptation of my ‘Flask of Crystal Hookah’ trilogy. World-famous British producer, writer, and Centre Media UK Director Walwin Kent has got interested in both projects, and we are already working out a filming route map, including London, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, India, and Uzbekistan.

My life principle being ‘Amour-Bonté-Culture-Beauté’,that’s what my fragrances and fairytales are all about.Whatever I do is aimed at spreading love, peace, and happiness in the whole wide world. What does it take? Just working my own magic in my business and in my fairytale world. And like-minded people to keep me company all along the way.

My projects are ambitious indeed, but realistic nonetheless. I am very active and cannot help it, art, culture, and history being my professional and main life’s mission, my business being just a means of achieving my noble aims.