Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

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Ak Metchet (from 2009 tour)

First Call for 2010 Great Trek/
Silk Road Odyssey Tour

Greetings friends and adventurers!

It's time to consider signing on to the 2010 Great Trek/Silk Road Odyssey tour. Mark May 23-June 7, 2010, on your calendars (the dates at this point are still flexible) and begin dreaming! On the itinerary will be Tashkent, Samarkand, Serabulak, Bukhara, Khiva, Ak Metchet, Lausan--and if we can find it, Ebenezer. Also new this time will be two days in Istanbul. What a way to cap the tour!

See a draft of the Great Trek 2010 tour plan as it stands so far.

Last year, we saw Lausan for the first time. To whet your appetites here is an excerpt from my 2009 journal:

June 2, 2009

modern and ancient modes of travel Today we saw Lausan! Our excitement in seeing Lausan for the first time was unlike the dismal, ill-fated18 months Great Trek Mennonites spent along the canal Lausan, 1882-84. The trekkers left Sarabulak in the heat of summer and crossed the Kyzyl-Kum Desert on camels (350-450 depending on the source). The men and boys rode horseback around the worst stretch of desert. Then they floated downriver on the Amu Darya in large Kujacks or barges until they reached the canal called Lausan in early October 1882. Winter was soon upon them so they quickly built Simlinken (earthen huts). Later each family built a Kuter or mud-walled cabins.

Grasshoppers, wild hogs and floods destroyed the first year's crops. Dr. Abdurasulov told us that Mennonites turned to fishing to eat and to sell, "some longer than the height of a man." The women wove the nets that the men used to haul in bountiful catches of fish, which they sold in nearby Kipchak.

Then the marauding Jamud Turkomen found the nonviolent Mennonites easy prey. They took horses, cattle and whatever they pleased. Heinrich Abrams was murdered by the Turkomen when they broke into the house to kidnap Mrs. Abrams whom they thought beautiful. She escaped through a window.

By January 1884 some 23 families decided to emigrate to America with the help of friends and relatives in Nebraska and Kansas. The remaining 39 families were invited by Muhammad Rahim II Khan of Khiva to settle in the garden of his brother 12-13 kilometers from Khiva. Khiva (The brother moved to the Caucuses where he acquired an office in the Russian military.) The khan sent "200 Arbas" (one-horse two-wheeled carts) to convey the possessions of the Lausan settlers to the garden later called Ak Metchet. (Of 100 horses the Turkomen took all but 12, according to Johann Jantzen's diary.)

Drs. Karimov and Abdurasulov took us to Lausan, still an irrigation canal, and pointed to a row of poplar trees half a mile from the river where Mennonites had lived. The hill on which some families lived was gone, apparently flattened during Soviet times. A local farmer said Turkomens, previously nomadic, were now settled some five kilometers up the canal. Winter wheat, watered by various canals and channels, was green and bountiful.

Then we were taken to the nearby village of Kipchak. At the end of a dirt street we came to a "restaurant" high on the bank of the Amu-Darya River. There on a low table under a thatched roof with a view of the river, we were served fresh fish - which had been filleted and fried as we waited. The main course was complemented by a salad of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and onions (the first two being introduced to Central Asia by German Mennonites, Dr. Abdurasulov reminded us), bread, jam - and, as always, green tea.

Bukhara We drove back to Khiva on the same road taken by Mennonites in 1884. Dr. Abdurasulov again listed the many things Mennonites had introduced to Central Asian: potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, hard winter wheat, American cotton, better producing Holstein cows (15 liters of milk per day), goat cheese, Singer sewing machines, photography, imported clothing, "perfumes and jewelry" (really?), and more.

Start dreaming and planning! More calls and information to come.

- John Sharp, co-leader for TourMagination


Pilgrims on the Silk Road - by Walter R. Ratliff

Walter Ratliff's book, Pilgrims on the Silk Road, and video, Through the Desert Goes our Journey, both are doing very well in sales and in awards and they are receiving the wider distribution and audience they deserve. Some people from the Rosthern area were on the second excursion to Khiva and area which was held in 2010. We hope in the near future to hear more from them about their adventures.

To learn more about these developments and to get copies of these works please connect with the web site:

Mennonite Historical Society of Saskatchewan

Room 900 - 110 La Ronge Road,
Saskatoon, SK, S7K 7H8
Archive Hours: Monday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday: 1:30 - 4:00 p.m. & by appointment on Wed. evening.