Fine Hand-Crafted Silk Road Treasures for the Creative World Traveler Who Wants to Connect with People in Exotic Places and Make a Difference in the World

The HoonArts Caravanserai
Issue 1, September 7, 2015


Welcome to the very first edition of our new  HoonArts Caravansarai  newsletter.  Your first question might be, why the heading "From the Closet"?  Well, you are probably used to seeing lots of columns written "From the desk of . . .".  As a start-up company in business since November 2014, I don't have an office or even a dedicated desk.  Instead, most of the HoonArts business is located in my personal bedroom closet, sharing space with my clothes (which are gradually being squeezed out).  

This "From the Closet" section of the newsletter is intended to give you a quick behind-the-scenes look at the birth and growth of HoonArts.  If you are interested in more details about the ongoing development of HoonArts, subscribe to my new "Fair Trade Caravan" blog, where I'll be sharing the why's, and how's and up's and down's of creating the HoonArts Fair Trade business on a regular basis. 
Your second question is probably, "And so what the heck is "Caravansarai"?  For the answer to that question, read the next section on "A Taste of the Silk Road."  In every issue of the newsletter, this section will bring you something interesting about Central Asia, its people, culture, history, landscape, etc. 

Map of Central Asia
Our products currently come from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan.
What makes HoonArts unique, even among Fair Trade companies, is that in addition to bringing you beautiful and unique handcrafted products from small artisan workshops in Tajikistan and other Central Asian Silk Road countries, we want to connect you in an intimate and meaningful way to the people, history and culture of this amazing part of the Old World.  We want the HoonArts Cavavansarai to serve as that cozy, welcoming inn on the journey into the heart of the Great Silk Road, where you have a chance to explore the culture and history and connect with locals, including the master artists who craft our products, and fellow travelers.  If you want a more in-depth look at the history, culture and people, you will soon be able to subscribe to our new "Stay A While" blog. Come join us for the adventure of a lifetime.   



Location of original caravanserai at Hissar Fortress, outside the capital city of Dushanbe.
Copyright 2015,   Bakhriddin Isamutdinov.
"Caravanserai" (rh ymes with "stir-fry") is defined as "an  inn  with a central courtyard  for  travelers  in the  desert  regions of Asia or  North Africa," and derives from the  word "caravan."  You probably remember something from grade school about caravans (think camels) and the Silk Road between Europe and China (thin k M arco Polo), but maybe not much more. Historically, the word "caravanserai" originates from the late 16th century, and comes from the Persian word "kārwānsarāy, from kārwān (caravan) plus the Persian word "sarāy"(palace). 

Foundations of caravanserai at Hissor.
Copyright 2015, Bakhriddin Isamutdinov.
HoonArts is dedicated to opening the US market for unique, high quality handicrafts from Tajikistan and other Central Asian Silk Road countries using Fair Trade principles.  Tajikistan lies along one of the key routes of the Great Silk Road, just across the border from Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, this border crossing has been closed since 2010 due to political tensions between the two countries.  Tajikistan has been a major cultural center in Central Asia for more than 2000 years, and is the origin of most of our products at this point.

By:  Kathryn Keller, University of New Mexico Student Intern

The Zarafshan River has been an important geographic asset to Central Asia's history, and to the regional  development of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in particular.   Zarafshan, which literally    translates to "strewer-of -go ld,"  is   an   area  that provided a critical resource to the ancient Sogdian cities of Sama rkand and Bukhara, which lie to the west of Tajikistan in modern day Uzbekistan. The Zarafshan river flooded regularly providing a fertile land and opportunity for an abundance of crops, as well as bearing st rips of gold in its bed, giving the river its name. Samarkand and Bukhara are some of Central Asia's oldest inhabited cities, whose cultures ca n be traced back to their founding by the Sogdians around 700-500 BC. Their location made them key destinations along the trade ro ute of the Great Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean, bri ngin g both cities extraordinary wealth at the peak of their influence.

The Sogdian culture was vast and long held the territory stretching between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, dominating the regions now considered Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.  With the advent of trade brought by the Silk Road, the Sogdians established themselves at the center of the commercial network and were the most dedicated and successful merchants, to the point that "Sogdian" could often be used as a term for 'merchant'.  The northernmost region  of Tajikistan is known today as the "Sughd" province.  Panjakent, now a part of western Tajikistan, was an eastern-most Sogdian town, and an interesting outpost for trade in its own right. The ruins of Panjakent now lie in the southern outskirts of the Tajik city Panjakent.  These ancient ruins have been one of the most extensive and important sites of archaeological excavation in the country. Surviving Soviet independence and civil conflict, the ruins have provided insights into the origins of the culture of Tajikistan, the unique resources of the Zarafshan River, and the long-lasting growth of Central Asia. For more information about ancient Panjakent, visit the Tourism Development Center of Tajikistan.

More Resources: 

HoonArts is a business built on people and relationships.  Without those people and those relationships, we would not exist.  Think about the most memorable travel adventure you've ever had.  What do you remember most about that trip?  What do you want to share most with your friends and families when you return home?  For sure, it's not the museums and public buildings, no matter how beautiful or even photogenic.  It's the people you meet along the way.  In each issue of the HoonArts Caravansarai we will share something about the special people that make HoonArts what it is.  We hope these sketches will make your journey with HoonArts as memorable and meaningful for you as it is for us.  
MUNIRA AKILOVA:  Artist, Designer, Teacher, Community Leader 
Munira Akilova at far left, teaching the fine are of embroidery .

Munira Akilova of Khujand, Tajikistan is the owner of her own handicrafts business, Arinumcrafts, and also acts as handicrafts consultant and designer for Armughon Handicrafts, the handicrafts arm of the Zerafshan Tourism Development Association (ZTDA) in Panjakent, Tajikistan. Munira received her first university degree in economics  and spent 14 years as a university teacher, before she decided to turn her beloved embroidery hobby into a business.  Munira's research work for ZTDA resulted in the first systematic catalogue of Zerafshan textile patterns and ornaments. Through various craft projects Armughon began to work with unemployed women from the impoverished mountain regions around Panjakent, and now works with several clusters of women.  The trainings ZTDA conducted for the master textile artisans in the Zerafshan Valley on economics, marketing, and design have greatly contributed to their socialization, recovery, and in some regions to the revival of the handicraft sector.  Munira will also be a key partner in a brand new handicrafts initiative  "Women's entrepreneurship as a mechanism for financial stability and welfare," focused on rural women and girls from families with absentee migrant workers (primarily in Russia).  She'll be working on this project with our partners the Tourism Development Center of Tajikistan and the Union of Craftsmen of Tajikistan.

As the product designer for Armughon Handicrafts, Munira "always
"Tuppi" Ornament (Female)
 tries to put a part of Zerafshan into it.  It means all of [our] products should have Zerafshani ornaments/patte rns."  She also thinks deeply about how the product will be used,  by whom and when, and then focuses on color.  As she explained, "Each piece has its ow n meaning."  This is  the process that led to the development of Munira's product designs that have received   the   UNESCO Award  of  Excellence for Handicraft :  the small suzani wall hanging "Marhamat" and the hanging "tuppi" ornaments modeled after the traditional hats worn by men and women in Tajikistan, both of which we are happy to include in the HoonArts collection. We also have mini-suzani wall hangings and pillow covers that were part of the  first exhibition of products from Tajikistan at the 2015 Santa Fe International Folk Art Market (at the UNESCO Award of Excellence Booth).

"Tuppi" Ornament (Male)
"Marhamat" wall hanging.

" Butta" ("Bush") Wall Hanging (2015 UNESCO Booth at Santa Fe)
Munira's own love of embroidery began when she was a child of 11 or 12, in the early 1990's.  After that magical summer when she learned her first stitches, she started to buy different magazines & books about sewing and began collecting information from books and even encyclopedias.    During her 25 years of embroidering experience, Munira has worked her magic in a variety of forms, including accessories, clothing, bed sets, etc. Finally she made a decision that for the rest of her life she would always include framed embroidery. "This way, embroidery will have a longer life."  Munira decided to make embroidery the main focus of her life after a serious illness, when only the creative work of embroidery restored her health and passion for life.  She is now pursuing a second university degree in Design and Graphics to support this passion.

Not satisfied with simply focusing on her own products, Munira has become a master teacher as well.  She works with the women of Armughon Handicrafts and teaches other embroidery workshops around the country. When asked why she likes to teach, she said, "It seems teaching is my mission. I like working with the worst student in the class. It's magical when you see the change in them, when they start out feeling that they are very far from others, and you begin to work with them. It's like you are giving them the power to believe in themselves. Their eyes begin to shine.  As for teaching art, it's  opening eyes to the world of beauty. Students begin to look at life and the world through the heart's eye. I'm sure it influences their health and happiness."  Her personal dream is to create a permanent educational center affiliated with a rural high school to train students in the traditional handicraft arts, as well as related business principles, which would in turn become an economic hub for the rural village. Her passion for textiles is her way of building a better future for her country and her own family, including her three children, ages 7, 14 1/2 and 17 1/2.

We are honored to count Munira as one of our partners at HoonArts, and delighted to bring her unique Zerafshan designs to the US for the first time.  You can follow Munira's work at Armughon Handicrafts on Facebook.

For more information about Tajikistan, visit our sister organization, Bridges to Tajikistan.
VALUES MATTER:   Global Community
We are committed to building a more peaceful, prosperous and connected global community.  One of the key aspects of that commitment is our promise to adhere to Fair Trade principles in our work with our artisans.  Fair Trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency, and respect that seeks to create greater equity in the international trading system.  Fair Trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized.  These producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.  Many of the HoonArts artisans are impoverished women from remote rural areas of Tajikistan, whose only source of cash income is from the sale of their handicrafts.  For more information about Fair Trade, visit the Fair Trade Federation . HoonArts is not yet even eligible to apply for membership in the Fair Trade Federation, since we have not been in business for a full year, but we intend to honor our commitment to Fair Trade principles and look forward to becoming a Fair Trade Federation member in the future.  You can  shop right now and make a real difference for the artisans that we work with.
Another aspect of our commitment to Global Community is our "Community Counts" program.  We donate 1% of each sale to Bridges to Tajikistan, (co-founded by HoonArts CEO, Rikki Quintana),  a nonprofit organization committed to creating sustainable international connections between people in Tajikistan and the US  to further the educational and other opportunities for young Tajiks and advance mutual understanding.  We believe these connections will help build a sense of our shared humanity and common future.  We also donate 1% of each sale to the nonprofit organization of the customer's choice.  For more information, visit our " Community Counts" page on our website.  

IT'S A SMALL WORLD:  As we build HoonArts, we appreciate more and more the connections that seemingly arise out of pure serendipity, or perhaps it truly is destiny that draws us together.  Rikki Quintana volunteered as an artist assistant at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market in July, as a prelude to helping the first Tajik artisans prepare applications to participate in the 2016 Market.  She spent the entire three days of the Market at the booths of the Seven Sisters, from Kyrgyztan (and also added some of their beautiful felt on silk scarves and silver jewelry to the HoonArts collection).  Among her fellow artist assistant volunteers were Joan and Gary Salzman from Los Alamos, New Mexico, whose son Eric was just about to finish up his tour working at the US Embassy in Dushanbe.  Joan and Gary had a wonderful trip in 2014 to visit him in Tajikistan.   After the Market, Rikki received the following note from Joan:  "I looked on your website, and it turns out that the little Christmas ornament I have is made by Saidov Sukhrob.  It looks just like the Ceramic Ball Hanging Ornament you have listed.  Our daughter-in-law had a number of his pieces.  She said he only showed his works on rare occasions at a few places, and it was difficult to get them.  She got the ones she has at [a] special crafts fair there in Dushanbe. "

We have several big pieces of news. 


First, we have finally (yes, FINALLY!) uploaded over 50 new products that have been arriving over the last few months to our online store.   Browse these new additions for the best selection. We just did another photo shoot this week, so more new products will be going up in the next few days.


Second, we have adopted a couple of new policies that we believe our customers will love.  Yes, it definitely takes a while to get around to thinking through all these "business" aspects of the business. 

100% Satisfaction Guaranteed. 
You can return any product for a refund (including outgoing and return shipping charges) or exchange within 60 days, for any reason (other than your own damage, of course).  For more details, click here.

Free Shipping Over $50.
Shipping of any order over $50 is now free.  That includes return shipping if you are not 100% satisfied with your order. 


We are thrilled to announce that HoonArts will be a participant in the Global Village at Globalquerque!, New Mexico's 11th Annual Celebration of World Music and Culture.  Globalquerque! will be held at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 1701 4th St SW, at Avenida César Chávez, on Friday, September 25 and Saturday, September 26.  Globalquerque! will include over 20 musical performing groups from around the world, a FREE day of programming on Saturday for families and adults, including workshops on music and folklore, crafts, and live performances, as well as the opportunity to visit the Global Village,  where approximately 30 booths of international  craftsculture and  cuisine  will be available for your browsing and shopping pleasure.   For more information, visit the Globalquerque! website.

Special Launch Discount:
To celebrate the inaugural issue of the HoonArts Caravanserai , we are offering a special discount that can be used on your next online purchase from HoonArts. Your purchase will have a significant impact on the economic well-being of the artisan(s), many of whom are impoverished women in the rural areas of Tajikistan.

Warmest regards,

Rikki Quintana
Hoon Arts

Save 20% off your next online order.
Enter "CARAVAN" at checkout.
Offer Expires 09/10/2015.  One coupon allowed per customer, not applicable to shipping costs.