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The passage of time seems to have slowed down at Zarif Mukhtarov's paper mill in a village near ex-Soviet Uzbekistan's silk road city, Samarkand.Mukhtarov, a 62-year-old Samarkand native, was a potter like his father before he set about reviving a paper-making technique coveted for centuries by much of the known world.Nowadays, he says, the legendary paper once produced in Samarkand has been consigned to history by the bland, white, industrial-made stuff and, of course, computers.What separated Samarkand's paper from the Chinese version and saw it gradually displace papyrus across Europe and the Middle East in the coming centuries was its smooth, glossy finish.The paper produced in Samarkand's mills was also far more durable than papyrus.This gruelling process in some way reflects Mukhtarov's own journey to become an off-the-beaten-track gem on the Uzbek tourism circuit, dominated by striking Islamic architecture in cities like Samarkand and its sisters Bukhara and Khiva.
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