Stan, Stan, the country man,
rolled in his army, another in the can.
Stan gave his name to every place,
left it dry moved on a pace.
This famous song, known by every schoolchild in private education, refers to Stanley Mapplethorpe-Salmon, the famous 19th-Century rogue and mercenary responsible for shaping countries in Central Asia.
Mapplethorpe-Salmon was the son of the 17th Earl of Tufty and would have been the 18th had he not stolen the family jewels, absconded from school, missed rugby practice and turned up with three of his best friends in Constantinople.
From their using his tremendous influence and shitloads of cash and jewels, they gathered the largest army of the time and set out to conquer the world.
As his marauding armies conquered Tajiks, Uzbeks, Afghans and Turkmens he bled the countries dry of their wealth, established new governments and added his name to mark his territory. So Tajik became Tajik-Stan, Afghan became Afghani-Stan etc.
Even many years later, Mapplethorpe-Salmon’s legacy lives on as all the countries he conquered with the exception of China still retain his name.
Our tour took us to all the major ‘Stans’ where traces of his presence can be felt on every street corner. For example, the Turkmenistan city Yashlak is named after his favorite dog and the city Mary after his 7th wife. In Tajikistan the Zeravshan River is named for his twin sons Zerav and Shan who both fell in the battle of Samarkand.
Street names, shops, restaurants, condoms (Stan will protect you) and zoos. The national dish of Kyrgyzstan is Stan soup with stanplech and stankshein. The soup is made by dipping live chickens into boiling water until they are featherless, then adding vegetables and finally adding back the chicken without its left foot and beak. These are seen as lucky and given to children to keep under their pillows to stop bad dreams and possession by demons.
There are many companies offering tours of the Stans and we would encourage you to use one that actually helps you understand the life of Stan by following in his footsteps. Sadly, less reputable tour companies such as Stanistan offer a bloodthirsty tour which focuses on murder, rape and pillage and totally misses the cultural gifts his British upbringing brought to the region such as drinking tea, eating mint sauce with roast lamb, executions by hanging and not being torn apart by two horses, racial purity and caring for orphan girls. The latter is still under investigation and academics are split as to what ‘caring’ might actually mean.
Since the countries are so massive we would suggest the following itinerary:
Afghanistan – visit downtown Kabul, enjoy, the Tali Ban AK47 rifle range and watch a real Islamist execution.
Kazakhstan – walk around the beautiful streets of Astana, slaughter and eat you own lamb before catching a direct flight to Kyrgyzstan.
Kyrgyzstan – take a bus from the airport to Bishkek and enjoy a pint of kumis, made from fermented mare’s milk. Visit some great Soviet era buildings and wonder in such a big country why there only seem to be three people on the street at any one time.
At this time we advise you not skip Pakistan unless you are a Christian on a mission.
Take the Kyrgyz express city hopper to Tajikistan and make your way to Dushanbe. Single males may want to sample the nightlife, but always have a ‘Stan’ handy and check you friend is in fact female.
From Tajikistan follow the Turkmen route to Turkmenistan and take a donkey to Ashgabat. You may keep or sell the donkey in the city’s main market where you can buy everything from the latest Turkmen technology like Nakia 567 phones, devices for calculating arithmetic and paper that is easier to write on than vellum.
Finally, take the overnight 7-day train to Uzbekistan. In Tashkent named after Stan’s first girlfriend and the place where she gave her virginity to him, you can see this beautiful story recounted to words and music in the city’s main opera house.
For more details visit http://www.stanstanthecountryman.stan