Walking across the vast expanse of the exhibition hall at World Travel Market 2011, four of the five Silk Road (or ‘silky road’ as some of them called it) countries on my list had a tourist board rep who would be back in 10-30 minutes. This was not true of Kazakhstan, ‘the land of wonders.’ Kazakhstan’s rep Syzdykova Dinara began by directing me to a seat and pouring some tea. I asked what the foods on the table were. ‘These apples are Kazakhstan apples, they come from Kazakhstan and were written about by a British scientist,’ I was informed. Seeing that I wanted to make a film about the food on the table, Syzdykova asked one of her team to explain what different foods were as she translated. The team member disappeared to a cupboard to get something. I was intrigued. Then came a plate of meat and an explanation.
The explanation was translated to, ‘horsemeat.’ I looked at it. I knew I was going to have to eat it. Steve Keenan, editor of Sunday Times Travel online and organiser of this Silk Road Ch@llenge, was indirectly making me eat horsemeat. It was actually alright, like any cured meat, but felt ethically heavy in my stomach. Happily a crowd had amassed by the end and I did get a photo with two buff guys in Kazakhstan dress and a handmade wool flower broach, and a whole box of chocolates, and one of the apples the British scientist had been so interested in.