This is a simple (but free and ad-free) app to pretend to walk the Silk Road. We successfully raised the money for art, so the app has been released and is in the stores now.
Data privacy: The ‘To Samarkand’ app will read your step count from your fitness or health app. This is considered ‘sensitive’ information about you. This app uses the data ONLY to calculate progress on your virtual walk. It is not shared, exported, or used in any other way and never seen by the developer.
The app has recently been reviewed (thorough, well-done review) by Android Apps For Me:
Most importantly, the World History Encyclopedia liked the app idea, and is promoting it to their subscribers (of which I am one) and advised me on some of the content.
The app has 3 paths on first release, between:
- Tyre, Lebanon and Samarkand, Uzbekistan
- Antalya, Turkey and Samarkand, Uzbekistan
- Ctesiphon, Iraq and Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Because we raised enough funds for more images, I added these:
- Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Turfan (near Ürümqi!), China
- Samarkand, Uzbekistan and Chang’an China (known today as Xi’an)
We have now added a southern route between Tamralipta (India near modern Kolkata) and Balkh, Kashgar, and Khotan, — thought to be the route of Buddhism out of India.
Users can walk the roads in either direction.
Released January 2022 — Italy!
It is not the Silk Road, though much commerce on the later Silk Road started in Italy, particularly Genoa and Venice, where we end our walk. Close enough, we can think of getting ready for the Silk Road.
The Italy road will start in the mountains of southern Italy (Montella, where my wife’s family is from), to the ruins of Pompeii, then up through Rome, Florence, Pisa, Genoa, and then pass through the towns of Shakespeare on the way to Ravenna and Venice. The time period will be 13th-14th centuries, the time of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, the Shakespeare plays — and Marco Polo.
Here are some sample screenshots. The art for the overview maps and the trade items are taken from original watercolors by Leith Walton.
Trading: Just for fun
When you reach major milestones, you will be able to ‘trade’ for items typical of that location in the time of the Silk Roads. I have taken liberties with time such that trade goods from different places might have been common in different eras. But such is the fun of a virtual experience.
You will start out with wool, linen, and Byzantine coins, and glassware if traveling from the Mediterranean, or silk, paper, jade if starting in China, or furs, carpet, spices, ivory if starting in Samarkand. The prize goods available in some locations will be Central Asian manuscripts from the ‘Lost Enlightenment’ of the 8th-12th centuries for the western routes or illustrated painted scrolls for the eastern routes.
Ever since I can remember, ‘Samarkand’ evoked an exotic, exciting, very different world. I didn’t know anything about it, probably heard it mentioned in the movies, “Tales of Arabian Nights”, stories of Marco Polo or other random source, might even have been comic books! But ‘Samarkand’ stuck in my brain as exciting and ‘cool’.
I became interested in world history in my 40s, and started reading about the Silk Roads. I have recently returned to that interest and am reading a half dozen books on the history of Central Asia and the Silk Roads. Peter Frankopan’s “The Silk Roads” was my favorite book read in 2020 and S. Frederick Starr’s book “Lost Enlightenment” is my favorite book read so far in 2021.
And I love archaeology — what better place for that? Çatalhöyük, Antakya (Antioch), Jerusalem, Damascus, Ctesiphon (ancient capital of Persia), Isfahan, Yazd, Nishapur, Ashgabat, Jeitun, Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand — I’m coming!
Is this educational?
Maybe not strongly educational, but I hope it will increase interest and awareness of the awesome history (many images are archeological) of Central Asia.
Other history games from PhosphorLearn
Three whimsical but simple text-based games (Interactive Fiction) are available online at https://www.ideategames.org/zgames
The Elegant Defense — a simple educational problem
To Samarkand — Travel the Silk Road to gain enlightenment
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish — a Halloween story/game
Comments and Support
Please send any feedback, comments, suggestions, bugs to our feedback page:
Current plans, bugs, comments on bugs, and FAQ are on our Trello board: