About Uzbekistan

Uzbek Suzani
14 September 2017

"The suzani - from the Persian word csuzay meaning needle - hung among many in the Bukharan Emir's summer palace. Peacocks had once roamed the palace gardens while the Emir watched his harem frolic naked in an outdoor pool. This particular suzani, produced in the Nurata oasis, contained a solid burst of colour and embroidery emanating from a central medallion and surrounded by curling fronds and blooms of lotus and peony blossoms. For the casual observer, the piece was impressive though purely decorative, but there was more to it. Samovar and teapot motifs, representing hospitality, radiated like spokes from the medallion centre, as did water jugs, representing purity. Abstract birds flitted around the border, able to cross over from the spirit world. Rows of ram-horn motifs - potent symbols of strength - were embroidered to ward off the evil eye. There were other motifs - their original meaning lost. More recognisable were the peacock-feather eyes embroidered in each corner. These were particularly apt, for like the feathers of a peacock, the beauty of this suzani was also designed to attract a mate. An anonymous embroiderer - a sequestered beauty of fifteen or sixteen - had lovingly worked on this piece. No suitor would ever glimpse her beauty; this privilege was reserved for the wedding night. Instead, potential husbands would content themselves with the beauty of the suzani. A glance was enough for a young man to ascertain that this was the work of a well-bred young lady - her time devoted to embroidery, not menial household chores. The intricacy of her stitches spoke of patience, the ambitious size spoke of endurance, and the symbols within promised a wife pure, hospitable, spiritual and hard-working - qualities eagerly sought after in young women and often sadly lacking in the suitors themselves. The sheer number and quality of suzanis in the young girl's bridal trousseau reminded any potential match that they were marrying into an extended family of useful connections. It was impossible for one embroiderer to complete an entire trousseau, so an army of female relatives were enlisted. First, our embroiderer's grandmother - as tradition demanded - drew out the design. The strips of loosely stitched cotton were then pulled apart and parcelled out. Each woman stitched with a different tension and the reassembled suzani often contained mismatched colours and disjointed patterns along the seams. There were other imperfections too; a suzani was never finished - a leaf or flower left untouched - for completion meant the embroiderer could now depart this life. Also, attempts at perfection might rouse jealousy in the evil eye or even the Almighty himself, for surely God alone is perfect. Despite the help of female relatives, a trousseau still took many months - if not years - to complete. It included larger suzanis for wall hangings, a lavish suzani for the bridal bed, a suzani prayer- mat - an archway facing Mecca. Smaller suzanis were made for wrapping stacks of freshly-baked bread and gifts, larger ones for food cloths, and a special cradle-covering - rich in symbols to ward away evil - in hopeful anticipation of many children. Had this particular suzani wooed a good husband, or was it squirrelled away by a bitter and disillusioned kelin - a painful memory of her embroidered hopes and dreams?"

Christopher Aslan Alexander "A Carpet Ride to Khiva" 2010

Uzbek suzani

Suzani (Suzanne) is a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile made in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and other Central Asian countries. The art of making such textiles in Iran is called Suzankari (needlework).

Suzanis usually have a cotton (sometimes silk) fabric base, which is embroidered in silk or cotton thread. Chain, satin, and buttonhole stitches are the primary stitches used. There is also extensive use of couching, in which decorative thread laid on the fabric as a raised line is stitched in place with a second thread. Though suzanis can be sewn onto a single piece of fabric (usually cotton), it is not uncommon for several pieces to be stitched together into an elaborate patchwork. Suzanne is an embroidered piece of cloth used as a wall decoration. The biggest Uzbek Suzannes are 2-3 meters long, and up to 2 meters wide.

The patterns of embroidery were created by artists who placed them with a sharpened straw called a "kalam". The artists knew many different styles of ornamentation, and varied them to create new combinations, with carefully chosen colors.

Uzbek Suzanne may be said to be the national art form, having its own style, developed over the centuries. In the 19th century, Nurata, Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Tashkent and Fergana became centers of artistic embroidery. Every school of embroidery has its own local traits.

While becoming familiar with Uzbek Suzannes it is impossible to find two pieces alike, in spite of the similar patterns and colors. The variety of ornamentations and their combinations is what the art of Suzanne is based on.

Popular design motifs include sun and moon disks, flowers (especially tulips, carnations, and irises), leaves and vines, fruits (especially pomegranates), and occasional fish and birds. The designs often also take on symbolic properties: monochrome designs may represent life and death, the individual and the world, and so on. Representations of living things such as fish and birds do sometimes appear, though they are less common due to the widely held belief amongst Muslims that they should not be depicted in art.

The three main stitches used in embroidering suzanis are chain, buttonhole and satin stitches. Then, as now, they were made by young women for inclusion in their wedding dowries and were presented to the groom on the wedding day. Suzanis for use as bedspreads, wall hangings and throws were therefore particularly common.

The oldest surviving suzanis are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it seems likely that they were in use long before that. The production of suzanis undoubtedly took place before this, however, as Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, the Castillan ambassador to the Timurid court, described the fine embroidery work he saw in the 15th century, and there are definite similarities between 18th-century suzanis and the embroideries produced in Mughal India two centuries beforehand. The Mughals, of course, were Timurids, their founder Babur a native of the Fergana Valley.

Suzani in Bukhara

You should definetely visit Vabkent town, house of craftswoman Matluba Khatamova in Bukhara if you are interested with Uzbek suzani (suzanne) textiles. Currently her business is Bukharian Suzanne production. Since long ago, the previous generations of her family have been involved in this business, which to the present day has been developed and sustained successfully.

The average period of work on one Suzanne is two months, which makes every piece exclusive. All the materials used for Suzanne are natural, colored with natural dyes, which gives a bright and unforgettable look to every piece. Extremely rich in color and original in ornamentation, it is a wonderful decoration for any house.

Beginning last century, this family of embroiderers and weavers offered their works for sale in shops; now, the Suzanne of Matluba is not sold in artisan and souvenir shops, as it is considered to be unique, and is being sold abroad, with orders for her Suzanne being received from many different countries.

You also can request our tour operators to add her house to your itinerary plan!

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Did you know?

Uzbekistan is one of only two countries in the world to be ‘double landlocked’ (landlocked and totally surrounded by other landlocked countries). Liechtenstein is double landlocked by 2 countries whilst Uzbekistan is surrounded by 5!

Did you know that Uzbekistan lies in the very heart of Eurasia, the coordinates for Uzbekistan are 41.0000° N, 69.0000°

Uzbekistan is home to the Muruntan gold mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world! The country has 4th largest reserves of gold in the world after South Africa, USA and Russia

Uzbekistan is the world capital of melons. They have in excess of 150 different varieties, which form a staple part of the local diet, served fresh in the summer and eaten dried through the winter.

It is Uzbek tradition that the most respected guest be seated farthest from the house’s entrance.

Tashkent’s metro features chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough plov to serve a thousand men.

When you are a host to someone, it is your duty to fill their cups with for the whole time they are with you.  What you must not do, however, is to fill their cup more than half-full.  If you do that as a mistake, say it is a mistake immediately.  Doing it means you want them to leave.  Wow!  Amazing, right?

To Uzbeks, respect means a whole lot.  For this reason they love it if, even as foreigners, you endeavour to add the respectful suffix opa after a woman's name; and aka after a man's.  Example: Linda-opa and David-aka.  You could also use hon and jon respectively.

Having been an historic crossroads for centuries as part of various ancient empires, Uzbekistan’s food is very eclectic. It has its roots in Iranian, Arab, Indian, Russian and Chinese cuisine.

Though identified with the Persia, the Zoroastrism probably originated in Bactria or Sogdiana. Many distinguished scholars share an opinion that Zoroastrianism had originated in the ancient Khorezm. Indeed, today in the world there were found 63 Zoroastrian monuments, including those in Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirty-eight of them are in Uzbekistan, whereas 17 of these monuments are located in Khorezm.

One of Islam's most sacred relics - the world's oldest Koran that was compiled in Medina by Othman, the third caliph or Muslim leader, is kept in Tashkent. It was completed in the year 651, only 19 years after Muhammad's death. 

Tashkent is the only megapolis in the world where public transport is totally comprised of Mercedes buses. And due to low urban air polution it is one of the few cities where one can still see the stars in the sky.

You would be surprised to know that modern TV was born in Tashkent. No joke! The picture of moving objects was transmitted by radio first time in the world in Tashkent on 26 of July 1928 by inventors B.P. Grabovsky and I.F. Belansky.

Uzbekistan is the only country in the world all of whose neighbours have their names ending in STAN. This is also the only country in Central Asia that borders all of the countries of this region

Uzbeks are the third populous Turkik ethnicity in the world after Turks and Azeris (leaving both in Azerbaijan and Iran)

Did you know that there was silk money in Khiva? Super interesting right? Of course, but the best part of having silk money was that it could be sewn into your clothing.

Famous Islamic physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the Latin world) who was born near Bukhara was the one of the first people to advocate using women’s hair as suture material – about 1400 years ago.

Uzbekistan has a long and bloody history. The most notorious leader of Uzbekistan was Timur (or Tamerlane) who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. His military campaigns have been credited for wiping out some 5% of the world’s population at the time.

If you have thought that some of the Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan resembles that from Northern India, then that is because Timur’s great great great Grandson, Babur Beg, was the founder of the Moghul Empire that ruled much of India for almost four centuries! Babur’s great great Grandson was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.

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