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As the regional centre of tsarist and Soviet rule, the town of Fergana has grown into the valley's third-largest city, with a population of 220,000-230,000. In fact, Fergana is the valley’s least ancient and least Uzbek city. Founded in 1876, 20 kilometres from the ancient town of Margilan, it was christened New Margilan, then in 1907 became Skobelov, after the first military governor, and in 1924 assumed the valley's name.
The main building of the new city became a military fortress, which occupied a large area. New streets were laid from it in a semicircle. The huge park was lid out in the city center. The first architectural sights of the city were the Governor's House (now the building of the drama theater), House of Governor Assistant, the Military Assembly (House of Officers). In 1907 the town was renamed Skobelev, and in 1924 called Ferghana.
Fergana's wide avenues spread fan-like from the old military fortress, recalling the St Petersburg design of Tashkent. Tree-lined avenues and pastel-plastered tsarist buildings indeed give Fergana the feel of a mini-Tashkent. Parks, fountains, Russian architecture and industrial zones strengthen the similarity, and the contrast, with Uzbek, Islamic Margilan.
A marked increase in the city began only in the twentieth century and especially after the independence of the republic. Ferghana is now an important industrial center in Uzbekistan. Over the past few years in the city there are many modern facilities - luxurious high-rise hotels, a beautiful tennis court, indoor urban market, a stadium, a large park with flower beds and fountains. Symbolically, that among the first constructions built during the independence, in 1992 the city gate was built, called "Gate of Independence." It has the height of 14 meters, 26 meters in length.
Ferghana is perhaps the best and the most obvious base from which to explore the rest of the Ferghana valley. It has a central location, a good choice of accommodation and decent services. It’s a nice enough place to hang out, and somewhat cosmopolitan with its relatively high proportion of Russian and Korean citizens.
In Fergana, there is no ancient architecture and historical monuments, but nevertheless the city is very picturesque and has its own unique look. The main decoration of the city is venerable trees: plane trees, poplars, oaks ... They have turned Ferghana in to the garden city.
Proudly termed the greenest city in Central Asia by its citizens, Fergana is usually just a stopover en route to the rest of the valley, yet its plane- and poplar-shaded streets of blue-washed houses deserve a walkabout. As they say 'you don't come to Fergana to see Fergana': you sleep here and make use of the good transport connections to explore other parts of the valley. Fergana's sole piece of remaining history, a section of the mud-brick walls of its Russian fort, is now sadly hidden from view (and usually inaccessible) inside the army compound on Kasimov.
Fergana’s most appealing attraction is the bazaar, filled with good-natured Uzbek traders, leavened with Korean and Russian vendors selling homemade specialities. It sprawls over several blocks north of the centre, posing a considerable obstacle to the flow of traffic.
From the bazaar, follow pedestrian Mustakillik Kuchasi (Independence Street) to the verdant Al-Fergani Park, named after the ninth-century astronomer and Fergana valley native who like several of Central Asia's finest minds bloomed at Caliph al-Mamum's 'House of Wisdom' in Merv and later Baghdad. His 'Book of Celestial Movements' influenced Dante's 'Divine Comedy' and predicted the discovery of America.
At the Mustakillik/Al-Ferghani crossroads stands the Regional Theatre, once the grand 1877 residence of General Mikhail Skobelov. His troops knew him as the 'White General', from his uniform and horse, but to the Turkmen he terrorized after subduing Ferghana he was 'Old Bloody Eyes', from his bloodshot post-battle appearance. Further up Al-Ferghani, north of the Oilworker Stadium, are the Deputy Governor's house and the 1902 men's gymnasium.
Turn northwest up Uzman Khodzhaeva for the Museum of Local Studies. The sparse Museum (9am-5pm Wed-Sun, to 1pm Mon) covers the Fergana region, including Kokand and Margilon. Visitors can inspect satellite photos of a green, lush Fergana Valley nestled amid snow-capped peaks. Other displays include a Stone Age diorama with some excessively hairy Cro-Magnons, and a Great Patriotic War section unchanged from Soviet times. A 3-D map puts the valley in revealing perspective before stuffed standards of natural- history give way to archaeological displays and pictures of remote carvings.
Among other exhibits are a hall of colourful Rishtan ceramics, postcards of pre-revolutionary Turkestan and unconventional tubiteika embroidered with figures, poetry and even Soviet motifs.
Suburbs of Fergana are also known thanks to beautiful places. In the foothills of the Alai Range, abounded in the greenery of gardens and vineyards, the village Chimen lies, known for its healing mineral springs, on the base of which the spa resort "Chimen" was opened. It is the largest health resort in Central Asia.
55 kilometers from Fergana there is a picturesque area of Uzbekistan - Shakhimardan ("Lord of the peoples"). It is the traditional place of recreation for the citizens of Margilan and Fergana.
The airport, six kilometres south of Ferghana centre on bus route 22, has two daily flights to Tashkent and a country crossing weekly flight to Nukus. Trains from Tashkent take around 8 hours to reach the station in Margilan and continue to Andijan but you may need a double-entry Uzbek visa for this as the route transits Tajikistan (no Tajik visa is necessary apparently). Buses throughout the valley use the Yermazar regional station north of Ferghana on the road to Margilan. Buses No. 3 & 4 run from the airport via the Hotel Ferghana to the local bus station beside the central bazaar. This station has frequent departures for Yermazar and Margilan, plus Tashkent-bound share taxis (4-5 hours) and 8-seater minibuses via the Kamchik tunnel.