Every traveler returning from holidays wants to take away a souvenir that would remind him of the country and his adventures. Souvenirs – it’s not just gifts for relatives and friends, but a memory, a piece of the country which you have visited. In Uzbekistan, whose culture has synthesized a nomadic and farming culture, you will find a lot of original souvenirs made by hand by skilled craftsmen, who are fully reflect the culture and identity of the Uzbek people.
There are plenty of places in Tashkent to shop for souvenirs and gifts. You will find souvenir shops inside almost all hotels, museums and trading centres. If you want to find something unique or love to haggle to a good deal goods, Abulkasim Madrassah and Chorsu Bazaar are best places to visit. If you don’t have enough time to visit Bazaars or galleries in Tashkent, you may find a good selection of souvenirs at the hotels you stay. Rates are quite higher than bazaars but you may bargain. It might make sense to ask your guide or staff at the hotel for piece of advice, they would love to help you.
Uzbekistan has every reason to be called a paradise for those who love and collect decorative ceramics. The art of ceramics manufacture is the oldest of the national Uzbek crafts; each region of Uzbekistan has its own traditional ceramics school. In Khorezm Province the descendants and apprentices of the famous Khiva master R.Matchanov make on their potter's wheels khums - the wide-necked pitchers with turquoise glaze, the deep bowls badiy, and the traditional lamps chirok with beautiful blue and ultramarine patterns.
Few would remain indifferent to what Samarkand masters make: cute statuettes of the folklore character Nasreddin on his donkey, a legendary mocker and joker so much loved by the Uzbeks; caravans of miniature camels; candle-holders in the form of fantastic dragons, resembling the terracotta statuettes found by archeologists among the ruins of ancient Marakanda. While coming in contact with each other, thin ceramic Samarkand tea-drinking bowls produce the sound of clinked crystal glasses! Not far from Bukhara, in the town of Gijduvan, the local sixth-generation kulol ('ceramist') master A.Nazrullaev makes big dishes lyagan and eating bowls kosa covered with colour patterns reminding peacock tail. Those who prefer ancient art would find it an exciting discovery to see what is made by M.Zukhurov from Denau, Surkhandarya Province. His bowls are covered with so called abr pattern, which has been believed to protect the owner from the evil eye.
In the 14th century the craftsmen of the village Rishtan, Ferghana Valley, began covering their ceramics with ishkor glaze based on natural dyes. The famous blue ceramics made by ustos (masters) M.Kadyrov, M.Saidov, G.Masharipov have been for a long time attracting collectors worldwide by their unique and diverse forms and patterns.
Tashkent masters V.Shurkov and R.Mukhamedzhanov show the unlimited potential of baked clay in their extremely humorous multi-character compositions depicting get-togethers of old friends in teahouses or bazaars.
Those who are interested in national women's jewelry are usually impressed by the works of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara jewelers: the traditional earrings kashgar-boldak and domed earrings with chiming pendants; bracelets and rings with such semi-precious stones popular in Asia as pearls, rubies, turquoises and carnelians. No less interesting are necklaces with triangular or cylindrical filigree containers tumors where Uzbek women would put a protective prayer or, in some cases, a note from the beloved man. Noted for its elegance and intricacy is the workmanship of Bukhara metal engravers. On brass and copper trays they often engrave the images of architectural monuments of "Holy Bukhara" in addition to decorative patterns. The hereditary engraver M.Madaliev from Margilan makes kumgan, aftoba and choidish - the traditional jugs for keeping water and for washing. First the master shapes their elegant bending handles and spouts and then covers them with engraved decorative patterns. Famous along the whole Silk Road were Uzbek blacksmiths. The Uzbek national knife pichok made by a Chust or Kokand blacksmith would be an excellent match for any collection. The steel hand-made blades of these knives usually bear a brass trademark of the master.
Raised to the level of fine art by Uzbek masters is wood carving; apparently it has no match in the world. Covered with intricate engraved patterns, there are wall panels, caskets and boxes, the little national table khantaxta with hexahedral or octahedral top made of walnut, beech or plane trees. Yet the most fascinating thing made by Uzbek masters is laukh, a stand for the Koran. It is a compound folding structure carved out of a single bar of wood with no hinges or fasteners. Unfolded by expert hands, it has a few rows of little shelves with rich engraving. The masters S.Rakhmatullaev and Kh.Ganiev from Tashkent keep the ancient secret of making the folding screen panjara. On the basis of exact mathematical calculation known from times immemorial its wings are designed as open-work trellis with the geometrical ornamental patterns being made by means of adeptly carved little pieces of wood fastened with no nails or glue.
There are masters who specialize in kolybs made of apricot tree. Kolyb is a stamp for traditional handmade printing on cloth. Using more than ten various kolybs, the master A.Rakhimov from Tashkent makes unique decorative patterns on the feast table-cloth dastarkhan and on the Muslim prayer mat joi-namaz meant for praying five times a day according to Moslem traditions.
The art of wood painting in the articles made by local masters is brought to perfection. The beautiful floriated pattern islimi in tempera or oils covers powder-cases, pencil-boxes, caskets, little khantakhta tables. Even finer patterns, often with the addition of leaf-gold, can be found on varnished papier-mache articles made by the artists musavirs, who have revived the ancient art of miniature. The design often contains set in ornamental patterns pictures depicting hunting and fighting scenes from the epic poems "Shakhname" and "Baburname" or images evoked by the plots of Alisher Navoiy and Omar Khayam poems…
Plotline paintings can also be met on leather cover of souvenir tambourines - doiras. The miniature Uzbek musical instruments dutar, rubab, tanbur with strings and beautiful pearl patterns are perfect souvenirs for those who love Asian music.
The connoisseurs of the Uzbek embroidery kashtachilik say that each element of the embroidered decorative pattern of the thin tapestry suzane has ancient magic meaning. Finishing the work, the embroideress is certain to leave the last curve incomplete: according to the popular belief, complete embroidery can bring the woman's life to an end. The embroideresses from Urgut and Tashkent prefer the prominent stitch basma, while those from Kashkadarya and Shakhrisabz prefer fine cross-stitch iroki while embroidering pillows, make-up purses and scull-caps.
Few of the guests visiting Uzbekistan can resist the temptation of buying the wonderful national scull-cap tyubeteika. Chust men's scull-caps, made of black sateen, with the pattern of four white cayenne, and the women's duppi with bright embroidery would match everyone; the gold-embroidery scull-caps from Bukhara shine like precious diadems on the head. Bukhara gold-embroidery is famous worldwide. It is used for decoration of women's waist-coat nimcha and shoes, purses and pillows; the luxurious caftans with prominent gold-embroidery resemble those Emir from Bukhara used to wear.
As far back as the Middle Ages the caravans would carry both to Europe and to the east, to China, the famous carpets from Bukhara and Khiva. Uzbek weavers also make fantastic pileless carpets: Kokand striped gadjari and decorated with geometrical patterns Shakhrisabz arabi carpets - the indispensable attributes of the traditional decor of an Uzbek house.
And finally, a pearl in the necklace of Uzbek arts and crafts, there stands Uzbek handmade textiles. As far back as the 1st millennium the weavers in Samarkand and Ferghana Valley would make precious textiles from the filoselle brought from China. Today's Uzbek weavers breed silkworms themselves and use looms of almost the same design as their medieval ancestors. They make semi-silk fabric bekasam, striped or monochromatic with moire effect which is obtained through hammering egg white into the ready material. Very popular is the handmade abr-silk: it is made from filoselle, certain parts of which are dyed before weaving. The pattern obtained through this technology is called abr, which means "like a cloud". The weavers from Margilan make semi-silk adras, plain silk shoi, and famous worldwide khan-atlas: blazing with all the colours of rainbow, or exquisite black and white pattern with shining veins of blue or green.
It should be added that all these souvenirs can be purchased from art and souvenir shops in hotels and museums or from a craftsman's workshop.
A souvenir from Uzbekistan would for long remind of the impressions created by the historical and cultural traditions and customs of the Uzbek people.