About Uzbekistan

New York Times posts about 12 days trip on the Great Silk Road and Uzbekistan
17 August 2020
New York Times posts about 12 days trip on the Great Silk Road and Uzbekistan

The New York Times journalist Charly Wilder wrote an article about her trip together with her husband along the Silk Road, including Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

“My husband, Roham, and I were at the two-thirds point of a trip I’d been dreaming about for years: following a section of the Silk Road through the Central Asian countries of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, a part of the world that for centuries was a cradle of civilization — the holy grail of empire-builders from Alexander the Great to Genghis Khan — but that, until recently, has been difficult, if not impossible, for Westerners to visit” - writes the traveler journalist in her New York Times article.

She says that for generations the region’s Buddhist and Zoroastrian temples, ornate mosques and madrassas, ancient bazaars, and breathtaking natural landscapes were hidden behind the Iron Curtain.

Charly describes the beginning of their journey, which starts in the capital city of Uzbekistan – Tashkent, further continuing the trip to the ancient and holy city of Bukhara. Charly Wilder compares Bukhara to Baghdad, describing it as an intellectual lodestar of the Islamıc world, highlighting that the city was a center for trade, scholarship, religion and culture, stretching back to millenniums. She also mentions the great poets Ferdowsi and Rudaki, who composed their best works in Bukhara, as well as Avicenna (Abu Ali Ibn Sino), father of modern medicine, who wrote the treatises imprinting centuries of scientists and philosophers from Cairo to Brussels.

“The trip from Berlin had not been easy, but two days of low-cost air travel hell were forgotten the moment we stepped out at dawn into the 17th-century Lyabi-Hauz plaza. Two blue-tiled madrassas flanked a vast stone reservoir, along with a Sufi cloister and a teahouse, all of which stood empty and blanketed in mist, silent but for the screeching of birds in the mulberry trees” – says the author describing the famous Lyabi-Havuz of Bukhara city.

“We slept for a few hours at Lyabi House Hotel, one of several bed-and-breakfasts in Bukhara housed in 19th-century Jewish merchants houses, and then headed for the Po-i-Kalon religious complex, the city’s architectural highlight. Located south of the ancient Ark citadel, Po-i-Kalon includes the exquisite 12th-century Kalon Minaret, one of only two buildings in the city spared by Genghis Khan. For centuries, condemned criminals were thrown from the top, leading to the minaret’s nickname: the Tower of Death. Some believe the ornate diamond patterning of its kiln-fired brickwork is the inspiration — via Marco Polo — for the Doge’s Palace on San Marco square in Venice”.

“In a kind of trance we walked the town’s maze of blue-domed mosques, mosaic-tiled courtyards and former caravanserais (essentially inns where travelers could rest with their animals), all threaded together by ancient arcades only partially defiled by tacky tourist development. Between two domed bazaars, where locals now hock handicrafts of variable quality and authenticity, we visited the Maghok-i-Attar, Central Asia’s oldest mosque and a palimpsest of Bukharan religious history: a 16th-century reconstruction of a ninth-century mosque built atop the remains of a fifth-century Zoroastrian fire temple, which was itself built on top of an earlier Buddhist temple. Then we decamped to the 350-year-old Bozori Kord Hammam to be steamed, scrubbed, massaged and rubbed with honey and ginger by various members of the Iranian-Uzbek family that now owns it”.

Further, the author writes about their dinner at the sunset, where they had a table on the terrace of a restaurant called Minzifa, overlooking the sun-bleached domes and rooftops of Bukhara. Charly Wilder goes into the details and pre-history of the local cuisine, mentioning that is was shaped by diverse culinary cultures, from East Asia to the Mongolian steppe to the Persian Gulf.

“A salad of Chinese cabbage, cucumber, onion and beef in a soy-sesame chile dressing was followed by plov, or rice pilaf, the Persian-influenced Central Asian staple that probably originated in the culinary methods of the Islamic golden age, pollinating national rice dishes from Spanish paella to Indian biryani. Rice is browned with meat — usually, lamb or mutton — then stewed in a caldron called a kazan with onions, garlic and carrots, and spiced with cumin, coriander, barberries or raisins, marigold and pepper. Minzifa’s version was delicate and flavorful, an ideal lead-in to well-charred shish kabob of lamb and beef, washed down with the ubiquitous Central Asian green tea” – that is how the traveler journalist expresses her impressions about the local food.

The treasures of Samarkand

After finishing their trip to Bukhara, the couple moves to Samarkand, pointing out that the sleek high-speed train line has drastically reduced travel times in the country, running, as of 2018, all the way from Tashkent to the Silk Road city of Khiva in the west.

“Cotton fields flashed by in the blue of the morning until we finally reached Samarkand, a city as old as Rome or Babylon, whose architectural riches surpass even Bukhara’s — many built by Timur (also known as Tamerlane), the Turco-Mongol conqueror of the late Middle Ages who made it his capital”

At the Ulugbek Observatory, one of the first and finest in human history, Charly and her husband gaze down into a trench at the remaining quadrant of the great meridian arc that allowed early astronomers to measure time and celestial objects with breathtaking accuracy.

From the Registan, Samarkand’s ancient central square with its triptych of madrasahs, the travelers walk to the forgotten-feeling Old Jewish Quarter, then headed to the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, a vast labyrinth of blue-tiled, honeycomb-vaulted mausoleums where pilgrims and tourists wander in awed silence among the mosaic and majolica.

“The sites were extraordinary, but even more than Bukhara, Samarkand suffers from overdevelopment of its tourist attractions. Shah-i-Zinda was aggressively restored in 2005, and pushy souvenir-sellers now clog the beautiful, holy madrassahs of the Registan”.

The journalist’s trip to Uzbekistan with her husband ends the next morning, where they take a taxi out of Samarkand and deeper into the lush Zerafshan Valley, passing cotton and wheat farms and fields of blood-red poppies, until they reach the Tajik border.


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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.

Uzbekistan was once a rum producig country. There is still a real arboretum in Denau (city near Termez on the border with Afghanistan), grown from a selection station that studied the prospects of plant growing in the unusual for the Soviet Union subtropical climate of Surkhandarya region: only here in the whole of the USSR sugar cane was grown and even rum was produced!

Uzbekistan has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world, according to a new global poll. The annual Gallup Global Law and Order asked if people felt safe walking at night and whether they had been victims of crime. The survey placed Uzbekistan 5th out of 135 countries, while the UK was 21st and the US 35th. Top five safest countries:

  • Singapore
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Uzbekistan
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