Among the adventurous and informative articles of The Guardian, you can find “A Backpacker’s Guide to Uzbekistan” by Caroline Eden, famous journalist and writer, working for such magazines as The Guardian, Financial Times and The Times Literary Supplement, who was awarded the prestigious Art of Eating Prize.
Caroline Eden’s first book “Samarkand – Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus”, published in 2016 was awarded as a Guardian Book of the Year 2016 and won the Guild of Food Writers and Travel Award in 2017.
Specializing in the countries of the former USSR (Soviet Union), Caroline has many field stories from the world including Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Haiti and Bangladesh. The journalist has shared her adventures with audiences at BBC Radio, the Financial Times Weekend Festival, Royal Geographical Society, Asia House, Stanfords and the Frontline Club.
Coming back to her article on The Guardian about traveling to Uzbekistan, the journalist emphasizes Uzbekistan’s new relaxed visa policies, making the destination more attractive for travelers. She invites to explore the Great Silk Road heritage, desert landscapes, the capital city Tashkent’s metro/subway and the ancient cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
“From the blue-tiled mosques of Bukhara to the remote semi-autonomous region of Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan offers ancient culture and ample opportunity for adventure. Highlights include riding Tashkent’s glitzy metro, admiring Silk Road-era architecture and strolling Samarkand’s backstreets. Add to this Uzbek hospitality, as warm as it is heartfelt, colorful festivals and the fact you’re following in the footsteps of the greatest travelers and conquerors in history and there are all the ingredients of a riveting trip” – the author writes in her article dedicated to traveling to marvelous Uzbekistan.
The new flexible visa policy of Uzbekistan being applied since the end of 2016, in order to encourage more tourists to visit the country is highlighted in the article at the very beginning, mentioning that the process of receiving a visa has become less bureaucratic. While easing the process of getting a visa for many countries, Uzbekistan has now applied a visa-free regime for 85 states whose citizens can cross the border for periods between 30 and 90 days, depending on the nationality. Also, citizens of 77 countries have the opportunity to come to Uzbekistan by obtaining an electronic visa.
Caroline brings up the new modern railway network in Uzbekistan in her article, which takes you easily and quickly around the cities in the country, making your travel a lot more comfortable and fun. Uzbekistan was also praised for having plenty of excellent English-speaking guides, which makes it even easier if you do not speak any Uzbek or Russian while traveling either alone or with friends.
Giving guides about the one-month itinerary, Caroline then writes the following: “Overlanders may cross one of many borders from a neighbouring ‘stan but the capital, Tashkent, is the most common entry point. Begin centrally, at the Amir Timur statue (that’s 14th century Turco-Mongol conqueror, Tamerlane, cast in bronze, on horseback), marvel at the hulking Hotel Uzbekistan, then buy a token for the Tashkent Metro (about 10p). Modelled on the Moscow Metro, it’s all marble, chandeliers and carved alabaster (have your camera ready, photography restrictions were lifted early in 2018). Alight at Kosmonavtlar station, dedicated to Soviet space travel (look out for Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space) and visit the Museum of Applied Arts for a primer on silk weaving, Uzbek hats (tubeteika) and local ceramics. Take the metro to the Old Town’s sprawling Chorsu Bazaar and wander lanes full of dairy goods, dried fruit and pyramids of vegetables. Buy a takeaway bag of salad and a roundel of Non bread. Stay at the affordable Art Hostel (dorms about £10, economy double around £18)). Tashkent deserves a few days, don’t rush off”.
The author advises to travel to the Fergana Valley – the hub of Uzbekistan’s famous Silk industry, as the next destination for 3-4 days by a morning train, which will take you to Margilan in just 5 hours at the cost of 4 Pounds only:
“Arrive at lunchtime and go to the Yodgorlik Silk Factory to see master weavers working under mulberry trees and, if the fruit-filled Kumtepa Bazaar is on, (Thursdays and Sundays), visit that, too. Next, take a shared taxi (two hours) to historic Kokand. Visit its impressive mosques, try some local halva (sweets) and see some of the 100 or so rooms at the Khan’s Palace. Stay at Hotel Kokand (doubles £30), then, for a slice of village life, daytrip to little Rishton (45 minutes, shared taxi) for the famous pottery workshops and the Rishton Ceramic Museum”.
According to the article, your next destination is proposed to be Andijan, a laid-back city with a decent bazaar (Jahon). Caroline refers to Fergana’s celebrated melons taste, saying it was obvious why Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire and the city’s son, missed them so in India.
After taking back a train to the capital city Tashkent and visiting the Chimgan National Park, located an hour from Tashkent, where you can easily get to by a shared taxi, the author invites you to take a train to Samarkand by the high-speed modern train Afrosiyob in just two hours as your next destination in Uzbekistan.
“Get your fill of towering and resplendent turquoise-tiled madrasas and mosques. Emir B&B is keenly priced with views of Gure-Amir, Tamerlane’s mausoleum” – she writes about staying in the fascinating ancient city Samarkand, built by Amir Timur.
After escaping the tour groups by heading north to the Nurata Mountains, taking shared taxis via Navoi, and spending a few days hiking and overnighting at yurt camps, you are also advised to try a camel ride and relax at the Chashma Spring, home to holy fish.
Bukhara is to be your next destination on this adventurous journey around Uzbekistan. The author mentions Bukhara for being the most romantic of Uzbekistan’s cities with former merchant house B&Bs, boutiques galore and decent cafes. “It is easy to spend a few comfortable days here exploring the fortress known as the Ark of Bukhara and craning your neck at the Kalon Minaret (47 metres tall). Don’t miss Shavkat Boltaev’s long-established Bukhara Photo Gallery or Silk Road Spices for tea and sesame brittle” – recommends Caroline Eden.
Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, can be reached by a long trip on a taxi from Bukhara as your next stop if you wish, of course after visiting the necessary connection Urgunch. There you will be able to explore ancient Khiva for more mosques and museums as a part of the Great Silk Road.
“In Nukus, allow half a day for the incredible Savitsky Museum, which is home to the second-largest collection of Russian avant garde art after St Petersburg’s State Russian Museum. Splurge by staying at the charming Jipek Joli hotel, complete with on-site museum, then side-trip to the former fishing port of Moynaq, to witness the Aral Sea Crisis and the resultant desolate ship graveyard” – these are the activities you are suggested to do in the city of Nukus.
If you eat or drink one thing in Uzbekistan then it definitely should be the legendary Plov - Uzbek traditional rice, which is served almost everywhere in Central Asia, however, Uzbeks are known for being the masters of this layered rice dish.
“At its most simple, Plov is rice, onions and carrots usually topped with mutton, lamb or beef. More than just a dish, it represents hospitality, community and identity” – writes the author.
“Wherever you are, you’ll notice the distinct aroma of carrots, meat and rice that drifts up from bubbling cauldron-like kazans (large cauldrons) in courtyards and kitchens. Lagans (ceramic plates) of plov feed entire families. Eat it at one of the dedicated plov centres in Tashkent and Samarkand” – recommends Caroline in regard of the unique Uzbek dish Plov.
We would like to additionally remind you that this incomparable dish by taste - Plov was added to the Intangible Heritage List of UNESCO in 2016 and remains to be a part of Uzbekistan’s unique hospitality, history and culture.