About Uzbekistan

Uzbek gap
07 July 2017
Uzbek gap

Uzbekistan has many interesting traditions. One of these traditions is called "Gap" (conversation). Also depending the regions it is called "Tashkil" (organizing) or "Chayhana" (Tea house).

Christopher Aslan Alexander describes "Tashkil" in his book "A Carpet Ride to Khiva":

It was the souvenir-sellers who invited me to join a tashkil. At first I wasn't too keen on this specialised collective party, remembering my first experience of revelry with Zafar and his friends during my early months in Khiva. The party had been held in the guestroom of one of the local tourist guides.

The floor was covered with a long plastic tablecloth, plastered with food that had obviously once been laid out in an orderly fashion. Now it was covered in dismembered bones, corks, crumbs and stray pieces of salad. Around the tablecloth, sitting cross-legged on corpuches or lolling on the lap of a friend, were the other guests - about ten of them and all male.

I attempted conversation with my neighbours but this had quickly petered out. Someone poured a large shot of vodka for me that I politely declined; another offered me a cigarette, but I don't smoke. Huge platters of mutton swimming in fat arrived and the crowd attacked them with gusto. 'Oling, oling!' they said, pointing at the food. I smiled weakly, trying to explain that I was vegetarian. Someone made a joke and they all guffawed as I tittered, pretending to understand.

'So, Asian,' began one of the woolly hat-sellers, leaning towards me and putting a conspiratorial hand on my knee. 'What do you think of the girls in Khiva, eh? Have you been getting any?' At this point he made a fist which he slapped against his other hand. 'What?' he roared. 'You haven't found a "mattress" yet? What's the matter with you?' Jabbing at my crotch, he made a slicing motion at the tip of his forefinger. 'Are you cut?' I looked down at my own finger in confusion. 'No.' He cupped my crotch. 'Are you cut? Circumcised?' All eyes were upon me at this point, as I sat in miserable silence.

'Maybe we've got something that will give you a little help, eh?' The hat-seller bellowed with laughter, spraying my plate with congealing pieces of sheep. 'Hey, have you got a sex kino? A good pornografika?' he asked our host, who began rooting around for a video at the back of his cupboard.

Desperate to extricate myself, I was saved by Zafar, who spotted a video of Mr Bean and decided that I would enjoy watching a fellow Englishman. The conversation moved on, with more toasts and another whole course of food. Belts were undone, followed by a round of belching, and the guests reclined against bolsters or a friend's knee. Three of the men roused themselves and, with smirks, disappeared for an hour to a nearby brothel.

A rowdy game of cards ensued. Zafar tried to involve me, but however patiently the rules were explained, I proved inept. Sitting there watching Mr Bean in the midst of the bawdiness, I felt complete empathy with my fellow social pariah. After all, I didn't smoke, didn't drink, didn't eat meat, didn't understand jokes, couldn't pick up card-games, didn't want to watch porn. What, in fact, was I doing at this party anyway?

By eleven, the party showed no signs of slowing and I asked Zafar when it would finish.

'Maybe till one, or maybe two, who knows? Maybe we will all sleep here or maybe we won't sleep at all and just play cards until breakfast.'

'What about the women who are making all this food?' I asked.

'What about them? If we stay up all night, then they will cook for us all night. Our women are very good and look after us well.'

I finally begged my leave, making hollow excuses about ill health. The oldest man began a prayer as the guests, blinking drunkenly, cupped their hands, washing them over their faces at the 'Amin'.

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Traditional costume in Central Asia remains an important component of cultural, ethnic and religious identity, although younger people ape western fashions. The most striking piece of male attire is the long, striped, wrap-around cloak called  chapanor khalat in Russian, tied around the waist by a turma sash.

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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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