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Uzbekistan Visited

David Pettitt

David Pettitt recently visited the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan. Here are his thoughts on one of the region's most fascinating and historic countries.

 

Turquoise dome of a circular building in the Uzbek capital Tashkent

Tashkent

On a short trip to Uzbekistan, the arrival in Tashkent airport was smooth and efficient after a long flight with Uzbekistan Airways featuring badly-dubbed videos and scary sandwiches, but pleasant staff. Tashkent, the imposing capital of this Central Asian country, is a city of grand avenues, spacious squares and immense, impressive buildings. The old city was mostly destroyed by earthquake in 1966, but there are still sections of intricate alleyways, offering glimpse of courtyarded houses. A simple but efficient underground system makes the city easy to cover and an hour exploring the food and spice market is a great way to meet the locals. Nearby the market, at lunchtime, the produce is barbecued in covered cafes, producing an intoxicating fog of smoke and smells. Another choice of meal is the ubiquitous ‘plov’, a fried /steamed rice dish of lamb, cumin, chickpeas and peppers served from huge pots with green tea and garnished with culturally-challenging horse sausage and duck eggs. The people are a mix of Turkic, Asian and Russian and it is quite common to see women, even in the capital, dressed in their bright, colourful national costumes.

 

Plov, a rice based dish that is very popular throughout Uzbekistan 

Samarkand

We had the opportunity to take a day trip to the fabled Silk Route city of Samarkand. Set of the edge of the desert, this trading city of markets and inns, schools and mosques was one of the most important meeting places of merchants arriving from the East and West. We flew from Tashkent in the morning, a quick flight serving to display the magnificent mountain ranges surrounding this region. The highlight of any visit to Samarkand must be the stunning Registan Square. A collection of madrasas and guesthouses of massive grandeur and beautifully restored to evoke their original beauty. This city, built on trade, still prides itself on its markets of food, sweets, clothes handicrafts and of course, silk. We returned to Tashkent by the comfortable, high-speed ‘Afrosiyob’ train, covering the 300 kilometres in just over two hours.

 

Classic view of the minarets and colourful domes of the Registan in Uzbekistan 

This colourful country is a delight to explore and I look forward to returning soon.

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