Connect with us

Travel

Wonders of Uzbekistan: a ten-day travel experience

Published

on

From my childhood, the names of Samarkand and Bukhara have been etched into my memory; whether in poems, school classes, grandmother’s tales, or stories in my books, those names always lingered in the back of my mind.

In all those years, they seemed like mythical cities from a bygone era, too distant to consider visiting. To be honest, that was why visiting Samarkand and Bukhara never crossed my mind throughout all my life.

Fate, however, had other plans. About three weeks ago, I found myself on a ten-day tour of Uzbekistan!

At every site I visited, insights provided by knowledgeable tour guides along with conversations with fellow travelers, added layers of depth to my experience.

Here, I want to share with you a summary of my experiences. It’s challenging to detail every attraction I visited, but here are some highlights:

Tashkent

Tashkent, the capital city, was my entry point into Uzbekistan. Its blend of Soviet-era architecture and subsequent developments offered a unique start to my journey. The city’s bustling markets, impressive metro system, and welcoming people set the stage for the adventures that were ahead.

Samarkand

Samarkand, a name that resonates with history and grandeur, exceeded all my expectations.

Despite extensive research and seeing countless photographs before visiting the city, experiencing it in person was a revelation.

For instance, I visited Registan Square both by day and night. With its stunning madrasahs, the site transported me to an era of architectural brilliance.

A door opening to centuries-old monuments in Samarkand’s Registan Square

Wandering through the city’s streets, interacting with locals, and soaking in the vibrant atmosphere was an unforgettable experience. For me, it was easy to imagine caravans of merchants traversing these lands, making a cultural legacy that still echoes today.

Among Samarkand’s heritage sites, Shah-i-Zinda stands out as a meticulously organized necropolis of beautifully decorated tomb buildings on a gentle slope. The vista along the route leading up the hill is stunning. The site is worth visiting twice if possible—once in the morning and once in the evening, as noon can be hot and crowded. Each mausoleum is unique and has its own tales, making Shah-i-Zinda a must-see in the city.

For me, it was easy to imagine caravans of merchants traversing these lands, making a cultural legacy that still echoes today.Moreover, we paid visits to the Meros Paper Mill and Samarkand Bukhara Silk Carpets Factory. Often overlooked by travelers, the old paper-making company, which is located in the Konigil Tourist Village, offers multiple educational experiences. Visitors can see the entire handmade paper-making process, starting from the mulberry tree. The informative tour includes a demonstration of the paper-making process and a small shop selling finished products, such as paper, cards, miniature paintings, and other paper goods.

Overall, the site has a serene and beautiful ambiance to stay for hours.

Inside the Samarkand Bukhara Silk Carpets Factory, carpets in various sizes are still produced by hand using ancient methods, both in silk and wool. Visiting over 20 weavers sitting behind old looms to produce high-quality silk carpets was a highly educational experience.

No visit to Samarkand is complete without seeing the Amir Timur Mausoleum, a fine example of medieval architecture. Upon entering, visitors are greeted by a huge, majestic building with a courtyard, a ribbed dome, and vault walls covered in a mosaic of light and dark blue glazed bricks, gilding, and painting. Then, a corridor leads to a room with walls painted in gold and azure colors. The tomb itself is made of black jade. The intricate artwork throughout the mausoleum is simply breathtaking, with “amazing” being the only word that comes to mind.

Bukhara

Wonders of Uzbekistan: a ten-day travel experience

A view of Bukhara with the ancient Kalyan Minaret seen in the foreground

From street vendors and taxi drivers to shopkeepers and locals, everyone I encountered was friendly and welcoming.Bukhara is situated between Khiva and Samarkand along the ancient Silk Road. The main reason to visit Bukhara is its well-preserved mosques, madrassas, and other stunning architecture that reflect the city’s rich history.

I stayed in Bukhara for a night and a day/ Walking between the numerous arches and cupolas of the old city, I again imagined walking back in time.

Bukhara’s charm lies in its well-preserved medieval architecture, which has earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. The city’s old town comprises mosques, madrasas, minarets, and caravanserais, each telling a story of Bukhara’s illustrious past as a major center of trade and culture.

One of the highlights of my visit was the Kalyan Minaret, an iconic structure that has stood sentinel over the city since the 12th century. The Ark Fortress, Bukhara’s oldest structure, was another highlight of my trip. This massive citadel, dating back to the 5th century, served as a royal residence and a stronghold against invaders.

However, the ancient city is not just about architecture; there are many cool things to do in and around Bukhara.

Khiva

For those willing to visit Uzbekistan, I highly recommend putting Khiva on their itinerary. This open-air museum extremely impressed me with its traditional architecture and tranquility.

Khiva is divided into the old town, Itchan Kala (or inner city which is surrounded by ancient mud walls), and Dishan Kala that comprises lands outside the lofty mudbrick walls.

Wonders of Uzbekistan: a ten-day travel experience

A cityscape of Khiva with its iconic minarets

Stepping into Itchan Kala was an incredible experience that left me feeling as if I had traveled back centuries. The well-preserved city walls, ancient minarets, and historic mausoleums made the past come alive. Wandering through its cobbled streets, I could almost hear the echoes of merchants and travelers from long ago!

The warmth of Uzbek hospitality

One of the most heartwarming aspects of my journey was the hospitality of the Uzbek people. From street vendors and taxi drivers to shopkeepers and locals, everyone I encountered was friendly and welcoming.

A memorable incident in Khiva involved getting lost at night after a long walk. I had left my phone and wallet in the hotel, so I asked a shopkeeper for directions. To my surprise, he not only guided me but also offered to drive me back, refusing any payment for his kindness.

Glimpses of hotels, taxis, and restaurants

Overall, the quality of the hotels that I stayed in was good. The fares for online taxis were reasonable, and you could even say they were cheap. The price of food in various restaurants was also reasonable.

I found that in their restaurants, meat dishes, such as Oshpelo (Uzbekistan’s national rice dish cooked with lamb, carrots, and chickpeas), various kebabs, steaks, and lamb soups occupy a significant portion of the menu.

Similar experiences

Apart from meeting and discussing ideas with several international travelers at various sites, when I was returning to Iran, I sat next to a passenger on the plane who was looking at pictures of the city of Khiva on his phone. I asked if he had been to Khiva.

He, a man of about forty, replied that he, along with 14 other Iranians, had been on an 8-day tour to the cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva. I asked him about the excursion. His response was relatively long, but the important point was that his experiences were similar to mine. He said the journey was beyond his previous expectations.

Conclusion

My journey through Uzbekistan was an eye-opening experience and it profoundly enriched my understanding of the region.

From Tashkent’s modern vibrancy to the ancient splendor of Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva, each city offered its unique and unforgettable moments.

AFM

Continue Reading