Uzbekistan

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Uzbekistan has borders with Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is doubly landlocked, but includes the southern shoreline of the Aral Sea. It has the largest population among all the Central Asian countries.

Population: 28,661,637 people
Area: 447,400 km2
Highest point: 4,301 m
Coastline: 0 km
Life expectancy: 73.03 years
GDP per capita: $3,600
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About Uzbekistan

History

Uzbekistan is rich in history. Samarkand was conquered by Alexander the Great. Islam was introduced by Arabs in the 8th-9th century. The most famous leader to come from Uzbekistan is Tamerlane who was born in Shahrisabz south of Samarkand. Russia conquered Uzbekistan in the late 19th century. Stiff resistance to the Red Army after World War I was eventually suppressed and a socialist republic set up in 1924. During the Soviet era, intensive production of "white gold" (cotton) and grain led to overuse of agrochemicals and the depletion of water supplies, which have left the land poisoned and the Aral Sea and certain rivers half dry.

Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991, following the break up of the Soviet Union. In theory the country is a democracy, however, since 1991 it has been run by iron-fisted dictator Islam Karimov, whose security services are widely believed to have killed several hundred protesters in Andijan in 2005 and have been responsible for some severe breaches of the most basic human rights (torture and killings). The country is wealthy in natural resources, yet most of the money is distributed into the president's ruling elite, and much of the country still remains quite poor. Little power exists outside of the presidents family or his close allies. The country remains as the most corrupt out of any former USSR state.

Climate

Mostly midlatitude desert, long, hot summers, mild winters; semiarid grassland in east.

Geography

Uzbekistan measures 1450 km West to East and 930 km North to South.

Mostly flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat intensely irrigated river valleys along course of Amu Darya, Syr Darya (Sirdaryo) and Zarafshon; Ferghana Valley in east surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; shrinking Aral Sea in west.

  • Syr Darya crosses the Ferghana Valley and runs on the North East edge of the Kizil Kum Desert. It is 2212 km long (3019 km including its source Naryn). In antiquity, it was called Jaxartes. Syr Darya flows into the (smaller) Northern part of the Aral Sea.
  • Amu Darya rises in the Hindukush and has a length of 2540 km. It was called Oxus in antiquity. It can be a rapid river in spring and is called Dsaihun (suffering from rabies) in Arabic. The river has changed its course several times. Konye Urgench in Turkmenistan, the capital of the old empire of Chwarezm, was situated on the banks of the Amu Darya. Today the distance between the river and the old city is about 40 km. Amu Darya flows into the (bigger) Southern part of the Aral Sea.

Activities

  • Camel trekking (in the yurt camps at Lake Aidarkul or Ayaz-Quala).
  • Bird watching.
  • Trekking (in the Ugam Chatkal National Park).
  • Rafting (in the Chatkal or Syr-Darya Rivers).
  • Skiing.

Food

When you go to restaurants, always ask for menu or price if they do not provide one. While some of the well-established restaurants are surprisingly good value by Western standard, some of the random or less popular restaurants try to take advantage of tourists by ripping off up to 5 times of normal price.

  • Osh (Plov) is the national dish. It's made of rice, carrots, onions, and mutton, and you will eat it if you go to Uzbekistan. Each region has its own way of cooking plov, so you should taste it in different places. According to the legend plov was invented by the cooks of Alexander the Great. Plov can also be made with peas, carrots, raisins, dried apricots, pumpkins or quinces. Often spices as peppers, crushed or dried tomatoes are added.
  • Chuchvara - similar to ravioli and stuffed with mutton and onions (aka 'pelmeni' in Russian).
  • Manti - lamb and onion filled dumpling-like food, often with onions, peppers and mutton fat.
  • Somsas, which are pastry pockets filled with beef, mutton, pumpkin or potatoes. In spring time "green somsas" are made from so-called "yalpiz" a kind of grass which grows in the mountains and in rural parts of regions. And the amazing thing is people just pick them up for free and make tasty somsas. You can find somsas being cooked and sold on the streets.
  • Lagman - thick soup with meat, potatoes, spices, vegetables and pasta. By right, it should include 50 ingredients. Often carrot, red beet, cabbage, radish, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and onions are added. The noodles should be very thin.
  • Shashlik - grilled meat. Usually served only with onions. Veal or mutton is marinated in salt, peppers and vinegar and eight to ten pieces of meat are grilled on a spit over the open fire.
  • Bread - Uzbeks eat lots of bread (in uzbek its called non). Round bread is called lepioshka. You can buy it anywhere, while in the bazar it costs around 400 sum. Samarkand is very famous for the bread. The characteristic Samarkand bread obi-non is traditionally baked in clay furnaces. Bread is served to every meal.
  • Mastava. rice soup with pieces of onion, carrots, tomatoes, peas and eventually wild plums
  • Shurpa. soup of mutton (sometimes beef), vegetables
  • Bechbarmak. a speciality of the nomad Kazakhs, boiled meat of sheep or ox and pieces of liver, served with onions, potatoes and noodles

Being an historic crossroads and part of numerous empires, Uzbek food is very eclectic in its origins. Indian, Iranian, Arab, Russian, and Chinese influences are present in this unique cuisine.

Drinks

There are two national drinks of Uzbekistan: tea and vodka (result of more than a century of Russian domination of the land).

  • Tea is served virtually everywhere: home, office, cafes, etc. Uzbek people drink black tea in winter and green tea in summer, instead of water. If tea is served in the traditional manner, the server will pour tea into a cup from the teapot and then pour the tea back into the teapot. This action is repeated three times. These repetitions symbolize loy (clay) which seals thirst, moy (grease) which isolates from the cold and the danger and tchai (tea or water) which extinguishes the fire. If you are being served tea in an Uzbek home, the host will attempt at all times to make sure your cup is never filled. If the host fills your cup, it probably means that it is time for you to leave, but this occurs really rarely, because Uzbeks are very hospitable. The left hand is considered impure. The tea and the cups are given and taken by the right hand.

A mind-numbing variety of brands of wine and vodka are available almost everywhere.

  • Wine produced in Uzbekistan has won numerous international prestigious awards for a high quality. There's nothing to wonder about, since sun in this country shines almost every day. Although Uzbekistan is predominately Muslim, for the most part the Islam practiced there tends to be more cultural than religious.
  • Beer is available in every shop and is treated as soft drink and does not require any license to sell. There are special licensed shops selling Vodka, Wine and other Drinks. Russian made vodka is available in only few shops.
  • Kumis is an alcoholic mares' milk.

Visitors should consider tap water to be unsafe to drink in regions, while in capital of Uzbekistan the water is safe for drinking. In any case drinking bottled water is advised.

Nightlife

In Tashkent there are various night (dance) clubs and restaurants. They usually work till late night/early morning. Take enough cash because drinks and snacks are much more expensive than in daytime restaurants. Also you can find overnight Uzbek "chill-out" restaurants where you enjoy traditional food laying on large wooden sofas (tapchans/suri). It is not recommended to hang out on the street or parks after 11 p.m. Even if you do not face problems with criminals you definitely attract unwanted interest of local police(militsiya) patrolling the area.

Shopping

Uzbekistan finds itself in the curious situation of having a huge trade surplus (from its energy exports) but also having a parallel black market exchange rate. As of March 2012 the official exchange rate was about $1 : 1,850 som, but the black market rate was around 2,750, making it worth the effort to avoid official exchange offices. However, money changers are hard to come across - better to ask in one of the numerous mobile phone shops, small grocery shops or just at your hotel. The 500 and 1,000 som notes are the most popular; hence, you will be carrying around bricks of currency. The US dollar is definitely the foreign currency of choice.

ATMs do work with foreign cards, but operate at the official exchange rate, and are usually empty. Hence it's better to prepare sufficient dollars to avoid such situation. Some cash machines do dispense US dollars - however, be careful of withdrawing a large number of dollars and then leaving Uzbekistan with more money than you declared when you entered.

In Uzbekistan people traditionally buy goods at bazaars. Prices are fixed in department stores only. In bazaars, private shops and private souvenir stores haggling is part of the game. Bazaars are the best place to observe the daily life of the locals. The Alayski Bazaar is one of the oldest and most famous bazaars of Central Asia. You will find beautiful rugs, silk, spices, handicrafts and traditional clothes in the Eski Djouva and Chor Su bazaars in the Old City of Tashkent.

Typical souvenirs are:

  • babaichik, figurines,
  • tubeteika, traditional Uzbek caps and
  • Shiljait, Shilajit means "Conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness". It is used in Ayurvedic medicine as an herbal rejuvenator, nerve tonic and natural stimulator.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Uzbekistan on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Uzbekistan

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Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan. It is an ancient city on the Great Silk Road from China to Europe. Little remains of the ancient city after the 1966 earthquake and earlier modernisation work following the 1917 revolution. Tashkent is a very Soviet city that has little remaining from its ancient ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Amir Timur Monument
  • Independence Square
  • History Museum
  • Amir Timur Museum
  • Kukeldash Madrassa
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Navoi is a city in Navoi region, Uzbekistan.

Interesting places:

  • Victory Park
  • Ali-Shir Nava\'i Monument
  • Temple of St. Sergius of Radonezh
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Samarkand, also Samarqand, is perhaps the most famous city of modern Uzbekistan. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Interesting places:

  • Registan Square
  • Ulugbek Madrasah
  • Sher Dor Madrasah
  • Tillya Kori Madrasah
  • Gur-Emir Mausoleum
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Khiva is a town in the western province of Khorezm in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Interesting places:

  • Djuma Mosque
  • Kafta-Minor
  • Islam Khodja Minaret and Mosque
  • Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum
  • Stone Palace
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Ferghana is a city in the Ferghana Valley, Uzbekistan. A pass from Kashgar (now in China's westernmost province, Xinjiang) to Ferghana was an important link on the main course of the historic Silk Road. From Ferghana, westbound caravans would proceed along the Ferghana valley to Kokand (where they might ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Shrine of Venerable Sergius of Radonezh
  • Alisher Navoi Monument
  • Central Park
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Bokhara in Uzbekistan was historically one of the great trading cities along the Silk Road. The city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On Sanskrit the Bukhara means "abbey", which was a big commercial center on the Great Silk Road. Bukhara -"The city of museums", contains more than 140 architectural ... (read more)

Interesting places:

  • Mir-i Arab Madrassah
  • Kalyan Mosque
  • Ark Fortress
  • Bolo Hauz Mosque
  • Maghaki-Attari Mosque
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Points of Interest in Uzbekistan

Architecture

Uzbekistan has preserved a rich architectural heritage. The construction of monumental buildings was seen as a matter of prestige, emphasizing the power of the ruling dynasty, leading families and higher clergy. The external appearance of towns was determined to a great extent by their fortifications. The walls were flanked at regular intervals by semicircular towers and the entrances to towns were marked by darwazas (gates). These gates usually had a high vault and a gallery for lookout and were flanked by two mighty towers. The doors were closed at night and in case of danger. Along the main streets were rows of shops, specialized in different goods, and many skilled craftsmen had their workshops in these stalls. The most important covered markets are called tag, tim or bazaars (shopping passages( and charsu (crossroads, literally "four directions"). In big cities the ark (fortress) was the administrative center. It contained the emir's palace, chancellery, treausry, arsenal and the jail for high-ranking prisoners. The towns also had large public centres, consisting of a maydan (open square) surrounded by large buildings for civil or religious purposes.

Religious buildings

  • The Friday Mosque (Masjid Al Jumu'ah) is located in the town. It had a spacious courtyard with a surrounding gallery and a maqsura (screened-off enclosure) in the main axis. A typical example is the Kalan Mosque at Bukhara.
  • The Oratory Mosque (Namazgah) is situated outside of the town. Prayers at two important Muslim festivals were conducted in public. The worshippers gathered in an open space in front of the building where the minbar (imam's pulpit) stood.
  • The Neighbourhood Mosque was smaller in size and consisted of a covered hall with the mihrab and an exterior gallery with columns. They were built from donations of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and are often richly decorated. An example of this type is the Baland (Boland) Mosque at Bukhara.
  • The Madrasa is an institition for higher education of ulama (Islamic scholars). The madrasa has a courtyard with two or four aywand (arched portals) on the axes which were used as classrooms in the summer, a row of cells on one or two floors, darsakhanas (lecture rooms) in two or four corners and a mosque for daily prayer. The main facade has a high portal with two or four minaret-like towers at the corners of the building. Madrasas from the 16th and 17th cent. which have been preserved are Madar-Khan, Abdullah Khan, Kukeldash, Nadir Divan Begi and Abdul Aziz Khan at Bukhara, Shir-Dor and Tilla-Kari at Samarkand, Kukeldash and Baraq Khan in Tashkent, Said Ataliq at Denau and Mir Rajab Dotha at Kanibadam. Madrasas built in the 18th and 19th cent. include Narbuta Bi at Kokand, Qutlugh Murad Inaq, Khojamberdybii, Khoja Moharram, Musa Tura and Allah-Quili Khan in Khiva.
  • The Khanaqah was originally a guest house for travelling Sufis near the residence of their pir (spiritual masters). Under the Timurids they became meeting places of the followers of a Sufi order, attended by representatives of the ruling elite and often a zikr-khana (room for exposition and Sufi rites) was added. Examples of khanaqas from the 16th and 17th cent include Zaynuddin, Fayzabad, Bahaudin and Nadi Divan-Begi at Bukhara, Mulla Mir near Ramitan, Qasim Shaiykh at Karmana and Imam Bahra near Khatirchi.
  • Memorial buildings were erected in the 14th and 15th cent for Temur and his family, e.g. Gur-Emir and Shah-i Zinda at Samarkand and at Shakrizabs. In the 16th and 17th cent. fewer mausoleums were built. An example from this period is the Qafal Shashi Mausoleum in Tashkent. Monumental buildings were often erected near holy tombs. At Bukhara a monumental kanaqah was built near the founder of the Naqshbandi order, Bahauddein and at Char Bakr, the family necropolis of the powerful Juybari shaykhs. From the 16th cent. onwards mauseoleums for rulers were no longer built. The rulers were interred in madrasas, the Shaybanids of Samarkand in the Abu Said Mausoleum on the Registan, Ubaydullah Khan from Bukhara in the Mir-i Arab Madrasa and Abdul Aziz Khan in the Abdul Aziz Madrasa.

Civic architecture

  • Market buildings (Charsu, Tim, Taq) form the very heart of an oriental town. The charsu is a building covered by a central dome, standing at the crossroads, surrounded by shops and workshops covered by small domes. The tim is a trading passage and the taq a domed building on a smaller scale built at the intersection of major streets. At Bukhara the Taq-i Zargaran (Goldsmiths' Dome) has an octagonal central space covered by a dome set on 32 intersecting arches. Shops and workshops around the central space are toppes by small domes.
  • Caravanserais played an important role along the trade routes. According to the traditional plan a caravanserai is a rectangular building with a large courtyard, galleries for animals and baggage, lodgings for the travellers and a mosque. The outer walls were high and thick, the entrance was well guarded and at the corners there were towers for defense. The best exampla is at Rabat al-Malik. A small number of caravanserais have survived, party in ruins, e.g. the caravanserai near the Qaraul Bazar on the road from Bukhara to Karshi, the Abdullah Khan caravanserai on the road from Karshi to Termez.
  • Bathhouses from the 16th and 17th cent. have been preserved at Samarkand, Sahrh-i Sabz, Bukhara and Tashkent. They are heated by a system of channels under the floor, distributing the heat uniformly through the whole building. Some of them have rooms for disrobing, hot and cold rooms, a massage room or a water closet. Bathhouses are covered with domes which give them their characteristic external appearance.

Architectural Ensembles

  • The Pay-i Kalan (Pedestal of the Great at Bukhara,
  • The Kosh Madrasa at Bukhara,
  • The Lab-i Hauz at Bukhara,
  • The Registan at Samarkand
  • The Char-Bakr Complex at Sumitan, outside of Bukhara

Nature Reserves

  • Jeyran Ecological Centre (40 km from Bukhara). The jeyran (Central Asian gazelle) was hunted in the last century by men in jeeps and helicopters. Today, the Uzbekistan jeyran is included in the Red Book of Endangered Species). The Jeyran ecological centre was founded about 1985 and is the only one of its kind in Central Asia. At the beginning 42 jeyrans were brought here, but today 700 unique animals live here in a fenced area of 5000 hectares. Besides jeyrans, Prezhevalskiy horses and koulans are bred in the reserve.
  • Kitab State Geological Reserve.
  • Kyzylkum Tugai and Sand Reserve (in the north-west of Bukhara Province). The reserve was founded in 1971. It covers the flood-lands of the Amu Darya river and the sand-dune desert near-by. The riverside vegetation occupies an area of 3177 hectares and the sand area is 2544 hectares. The best time to visit the reserve is spring. According to ornithologists there are 190 species of birds in the reserve, including herons, river terns, wild ducks, sandpipers NS turtle-doves. The reserve has a lush flora of poplars, silver oleasters and riverside willows. Deer, wild boars, wolves, jackals, foxes, hares and reed cats live on the tugai woods and zhe population of jeyrans is being restored.
  • Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve. The Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve is being implemented by the government of Uzbekistan, Global Ecology Fund and UN Development Program and co-financed by German Union of Nature Protection. The reserve lies between the desert and mountain systems of Central Asia. It consists of the southern part of the Kyzylkum Desert, lakes Aydarkul and Tuzgan and the mountain ridges of Nuratau and Koitash. The existing Nurata Reserve and Arnasay Ornithological Reserve on Lake Tuzgan will be integrated into the new Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve. Among the animals integtrated in the Red Book of Endagered Species are the Severtsev ram or Kyzylkum ram, golden eagle, bearded and black griffon-vulture. In the reserve are rare sorts of walnut-trees, Central Asian juniper, Bukhara almond-trees, pistachio-trees, wild vines, apricot-trees, apple-trees and various sorts of dog-roses. Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biospheric Reserve will be included in the UNESCO global list of biosphere reserves. The experiences will be used in founding biosphere reserves in the Central Kyzylkum Desert, Southern Ustyurt Desert and the tugai woods of the river Amu Darya.
  • Ugam-Chatkal National Park (in the spurs of the Western Tien Shan, about 80 km from Tashkent). Ugam-Chatkal National Park is one of the oldest nature reserves in Uzbekistan, founded in 1947. The Western Tien Shan is the natural habitat to 44 species of mammals, 230 species of birds and 1168 species of plants including several endemic plants. In the National Park live white-claw bears, wolves, Tien Shan foxes, red marmots, stone-martens, Turkestan lynx, snow leopards, wild boars, badgers, Siberian roes, mountain goast and Tien Shan wild rams as well as wild turkeys, mountain partridges, golden eagles, bearded and eagle vultures. The slopes of the Pskem ridge are covered with walnut-trees, wild fruit trees and wild bushes. The banks of the river are occupied by archa (Central Asian juniper). The Chimgan-Charvak-Beldersay Resort Zone, covering an area 100,000 hectares, has three health-recreation complexes: 'Charvak', 'Chimgan' and 'Beldersay'.

Djuma Mosque - Khiva

Ulugbek Madrasah - Samarkand

Mir-i Arab Madrassah - Bukhara

Amir Timur Monument - Tashkent

Aq-Saray Palace - Shakhrisabz

Chatkal National Park - Chirchiq

Aral Sea Monument - Muynak

Sultan Saodat Mausuleum - Termez

Zaamin National Park - Zaamin

Markaziy Stadium-Namangan - Namangan

Aydar Lake - Jizzakh

Kafta-Minor - Khiva

Registan Square - Samarkand

Islam Khodja Minaret and Mosque - Khiva

Kalyan Mosque - Bukhara

Pakhlavan Makhmud Mausoleum - Khiva

Stone Palace - Khiva

Mohammed Amin Madrassah - Khiva

Alla Kuki Khan Madrasah - Khiva

Ark Fortress - Bukhara

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