You may have read last month, my Blog post about travelling to Moscow and St Petersburg over Christmas and the New Year with my family. Well the second leg of the trip, was in Uzbekistan, and it was magical!
To be honest with you, it was my Dad that had always dreamt of going to Uzbekistan, along the Silk Road to Bukhara and Samarkand. I had barely heard of these places until he mentioned that we were going there (I know, shame on me…). So, as a good little Globetrotter, I started reading up about this country that is lodged in the middle of Russia, Central Asia and the Middle East. By the time we arrived to Bukhara from St Petersburg, I was overly excited to discover this country that I had barely studied at school and that was such a melting pot of cultures.
Like many of you, I wasn’t sure what to expect in a –stan country, and I can assure you that I was so impressed by the open-mindedness, the kindness and generosity of the Uzbeks, that I now can’t wait to go back there and discover all the other countries in that area! Anyway, before I can visit all of those countries, let’s get back to Uzbekistan itself.
We arrived in Bukhara and started to explore this small city that was once the capital of one of the local tribes. A key stop for the Silk Road, the ancient architecture seemed to be frozen in time. Its massive turquoise domes towering over modern day life seemed to guard the locals and remind them constantly of the rich history of the city. Caravan courts (which are where the travelling caravans of camels charged with goods would stop to sell, exchange and rest) have been transformed into modern day mini shopping centres, still preserving their original look and feel. And the mosques are a testament to beauty, art and love of culture. Uzbeks are proud of their heritage and work daily to preserve it to share with future generations. This was also visible in the next city that we visited: Samarkand.
Samarkand was the capital of Timor the Great. He was, and to this day, still considered a unifying leader of the Uzbek people. Not only was he a skilled warrior but also a fair and just man. His capital, Samarkand was one of the most beautiful cities in the world in the 13th Century and he knew it! With some of the tallest buildings in the world for that time (mainly mosques), we were left flabbergasted by what we saw. The blue and turquoise domes were endless, the mosaic work was masterful and flawless. Oh, and the food! Kebabs, Samosas, Chiken Tikkah, all of these that you think are Indian or Turkish, well think again, they are all Uzbek originally! We were just as surprised as you to learn that a lot of cultural elements that we believed to stem from neighbouring countries are actually original to Uzbekistan. This is mainly because of the huge amount of travel that took place throughout Uzbekistan, making it and influencer for certain elements, just as much as an influencee.
Our time in Uzbekistan was short and sweet, 4 days spent wandering around some of the wonders of this world, but we all want to go back. It is an newly independent open-minded country where some socialist values still persist, mixed in with loving muslim ideas, and an incredible historical heritage. The country blends tradition and modernity in a way to protect what they have yet move forward not forgetting who they are. This is a country that took in orphans from eastern European countries in the thousands during WWII, and strives on diversity, and has done for centuries. I’m sure that we could learn a lesson or two from the Uzbeks.