Diversity and Authenticity of Uzbekistan
What did I expect to find in Uzbekistan? Remnants of the USSR? Traditions of Oriental hospitality? Cult of meat in cuisine? Hot deserts and cities without trees? Let’s forget about stereotypes and the ignorance of its exact location! If you find diversity and authenticity interesting, you should go to Uzbekistan!
My first reason to visit one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world was the Aral Sea. One of the planet’s worst environmental disasters attracts many people to see it with their own eyes. Desert, abandoned ships and inhabitants of this region; you may see this in the video by Pink Floyd “Louder Than Words.” I decided to visit this place, but I didn’t know what I would find there. My local Russian friends and I took a train from Tashkent to Nukus, where we had time to visit Nukus Museum of Art with the second largest collection of Russian avant-garde in the world. Then we took a car to Muynak, a small city, which is the nearest to the Aral Sea. There we had a chance to live in ordinary Karakalpak family – we were sleeping on tapchans and eating traditional Uzbek food.
Four hours from Muynak by car through the desert, which is the bottom of the sea with the millions of seashells and salt crystals, and you will find clay seashore with cold and clean water. There is so much salt that it’s hard to drown because your body always stays afloat. It is remote beauty with no Internet and tourists.
My next point in Uzbekistan wasn’t so deserted and remote. Khiva and Bukhara are popular cities among tourists. Here you may find comfortable hotels, restaurants, and many attractions. But we were trying to find something special. Wooden mosques and palaces, old cemeteries and big markets, narrow streets and local people, who are very open and kind! These cities are more than 2.500 years old but still, people live here as it was hundreds of years ago.
In many countries, the capital is the first place to visit. Tashkent is not among these cases. There are no famous museums, golden palaces or legendary places for taking selfies. The architecture here is monotonous and demonstrates the most ordinary examples of Soviet style. But this city surprised me with a few facts:
- It’s very green city. There are no places without trees, even the floors of multi-storied buildings! Trees make city life more comfortable especially during chillya – 40-days period of extremely hot temperatures (40-45 degrees) without winds and rains in summer.
- Tashkent is so large that there is no opportunity to walk around the city. Everybody uses a taxi. Tashkent is three times larger than Paris.
- It’s a city where you may find districts of markets and bazaars! I spent many hours of shopping and getting acquainted with Uzbek culture and traditions on one of the largest flea market.
- One hour by car and you will find the best place to escape city life. There are high and beautiful mountains with lakes and reservoirs for swimming. There are a few skiing resorts in the mountains.
I crossed Uzbekistan from west to the east and what I found is diversity. Deserts, mountains, sea, lakes, old cities, interesting culture, exotic cuisine and generous people!