Tashkent. Part 1: Uzbek Tashkent
Русская версия Taskent is Nastya’s motherland, left by her family after the Soviet Union collapse when Nastya was 8. This happened in the middle of general panic, when it seemed to everyone that Uzbeks would harm the Russian-speaking population. It is certainly hard to judge now, but after our visit we have a feeling that it was indeed just a panic – at least, after 19 years Tashkent was extremely friendly to us.
To be precise, the friendliest of all was couchsurfer Aybek, with whom we spent three wonderful days and who took care of us as if we were his family. We arrived in Tashkent by the train from Bukhara, Aybek picked us up at the railway station and made an excursion around Sunday morning empty Tashkent:
The Monument to the victims of destructive earthquake of 1966, after which many Russians came to reconstruct the city.
Then we came to Ming O’rik – the site of ancient settlement which had been found and dug out only recently by the members of amateur archeological circle. Ming O’rik existed from the first to the eight century till the moment when Central Asia was conquered by Arabs. Scholars suppose that the town served as a residence for Turkic rulers. The fire altar shows that here was the temple too.
Then Aybek brought us to the graveyard of Fazyl-Ata, where Japanese and German war prisoners and Muslims are buried.
By the way, a true Muslim should be buried with a small hill only – which would once level to the ground, and no pompous monuments. This kind of graves, however, is very rare.
Having passed by the gas station Miss, where only women work, we went to bazaar Abu-Soxi to buy traditional Uzbek dishes Pahtagul for Nastya’s mother.
Then we went to Nastya’s former home and summer house and to Farhad bazaar to eat hanum from Nastya’s childhood.
Most of the next day we spent solving the registration problem, as we finally had to cross Kazakh border for that. Only then we could relax, and Aybek brought us to eat wonderful lagman (traditional soup) to the café Binket (Rustavelli 53-А).
And the morning (after 3 hours spent at the post office trying to sent the dishes we bought) started with Samarkand plov (Botkina, 126).
After that, we went to Tamerlan museum.
Different countries have their own political myths (and we certainly do not mean that they are not true): about ancient descent, ancient territories, sufferings – all those important historical moments, around which national identity and ideology of the state is built. The central national myth of Uzbekistan is that of Timur (or Tamerlan) – a Central Asia military leader and commander famous all over the world. It is not occasional then that the president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov initiated the building of this museum – a huge palace telling about the history of Timur and his great descendants.
We pretended we were locals and paid less. We did not pay for the photo to the cashier, but the guide suggested that we pay to her, less than in the price list.
The central museum hall has a copy of Uthman Quran (the original is kept in Tashkent too), which is believed to have belonged to the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, and to be the oldest Quran in the world. It is surrounded by the giant panel depicting different scenes from Tamerlan’s life.
The displays are organized thematically: «Culture and literacy in Uzbekistan», «Fortress Shokhruhija», «Our legacy abroad», «Tamerlan’s life episodes», «Amir Timur and his family in paintings», etc. The exhibition mainly includes the models of the buildings which were once erected by Timurid dynasty, as well as military attributes. It is interesting that Tamerlan accepted everyone, regardless of class or origin, to his army; the same principle worked for rewarding in case the soldiers served well.
The displays mostly belong to the Timurid’s epoch, although, perhaps, none of the items belonged to them personally.
By the way, did you know that famous Taj Mahal was built by the order of Tamerlan’s descendant – Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, by the sculptors from Delhi, Bagdad, Istanbul, Bukhara and Samarkand?
Among other entertainments of Tashkent, you may visit Tashkentland (amusement park, entrance for grown-ups – 25000 soms, children – 13000), cable road of Tashkentland (8000, 4000 soms correspondingly, 20 minutes), Water Park (30000, 15000 – 3-hour entrance).
You may also visit the TV tower for 15 dollars (price for grown-ups). At the entrance, there are models of other world TV towers.
Next to the TV tower there is another important attraction – the Museum of Soviet Repressions. The complex is situated at the place of the former ravine where the “enemies of the people” were shot.
Then we went to the market of Chorsu where you may buy everything – from daggers to spices.
In the evening, we got together with Aybek and Korean couchsurfer, Aybek was helping to as well. She had been trying to get to Fergana valley a day before, but, after leaving the city, she realized that the driver wanted her to pay for all four seats in the car. The driver was calling to Aybek, who, in turn, tried to persuade the driver to decrease the price. The argument between the Korean girl and the Uzbek taxi-driver without any common language was taking place on the paper:
Thanks to Aybek and this Korean girl, the next (and out last) day in Tashkent appeared to be very Korean.
Tashkent. Part 2: Korean Tashkent
Bukhara. Part 1: how to get, where to stay and to eat; walking in the old city
Bukhara. Part 2: Off the limits of the old city
Baku side trips: Gobustan and mud volcanoes (Azerbaijan, intermediate level)
Tbilisi: heat, architecture, flea market and… Indians
On Armenian hospitality (a lot) and Kloster Geghard (a bit)