Silk Road Tours offer private tailor made journeys to Uzbekistan
Located at the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is replete with iconic Silk Road treasures. In the remote western desert, Khiva is an almost perfectly preserved Islamic medieval city, while the winding streets of Bukhara still seem to echo with the footsteps of merchants past. Samarkand’s Registan Square is perhaps the most well-known sight in Central Asia, with its incredible blue-domed madrassahs and an ancient market which conjures up images of traders laden with exotic goods and spices.
The history is long and complex, and waves of invaders and traders have made their way over Uzbek soil. Alexander the Great set up his easternmost outpost here, and the country was the birthplace of the legendary Tamerlane, whose empire stretched from Turkey to India yet completely collapsed on his death. In more recent times Uzbekistan was central to the 19th century power struggle between Russia and Britain known as the ‘Great Game’.
Geographically the country is dominated by the vast Kyzyl Kum desert, and many cities are centred on ancient oases deep in its red sands. A vital lifeline is provided by the fertile Ferghana Valley which is the economic heart of Uzbekistan. Nominally Muslim, more than half a century of Soviet rule have left their mark and its relaxed attitude to dress and alcohol makes it stand out from other Muslim countries. The delicious national dish, Plov, is also a source of national pride, and it reputedly has over 100 different versions – one question you are bound to be asked is whether you have tried it yet! Holidays to Uzbekistan are certainly memorable.
Tours that visit Uzbekistan
The capital of Uzbekistan is the largest city in Central Asia and offers the visitor an eclectic mix of Silk Road, Russian and Soviet. Ghosts of the old city remain in the area around Chorsu Bazaar – a bustling market with a distinctly Central Asian feel. Here can be discovered the 15th century Jummi Mosque and the area around Khast-Imam Square with its maze of alleyways and traditionally built houses. A taste of Soviet Tashkent can be found at the fine Navoi Theatre where excellent ballet or opera can be enjoyed or at the majestic Earthquake Monument – a stunning example of Soviet architecture. All this combined with a ride on Tashkent’s ornate metro, reminiscent of Moscow’s, makes exploring the city a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Samarkand, ‘Pearl of the East’, lies in the heart of Central Asia and boasts some of the most iconic monuments on the Silk Road. Located in a verdant oasis on the edge of the Kyzl Kum desert and flanked by spurs of the Pamir-Alai mountains, Samarkand claims to be one of the oldest cities in Central Asia and has never lacked breathless admirers. Amongst its many fabled sights are Registan Square, perhaps one of the most iconic sights on the Silk Road and the beautiful ‘Shah-I Zinda’ or street of the dead. Samarkand never disappoints the visitor and rightly deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status.
Legendary Bukhara sits on the cross roads of ancient trade routes and has long been known as a centre for trade, scholarship, religion and culture. The UNESCO World Heritage listed ancient centre is regarded as a museum city and contains such iconic sights as the Kaylon minaret, from which, legend has it, criminals were thrown to their death and The Ark fortress in front of which Conolly and Stoddart were executed at the height of ‘The Great Game’. With its trading domes and caravanserais Bukhara retains its bustling mercantile atmosphere and is perhaps the place where, wandering through its labyrinthine streets, one can most still feel the ghosts of the Silk Road.
In the distant lands of Khorezm lies Khiva surrounded by the sands of the Kyzl Kum desert, the remotest and best preserved of Central Asia’s Silk Road cities. The city has traditionally been associated with slave traders and barbaric cruelty, the Khan’s of Khiva were some of the most merciless on the Silk Road. Today the inner city or Ichan Kala offers the visitor one of the most homogenous sets of mosques, madrasahs, caravanserais and markets anywhere in the Islamic world. With complexes such as the Djuma Mosque, madrasah of Alla-Kulli-Khan and mausoleum of Pahlavon the city richly deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status and never fails to enthral the curious.