A veritable treasure trove of famous architectural monuments within Central Asia, where time itself has left its autographs, Uzbekistan is a country of great scientists, artists and craftsmen.
The nature of Uzbek land, impressive with its contrasts – desert and green valleys, high mountains and plateaus, rivers and ponds, and the mountain ranges contributing to the arid climate and gradually enlarging Kyzylkum and Karakum deserts – create a unique atmosphere.
The great 'Silk Road'
As the name implies, the main objective of trade on the caravan routes – linking Europe to Asia – was silk, which was then a highly regarded commodity around the world; in the early Middle-Age silk even displaced gold as the most popular unit of transaction.
The history of Uzbekistan is inseparably linked with the ancient caravan route known worldwide as the Great Silk Road. According to historical data, the first caravan laden with silk and mirrors headed towards the Ferghana Oasis in 121BC.
The campaign of Alexander the Great passed through this land on his way to the East in 330-327BC and the Venetian merchant Marco Polo is thought to be the first to term this caravan route as the ‘Silk Road’. The ancient Uzbek towns of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Shahrisabz, Termez, Tashkent, with their architectural monuments, preserve the centuries-long history of the Great Silk Road and evoke memories of the people who shaped this unique route to connect the East and the West.
Uzbekistan is known for the richness and delicacy of fermented milk products. The most famous is yoghurt made from sour milk, and sour cream–baked thick milk like cheese.
Traditional plov (rice with meat) from the region has many varieties and features. Each region of Uzbekistan has a special dish unique to the area, such as the samsa — puff pies stuffed with meat, potatoes or pumpkin — in a variety of shapes and sizes; and kebabs with a distinct flavor and style of cooking in various regions of the country.
Five reasons to visit Uzbekistan
Samarkand, the pearl of the East
Whatever epithets might have been invented to describe Samarkand by poets and philosophers: the Mirror of the World, the Garden of the Soul, the Pearl of the Orient, the Face of the Earth – its magnificence lies in being one of the ‘50 must cities’ list.
Places to visit in Samarkand:
Ulughbek Observatory: one of the most significant medieval observatories built by Mirzo Ulughbek on the hilltop near Samarkand in 1428–1429.
Reghistan Square: Listed among the World Heritage Sites, this beautiful square, built in the 15–17th century, is one of the symbols of ancient Samarkand.
The ‘Afrasiyab’ Museum of History: Located in the settlement of Afrasiyab, the museum is well known worldwide for its Ambassador's painting – a masterpiece of Sogdian art, which dates back to the 7th century.
Amir Temur (Tamerlene): The 1336–1405 amir went down in history as a great creator who made an invaluable contribution to the world civilization by outshining the capital Samarkand by grandeur and beauty.
Gur-Emir Mausoleum: A masterpiece of the oriental architecture, it is the tomb of Tamerlane, his sons and grandson.
Green Garden City Shakhrisabz
Located 80km from Samarkand, the well-decorated Shakhrisabz is the homeland of Tamerlane and is a historical center listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Places to visit in Shakhrisabz:
Kok-Gumbaz Mosque: Built during the reign of Mirzo Ulughbek, its dome – 46m in diameter – is the largest fully-preserved one in Uzbekistan.
Ak-Saray Palace: After Tamerlane ordered to build a huge inimitable building that has no equal anywhere in the world, in the spring of 1380, local and overseas craftsmen, architects and builders started construction of the Ak-Saray Palace – literally meaning ‘The White Palace’.
One of the oldest cities in the world, with the unprecedented number of mosques and burials concentrated here, Uzbeks call this city “the blessed Bukhara."
Places to visit in Bukhara:
Labi-Hovuz: The magnificent architectural ensemble built in Bukhara in the 17th century, Labi-Hovuz, is a small but picturesque town with a pond (Hovuz) in the center.
The ‘Ark’ Fortress: Since long the protection and support of rulers of Bukhara, the huge fortress' history is still shrouded in mystery.
Khiva City museum under open-air
Visiting Khiva, one becomes a witness to the real oriental fairy tale, getting lost in the quaint lanes that lead to the minarets and domes of beauty.
Khiva is a city museum under open-air; poets and philosophers who once lived in Khiva or visited it once called it "The Pearl of the World" and "World's Eighth Wonder". It was also one of the major centers of the Great Silk Road.
Tourist itineraries on the lakes Gouk-kul, Eshon Ravat and Kichkina Duzlok, in Khiva area, are designed for those who want to sunbathe, go fishing, ride camels and live in a yurt, and relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery of nature.
Termez from the Stone-Age and Buddhism to Islam
For centuries, ancient Termez had developed as one of the largest cities in the Kushan Empire. Along with the Roman Empire, Parthia (and later Sassanid Iran) and ancient China, it was one of the four powerful states to expand its influence over almost all of the Old World – from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
Rock paintings of Zaraustay refer to the Stone-Age and are one of the most ancient samples of human paintings. To date, in the territory of Uzbekistan, over 150 items with rock paintings have been revealed.