Locked in the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan is both a museum to the ancient Silk Road and a country shaking off its Soviet past while striving to develop its place within the modern world. This concoction of old and new is what makes it so special – go for the history and you’ll undoubtedly fall for the distinctive culture and friendly people.
With everything from Unesco World Heritage Sites and ruined desert fortresses to mega meat kebabs, artistic tile work, and buzzing neighbourhoods, Uzbekistan is ripe for exploring now.
Tashkent – The Capital of Uzbekistan
The main city of Uzbekistan is a huge metropolis with a population of over 3 million people. The city is lined with a grid of straight and wide streets and avenues, decorated with emerald green parks, gardens, fountains imbued with crystal strands…
This wonderful city is a real embodiment of the modern elegance that is inherent in many world capitals. At the same time, it remains to be an oriental city. Tashkent has its own unique flavour. It combines medieval buildings as if descended from the pages of old oriental tales, elegant European architecture from the period of the Turkestan governor-generalship, standard concrete “boxes” of the Soviet era and, finally, glittering skyscrapers of glass and concrete (modern business centres and banks).
Tashkent, Uzbekistan -Tashkent Restaurants and Cafes
Tashkent cafes and restaurants present delicious national Uzbek as well as European, Middle Eastern and Russian cuisines.
The old part of the city is the centre of traditional local cuisine in Tashkent. Between Kukeldash Madrassah and Chorsu bazaar, you may find a great number of chaykhanas (café terrace with ayvans), cafes and eating houses, where you can snack a kebab, shaurma, Uzbek somsa etc. Also, you can try national dishes in family-run Uzbek houses.
Close to the Yunus-Obod tennis court, there is the huge Pilaf centre (Osh Markazi), where you may taste delicious wedding Tashkent pilaf. Tashkent restaurants amaze with European service level and food quality. You will be surprised by the wide range of restaurants with Chinese, Italian, English, Japanese, Spanish and other cuisines. Whatever restaurant you choose for any lunch, dinner or meeting, you will enjoy not only tasty dishes but also the stylish interior, food presentation and perfect service.
Samarkand – The Capital of Tamerlane
Samarkand is situated in the valley of the river Zerafshan. It is the second largest city of Uzbekistan and is of the same age as the city of Babylon or Rome.
The history of Samarkand is about 2,750 years old and has witnessed many upheavals during the times of Alexander the Great, the Arabic Conquest, Genghis-Khan Conquest and lastly Tamerlane’s. Hence, the culture of Samarkand was developed and mixed together with the Iranian, Indian, Mongolian and a bit of the Western and Eastern cultures.
Majestic and beautiful city Samarkand has a marvellous and attractive power. Poets and historians of the past called it “Rome of the East, The beauty of sublunary countries, the pearl of the Eastern Muslim World”. Its advantageous geographical position in the Zarafshan valley puts Samarkand to the first place among cities of Central Asia.
Over the history this legendary city on the Silk Road went through growths and decays, suffered from destroying invasions of foreign rulers and again revived, becoming more beautiful. Trade routes to the west, to Persia, to the east, to China, to the south, to India, intersected here and formed intersections of the Silk Road.
Today Samarkand is the treasure of unique antiquity spirit. It is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List due to the abundance of material and spiritual values. Unique monuments of ancient architecture, the heritage of scientific and art schools, artisan’s workshops are well-known around the world.
Samarkand is one of the most ancient cities in the world. As other first centres of human civilization – Babylon and Memphis, Athens and Rome, Alexandria and Byzantium – Samarkand was intended to go through many events and shakes.
History of Samarkand goes back in remote days. Archaeologist finds and chronicle records of eyewitnesses and ancient historians allowed to establish with full reliability that a man lived on the territory of a modern city many centuries before the Common Era.
Bukhara – The Holy City
Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of Uzbekistan, situated on a sacred hill, the place where sacrifices were made by fire-worshippers in springtime. This city was mentioned in a holy book “Avesto”. Bukhara city is supposed to be founded in the 13th cent. B.C. during the reign of Siyavushids who came to power 980 years before Alexander the Great. The name of Bukhara originates from the word “vihara” which means “monastery” in Sanskrit. The city was once a large commercial center on the Great Silk Road.
Bukhara lies west of Samarkand and was once a center of learning renowned throughout the Islamic world. It is the hometown of the great Sheikh Bakhouddin Nakshbandi. He was a central figure in the development of the mystical Sufi approach to philosophy, religion and Islam. In Bukhara, there are more than 350 mosques and 100 religious colleges. Its fortunes waxed and waned through succeeding empires until it became one of the great Central Asian Khanates in the 17th century.
Bukhara with more than 140 architectural monuments is a “town museum” dating back to the Middle Ages. 2,300 years later, ensembles like Poi-Kalyan, Ismail Samani Mausoleum, Ark, Lyabi-Khauz are attracting a lot of attention. The city consists of narrow streets, green parks and gardens, historical and architectural monuments belong to the different epochs but locate very close to each other.
Khiva – The City Museum
Probably, Khiva is the most peculiar Uzbek city. Its history is inextricably connected with the history of the legendary Khorezmshah’s State with its capital in Urgench before. Khiva is a very ancient city.
In the 10th century, Khiva is mentioned as a major trading center on the Silk Road. All the caravans had a stop here on their way to China and back. From dawn to dusk, until the gates were opened, an endless stream of moving string of camels with baggage passed them.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Khorezm State became home to Uzbek nomadic tribes, who founded Khive Khanate here. However, Khiva did not become immediately the Khanate’s capital. It happened only after Urgench, an existing capital, had been destroyed due to the change of Amu Darya’s channel. In 1598 Khiva became the main city of the state.
In the 19th century, Russia annexed part of Khiva Khanate. One century later, in 1919, the last Khan was liquidated of the ruling dynasty. So Khiva became the capital of the new Khorezm Soviet People’s Republic. In 1924 territories of Khorezm oasis became a part of modern Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
Legend about Khiva
There are many interesting legends that tell about the origin of Khiva. Allegedly, the city grew around the well Hewvakh, with tasty and cool water. The well was dug by the order of Shem, the elder son of Biblical Noah. Today one can see this well in the old part of Khiva, Itchan-Kala.
Khiva – a unique city, rightfully claiming the title of “the seventh wonder of the world”, thanks to its authentic atmosphere of the ‘era of the beginning of time. ” Most of the city of Khiva is similar to the open-air museum. And the nucleus of this museum – castle Itchan-Kala. It is inside this fortress concentrated all the architectural masterpieces of Khiva. Everyone who enters the fortress, are among the marvellous minarets, stone-paved alleys curves, leading to a madrassa with lacy rough mosaic of the ancient walls. This oriental tale! In 1990 the city was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Khiva, one of the most noteworthy of the cities and towns of Central Asia, is situated on the left bank of the Amu Darya in the southern part of the modern region of Khorezm in Uzbekistan. It is a unique monument town, completely preserved in the cultural style of the region. In 1967 it was proclaimed a town-reserve and since 1990 one part of Khiva — the Itchan-Kala — was recognized by UNESCO as a historical monument of world significance.
Urgench is the name of two cities, one of which is located in Uzbekistan and the second one is located in Turkmenistan near the village of Kunya-Urgench and is the ruins of the ancient settlement.
Ancient Urgench today is located on the territory of Turkmenistan, close to the state border. The exact time of origin of the settlement is not known, however, according to some records it is considered that the city had already existed in the 1st century AD.
It was quite a large trade and industrial city with a developed irrigation system. In the 10-11th centuries it was the capital of Khorezm, but in the 13th century, the city was destroyed by the army of Genghis Khan and century later it was ruined to the ground by Amir Temur. The city had struggled for its existence until the 17th century, but then it was left with all its mosques, minarets, fortresses and irrigation systems. Today ruins of ancient Urgench attract a lot of tourists from all over the world.
Modern Urgench is located on the territory of Uzbekistan close to the Uzbek-Turkmen border. So both cities are divided not only by time but also by state border. This city was founded at the beginning of the 20th century. There is almost no any historical sightseeing in the city. Being the administrative center of the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan, Urgench plays the role of transport nodal point in the region.
There are railways running through the city and connecting south and north of Central Asia. Within the city, there is the international airport “Urgench”, which is capable to receive aircraft of any type and serves flights from Tashkent, Moscow, Saint-Petersburg and other cities of the world. Also, Urgench is connected with Khiva by unique trolleybus line with 35 km in length. By the way, all major sites and monuments of Khorezm region are located in Khiva. So Urgench is the perfect place for the start point to tours to Khiva and Kunya-Urgench.