Uzbekistan might not be on the regular tourist trail these days, but there was a time when travellers and traders would come through the country in droves.
Dating back to these days of old, it’s the extraordinary history and remarkable culture that can catch you by surprise when you travel in Central Asia. There’s so much to see and discover and these seven things that you probably don’t know about Uzbekistan are just the beginning…
1: Uzbekistan is one of only two double-landlocked countries in the world. This is a nation that is surrounded completely by other landlocked countries! The other one is Lichtenstein.
2: Uzbekistan lies on the ancient Silk Route, which led to the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand amassing great wealth and power. This is reflected in the quality of their Islamic architecture!
3: In the ninth century, Bukhara was one of the great centres of Islamic art and learning, alongside of Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordoba.
4: Uzbekistan has a long and bloody history. The most notorious leader of Uzbekistan was Timur (or Tamerlane) who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. His military campaigns have been credited for wiping out some 5% of the world’s population at the time.
5: If you have thought that some of the Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan resembles that from Northern India, then that is because Timur’s great great great Grandson, Babur Beg, was the founder of the Moghul Empire that ruled much of India for almost four centuries! Babur’s great great Grandson was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.
6: The centre of ancient Samarkand is the Registan; a public square ringed by Madrasahs, or Islamic schools. The Sher-Dor Madrasah is unique in Islamic art, as it has mosaic of a tiger, flouting the Islamic ban on representation of living things.
7: One of the staple foods of Uzbekistan is the Obi non flatbread. There are a few of traditions based around Obi non. Turning the bread upside down is believed to bring bad luck, and if a family member is heading off on a journey, they will take a small bite from a piece of bread which will then be kept hidden till their safe return!
There is currently only one place left on my Impressions of Uzbekistan photography trip, which explores the fabled Silk Route cities of Khiva, Bukhara and of course, Samarkand. We also traverse the Kizilkum Desert and search out Bronze Age petroglyphs at the Sarmysh Gorge. Uzbekistan is an enticing mix of Soviet-style architecture and ancient Islamic architecture, populated by a welcoming and photogenic people. I enjoy sharing my knowledge and experience to give you unique blend of photographic tuition and encouragement!
This adventure starts in the capital city of Tashkent on 9 September 2014 for 11 action-packed days. All land arrangements are provided by Intrepid Travel. More details and a booking form are available here.
Photos c/o Steve Davey, Flickr.