Uzbekistan is one of the oldest civilized regions of the world. First settled by Iranian nomads, Uzbekistan has been in turns ruled by the Greeks, Turks and Arabs, the much feared Genghis Khan and Taimur; the ancestor of Mughals. By the time Uzbek tribes became powerful in the 15th century, Uzbekistan had already cemented its position as one of the most important stops on the Silk Route with cities like Bukhara and Samarkand becoming prosperous centers of culture and luxury.
As a geo-political hotspot in Central Asia, Uzbekistan has played host to many cultures over centuries and has absorbed influences from each one providing it with a rich & diverse heritage. Mud-bricked cities, vibrant bazaars and beautiful mosques – all are a testament to this heritage.
The country’s rich culture shows up prominently in its crafts like carpet making, puppetry, intricate jewelry making, calligraphy & embroidery; its market places, some of which occupy the same spaces as their Silk Route glory days and its resplendent architecture.
Puppetry has a long tradition in Uzbekistan, having started sometime in the 4th century BC and surviving bloody wars & regime changes to become one of the most sought after tourist activities today. Bukhara’s Puppet Theatre is a lasting testimony to that tradition and is thronged by tourists and locals alike. Another important center that promotes puppetry is Khiva’s state puppet theatre.
As the Silk Route darling, Uzbekistan has a host of markets surviving from that era. A stop at one of these allows you to soak in the aromas, sights and sounds of life in Uzbekistan, just as it possibly had been during the hustle and bustle of medieval times. Uzbek markets are a riot of colors selling everything from grains, meats and nuts to spiked stamps used to decorate the Uzbek tandoor, traditional Uzbek caps, clothes, pottery and of course juicy fruits like water melons, peaches, cherries, apples and pears. Some of the oldest and must-see markets in Uzbekistan are : Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Central Bazaar in Samarkand and TizzyKafka bazaar in Tashkent.
However, one of the most famous things that has literally come to define Uzbeki craftsmanship is the vividly colored Uzbek Carpets. Woven with sheep wool and camel hair, these carpets were an inextricable part of home life in the country at one time and were woven exclusively by women. Today, you can buy a carpet to add an exotic flavor to your home décor or carry back a wall hanging made in the traditional thick weave.
A trip to Uzbekistan can take you back to the whirlwind times of heavy trade on the Silk Route and get you acquainted with the colors, textures and aromas that have defined this beautiful country – one that has endured the test of time. What would you want to bring back from Uzbekistan?