Location: Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Welcome to a new week and a new article! I hope you had a great weekend, and if in London, enjoyed the beautiful sunny weather we had for a change! It’s the first time in a while that I had two solid days at home and so I took the opportunity to get cracking on the next installment of my Uzbek travel guide, starting with our first stopping point, the capital Tashkent. Now you may have already seen my two part series on the Hyatt Regency Tashkent (click here and here) which is definitely the hotel you need to be staying in whilst there, or you may have read my Uzbek travel guide which talked through my journey across the country and how we did it. The next few articles will be all about the individual cities we visited, what to see whilst there and a ton of images to give you a little taste until you can see it with your own eyes!
Let’s start with the amount of time you should think about spending there. I’d say one, but ideally two, days are sufficient to cover the main sites to see. Our hotel was located right in the middle of town, and most places were within walking distance. Here’s what we did! We walked from the Hyatt Regency Tashkent to the Amir Timur Museum, which took all of ten minutes. For those not very familiar with the history of Uzbekistan, Amir Timur was a well-known warlord who thought himself to be the heir of Genghis Khan. His rule promoted science, education, culture, architecture, the fine arts, music and poetry, and is still very much celebrated in Uzbekistan. There is of course a whole lot more to the story, and those who are interested in it should spend an hour of so wandering around the museum. Like with most other sites in the country, the architecture is beautiful, with the large blue cupola resembling that of the Gur-i Amir mausoleum in Samarkand – Amir Timur’s grave. More on that in the Samarkand post.
Stroll a little bit further on from the museum and you get to the Amir Timur Square, a sprawling area in the centre of town that boasts an imposing statue of Amir Timur, the Forums Palace (a spectacular and grand building with regal columns) and of course, the infamous ‘Hotel Uzbekistan‘ – a Soviet era structure that is still in use as a hotel today. It’s worth noting that all of the buildings in the square are of historical importance, so take your time to wander around and explore the rich history this country has to offer.
When you’ve had your fill of the Square, hop on the metro right by the Hotel Uzbekistan and make your way to the Tashkent TV Tower, the tallest tower in Central Asia. Before we get to that though, take a moment to appreciate the Uzbek metro stations. If you have been to Moscow, you’ll know what I mean. The stations are beautifully decorated with marble, ceramics, alabaster and chandeliers and best of all, they have been kept a secret up until recently. It was only last year that a ban on photography in the underground was lifted! Worth noting that it was the first underground system in Central Asia! Back to the Tashkent TV Tower though, make it a point to visit at sunset! We got to see the most spectacular burning red sky over the city of Tashkent and it honestly felt like a something out of a movie. Note: you will be asked for your passport to be able to climb the tower, so please remember to take it with you! There is also a restaurant on one of the floors if you are so inclined.
We ended the night with a meal at Sette, the Italian restaurant at the Hyatt Regency and called it a day as we had flown in that very morning. For the rest of our trip to Tashkent, we had hired our own driver to take us around, particularly as we were flying to Khiva that same evening so we did not want to waste too much time. Our first stop was to Chorsu Bazaar – the traditional bazaar located in the center of the old town of Tashkent. The place was bustling, selling every kind of vegetable, fruit, meat, spice and bread that you would expect to find in a market place. Stunning colours and such friendly locals! They are pretty comfortable with photos, but I always made it a point to ask if it was ok to use my camera. The veg section was of course the most colourful and the bread section smelt amazing, where fresh bread was being baked in their clay ovens. Warning to all vegetarians or vegans, you may find the meat section a little difficult – inside that large dome is possibly the biggest meat market I have seen, with huge slabs of meat laying around everywhere. I’ll let the picture speak for itself, but as someone who doesn’t meat, this was something hard for me to deal with.
After the bazaar, it was off to Barakhan Madrasah, the first of the many madrasas that we would see during our time in Uzbekistan. In case you were wondering, a madrasa is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution, secular or religious, whether for elementary instruction or higher learning. Located in the Old Town, not too far away from the bazaar, this was the first location where we got to see Uzbek traditional architecture in all its glory. It is also at this madrasa’s library where the Koran of Caliph Osman is held – the primary source of holy Islam book written in the mid-VII century.
Last but not least, we ended our short but sweet tour of Tashkent with a stop at the Minor Mosque, also known as the White Mosque. It is the most recently built mosque in Tashkent and has a little bit of an Abu Dhabi feel to it – at least to me! With the lovely white marble and large fountain in front, it was quite the site to see! A beautiful end to the trip and a great example of how history meets modernity.
Of course, there is always more to see than you are going to read in a travel article. There are many museums that I would have loved to visit like the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan or the Museum of Applied Arts, but naturally everyone will be drawn to their own preferences. I really tried hard to make this article more picture heavy than text heavy, because when it comes to travel, a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope that I have now given you thousands of words on why a trip to Tashkent is worth your time in the near future.
Have you visited Tashkent? What were your favourite things to see? Drop them in the comments section!