Silk Road 30: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Oct 2019

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road Uzbekistan Oct 2019
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Tashkent, Oct 2019

Oct 26, 2019

The flight from Urgench (Khiva) to Tashkent was a short flight of 1hr and 10mins; we arrived at the domestic terminal, which was empty & collected our suitcases from the roller belt. We had booked at the Simma hotel near the airport, the night before in Khiva; we had picked this hotel as it was near a metro station; so, transportation to and from downtown would be easy.  After haggling with a couple of taxi drivers; got the fare down from $20 to $5; even that was high as I had read the cab ride should be about $3.

A little about Tashkent which was historically known as Chach (Persian); it is the capital and largest city of Uzbekistan, as well as the most populous city in Central Asia, with a population of about 3M. It is in northeastern Uzbekistan, near the border with Kazakhstan.

In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times, the town and the province were known as Chach forming a trade center between the Sogdians and Turkic nomads. In 558–603, Chach was part of the Turkic Kaganate. Under the Samanid Empire, whose founder Saman Khuda was a Persian Zoroastrian convert to Islam, the city came to be known as Binkath. However, the Arabs retained the old name of Chach for the surrounding region, pronouncing it ash-Shash instead. At the end of the 10th century, Tashkent became part of the possessions of the Turkic state of the Karakhanids.

The city was destroyed by Genghis Khan in 1219 and lost much of its population as a result of the Mongols’ destruction, but slowly, it profited from the Timurid and  subsequent Shaybanid dynasties, the city’s population and culture gradually revived as a prominent strategic center of scholarship, commerce and trade along the Silk Road. During the reign of Amir Timur (1336-1405), Tashkent was restored and in the 14th-15th centuries Tashkent was part of Timur’s empire. In 1865, Tashkent fell to the Russian Empire, and became the capital of Russian Turkestan. In Soviet times, it witnessed major growth and demographic changes due to forced deportations from throughout the Soviet Union. Much of Tashkent was destroyed in the 1966 Tashkent earthquake, but it was rebuilt as a model Soviet city. It was the fourth-largest city in the Soviet Union at the time, after Moscow, Leningrad and Kyiv (Kiev).

Tashkent is also famous for the Tashkent Declaration, which was a peace agreement between India and Pakistan signed on 10 January 1966 that resolved the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. This agreement was not popular in either country; and it was tainted by the mysterious death of the Indian Prime Minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri the day after the signing of the peace agreement, while he was still in Tashkent. The conspiracy theories suggest that his death was  due to poisoning.

Today, as the capital of an independent Uzbekistan, Tashkent retains a multiethnic population, with ethnic Uzbeks as the majority. In 2009, it celebrated its 2,200 years of written history.

The Simma hotel was a very nice 4-star hotel with decent rooms, and good facilities like an indoor water park with slides, spas, massage areas etc. Cost was $78 per night breakfast included but with taxes, it came to $95 per night. The logo for Simma hotel looked suspiciously like the Sheraton logo 🙂 .

Since it was only mid-day, we decided to go downtown and check out Tashkent. So, I asked the hotel staff where the nearest Metro station was, and they informed me the only way to get to downtown was to take a taxi. I showed them on Google maps the metro station nearby, and they smiled & told me it was under construction and would be ready the following year. So much for Google maps and making assumptions from that. 🙁

The hotel had no tourist info at all, so we asked the hotel staff where the tourist info office was, so we could start there.  They researched this, and found a location downtown, next to the Oybek metro station and wrote down the address for the taxi driver. They told me that the Yandex taxi app we had used in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, would work here and would be best for us, as no haggling, and no conversation required due to lack of English speakers. So, I used Yandex and requested a taxi. The taxi came and the hotel staff explained to the driver where to take us; very few people spoke English here.

Some scenes below of Tashkent below, along the drive to the city

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Soviet-era style apartments opposite the hotel
Soviet-era style apartments opposite the hotel
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Watermelons out the proverbial wazoo….
Watermelons out the proverbial wazoo….
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Autobody parts transportation
Autobody parts transportation

The taxi driver drove us to the address, but there was no tourist office there that the driver or we could see; only apartment buildings. So, he drove around the area and asked several pedestrians nearby if they knew where the tourist office; but nobody knew.

So we got out on a main street, and paid the driver 16,000 Som (about $1.70) as specified in the Yandex app, for a 20min drive. We started walking around and asked several people if they knew where the Tourist Office was, but to no avail; no English. Dilshad then asked a couple of high school kids in school uniforms if they knew. Fortunately, they spoke a little English; they did not know where the tourist info office was either; but they asked us where we wanted to go. We told them we did not know what was worthwhile seeing and visiting in Tashkent; & they offered to take us on the metro to show us some sights in downtown. What great hospitality 🙂 . We asked them if it was OK with their parents and time; and they said their school got over at 2PM, and so they were free till evening, and they wanted to take the opportunity to practice their English; a win-win situation 🙂 . How wonderful. Khoumayoun the boy, wanted to study Law at Harvard in the US, and Sharada, the girl, wanted to also study law, but in Australia.

They took us on the subway to Chorsu market, showing us the subway stations along the way, which were beautifully decorated, very clean, nice, efficient, and cheap. You purchased tokens for the metro, and 1 token took you anywhere in the metro for $0.15 cents. The subway stations themselves were a tourist attraction 🙂 .

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Interesting relief decor at entrance to one subway station
Interesting relief decor at entrance to one subway station
Tashkent, Oct 2019, One subway station was named for lovers and had Laila/Majnu and Shirin/Farhad depictions. Most subway stations were named after famous Uzbek people.
One subway station was named for lovers and had Laila/Majnu and Shirin/Farhad depictions. Most subway stations were named after famous Uzbek people.
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Many people were using the subways, which were very clean, and each subway station was unique & had artistic domes, pillars and unique decor for the ceilings and walls
Many people were using the subways, which were very clean, and each subway station was unique & had artistic domes, pillars and unique decor for the ceilings and walls

At the Chorsu market, there were a lot of outdoor stalls selling all kinds of vegetables, fruits, nuts/dried fruits, spices, household goods, chinese clothes etc. It was now mid-afternoon, and the market was winding down, so we decided to come back here another day on our own. Some scenes from the outdoor portion of the Chorsu bazaar below

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Interesting fruit
Interesting fruit
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Bread on prams was always available everywhere in Central Asia
Bread on prams was always available everywhere in Central Asia
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Mother & son selling vegetables and nuts
Mother & son selling vegetables, fruits and nuts
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Cow Hooves anyone?
Cow Hooves anyone?
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Lots of varieties of melons, and they were very sweet
Lots of varieties of melons, and they were very sweet
Tashkent, Oct 2019, And pumpkins, gourds
And pumpkins, gourds

Khoumayoun and Sharada then took us on the subway again, this time to the downtown Amir Timur Square (Amir Timur subway station). Some scenes from here below

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Business
The grand Uzbekistan Hotel

The Uzbekistan hotel was built during the Soviet times for hotel to accommodate dignitaries and Govt officials and that tradition continues today.

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Another interesting building in Amir Timur Square
Another interesting building in Amir Timur Square
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Amir Timur statue in the center of the huge square and gardens
Amir Timur statue in the center of the huge square and gardens
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Chilling under the Amir Timur statue
Chilling under the Amir Timur statue
Tashkent, Oct 2019, With our wonderful student guide friends, Khoumayoun and Sharada
With our wonderful student guide friends, Khoumayoun and Sharada

Soon it was time for Khoumayoun and Sharada to leave as they had an English class to get to, but before they left, they pointed us to a great chicken place they said we should go eat at and pointed out what we should do and see while in this downtown area. So nice & hospitable of them for spending the afternoon with us. Very refreshing to experience this kindness.

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Dinner at the Chicken place recommended by Khoumayoun and Sharada. Cost was $5 for this two chicken dinner pictured.
Dinner at the Chicken place recommended by Khoumayoun and Sharada. Cost was $5 for this two chicken dinner pictured.

The Chicken place was quite busy, so it must be a good place to eat at. We ordered what we wanted by pointing to pictures on the menu; no english 🙂 . We drank the red juice in the glasses above, which was quite tart and did not know what to make of that, until we noticed observing others around us, that it was a dipping sauce for the chicken/bread to eat with 🙂 . The assumptions we make is based on what we are brought up with; glasses contain drinks, not dipping sauces. But not everywhere is that the case 🙂 as we learnt here.

After this dinner we strolled around this nice area, and saw the Amir Timur Museum, Law School, and an entertainment area. Pictures below

Tashkent, Oct 2019, The State History Museum of the Timurids; or the Amir Timur Museum as more commonly known. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went.
The State History Museum of the Timurids; or the Amir Timur Museum as more commonly known. Unfortunately, it was closed when we went.
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Law school. Each window was lit up at dusk; making the building stand out nicely
Law school. Each window was lit up at dusk; making the building stand out nicely
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Outdoor amusement area
Outdoor amusement area

After stopping for a coffee at a nice coffee shop in a trendy area here, we returned to the Simma hotel using a Yandex App taxi. A pleasant day.

Back at the hotel, we used the pool/spa/sauna and Dilshad got a massage ($20 for 50 mins). The facilities were all very nice and clean. We ordered a pizza, fries and soup for a late-night room service snack, and went to sleep.

Next couple of days, we explored more of Tashkent, mostly using the cheap Yandex taxis. There were multiple unique buildings, architecture, and mosques we noticed & visited in Tashkent; scenes below

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Interesting Building, statue & park/gardens
Interesting Building, statue & park/gardens
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Unique architecture high-rise
Unique architecture high-rise
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Interesting Minaret design
Interesting Minaret design
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Traditional mosque
Traditional mosque

We took a taxi to have plov at a Plov Center, but the driver could not find it at the address we had, so instead, he took us to a Plov center he knew of nearby. Some scenes below at the Plov center.

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Huge cauldrons where the plov is cooked daily
Huge cauldrons where the plov is cooked daily

Cooking the Plov in the huge cauldrons

How to serve Plov

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Our Plov brunch with Chai, bread & salad, at the Plov center. Cost was $8
Our Plov brunch with Chai, bread & salad, at the Plov center. Cost was $8
Tashkent, Oct 2019, We checked out the Shaikh Zainiddin mosque of the Hanafi school of Islam, opposite the Plov Center.
We checked out the Shaikh Zainiddin mosque of the Hanafi school of Islam, opposite the Plov Center.
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Business
Locals at the Shaikh Zainiddin mosque

Inside of the Sheikh Zainiddin mosque

We asked a local at the Plov center how to get to the Barak-Khan Madrassa, and he told to take a local taxi to Hazroti Imom Mosque. The Yandex app was not working, so the kind local gentleman helped us; flagging down several cars (which locals were using as nondescript taxis), but all wanted too much money; he finally found one for 7000 soms. (about $0.70). The taxi dropped us off at the mosque area, which seemed to have many cars in parking lot as well as a couple of tour busses.

In this complex, was the Muslim HQ office for UZ, as well as the Hazrati Imom Mosque, the Barak-Khan Madrassa and a building that housed the oldest known Koran..

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Hazrati Imom mosque. It was time for mid-day prayer, so we joined the Namaz.
Hazrati Imom mosque. It was time for mid-day prayer, so we joined the Namaz.

After prayers, we went around the side of the mosque to get to the Barak-Khan Madrassa at the back; this complex was very well reconstructed; with a huge open square where the mosque, madrassah and the building that housed the oldest Koran were housed.

Tashkent, Oct 2019, The impressive Barak-Khan Madrassa
The impressive Barak-Khan Madrassa

Then we went to check out the Koran which was USESCO certified as oldest of 6 Koran’s by the 3rd Caliph Osman, sent to various parts of the Islamic world for safekeeping; only this one has survived. Very nice, with many other Korans and different calligraphy on view. Unfortunately, no photographs allowed inside 🙁

Tashkent, Oct 2019, The building that housed the oldest Koran of Osman
The building that housed the oldest Koran of Osman
Tashkent, Oct 2019, History of the Koran of Osmon
History of the Koran of Osmon

We then went across the street to the Osh Saroy café for tea and a snack

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Osh Saroy restaurant
Osh Saroy restaurant
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Tea and snack of musark; a soup of minced meat and vegetables; quite tasty.
Tea and snack of musark; a soup of minced meat and vegetables; quite tasty.

We then called a Yandex taxi (now working) to take us to the Chorsu bazaar, which was a complex of several large buildings. Some scenes below

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Main Chorsu Bazaar building
Main Chorsu Bazaar building
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Wholesale market outside the Chorsu Bazaar
Wholesale market outside the Chorsu Bazaar
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Vegetables
Vegetables
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Lots of meat (Go’sht) for sale inside this huge building
Lots of meat (Go’sht) for sale inside this huge building

Inside view of the main Chorsu bazaar building

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Colorful greens and vegetables
Colorful greens and vegetables
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Nuts and spices
Nuts and spices
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Yogurt that has all the whey removed; till it is semi-solid
Yogurt that has all the whey removed; till it is a clay-like consistency
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Live fish for sale
Live fish for sale
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Pickles
Pickles

That evening, we booked a flight out the next morning to Istanbul on Turkish airlines, and then onwards back to Dallas.

We had come to the end of a long and wonderful Epic journey, which had taken us from Kyrgyzstan, through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, a journey of 3,700kms by car, train and two local flights, over a period of 42 days. We met the most wonderful, friendly, and helpful people everywhere, which helped to uphold our faith in the goodness of humanity. The variety of landscapes, altitudes, housing, foods, people, languages, history, heritages, customs, and culture was eye-opening and gave us the most wonderful experiences which we will always cherish. What always stood out everywhere in this part of Central Asia was the kindness, hospitality and helpfulness of complete strangers; something that is not common in the world we live in.

In our travels through central Asia, we observed that Tajikistan was the least developed country, especially in the GBAO region, and Tajikistan had the least tourist ready structure, followed by Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan on the other hand, was the most progressive country and had a decent tourist infrastructure except in Tashkent, the Capital. We welcome any questions or inquiries about this Central Asian region.

Our Central Asia journey

Tashkent, Oct 2019, Krygyz travel
Krygyz travel
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Tajikistan travel till Dushanbe
Tajikistan travel till Dushanbe
Tashkent, Oct 2019, Dushanbe to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Dushanbe to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
This entry was posted in Asia, Silk Road Uzbekistan Sept-Oct 2019, Uzbekistan

26 thoughts on “Silk Road 30: Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Oct 2019

  • Zahir Dharsee November 30, 2021 at 2:54 pm Reply

    Hi Ali – again a very good write-up. I enjoyed reading your summary at the end regarding your anaylsis of the socio-economic-development situation of Central Asia.

    I guess that just like the former East African British colonies we spent our formative years in, these parts of the former Russian/Soviet Union Empire were left largely underdeveloped. Now wonder AKDN has had to make heavy investments in the economic and social development of the GBAO area of Tajikistan.

    Thanks again

    PS I saw that the word for meat in Uzbek/Persian is (Go’sht) – this is close to the for for Meat in Cutchi or Gujarati Gos or Gosh – coincident or what??

    • Ali Karim December 2, 2021 at 12:17 pm Reply

      Many thanks Zahir, for the feedback.
      You are correct about colonies in general; they did benefit somewhat, but were left relatively under-developed; especially the former Soviet states.
      RE: the word for meat; yes, the similarity had also struck me and I assumed the origins of the word in these languages came from the same origins
      Thanks again

  • Shamshudin Visram November 30, 2021 at 8:18 am Reply

    Wonderful ali

    • Ali Karim December 2, 2021 at 12:15 pm Reply

      Thank Shamshudin; glad you enjoyed it

  • Zuleikha Ahamed November 30, 2021 at 8:18 am Reply

    Are you guys there right now?
    Luv
    Julie❤

    • Ali Karim December 2, 2021 at 12:15 pm Reply

      Zuleikha, we took this trip in Oct 2019, and I am just getting around to finishing the blogs

  • Sultan Esmail November 29, 2021 at 2:32 pm Reply

    Your blog was so detailed with beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing. Inshallah, one day we will visit.
    You guys are so fortunate to travel the world.

    • Ali Karim December 2, 2021 at 12:14 pm Reply

      Thanks Sultan for the feedback. So glad you enjoyed with us on our travels.
      Yes, indeed, we are most fortunate to be able to travel.
      My goal and hope is that we can inspire others to do the same
      Thanks again

  • Salimah Virani November 21, 2021 at 11:34 am Reply

    Ali, this is beautiful. I am amazed to see all of your wonderful pictures and memories. It intrigued me so much that now I want to go there as well 😊

    • Ali Karim November 21, 2021 at 12:22 pm Reply

      Thanks Salimah, so glad you enjoyed it.
      Please do go and see this beautiful world for yourself.
      That is the goal behind my blogs; to inspire others to go see the beauty of the world for themselves 🙂

  • Muslim Harji November 15, 2021 at 3:39 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing! Your beautiful blog is Full of Memories..
    Asante and love to Dilshad
    Love, Light & Cheers
    Muslim Harji

  • Mahamud Jinnah November 12, 2021 at 9:35 am Reply

    Wow you travelled 3700km over 42 days!!!

    Tashkent has such beautiful buildings.

    Those 2 students were so nice to show you around.

    This trip showed you that humanity does exist. We can learn a lot from them.

    • Ali Karim November 13, 2021 at 1:45 pm Reply

      Thank you Mr. Jinnah, for your feedback.
      Yes, humanity does exist 🙂

  • Nagib paroo November 11, 2021 at 5:59 pm Reply

    Beautiful pictures. Love it. Thanks Mr Ali

    • Ali Karim November 13, 2021 at 1:44 pm Reply

      Glad you enjoyed; thanks for the feedback

  • Mohamud Karim November 7, 2021 at 12:23 pm Reply

    Incredible as always – the pictures and your writing – almost felt as if we were there with you.
    So much to see, so little time…..a reminder of making sure we all do whats important…
    thank you Ali and Dilshad.

    • Ali Karim November 8, 2021 at 9:16 pm Reply

      Thank you Mohamud; glad you enjoyed the journey with us 🙂
      Our bucket list has so much on it, like you said, so little time 🙁

  • Amir & Roshan Mulji November 1, 2021 at 11:18 pm Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing!
    Completely different world.

    • Ali Karim November 1, 2021 at 11:21 pm Reply

      Thanks Amir & Roshan,

      You are correct, it is a completely different world.

  • shiraz bata October 19, 2021 at 4:12 pm Reply

    Ali ,
    Your post on Uzbekistan is just great, after educating myself from your post
    I moved Uzbekistan to the top of my bucket list so Nimet and myself will be there
    in may 2022 just bought the air tickets we will also be in Turkey to join the group
    from Dallas after Uzbekistan , thanks for opening up the world to us .
    Shiraz Bata
    Dallas Texas

    • Ali Karim October 19, 2021 at 11:30 pm Reply

      Wow, thanks for the wonderful feedback.
      It is our intention to inspire others through our blogs to go see these places for themselves; and seeing you getting inspired to go/see for yourselves gives us great satisfaction as it means we are achieving our goals 🙂
      Thanks & Enjoy all your world travels also.

  • Nassir Kassam October 19, 2021 at 11:37 am Reply

    Thanks for Sharing your experience, photos and movies it feel we have already been there.
    Thanks again

    • Ali Karim October 19, 2021 at 11:27 pm Reply

      Thanks Nassir for the kind words; so glad you enjoyed the journey with us.

  • ABDULMAJID MORANI October 19, 2021 at 8:37 am Reply

    Oh my God; is there any country in this World, U missed out ?

    • Ali Karim October 19, 2021 at 11:26 pm Reply

      🙂
      We have seen only a small portion of this world; so much more to visit, see & experience.

  • Pingback: Silk Road 29: Khiva, Uzbekistan, Oct 2019 - Ali Karim Travelog Asia

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