Uzbekistan is a very culturally rich central Asian nation, its traditions evolved due to an amalgamation of Zoroastrian, Turkic and nomadic culture it has always been culturally vibrant as it lies at the centre of the great Silk route. The nation houses large number of important mosques and mausoleums and is fast emerging as one of the important centres for Ziyorat tourism. Uzbekistan is also well known for its cuisine and offers some of the best quality fruits and vegetable in the world. Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva are some of the most popular Uzbek destinations.
Samarkand: Samarkand is the most popular tourist destination of Uzbekistan, such is the splendour of this city that poets and philosophers have used phrases such as ‘the mirror of the world’, ‘the garden of the soul’, ‘pearl of the orient’ to describe it. For more than two thousand years, Samarkand remained the main centre of trade on the Silk route between China and Europe and one of the main centre of science of the medieval East. Samarkand was the capital of the vast empire created by Amir Timur, the Amir was determined to develop it in a way that it would outshine all capitals of the world by its grandeur and beauty. “Samarkand is world famous tourist destination with close to 3000 years of history, it contains close to 1500 historical monuments and the city was included in UNESCO world Heritage site list in 2001, as a ‘Cross roads of Culture’. Amir Timur the great hero of the Uzbeks got several monuments constructed at Samarkand- be it Amer Timur mosque, Kok Saroy, Buston Sarai, Ruxabad, Shakhi Zinda and more” explains Makhmud. M. Akhmedov, Department of Tourism Development, Government of Uzbekistan.
Religious significance of Samarkand: Samarkand has been the main centre of Uzbekistan’s Islamic traditions being home to several historic pilgrimages cites “Samarkand is an important destination for Ziyara tourism – if one has visited the Al Bukhari complex, Shahezada complex, Gulabad complex it means you have made a mini Haj. Cousin of the Prophet Hasan al Abbas is also buried here” adds Akhmedov.
Imam al-Bukhari’s Tomb: sImam al-Bukhari’s Tomb in Samarkand is an important pilgrimage destination for Muslims as Muhammad ibn Ismail ibn Ibrahim Al-Bukhari or Imam Bukhari rests here, the Imam was the compiler of the most authoritative collection of the Hadith (Sayings of the Holy Prophet).
Registan square: Special architectural importance in the city is the Registan square. Registan square today is one of Uzbekistan’s the main attractions thanks to the ensemble of the three madrassahs, each with its own unique design. The square which has existed for over 600 years, includes many buildings that have been preserved in their original form since the 15-th century.
Museum complex of Mirza Ulughbek: Museum complex of Mirza Ulughbek is one the most accurate observatories built during the medieval times it was built by the great statesman, scientist and thinker Mirzo Ulugbek. It was made in the form of a cylinder with 47 meter diameter 41 meter height having a quadrant which is 64 meters long.
Those who are interested in history and have a taste for magnificent architecture should definitely visit Khwarzm region which is the country’s most ancient region. “Khorezm region has some of the most ancient cities of Uzbekistan, it houses more than 250 historical monuments. Khiva which is more than 2700 years old is one of the oldest cities of Uzbekistan, it also is the first Uzbek city to be included on the UNESCO world heritage site list” says Abdulla Khodajaev from Grand Develop LLC, Tourism
& Travel Agency, Khorezm.
Khorezm would be the ideal place to start your Uzbek holiday as it is very well connected “If you want to understand the country and its history it makes sense to start from Uzbekistan’s most ancient past and then proceed towards the cities that were built more recently. Khiva is also the most well connected part of the country offering a plethora of transportation facilities be it buses, rail or air connectivity. Urgench International airport offers flights to Frankfurt, Milan, Rome, Paris, Moscow, St Petersburg and would connect more cities in the near future. It is also well connected to other Uzbek cities like Tashkent, Bukhara, Samarkand. It offers rail connectivity to Russia and Kazakistan.”
Khiva is known for its school of woodcarvings, Khiva woodcarvings are known for retaining the natural texture and feel of the wood and for its minimal use of polishing and dyes. Khiva woodcarvings specialises in decoration of doors, columns, furniture, gates and cornices. Carved doors are a
peculiarity of the old city. Wood carvings in the Juma mosque in the Ichan-Kala fort are especially beautiful.
Khiva boasts of a plethora of minarets (including the 45-metre tall Islam-Hojja Minaret),the Juma Masjid with its splendid carved columns, Pakhlavan-Makhmud’s architectural complex and the Tash-Hauli Palace which was a residence of the Emir.
Uzbekistan offers a great culinary experience something which is well recognized as the country secured first place in National Geographic’s award for Gastronomic tourism for the year 2018.Uzbekistan is also well known for offering abundant high quality pure, natural and organic fruits and vegetables. Khwarazm region offers some of the most delicious melons in the world, Ibn –I – Batuta the famous medieval Moroccan traveler when he visited Khwarazm wrote that he has never eaten such delicious melons anywhere else. Samarkand offers several culinary delights be it the distinctive and nutritious Samarkandi Pilaf or the Samarkandi bread which is world famous. The month of August saw Tashkent host the First International Gastronomic Festival or “Gastro Bazaar” aimed at promoting gastronomic potential of Uzbekistan at the international level.
Fairs and Festivals:
Uzbekistan hosts several fairs and festivals showcasing the best the country has to offer. Bukhara hosts the annual festival of “Nasriddin Afandi” (known to Indians as Mulla Nasiruddin) on April 1. The day is a celebration of humor as it is filled with jokes and fun activities with a focus on the anecdotes of the legendry Mulla Nasiruddin. On the same day the Festival “Oriental dishes” is also organized, where the best of Uzbek cuisine is on offer.
Khiva hosts the annual international festival “Magic of Dance” which is a celebration of the performing arts, it features dance, music, theater from Uzbekistan and around the world. The festival attracts music and dance lovers from across the world.
This year Khiva’s Ichan-Kala fortress played host to the inaugural edition of the international tournament “Game of Heroes” the tournament showcased the feats of strength of athletes from more than 15 countries much to the delight of onlookers.
The tournament is dedicated to Pahlavon Mahmud, the patron saint of Khiva and a national hero to the Uzbeks who is remembered as an unconquerable hero an enlightened poet, philosopher and Sufi.
ZIYORAT TOURISM IN UZBEKISTAN
“Ziyarat” means paying a visit to holy places. The First International Forum on Ziyorat tourism was organized in February 2019 at Bukhara, the forum resulted in the signing of the ‘Bukhara Declaration’ recognizing Uzbekistan as a center of Ziyorat tourism. Uzbekistan ranks among the top ten most attractive countries for travel in the Global Muslim Travel Index (GMTI) rating of 2019.
Apart from Samarkand Bukhara is one of the main centers for Ziyarat tourism as it has several mosques and tombs of revered Muslim saints. The Bukhara region houses 7 graves of the great Sufis of the Nakshbandiya order.
Hazrati Imam Complex in Tashkent preserves one of the most valuable relics of Islam — the Qur’an of Caliph Osman. Whereas Samarkand’s Shahi Zinda necropolis is where the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad – Qutham Ibn Abbas rests.
THE UGAM-CHATKAL NATIONAL PARK
The Ugam-Chatkal National Park is a must visit for nature enthusiasts, situated near the gorges of Chatkal ridge in the Tashkent region it is one of the largest and most well protected zones of Uzbekistan.
The park’s territory remains unblemished by human activities and is designed to preserve the mountain ecosystem. The topographically diverse park includes mountain forests, steppe, alpine meadows and highlands with glaciers and snowfields. The national Park produces fruits in abundance especially walnuts, apples and cherry plum.
Animal population of the park includes Siberian mountain goat, snow leopard, white-clawed bear, badger, wolf, fox, porcupine, wild boar among others. Apart from this about 200 species of birds and 20 fish species populate the Charvak reservoir of the park.
Margilan silk: The Margilan region is famous for its silk called Khan Atlas, the Khan-atlas is described as ‘a reflection of the clouds on a piece of material, so beautiful, that it is able to outshine the beauty of the girl’. The fabric is an integral part of Uzbek culture and has been valuable merchandise throughout history as it was a much sought after commodity being exported to various places through the Great Silk route. The silk had been in demand in several places including Khorasan, Greece, Egypt and Baghdad. Khan-atlas was very valuable as it was given as a gift, was inherited, and even used as means of payment.
Visa Regime: Uzbekistan has a liberal visa regime as it offers free travel for 30 days to citizens of 65 countries, e-visas to Uzbekistan is being extended to 76 countries now; both these facilities are extended to Indian nationals.