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Tuesday, 01 May 2018

A Tête-à-tête with the Uzbek: Traveling Uzbekistan

Written by Prachi Kagzi
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When I requested a fellow passenger to take my picture on the aerobridge, another passenger popped thru the phone screen exclaiming "At least ensure you can read Kazakhstan Airways" only to get a fitting reply by the photographer in question "It's Uzbekistan not Kazakhstan!" Such is the knowledge of Indians traveling to the mystical land of the Uzbeks, and I was thrilled to be on the flight after contemplating for many years!

The aircraft was much beyond my expectation, new, modern and up to date although the airline staff does require a real world training of 'service with a smile.' The short flight from Delhi got me into Tashkent in the afternoon and after a quick lunch I was ready to explore the city.

My first impressions were the quietness, cleanliness and the orderliness. With a small population of 2 million the city lends a feeling of usual tardiness. I went to Broadway square to spend the evening where local artists and musicians were luring us tourists. Many have caricatures drawn and buy local art, while some stroll around shopping.

I stumbled upon a high end boutique - Komo Design - and got chatting with the owner Severa, an Uzbeki woman in her late twenties. Her modern designs gave a twist to the traditional Ikat fabric. She explained that Uzbek weavers did most of the ikat weaving on cotton wefts called adras, while Tajik weavers wove most of the silk ikats. She liked the challenge of being a young working woman in the city and would like the new age Uzbek woman to break the myth that being a mother is the most important for women! To complement the happiness of my new silk Ikat dress tucked under my arm, I tasted some macaroons (sold in a plastic bag!) and headed for dinner to the fairly well known Zarafshon. Over kebabs, Uzbek Vodka and belly dancing (which was bollywoodized for Indians!) I got a warm welcome to this land otherwise known for their barbarian warriors.

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Curio Stall in Broadway Square

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Macaroons in a plastic bag!

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Belly dancers gyrating to Bollywood


The next morning we left for the classic city tour sprinkled with mosques, war memorials and mausoleums. During lunch at a traditional Plov house I met Akmal, a father of two in his late thirties. Over lunch he told me about his childhood in the early nineties and how school year switching from Soviet to Independent Uzbekistan meant freedom for them. He fondly remembers the new uniform (individual to his school) whereas during Soviet rule all schools in USSR had the same uniform with the red tie! During plates of Samsa and Manti he spoke of the hooliganism that broke out on the streets, how although his grandparents reminisced about the soviet rule, they were pleased with no more Lenin pictures splattered everywhere. He is the hopeful breed of Uzbekis having faith in sunrise industries such as private education, tourism and the rising real estate and concluded by saying "We are not fast, but we are developing." We washed down our lunch with cups of tea which is served at every traditional restaurant as a gesture of hospitality and bid our adieus.

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Tashkent Sights

 

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Last modified on Tuesday, 01 May 2018
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