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Discover Treasures of the Silk Road in Uzbekistan

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

Follow in the footsteps of Marco Polo along ancient trails of the Great Silk Road. Uncover ancient structures, visit traditional tea houses, shop in colourful bazaars and immerse yourself in natural wonders of Uzbekistan as you discover everlasting treasures of this fascinating country.

Discover Bukhara’s historic monuments

One of Uzbekistan’s most ancient cities, Bukhara was a prominent trading point of the Great Silk Road. It was known as a place of learning and the centre of the Islamic Civilisation at the time. Evidence of this can be seen in hundreds of historic monuments, mausoleums and mosques. Most visitors come to Bukhara to see Po-i-Kalyan, a vast complex, home to the Kalyan Mosque and Kalyan Minaret, a symbol of the city dating back almost 9 centuries. The mosque is exquisitely decorated in blue mosaic tiles with eye-catching turquoise coloured domes on each side. Step inside to gain a sense of life during ancient times when travellers would stop in the city to trade. Another highlight is the Ark Fortress, a commanding structure with ochre stone walls which has existed since 5th century AD. Once a seat of rulers and a town in its own right, the ark has been destroyed and rebuilt on several occasions. Today, although no longer a working fortress, it’s home to a splendid mosque, small museum and you can gain incredible views of the city from here. If history and architecture isn’t your thing, don’t discount visiting Bukhara, you can also find bustling back street bazaars, pretty parks, tea rooms and even a gold souk in the city.

Explore Uzbekistan’s vibrant capital, Tashkent

At first glance, you may think Tashkent lacks character, but delve a little deeper and you’ll discover fascinating museums, food bazaars, palaces and theatres. If you decide to travel via Metro, the stations are almost palatial with domed ceilings, colourful glazed tiles and dazzling chandeliers, plus they offer an easy way to get around the city. Get your bearings at Tashkent Television Tower, it’s the most recognisable landmark and can be seen from wherever you are. There’s a revolving restaurant and observation deck from where you can obtain spectacular views and plan your itinerary. You can shop like a local at lively Chorsu Bazaar where friendly vendors let you try the produce before you buy or venture to Hazrat-Imam complex – the religious heart of Tashkent. If you wish to try Uzbek cuisine, head for the Plov Centre and observe as chefs prepare the national dish of pilaf rice, meat and vegetables inside steaming kazans. After dark, mingle with the city’s elite at Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre and take in a spell-binding performance of Puccini or Verdi’s operas. This quarter-century old theatre is elegant, yet understated set among scenic parkland with fountains. A visit is the perfect way to end an exciting day in Tashkent.

Stay in a Traditional Yurt

Imagine you’re travelling along the Great Silk Road to trade silks and spices in Tashkent, Samarkand or Bukhara. You need a place to stay under the stars to break your journey and find a traditional yurt village in the deserts of Uzbekistan. You feast on fragrant wines and delicious Golubtsi (cabbage rolls stuffed with mince and onions) freshly prepared by the Uzbek and Kazakh people, plus there’s entertainment, with traditional music and singing around a campfire. The skies are black, with no light pollution and it’s possible to see the Milky Way from your desert location, and the sunrises – spectacular. You’ll spend your days riding camels, swimming in desert lakes and visiting ancient towns with minarets, mosques, markets and mausoleums. Many of the yurts have their own en-suite facilities and comfortable beds, and although it’s never going to be the Four Seasons, you have a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the country’s culture and travel in the footsteps of great adventurers and traders along the Silk Road.

Take a Break in an Authentic Tea House

Tea Houses are a big part of the history and culture of Uzbekistan. In fact, the country has one of the highest levels of tea consumption in the world. The favourite beverage was a key trading commodity when it was transported along the Great Silk Road, so it became expensive and often hard to come by. You’ll discover throughout your tour of Uzbekistan that different regions prefer different types of tea. In Tashkent they mostly drink black tea, while in outer areas green tea is sipped instead. Tea was a staple of the caravanserais, and today, it’s still tradition only to pour half a bowl at a time so patrons can talk and sip without spilling or burning their fingers. The tea houses are mainly filled with older men, chatting or playing dominos and in many towns it’s the centre of the community. These traditional tea houses are simply decorated with splashes of colour and hand-woven textiles and open into courtyards shaded with trees and vines. They are perfect places to soak up the atmosphere and join with a centuries old tradition.

Feast on Uzbek Cuisine

Due to its prominent location along the ancient Great Silk Road, Uzbek cuisine is an unusual blend of exotic multicultural influences. Grain farming is big in Uzbekistan, so expect to find lots of noodles and delicious breads on menus. Also, mutton is popular and a big part of cooking in this country. The nation’s signature dish is simple, rustic food called Plov, made with pilaf rice, meat, carrot and onion, some with variations of barberries and chickpeas depending on the region and chef. Noodle-based dishes are served as broth or main courses and delicious stuffed vine leaves are handed out as appetisers. Most meals in restaurants are accompanied by wines produced in local vineyards which are mainly of the Cabernet variety. A great place to try Uzbek cuisine is in Golubyye Kupola Restaurant in Tashkent. With opulent Eastern and European décor, the restaurant serves a modern fusion of Asian, European and Uzbek cuisine. In Bukhara, Amulet Restaurant offers traditional Uzbek barbeque and vegetarian dishes in an intimate setting. 

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