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Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is a nation that will delight the heart of any adventurous traveller with its teeming bazaars and spectacular architecture. This nation boasts some of the finest architectural jewels among the Silk Road countries, featuring intricate Islamic tile work, turquoise domes, minarets and preserved relics from the time when Central Asia was a centre of empire and learning. Macedonians, Russians, Turks and Arabs have all left their indelible marks throughout the country with countless dazzling monuments to power, strength, wealth and piety.

The capital, Tashkent, is Central Asia’s hub and bubbles over with eccentricity and effervescence. The city whose name means “stone fortress” is a sprawling arrangement of tree-lined boulevards, pretty parks and funky architecture. The Amir Timur Maydoni is a leafy square where you can sit back and watch the world go by. Sayilgoh Street, locally referred to as Broadway is dotted with restaurants and vendors and is a lively spot both day and night. The Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre nearby is an architectural wonder with its six foyers decorated in different regional styles and plays host to famous musicians and conductors performing anything from Swan Lake to ancient Uzbek folk tales. Tashkent also has a number of fascinating museums including The Fine Arts Museum and The History Museum.

Uzbekistan despite a checkered history remains an optimistic nation with good spirited people who allow you to revel in this inspiring and varied nation.

Samarkand is synonymous with the Silk Road, and with its beautiful domes, larger than life monuments of Timur, technicolour bazaars and its rich history. You cannot fail to be seduced. The Registan meaning “place of sand” is architectural poetry on an epic scale and was described by the English statesman Lord Curzon as “the noblest public square in the world”. Constructed over 250 years ago this monument has been a site for executions, a boisterous meeting point for merchants and a social arena par excellence. The Bibi Khanum Mosque commemorates Timur’s wife and is interesting in that an abundance of different types of tiles were used in its construction. The Guy Emir is a mausoleum and was built for Timur’s grandson. Meaning “tomb for king” it has a unique and important place in Islamic architecture as the precursor and model for the great Mughal tombs including the Taj Mahal.

Bukhara, like Samarkand provides the visitor with great sightseeing opportunities within a compact area. This city was once the centre of a powerful khanate and you can still see many of the buildings where the emirs and nobles lived, ruled, worshiped and were buried. The main fortress, the Ark, is an imposing monument and the square in front of it was once the site of an infamous slave market. The Bolo Hauz Mosque reflects the magical beauty of Bukhara and symbolises the mystery and romance that encapsulates this special city. For a nation that has seen its fair share of cruelty, the zindan (ancient jail) is an interesting albeit macabre place to visit.

Five hundred miles across the desert from Tashkent, lies Khiva, a well preserved and fascinating city whose mosques, madrassas, caravanserais and palaces of former Khorezm Lords render a lasting impression. Younger and better preserved than either Samarkand or Bukhara, the city has remained unchanged since the 18th century making it possible to imagine what it was like in its prime when it was a market for captured Russian and Persian slaves. The climbing of any of the minarets is a must at sunset or sunrise where the views and colours are incredible. The Khodja Minaret is Khiva’s highest where you climb 188 steps for the fine views of Karanum Desert’s red sand. The madrassa holds Khiva’s best museum of Khoresm handicrafts through the ages including fine wood carving, Uzbek carpets, stone carved with Arabic script and jewellery. Uzbekistan despite a checkered history remains an optimistic nation with good spirited people who allow you to revel in this inspiring and varied nation.