Uzbekistan is a wonderful place to visit in Central Asia. In terms of historical sites, this is by far the richest country in the entire region. This country holds a very important place in the emblematic Silk Road, a trade route that used to link East and West, because it lies at the heart of it. Uzbekistan is bordered by Afghanistan to the south, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Kazakhstan to the north, Kyrgyzstan to the northeast and Tajikistan to the southeast.
Uzbekistan has a lot to offer the potential visitor – the ancient Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva with their outstanding architecture and bustling bazaars; a world-class collection of prohibited Soviet-era art in Nukus; the bleak desolation of the abandoned fishing fleet of Moynaq, left high and dry by the disappearance of the Aral Sea; crumbling forts in the deserts of Karkalpakstan in the far west; the towns of the Ferghana Valley, where traditional crafts such as silk production and pottery making are still practised; and skiing and snowboarding in the mountain resort of Chimgan. The Uzbek people are hospitable, with guests plied with ample helpings of pilaw (a rice, carrot and meat dish), shashlyk (grilled meat on skewers), salads, green tea and fruits.
The Ferghana Valley, surrounded by the Tien Shan and Pamir mountains, still produces silk and is well worth visiting for its friendly bazaars and landscape of cotton fields, mulberry trees and fruit orchards. Uzbekistan’s mountain ranges attract hikers, cyclists and backcountry skiers, while experienced mountaineers come to climb some of the world’s highest peaks.
One of the oldest cities in Uzbekistan and the world is Samarkand, established during the middle of the 1st Century BC. The numerous monuments of Samarkand and its suburbs impress tourists with their beauty and splendour. The refined architectural shapes, intricate ornamentation, mosaics, blue-tile domes and facades are interesting for all who visit these beautiful buildings.
The city of Bukhara in Uzbekistan dates back to the 8th Century when it was for 200 years the centre of an expanding Islamic kingdom and prospered as a trade and intellectual centre for Central Asia. Khiva is known as an open-air museum city. It has existed as a town for about 900 years, but developed into the city seen today only in the 19th Century. Important spiritual and cultural values came from the large scientific centres of astronomy, mathematics, and medicine that existed in this area centuries ago.
Although Tashkent was probably first settled around the 1st Century BC, it does not have the special attractions of Samarkand and Bukhara. Most of it was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1966, and was rebuilt as a modern city. Tashkent is a very Soviet city that has little remaining from its ancient Central Asian and Silk Road past. The city has a mixture of modern new office buildings, hotels, parks and crumbling Soviet-style apartment blocks.