A lot of friends ask me why do I go almost every year to Uzbekistan for spending my annual vacations? They know I have been travelling in deserts, mountains and deep seas as a travel writer and Consultant to tourism industry.
Even sometimes like year 2010, I went for Jungle Safari after an international tourism conference in Africa but also visited Samarkand in same year. My answer is simple—-Uzbekistan is the best affordable Destination –providing you all colours and solace a tourist need to find.
Uzbekistan is a country of innocent faces, hospitable people, exotic foods, remarkable archaeological monuments, unending gardens and very rich in history and horticulture. What else you need to find and travel in any country? I strong believe that Uzbekistan is not my Destination rather it should be destination to every tourist who wish to get maximum out of his tourism dollars he or she is spending. There is another aspect I prefer to share with readers and that is beauty of interfaith harmony you experience in Uzbekistan.
Many cultures and religions are living in perfect harmony. I myself love to visit fabulous buildings of churches along with Jewels of Islamic civilisations like Registan. If I start my day to visit Saint Alexy Church in Samarkand than my day is finished by eating out in a local bazaar (market) near Registan. If Tashkent is wonderful example of Soviet era development than Bukhara and Khival are the Old Times of Islamic Civilisations and of course the height of Islamic architect is Samarkand. Let me introduce little of this amazing destination.
Uzbekistan officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is one of the six independent Turkic states. It is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia, formerly part of the Soviet Union. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south.
Once part of the Persian Samanid and later Timurid empires, the region was conquered in the early 16th century by Uzbek nomads, who spoke an Eastern Turkic language. Most of Uzbekistan’s population today belong to the Uzbek ethnic group and speak the Uzbek language, one of the family of Turkic languages.
Uzbekistan was incorporated into the Russian Empire in the 19th century and in 1924 became a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, known as the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic (Uzbek SSR). It has been an independent republic since December 1991. Uzbekistan’s economy relies mainly on commodity production, including cotton, gold, uranium, potassium, natural gas and tourism. Bukhara is the capital of t he Bukhara Province (viloyat) of Uzbekistan.
The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion.
The historic center of Bukhara, which contains numerous mosques and madrassas, has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Bukhara has been one of the main centres of Persian civilization. Its architecture and archaeological sites form one of the pillars of Central Asian history and art. The region of Bukhara was for a long period a part of the Persian Empire. The origin of its inhabitants goes back to the period of Aryan immigration into the region.
According to the Iranian epic poem Shahnameh, the city was founded by King Siavash, son of Shah Kai Kavoos, one of the mythical Iranian kings of the Pishdak (Pishdadian) Dynasty. He said that he wanted to create this town because of its many rivers, its hot lands, and its location on the silk road. As the legend goes, Siavash was accused by his stepmother Sudabeh of seducing her and even attempting to violate her. To test his innocence he underwent trial by fire. After emerging unscathed from amidst the flames, he crossed the Oxus River (now the Amu Darya) into Turan. The king of Samarkand, Afrasiab, wed his daughter, Ferganiza to Siavash, and further granted him a vassal kingdom in the Bukhara oasis. There he built the Ark or Arg (Persian for ‘citadel’) and the surrounding city. Some years later, Siavash was accused of plotting to overthrow his father-in-law and become the king of united Iran and Turan. Afrasiab believed this and ordered Siavash’s execution in front of Farangis, and buried Siavash’s head under the Hay-sellers’ Gate. In retaliation, King Kai Kavoos sent Rostam, the legendary super-hero, to attack Turan. Rostam killed Afrasiab, and took Farangis and Siavash’s son, Kay Khusrau, back to Persia.
Samarkand is the second-largest city in Uzbekistan and the capital of Samarqand Province. The city is most noted for its central position on the Silk Road between China and the West, and for being an Islamic centre for scholarly study. In the 14th century, it became the capital of the empire of Timur (Tamerlane), and is the site of his mausoleum (the Gur-e Amir). The Bibi-Khanym Mosque remains one of the city’s most notable landmarks. The Registan was the ancient centre of the city. In 2001, UNESCO added the city to its World Heritage List as Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures.
Samarkand is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, prospering from its location on the trade route between China and the Mediterranean (Silk Road). At times Samarkand has been one of the greatest cities of Central Asia.
Founded circa 700 BC by the Sogdians, Samarkand has been one of the main centres of Iranian civilization from its early days. It was already the capital of the Sogdian satrapy under the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia when Alexander the Great conquered it in 329 BC. The Greeks referred to Samarkand as Maracanda. Although a Persian-speaking region, it was not united politically with Iran most of the times between the disintegration of the Seleucid Empire and the Arab conquest (except at the time of early Sassanids, such as Shapur I.
In the 6th century it was within the domain of the Turkic kingdom of the Göktürks. Samarkand is the 2nd largest center for economy, science, and culture in Uzbekistan, after Tashkent. The Institute of Archeology at the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Uzbekistan is based at Samarqand. The Province’s UNESCO World Heritage Site architectural monuments are world famous, and make Samarkand the largest center for international tourism in the country. Samarqand Province also has significant natural resources, including construction materials such as marble, granite, limestone, carbonate, and chalk. The Province’s major agricultural activities are cotton and cereal growing, winemaking and sericulture. In terms of industry, metal processing (spare parts for automobiles and combines), food processing, textiles, and ceramics industries are the most active in the area. The province has a well-developed transport infrastructure, with over 400 km of railways and 4100 km of surfaced roads. The telecommunication infrastructure is also well developed.
Tashkent is modern city and capital of Uzbekistan with a texture of an historic city. Tashkent offers high class underground metro, electric busses and normal busses as public transport therefore it can be considered as best city in Central Asia regarding public transport facilities.
Tashkent is called Toshkent in Uzbek language literally “Stone City”. The estimated population of the city in around 3 million. In pre-Islamic and early Islamic times the town and the province were known as “Chach”. The Shahnameh of Ferdowsi also refers to the city as Chach. Later the town came to be known as Chachkand/Chashkand, meaning “Chach City”. The principality of Chach, whose main town had a square citadel built around the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, some 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) south of the Syr Darya River. By the 7th century AD, Chach had over 30 towns and a network of over 50 canals, forming a trade center between the Sogdians and Turkic nomads. The Buddhist monk Xuánzàng who travelled from China to India through Central Asia, mentioned the name of the city as Zheshí.
The modern Turkic name of Tashkent (City of Stone) comes from Kara-Khanid rule in the 10th century. (Tash in Turkic languages means stone. Kand, qand, kent, kad, kath, kud—all meaning a city—are derived from the Persian/Sogdian kanda, meaning a town or a city. They are found in city names like Samarkand, Yarkand, Penjikent, Khujand etc.). After the 16th century, the name was steadily changed slightly from Chachkand/Chashkand to Tashkand, which, as “stone city”, was more meaningful to the new inhabitants than the old name. The modern spelling of Tashkent reflects Russian orthography.
Uzbekistan offers best railways network, reliable international connectivity through its modern airports, state of the art public transport in its capital city of Tashkent, open museums like Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and extremely friendly people. It has everything to offer as the best option as tourism destination.
Afrosiab train has maximum speed of 250 km/h and it covers the 340km distance in two hours. The train leaves Tashkent at 06.55 and arrives in Samarkand at 09.25. The train then departs Samarkand at 16.55 and arrives in Tashkent at 19.33. The train operates on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
This article is written by Agha Iqrar Haroon, Former consultant to ministry of Tourism Government of Pakista. It was first published in year 2012 for Travel Video News Canada