Take a trip to Uzbekistan
Conquerors from all over the world have come to invade this Central Asian country. Thus, the armies of Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan or Tamerlan came to conquer this territory with its privileged situation on the silk road which connected China to the West. The influences of the three monotheistic religions and of the shamanism that preceded them are still largely anchored in the traditions. All along your trip, where you will pass through Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara, the Muslim influences are the most visible. Uzbekistan contains architectural treasures that look like palaces from the Arabian Nights, but the landscapes are also a source of wonder with its high mountains of the Chimgan region, its deserts dotted with unexpected oases and the dry Aral Sea that you will come to observe from Nukus, the main enclave of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan. It is best to plan a visit to this part of the country accompanied by a private tour guide of Uzbekistan.
Tour guides in Uzbekistan
Five ideas for guided tours in Uzbekistan
In the south-central part of the country, Bukhara has more than a hundred places of worship listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most of them, including the ancient funerary mausoleum of the Samanids dating back to the 900s, are related to Islam. The entire old city, entirely pedestrian, is made up of small alleys that pass through typical medersas. Abdullah Khan’s medersa is home to artisans’ workshops, colorful covered markets where you can admire sparkling displays of jewelry and fabrics, like the Tak-i-Zargaron bazaar. For the best view of the city, take the glass elevator near the disused water tower and then make time to visit a mythical place: the Ark fortress. About it: excavations have proven that its first foundations date back thousands of years and a museum traces the history of its occupation by different dynasties. In the evening, finish your stroll along the canals with a meal at one of the many restaurants along the water.
Samarkand remains, as it once was, one of the largest economic centers of the country. The bloodthirsty Turko-Mongol conqueror Tamerlane erected his most monumental buildings here in the 14th century. Among them, the immense Registan where three medersas (Koranic schools) were built: Cher-Dor, Tilla Kori and Ulugh Beg where astronomy was taught. Each of them is an architectural jewel and the grandiose Bibi Khanoum, inaugurated in the honor of the conqueror’s wife, is recognized as one of the most majestic mosques in the world. Next door, take a tour of the Siab Bazaar, where you will be immersed in the atmosphere of the trade routes of the past, when the city was the crossroads for the sale of spices, fruits, vegetables from all over the world. For more splendor and a visit full of calm and serenity, go to the mausoleums of Shah-e-Zindeh. Built at the top of the Afrasiah hill, this necropolis is of great wealth and its mosaics and turquoise domes sparkle with beauty. To admire preferably at sunset.
The Ferghana Valley, in the east of Uzbekistan, not far from Kyrgyzstan, is one of the most fertile in Central Asia. Almost all of the fruits and vegetables of the surrounding areas are harvested here and vineyards are planted. In the villages, the inhabitants cultivate them in the form of trellises on the front of the houses. All the sceneries we pass through are a firework display of colors, especially during the flowering season, from the beginning of spring. The two most important cities are Marguilan and Richtan. There are many workshops of silk weavers of clothes, scarves, small carpets or manufacturers of the famous earthenware decorated with a cotton flower.
The capital of Uzbekistan is called Tashkent, you can visit it at the beginning or at the end of your stay. Especially the historical center and its Khazrati Imam mosque, composed of domes and two blue minarets of 54 meters decorated with Khumo birds, emblems of the country. Greatly influenced by the old austere Soviet architecture, it is however in the metro that we will like to discover, each one having a different style, the copy of the stations of the ex-USSR embellished with chandeliers, sculptures and marble ornaments. To buy souvenirs, go to the beautiful and colorful market of Chorsu Bazar and then, just next door, climb a small hill to see the main Koranic school, the Medersa Koukeldach and its Juma prayer place.
The fortress of Nourata
In the shadow of the ruins of the fortress of Alexander the Great, dating from the 4th century BC, the oasis of Nourata welcomes you. Here flows between the houses the sacred river Tchashma, revered by the Shiite Muslim community. Its blue waters where many fish live are reflected on the facades of the mosques Panjvakhta and Tchil Ustun and the mausoleum of Sheik Abdul Khassan Nour. The city, peaceful and pleasant, is gradually becoming a beautiful option for excursions to the Kyzylkoum desert and its red sand dunes stretching north. After 50 kilometers, you can even go for a swim at the Aydarku lake, called by the locals “the turquoise sea in the sands”.