The Ancient Silk Road: Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan: a fascinating and, at the same time, intriguing country, located in Central Asia. You will be enchanted by the multi-coloured historical buildings, bright women’s clothes and scented spices filling the air in the bazaars of each town.
We feel lucky to have traveled on our motorbike and crossed the whole country, from West to East. We started our journey from the hot endless flat steppe, which is characterized by arid desolate landscapes, where we lost easily our gaze in the immensity of the vast blue sky.
We traveled on the ancient Silk Road, historically used by merchants trading oriental spices and silks. The road is bumpy and rough. The 40° degrees make riding even harder; there aren’t trees or shades to have some rest from the hot sun but the enthusiasm to be here, in a place so different from Europe, and the vivid presence of beautiful wildlife – camels, dromedaries, desert fox and sousliks (ground squirrels) – rewards every effort!
The first stop is Khiva (Xiva) the “Museum City”, where all the historical buildings sit inside the walls of “Itchan Kala”. When you adventure inside the citadel, you can immediately feel the great importance that this place had in ancient times; a spot for all the merchants who were going through the Silk Road by wains. Here the travellers could have some rest, protection, refreshment and comfort.
Wandering around the narrow streets of the historical center, it was like going back in history; we got stuck in every corner, taking pictures of the mosques, the madrassa and the gorgeous buildings of this wonderful city. With no doubts, the most spectacular construction is the Madrassa of Mohammad Amir Khan whose minaret, incomplete after his death, had to be the biggest in Khiva and so hight to see even Bukhara, far 400 km.
Proceeding on the Silk Way, we arrived in the hottest Uzbek city: Bukhara (Buxoro), which temperatures in summer can reach 60°. By chance, we arrived during “The Silk and Spices Festival!” The city was buzzing with stands of local products, coming from every corner of Uzbekistan. In every square, children and adults, dressed with traditional clothes, were having a good time by dancing or singing the funny Uzbek songs.
Moving towards the West, the landscape changed and the desolate steppe turned into a place boasting trees, green valleys and gorgeous mountains. This road leads us to the second part of our trip, to Kyrgyzstan.
Our third stop was Samarkand (Samarqand), the “Stone Fortress”, located in the middle of the most important commercial route of Central Asia. For its position, Samarkand was conquered by many ancient civilizations that influenced the architecture and the culture of the city. The great historical buildings, located in different places around town, are bigger and more impressive than the ones discovered in Khiva or Bukhara, even if the typology is very similar. Due to its city parks, tree-lined roads and a lot of pedestrian areas Samarkand is so far the most “tourist-friendly” city.
The “Registan,” an ancient public square surrounded by three beautiful Madrasse, is the main attraction. The oldest one was built by Ulugh Beg Khan where, according to the legend, he taught mathematics, science and astrology. What makes unique this fantastic country are not only the beautiful cities, but also its incredible versatile landscape, the vivid colours, the inebriating perfumes and, most of all, the friendly people!
Like us, you will be fascinated from the different appearance of the locals with eyes more slender, cheekbones more pronounced, skin more dark and those big smiles that you will meet during the whole trip!
If you are planning a trip to Uzbekistan, you should pay attention to some things that you can hardly find, or not find, in this country:
- Every hotel need you to register yourself! You need to have a registration every 3 days which will then be checked by the border police.
- If you are traveling with your own vehicle, plan carefully as it’s not easy to get petrol. Outside the capital, you can buy petrol only in the black market and it is 80 octane. But bear in mind that usually it’s mixed with water or other bad stuff.
- Don’t change or take money (Sum) from the banks because they give you for 1$ for 4000 Sum. In the black market, they will give you 8000 Sum for the same amount.
- The tourist tax can be really expensive. Try to negotiate with locals in the bazaars and ask in advance for prices in every restaurant that doesn’t have a menu.
- It’s difficult to find an ATM in the big cities too, so try to arrive in Uzbekistan with dollars and change there (the dollars should preferably be quite new).