Uzbekistan and the Endless Kyzyl-Kum Desert

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1 Uzbekistan

The Kyzyl-Kum desert stretches between the rivers Amu Darya and Syr Darya and is well-known for its deposits of silver, copper, uranium and gold. Several settlements and cities such as Uchkuduk, Zerayshan and Navoi can be found in the heart of the desert. During spring the sand of the desert is covered with a carpet of tulips, poppies and blossoming shrubs.

Significant places of interest in the desert include the fortresses of ancient Khoresm, the remains of dinosaurs in the Jurakuduk depression and the cultic monuments of Sultan-Uvays and Kaynar. The desert has exposed rock formations with a number of fossils. Rides on Bactrian camels and other activities are offered by numerous yurt camps across the desert. The local population uses the desert as a pasture for sheep, Bactrian camels and dromedaries.

The Aral Sea is situated in Central Asia, between the northern part of Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan. This lake was once the fourth largest in the world, but has been steadily shrinking by about sixty percent. Today the Aral Sea had declined to ten percent of its original size and has been called one of the planet’s worst environmental disasters. As the lake dried up, fisheries collapsed and left fishing trawlers stranded in sandy wastelands.

Uzbekistan has preserved a rich architectural heritage and a visit to this country offers unique experiences. The country borders Kazakhstan and the Aral Sea to the north, Afghanistan to the south, Tajikistan to the southeast, Turkmenistan to the southwest and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast. Uzbekistan has a diverse natural environment and is wealthy in natural resources. Along the course of the Amu Darya and Zarafshon you will find intensely irrigated river valleys. The Uzbek cuisine is influenced by local agriculture.

Bukhara Fortress, City of Bukhara

Bukhara Fortress, City of Bukhara

The country is divided into the regions of Ferghana Valley, Northern Uzbekistan, Samarkand, Southern Uzbekistan and Tashkent. The capital of Uzbekistan is Tashkent and other major cities include Namangan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Andijan and Ferghana. Bukhara is the legendary Silk Road capital and the city is filled with medieval Islamic and Central Asian architecture, such as the Lab-I Hauz, Kosh Madrasa and the Pay-I Kalan.

Shashmagam, Central Asia classical music, arose in Bukhara in the late sixteenth century. The well-known Char-Bakr Complex at Sumitan is outside Bukhara. Namangan is the third largest city in Uzbekistan. The second largest city, Samarkand, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts the famous Registan.

Kyzyl-Kum Tugai and Sand Reserve during spring

Kyzyl-Kum Tugai and Sand Reserve during spring

Approximately forty kilometers from Bukhara is the Jeyran Ecological Center, which is home to around 700 animals. Horses and Koulans are bread in this area. Ensure to visit the Kyzyl-Kum Tugai and Sand Reserve during spring. The reserve is home to almost 190 species of birds, including wild ducks, herons and river terns. Deer, wolves, wild boars, hares, jackals and foxes can be found in this area. Bird watching is popular at the Ugam-Chatkal National Park situated about eighty kilometers from Tashkent. The park is one of the oldest reserves in the country and home to 1,168 species of plants, 44 species of mammals and 230 species of birds.

Khiva, famous for its long history as a slave trading post, is often an overlooked historical site. The city was once an important Great Silk Road site, but currently a quiet oasis that awaits busloads of tourists. The older part of Khiva consists of great examples of Islamic architecture. Ichon-Qala is the old town and boasts several museums.

The City of Khiva

The City of Khiva

The old city walls were destroyed and rebuilt and according to archaeologists the oldest parts date from the fifth and the sixth century. There are four gates. The North Gate is in close proximity to the taxi stand and trolley bus. The East Gate is the exit and entry to the caravanserai. The South Gate is mostly used by the people living inside the Ichon-Qala. One of the noteworthy buildings is the Kutli Murad Inak Medressa that was built in the early 1800s with round towers and glazed tiles.

Uzbek Cuisine

The national dish of Uzbekistan is Palov and it is typically made with meat, carrots, onions and rice. It is customary for men to prepare to prepare the dish at feasts and celebrations. The dish is eaten with the right hand. Other popular dishes include Somsa (stuffed pockets of dough), Dimlama (vegetable and meat stew) and Shurpa (soup made with meat and vegetables.

Influences of Russia, India and China are present in the Uzbek cuisine. Bread is always placed flat side up and never cut with a knife. Round bread is called lepioshka. Noodles and breads are a significant part of the food in Uzbekistan and mutton is the popular meat, due to the abundance of sheep in the country. The elders are usually served first as a sign of respect. Shashlik is prepared with meat only and is often sold at food stands.

Watermelons are a prominent part of the cuisine here and are often served as dessert.

Explore Tashkent – The Capital of Uzbekistan

5 Tashkent_web

Tashkent is situated on the road between Shymkent and Samarkand and on an active tectonic area suffering large amounts of tremors. Some of the main tourist attractions include the Prince Romanov Palace, Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theater, Museum of Applied Arts and the Museum of History of Timurids. Ensure to visit the Chorsu Bazaar. You can buy everything imaginable here, including women’s caftans, lace, music instruments and painted cradles. The bazaar is located near the Kukeldash Madrassa in the center of the old town.

The oldest extant Qur’an in the world is housed at the Telyashayakh Mosque. The Uthman Qur’an dates from 655 and is stained with the blood of the murdered caliph, Uthman. Yunus Khan Mausoleum is one of the monuments dating back to the epoch of the Timurids. The window openings and the frieze with its inscriptions of the Mausoleum of Abubakr Muhammad Kaffal Shashi is remarkable and worth seeing.

The Old Town is home to many adobe houses, ancient mosques and winding streets. Near the Aqua Park and the Tashkent TV Tower you will find a popular amusement park. This is a great place to relax and to spend an afternoon with friends. The Aqua Park in Amir Temur Road offers great fun with its high slides and water chutes. 

6 Aqua Park

Saligokh Street is famous for its street artists, coffee bars and shops. The burgers, local dishes and pizza are selling at reasonable prices. You can find the street from the Amir Temur monument if you head away from the Uzbekistan Hotel.

The Human House, near the Grand Mir Hotel, is a great place to buy handmade crafts and hand painted ceramics and tea sets. There are also souvenir shops in the Intercontinental, Grand Mir, Dedeman Silk Road Tashkent and the Tashkent Palace.

Visa Requirements for Uzbekistan

Before approaching the Consular Section with your application please ensure you have all documents required. The documents are: Two copies of the visa application form duly completed and signed by the applicant and two photographs. Passport must have at least one blank page to affix the visa and be valid for the entire period of the stay in the country. 

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