No:51 – Uzbekistan – One of only 2 double-land-locked countries …

About the Blog …

The blog is based on my visit to Uzbekistan, as a part of my 2023 Silk Road Tour. Had to exit-enter Uzbekistan multiple times, as I explored Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as well, using Uzbekistan as a base.

Type of vacation …

Solo tour with different driver(s) and guide(s), exploring Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva regions, all of them a key part of the historic Silk Road.

Country Counter: Countries/territories I have visited so far …

Travel TipsTips based on my travels so far …

What I liked best …

(1) Islamic Architecture, at its best!

(2) Plov & Samsa 🙂

What I did not like …

Nothing. I loved the visit!

Location in the World map …


Some interesting tidbits about Uzbekistan …

  • Another republic of erstwhile USSR.
  • A key part of the “Silk Road”, the trade route between China and the Mediterranean region.
  • Population of around 34M.
  • GDP-wise, the largest of the “Stans” (80B$).
  • 1 INR is around 139 Uzbekistan Som.
  • Unlike Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, Uzbeks do not speak Russian that much (They speak Uzbek).
  • 89%+ are Muslims.
  • Uzbekistan is one of only 2 Double-Land-Locked countries in the World: Other one is Liechtenstein (Europe). Double-Land-Locked: A country is double-land-locked when it is surrounded only by land-locked countries.
  • Uzbekistan borders Kazakhstan (North), Kyrgyzstan (North East), Tajikistan (South East), Afghanistan (South) and Turkmenistan (South West).
  • Timur (Taimur): Amir Timur: 1336-1405. Timur is a descendant of Genghis Khan. He was the conqueror and then dictator of the land mass that now includes the Stans, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, and parts of China, India, and Russia. He was the conqueror who founded the Timurid Empire in and around Central Asia, becoming the first ruler of the Timurid dynasty. As an undefeated commander, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest military leaders and tacticians in history. He is considered as the Father of Uzbekistan. The Registan, during Timur’s time, was the site for royal proclamations, executions, parades Etc. The monuments around the square were actually built after his death. Timur made Samarkand his capital and he embarked on a military conquest which is estimated to have wiped out 5+% of World’s population. He returned from his expeditions with architectural inspiration which ultimately led to many of the architectural wonders seen in Uzbekistan. He is believed to have killed more than 15 million people! Though he is popular in Uzbekistan, he is not very popular in the places he had conquered, obviously.
  • Uzbekistan is a major producer and exporter of Cotton.
  • With the huge power-generation facilities from the Soviet era and a big supply of natural gas, Uzbekistan is the largest electricity producer in Central Asia.
  • Islam Karimov, ruler of Uzbekistan since its independence, died on 2 September 2016. He was replaced by his long-time Prime Minister, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, on 14 December of the same year. Islam Karimov declared Uzbekistan an independent nation on 31 August 1991 and won its first presidential election on 29 December 1991, with 85+% of the vote. He died on 2 September 2016, after being president of the country for over 25 years
  • Uzbekistan’s known history goes back 2200 years. It has been conquered many times, including devastation by Genghis Khan in 1219. Uzbekistan became part of the trade on the Silk Road, and in 1865 it fell to the Russian Empire. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the USSR and one of the centers for Science and Technology.
  • On April 26, 1966, Tashkent was hit by a 5.1 magnitude earthquake and the seismic activity was very deep. The epicenter was in the central Tashkent area and destroyed 80+% of the city. The Monument of Courage Earthquake Memorial was built in 1976 (the 10th anniversary of the quake) by the Soviets in their typical style.
  • Timur was the grandfather of Ulugh Beg, who ruled Central Asia from 1411 to 1449, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur (1483–1530), founder of the Mughal Empire, which then ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent.
  • More details on Timur: Timur was born in Shahrisabz in 1836. He start as a young man who stole sheep. He got shot in the leg with an arrow, which led to a limp he lived with for the rest of his life, and hence his nickname “Timur the Lame” or “Tamerlane”. Timur wanted to connect the trade routes of the Silk Road. He consolidated his power first in the area that is currently the Stans, then added Persia/Iran, the Russia, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. At the end of his conquests, his kingdom stretched from Turkey to Kazakhstan, and from present-day Moscow to Delhi. He tactics were a brilliant (and brutal). Timur’s architectural style influenced the Russian architecture and India’s Taj Mahal. Timur had created a different version of chess that has 8 extra pieces. He died of a fever in Kazakhstan on his way to invade China in 1405. He is buried in Samarkand, about 50 miles from Shahrisabz. In 1941 his tomb was opened by Russian scientists and his body was examined. They did find evidence of an arrow injury in one of his legs. Central Asia reveres Timur, but Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia do not like him.


My Experiences

The Uzbekistan Airways plane which took me from Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) to Tashkent (Uzbekistan).
Bye bye to Kyrgyzstan … 🙂
Uzbekistan Airways
Hello Uzbekistan! Tashkent …
“Westminster University”, Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Looks cheap 🙂
Hekmet, my driver in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, recommended that I try Uzbek Pilaf/Plov at Nomdor. Since it was approaching my dinner time, it made sense to me. Checked in at the hotel, left my bag(s), hit an ATM, and ran to Nomdor. The steady stream of local customers gave me an idea that I was on to something. The dude at the counter spoke English and I ordered one Beef Pilaf and 2 Chicken Samsa. You have to take the receipt and collect the food from the Pilaf and Samsa counters. The sight and smell of the huge Pilaf wok, the guy pulling out the well-cooked meat off the bones, the guy packing the Pilaf rice and the shredded meat, the dudes rolling up the Samsa, the Samsa oven Etc. made my mouth water. I collected the food and sprinted back to the hotel (Think I broke some speed records 🙂 ), searched for beer on the way but had to settle for sparkling water, took a quick shower and then dug in. THE best meal I have had in this trip so far. Then I had to lie down like an “Anaconda which just swallowed a goat” for some time 🙂
The huge woks in which the Plov is cooked …
Uzbekistan Som … 1 INR is roughly 139 UZS.
Hotel Uzbekistan. It is rumored that during peak Soviet period, every room in this hotel was bugged.
During a walk through residential area of old city. Most of the houses have been refurbished/remodeled.
During a walk through residential area of old city. Most of the houses have been refurbished/remodeled.
Was allowed to peek into the courtyard of one such house. These old houses had inside-facing windows. The two reasons for this: (1) Provide coolness during Summer and heat during Winter. (2) Privacy for ladies, without their burkhas. The streets were narrow. In these families, youngest son always stay with the parents.
Khast Imam Complex, Tashkent.He was a locksmith. Poet. Doctor. Imam. I.e. All-Rounder. Hence a Mousleum was built over his tomb. Translated Quran from Arabic, which locals did not know. Opened Islamic center.
His tomb is the one in the red carpet area. It was raining a bit outside and I had to use my pullover’s hood to try and keep my hair dry.
Ahh … Souvenirs. My bag was getting heavier!
Loved these “Coffee Paintings”. Bought a few.
Look at the fantastic Islamic Architecture. Islamic Center, Tashkent.
Some religious event was going on and some speakers were trying to motivate youngsters w.r.t Islam.
Quran Museum: The 6th century original Quran. Iran, Iraq, Medina Etc. also has it. Timurlane brought it from Iraq. The Museum has gifted Qurans from all over the World, in various lanuages. Miniature Qurans, with magnifiying glass attachments, which were used as amulets. Quran versions from 9th,15th, 17th Centuries. Quran, with “notes” on the side, beyond the margin. No photos allowed inside. We have to remove shoes tongo inside. The original Quran is inside a glass structure. This Quran is a massive one, written on deer skin. The Arabic font that was used is now outdated.
Bread making … Chorsu Bazaar.
Unique bread in Chorsu Bazaar. Like plates and bowls. Used to serve side dishes.
Chorsu Bazaar. I saw White Carrot for 1st time. White Carrot is ssed in Tash lkent Plov. Plov grains. Bakery, with bread and other baked goods. Spices. Fruits. Vegetables. Sausages. Korean Kimchi stalls. Rice. Green leafs. Clothes. Sweets. Oil, including Cotton Oil. Honey. We can taste the wares. Bought Nuts Halva samples. Chorsu means 4 roads. There are 4 roads leading to Chorsu Bazaar.
Amir Timur is revered in these parts, but obviously despised in the other regions he had attacked and plundered. At its peak, his empire had stretched from Central Asia, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Pakistan, portions of Russia, China and India. When young, he got hit by an arrow and had a limp ever since. Going by this statue (in Tashkent, Uzbekistan), he looked ripped. Other personalities, Stalin, Lenin, Ghengis, Napoleon, Tipu, Akbar Etc. were all normal looking (or even potbellied 🙂 ). Timur’s capital was Samarkand in Uzbekistan and hence he is a “Hero” here. He is a descendent of the great Ghengis Khan and an ancestor of Babur (Mughal Empire).
Tashkent Metro: There are 3 lines. Soviet style. The 3rd line was completed in 2001 on 10th anniversary of UZB Independence. We got in at Chorsu station. Slightly tacky and crowded metro. Older trains as well.
The Amir Timur station. Dedicated to Soviet Astronauts, like Yuri Gagarin.
A 150yr old Oak tree at Museum of Applied Arts, Tashkent.
Nice embroidered Wall Hangings. Made using a complex process involving staged dye applications.
Skull caps … Colorful.
Unique Burkha from this region … Museum of Applied Arts. Till 1927-41 period, ladies had to use the Uzbek burkha. It is a weird one, looking as if a Yurt is put kn your head. Took photo of a green one. This burkha was like the passport and gave details of the lady. E.g. Color and style told age, financial status, marital status, number of children Etc.
Ceramics! Aren’t they pretty. The museum is actually a 17th Century house originally used by a Russian diplomat who liked Islamic style. He remodeled the house. The Russian diplomat lived with his family till 1906. It was then gifted to Tashkent. Austrian POWs were kept here during WWII. Remodeled again in 1960s.
“Refrigerator”: This huge pot was kept buried till the bare portion was not visible from above.
An Uzbek painting. Museum of Applied Arts, Tashkent.
Complex Carpet. Museum of Applied Arts, Tashkent.
Wood Carving. Note the multiple layers.
Dowry Chest, which was used as furniture later on.
Lunch with Hekmet. Bread, Salad, Yogurt Etc.
Besh Qozon is very popular for Uzbek Pilaf, Tashkent style (Each region has its own special Pilaf). The huge restaurant was crowded. The biggest wok was already empty, sold out, when we reached. Also, I was not hungry as I had just gobbled up some kebabs at an eatery earlier. But we shared a plate of Pilaf just for the taste. They were cutting up the meat, adding rice, steaming vegetables, adding Sheep (tail) fat Etc.
Tashkent TV Tower. 1985. Was 4th tallest tower from 1985-1991. Now it is 11th tallest.
Entrance to the Minar Mosque … Isn’t it magnificent? Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Minar Mosque, Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Tashkent Train Station. No English signs anywhere. Had to manage with sign language, Google Translate et al.
High-speed train from Tashkent to Samarkand, Uzbekistan.


High-speed train from Tashkent to Samarkand, Uzbekistan. 300+ kilometers in 2hr. Not as high speed as Japan, China, Europe Etc. 🙂
They gave a small snack pack. Jam croissant, muffin Etc.
More Uzbek Som …
Several ladies, all decked up in Uzbek dresses, were having their photos taken in Registan.
Valentina gave me a detailed tour of various Samarkand Souvenirs. This is a mold for one of them.
Isn’t that pretty … Almost all of these structures have been heavily restored and refurbished.
Mulberry tree … Valentina explaining the leaves and their properties.
Valentina peeling off the boiled Mulberry stems.
A dress made from Mulberry paper! Can be washed 10 times, it seems.
Shakhi Zinda Necropolis … Very colorful complex.
The elaborate Islamic Art inside the Tombs at Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, Samarkand.
The elaborate Islamic Art inside the Tombs at Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, Samarkand.
The elaborate Islamic Art inside the Tombs at Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, Samarkand.
One of the structures inside Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, Samarkand.
Samarkand Railway Station. Looked way more impressive than the Tashkent one … But still, no platform number on the charts and one has to go OldSchool and chase staff to get the info …
Liked the symbol of Samarkand … At Railway Station.
Inside Samarkand Railway Station, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.


Inside of the Golden Mosque, Registan, Samarkand, Uzbekistan.
Souvenirs! Souvenirs! Souvenirs!
Souvenirs! Souvenirs! Souvenirs!
Konigil Village Mulberry Center, Samarkand, Uzbekistan: The complex has several streams (from rivers) that have been flowing for 1000+km, originally from Tajikistan. There were waterwheels all around. Mulberry barks are kept dipped in water and boiled. It then peels off easily. It is a very strong material. Not possible to tear. I tried. It is also a Termite-killer. The liquid, from boiled stems can be sprayed on trees and it protects them from Termites. They have an ancient waterwheel-based crusher. It becomes a clay-like material after the crushing. Valentina showed the whole process. Finally we get termite-resistant paper. Bought 69$ worth items from their Souvenir shop. The several natural fast-flowing streams had their own waterwheels.
The colorful Tombs of Shakhi Zinda Necropolis, Samarkand, Uzbekistan. From the 14th-15th centuries. Quthum Ibn Al-Abbas, a cousin of Prophet Mohammed, who brought Islam to this region, is believed to be buried in this complex.
“Registan”, the central square of the Timurid Empire’s capital, Samarkand (Uzbekistan). It is considered a landmark of Islamic Architecture and is THE primary tourist attraction of Uzbekistan. When I woke up in the morning and noticed the cloudy conditions, I feared “Here comes the weather that pestered me at Great Wall (China), Petra (Jordan), Christ the Redeemer (Brazil), Machu Picchu (Peru) Etc.”. Luckily the weather improved and I had a day (Sunny & Bright) similar to the one I had at Taj Mahal (India) 🙂 There were a lot of tourists, even though it is not yet peak season. It is crystal clear that Uzbekistan is “Next Level” as a tourist destination, when compared to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan! Each of the 3 Madrasas are unique and has its own specific characteristics. There are souvenir shops galore, within the Madrasas. If this trend continues, Uzbekistan will definitely displace Oman in my Top-5.
Old City, Bukhara, has many such narrow streets. Keep in mind that Bukhara is 2500 years old, as per UNESCO.
This statue of Hodja Nasreddin, a fictional character, is popular with tourists. Bukhara, Uzbekistan. I wonder if this is the character we see in Tinkle comics.
Nodir Devonbegi Madrasah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Kalon Mosque and Minaret Complex. IMHO, the best attraction in Bukhara, especially in the night, with lightings. The minaret were used for executions, it seems (People were pushed from the top). The minaret was built in 12th Century, using baked bricks and is around 45m tall. When Genghis Khan invaded these parts, he spared this magnificent Minaret.
Kalon Mosque, next to Kalon Minaret. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Snap of Kalon Complex through an arch. It was not easy to avoid capturing the tourists in this photo … 🙂 Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Kalon Mosque and Minaret Complex. IMHO, the best attraction in Bukhara, especially in the night, with lightings. The minaret were used for executions, it seems (People were pushed from the top). The minaret was built in 12th Century, using baked bricks and is around 45m tall. When Genghis Khan invaded these parts, he spared this magnificent Minaret.
Coronation Hall in Ark Citadel, Bukhara. An elaborate ceremony used to be conducted. There has been a Citadel here from 4th Century. Read up on the fate of the 2 British soldiers in the 1800s, when they allegedly disrespected the ruler …
Bukhara Tower. Designed by a Russian Architect. I did not go up, as this “Tower” did not appear much taller than Ark-Citadel.
Bolo Khauz Mosque. Wooden one … Very unique and beautiful. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Ismail Samani Mausoleum: Built in 10th Century. One of the oldest buildings in Central Asia.
Ark-Citadel. A lot of repairs have been done to it. There were many bicycles and 3-wheelers around for rent. Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Chor Minor (“4 Pillars”) Madrasa. Bukhara, Uzbekistan. This gate is all that remains of the huge Madrasa. Note the different artwork on each of the 4 domes.
Bukhara Plov … I am hooked to Uzbek Plov. Each region of Uzbekistan has its own way of preparing the Plov.
Mahsuma, my guide in Bukhara, Uzbekistan: Since it was a Walking Tour through Old Bukhara, there was no driver involved. Mahsuma, born in Tashkent, has lived in Bukhara ever since she came here for her education. Note that at one point, Bukhara had most scholars after Baghdad, in this part of the World. She is around 60 years old and walks with a bit of difficulty. I wondered if being a Walking Tour guide is the best for her. She has Central Asian Nomads in her ancestory and some Turkish elements as well. Her Husband, who unfortunately passed away due to Heart Attack in 2020 (during COVID) was a professor from Bukhara. Her family lives together (Elder Son (38yr) and family and younger Son (27yr) and family). Her elder son developed a kidney ailment and needed a kidney transplant from her younger son, in Sep 2022. And the procedure was done in New Delhi. They had a choice between Turkey and India and chose India as her elder Son has a lot of respect for Indian Doctors. She and her sons stayed in Gurgaon for 3+ months. They had a very good experience in India and got to see the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort Etc. Her elder Son is a History Professor and he had contacts with some folks in India, which made the whole ordeal easier. Younger Son works in the local museum. She is an Archeologist by profession and still teaches in University (By the by, there are a lot of Indian Medical students in Bukhara also). She is one of those rare Uzbeks who got to visit the mysterious Turkmenistan! She did it during the Soviet times, though, as part of her Archeological work. I was amazed that she had the energy to complete the extensive Walking Tour. I invited her to lunch and this photo was taken at the restaurant.
Not sure what this building is 🙂 It was unmarked. But liked it … Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
The charming Bed & Breakfast I had stayed in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The owner and her family lives dowstairs. They has expanded the structure to include 6 guest rooms. All decorated in charming local style. No fancy bathtubs, no fancy swimming pools … Just a Mom and her Sons running the place 🙂 And the biggest advantage is the location. Smack in the middle of Old Town Bukhara, among the narrow streets 👌



Reached Cafe Zaraf Shon at 17:30 for my 18:00 Masterclass for “Tukhumbarak” (A local Khiva dish made from Flour, Egg Etc.). The “Master” lady asked if I wanted to join in. I politely declined saying that cooking is nowhere close to my varied interests 🙂 Later on I tried to eat up all the Tukhumbarak she made. Could not do it as I was all Egg-ed out 🙂 The Interpreter (The Cook did not speak English) was a “Tourism” student at the local University and when he graduates next year, he plans to open his own Hotel inside the magnificent Ichan Kala Fortress. He lives with his family inside the fortress. Note that around 3000 people permanently live inside Ichan Kala.
Uzbekistan “Cultural Show”, Bukhara: The show consisted of Singing, Dancing, Modelling Etc. in traditional dresses. After a while, it got a bit boring for me (Though I could notice that tourist ladies among the audience were all excited and clicking away on their cameras and phones). Especially the modelling part. Looked like we were “Captive bhakras for Marketing” 🙂 Towards the end, there was the usual “Audience can join in” part where some of tourists got to showcase their “Nothing embarrasses me” skills 🙂


Bukhara @2AM, Uzbekistan: Did a walk around Old Town Bukhara, to get an understanding of the lightings used. It was 99.9% deserted (a handful of late-nighters here and there), compared to the throngs of tourists during the day. Was a tad nervous about getting mugged, but the presence of regular manned “Tourist Police” booths gave me confidence. Of course, the spectacularly-lighted Poi Kalan Mosque Complex was the highlight. By the by, other than a paper napkin, I saw zero plastic/garbage. Considering the sheer number of tourists during the day, that is just amazing. Kudos to responsible tourists (✋😎) and the City staff 👏


Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: This wide Minarat was supposed to be over 100 meters tall. For reasons which are not fully clear (There are many legends regarding it), the construction stalled. It is around 26 meters high and was used for executions (By pushing people off from the top).
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Long wooden pillars.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: I love this basic Architectural style.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Hope you note my “Trick Photography”
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Colorful chess pieces.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Bread stamps. This is a major souvenir item in Uzbekistan. Breads here have symbols stamped on it, before they are baked in Tandoors/Ovens.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Bread stamps. This is a major souvenir item in Uzbekistan. Breads here have symbols stamped on it, before they are baked in Tandoors/Ovens.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Juma Masjid, for Friday prayers. Filled with pillars.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: This particular pillar in Juma Masjid is from 10th Century.
My guide for Khiva, Saida: She is from nearby Urgench. She was born and brought up there. Her family lives in Urgench. She appeared quite old and was struggling a bit to walk. I wonder why senior ladies are picking “Walking Tours” as their line of work. Isnt that a bigger strain on their body? Keep in mind that almost all these sights have stairs involved. She seemed very scared of the Sun. She came wearing a mask, to protect her lower face from the Sun. She was the 1st genuinely enthusiastic person I have seen in Central Asia, regarding her picture being taken 🙂 She is a very nice and pleasant old lady. The slight problem was that it was a “Stories overload” from her. She stood at once place, in the shade, and blabbered on and on about this person and that person. Initially, I was attentive (atleast, acting attentive). But soon, I lost my patience because she kept saying random stories about random people and regularly kept asking: “You know, right?”. Initially, I just nodded, whether I have heard of the person or not. After reaching the outer limits of my patience, I moved to saying “I do not know”. I think I got the trick! Since she cannot walk far, why not stand at one place (in the shade) and bore me to death with random stories and dates, so that I lose all mental energy and can not and do not want to move anywhere? Diabolical 🙂 Normally, I feel I adjust to bores pretty well, but here I had no choice. So, I took a deep breath and told her, “Dear Saida, You are a very nice and pleasant lady. I immensely appreciate you taking me around. I will be in Khiva once, in my life. I do not want to stand in one place and hear stories after stories that I can read on Internet any time I want. So instead, why dont you tell me short summary stories while we walk around. I want to explore Ichan Kala!” I must say she took the request very well and the rest of the tour was exactly as I wanted it 🙂
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: For the ruler to meet his visitors.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Traditional Uzbek dresses.
Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan: Some of the historical buildings had colorful interiors.
This statue was very popular. It was very tough to get it free for a picture and I was not even looking to pose myself 🙂
A corner view of the fantastic Ichan Kala, Khiva, Uzbekistan.
Urgench International Airport, Urgench, Uzbekistan. It was an adventurous midnight flight to Tashkent. For some reason my previously (more than 1 month back!) confirmed flight ticket was cancelled and the amount refunded. And when do I find it out? At the CheckIn counter!
Inside Tashkent International Airport …
US Dollars! In Tashkent International Airport … Uzbekistan. Still waiting for that “Move away from US Dollars” event promised by other “Super Powers”.
Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan. Seems to be a busy airport, for a small airport. Flights to Istanbul, Moscow, Sochi, Vladivostok, New York, Baku, Dubai, Tbilisi Etc. All were Uzbekistan Airways flights.




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