Uzbekistan, a country full of suprises
Many people imagine the word “Uzbekistan” as a very large desert with only sand and a few houses. This is partly true, as more than 75% of the country is covered with a large amount of sand. However, Uzbekistan has much more to offer than just a warm and sandy desert! Uzbekistan is the land of the Old Silk Road, colorful traditions, beautiful nature and extreme hospitality!
Uzbekistan has about 31 million inhabitants, which most of them live in the larger cities of Tashkent, Samarkand and Fergana. Tashkent is the countries main capital. The country is landlocked by its neighbours Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan, which for many years have tried to capture the main trade route; The Silk Road.
A (rich) piece of history
The Old Silk Road ran through Uzbekistan, which was an important network of various trade routes to and from China. In the past, there was a lot of trade in things that radiate wealth. Think par example of porcelain and even gold. Due to this trade, the Old Silk Road has left several traces in Uzbekistan. With wealth, large cities could build different and especially colorful buildings. In Tashkent par example there are several religious buildings inlaid with the famous blue mosaics. Further west you will come across the richest city from the Old Silk Road; Samarkand. In Samarkand is the famous Registan, a gigantic square with great mosaics. Furthermore, incredible mausoleums and mosques have been built here, a place not to be missed. If you decide to go more west, the buildings are less restored and are therefore more authentic. Here are the blue cities of Bukhara and Khiva.
The geographic location of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan has a central location in Central Asia. The extreme west of Uzbekistan, as you probably suspect, consists mainly of desert; the KyzylKum and the Aral Kum desert. Several rare animals live in the Kyzylkum desert. The name Aral Kum comes from the Aral Sea, which was once a large area of salt water. Sadly, the sea has now almost completely dried up to a large warm sand plain with here there still traces from a distant past. Further west are the larger towns of Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, usually located near a source of water.
In the far east of Uzbekistan lies the beautiful nature that the country has to offer; The Fergana Valley. The Fergana Valley is also known as the granary of Central Asia. Thanks to the fertility of the land, you will see several overloaded trucks full of watermelons, especially in summer. A funny sight to see! In addition, you can also do several active sports such as mountain biking, rafting and trekking!
Warm or cold?
If you go to Uzbekistan in the summer, you have to be able to withstand some heat. Here, it can reach up to 40 degrees in the major cities and beyond in summer! Don’t worry though. Almost all buildings and hotels have air conditioning on when it is this hot. They are even in the train station! Unlike in summer, it can get freezing cold in winter. The continental climate is the perfect climate for skiing, where snow falls mainly in the east. And let it be true that Uzbekistan also has some ski areas! Located just above Tashkent, the popular slopes of Chimgan and Beldersay are great for winter sports!
The hospitable Uzbekistan
The people of Uzbekistan are extremely hospitable to their visitors. You are usually welcomed with a smile and get immediately offered tea with sweets. Although they generally speak little English, they always try to have a little chat with you. In Uzbekistan, people speak Uzbek or Russian. Originally, Uzbek people are of Turkish descent. After years of living as nomads, they eventually built their cities in fertile places, spreading across what is now Uzbekistan. The Islam is the most popular religion, but they are not strictly Islamic. For example, women wear beautiful colored robes where the face is not completely covered and men can enjoy a glass of alcohol.
The Uzbek people are (still) traders
Today, the Old Silk Road no longer exists. Since the invention of larger seagoing vessels, it has become more efficient to transport goods by sea. However, that does not change the attitude of the Uzbek people. Walking through the small markets you will notice that haggling is a difficult job. Today there is a New Silk Road, built by the president of China. Through the use of innovative techniques in infrastructure, the New Silk Road runs now in the form of a railway to Europe and beyond. Furthermore, the country runs on income from the agriculture of the fertile Fergana valley, but also exports wine, dried fruits, rice, cotton, leather and of course silk! Unfortunately, the country has suffered from inflation in recent years, as a result, the exchange rate varies regularly. For example; about 10000 SUM is 1 euro, which almost makes you feel like a millionaire when you withdraw money!
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Uzbekistan has become one of the most touristic countries in Central Asia. This is partly due to its easy connections, relatively good roads and accessible public transport, which makes Uzbekistan an accessible country to travel in! The country has 3 different types of tourism; culture tourism, adventure tourism and religious tourism. Cultural tourism is the most popular due to the decorated and mosaic-covered mosques and buildings that are spreaded all over Uzbekistan. Then comes the adventure tourism that you can do in the Fergana valley. Finally, you have the pilgrim tourism, also thanks to the decorated buildings that are associated with Islam, but also Buddhism and Hinduism.