Uzbekistan: Dreadful food, great people, amazing architecture

Uzbekistan is one of only two* double land-locked countries in the world.  Hands up who knew this? I didn’t until our guide told us. Shame on me. It is surrounded by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan.  It became independent from Russia in 1991. We arrived here in May 2014, entering on the overland truck from Turkmenistan, which is one of the strangest countries I think I’ve been to. I’ve written a bit about it here and here, a longer post will follow, soon. Ancient-mosques-samarkand-uzbekistan We visited the main towns and sights in the two weeks we were here, crossing west to east. These are Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent, finishing our time in the lush (yet conflict-prone) Fergana Valley. Crossing west to east meant we did them in this order, and I’m glad we did. Each town/city offered something new and increased in size and complexity and the Fergana Valley gave us a good indication of the changing landscape we were soon to encounter when we entered Kyrgyzstan. Continue reading

Uzbekistan: Land of the golden smile, and the monobrow

The Uzbeks like their tea sweet. Very sweet. You see hunks of crystallised sugar for sale wherever you go. You see it in huge, tumbling piles in bazaars, or in deep filled boxes in shops.

It seems that by middle age most adults have a set of golden gnashers.  It’s not uncommon to see them on younger people too. I think partly it’s the sugar, but it’s also a status symbol.  When speaking, I found it hard not to be mesmerised by their golden mouth.  When you’re used to seeing white teeth, the gold makes the mouth seem very dark.

Uzbek_Lady_with_Gold_TeethMany of the women in Uzbekistan, particularly in Samarkand, wear wonderful, colourful dresses. Sequins and diamanté are stitched into the pattern, it shimmers in the sunlight, dazzling your eyes. I felt very dowdy and underdressed in my quick-dry t-shirt and walking sandals. Not at all feminine.

Some women sport a fetching monobrow. I asked our guide, Bek, about it. It’s Tajik fashion and apparently it’s drawn on, though on some it looked very authentic.

I even saw one on a two year old girl. I’m assuming it was drawn on…but you never know!