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Location - Central Asia; Capital - Tashkent; Population - 32 million; Currency - Som MORE UZBEKISTAN

An overnight flight to Tashkent with Uzbekistan Airways (flight was fine but zero legspace!) was the start of just over three weeks in Central Asia. And I'd certainly recommend a visit to this country, which has recently relaxed its entry requirements and improved its frosty and bureacratic reputation among foreign visitors - September 2018.


uzbeknote1There used to be a huge black market for the Som, but it vanished in 2017 after the official rate was placed above the black market rate











uzbek3The Tashkent metro stations are pretty fancy, this one being Kosmonavtlar (aka Cosmonaut). Photography was banned until 2018, possibly because the network can double as a nuclear shelter - Tashkent


uzbek5Among others there's a mural of Yuri Gagarin at Kosmonavtlar, the first man to travel to outer space - Tashkent




uzbek12But not everything's futuristic in Tashkent

















uzbek13Walking through the water park with the TV Tower behind - Tashkent

















uzbek15A 10 minute walk from Bodomzor station is the Minor Mosque, built in 2014 - Tashkent


uzbek16Uzbek women leaving the Minor Mosque - Tashkent




uzbek17Follow the river south from the mosque and you'll come across Cafe Olympia, which has a great setting in a park, settled among the trees - Tashkent

















uzbek19 Near the cafe is the Monument of Courage - Tashkent

















uzbek22The Crying Mother Monument is dedicated to the 400,000 Uzbek soldiers who died in World War II - Tashkent


uzbek21Next to the monument are several prayer wheels, usually associated with Buddhism - Tashkent




uzbek25First ruler of the Timurid dynasty Amir Timur, aka Tamerlane, stands outside the Soviet relic that is Hotel Uzbekistan - Tashkent

















uzbek29The 'souvenirs of Uzbekistan' fair was taking place, featuring food stalls, weaving, rugs and lots of clothes & accessories - Tashkent

















uzbek32Former president Islam Karimov took Uzbekistan to independence in 1991. He was known to the outside world for his poor human rights record, plus his supporting of a US airbase in Karshi until their forced withdrawal following the Andijan massacre. The statue stands outside the Aqsaroy Presidential Palace, his workplace until he died in 2016 - Tashkent


uzbek36On Khast Imom Square are the Hazroti Imom Friday Mosque, the Barak Khan Medressa and Abu Bakr Kaffal Shoshi Mausoleum. I'd say if you're going to Samarkand & Bukhara and you're short of time in Tashkent, skip the mosques and madrasahs in the capital (you'll see plenty of them!) - Tashkent




uzbek37A different take on McDonald's - Tashkent

















uzbek47The streets leading to Chorsu Bazaar are lined with traders - Tashkent

















uzbek42Chorsu Bazaar was the best market I visited in Cerntral Asia, bustling and with plenty of atmosphere - Tashkent


uzbek41I thought these were semi-precious stones but it's sugar - Tashkent




uzbek46 It's mainly food but there's a smattering of clothing and souvenirs on sale - Tashkent
















uzbek48You''ll see these signs all over Central Asia - Tashkent

















uzbek50The Uzbek flag flies in front of Istiklol Palace - Tashkent


uzbek52Another Soviet relic on the edge of Navoi Park is the Olly Majlis, the country's parliament - Tashkent




uzbek55A short walk from the train station is Assumption Cathedral, an Orthodox church - Tashkent
















uzbek58The 250km/hr Afrosiyob is a fast and comfortable way around the country, linking Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara. There's also a new trainline to Khiva soon to be opened - Tashkent

















uzbek59Breakfast tables in my slightly quirky hostel in Samarkand


uzbek63The big draw in Uzbekistan and all of Central Asia is the Registan - Samarkand




uzbek64The Registan comprises three madrasahs (the Arabic word for school): Ulugbek (left), Tilla-Kari (centre) and Sher Dor (right) - Samarkand
















uzbek68The 15th century Ulugbek Madrasah is the oldest of the three - Samarkand

















uzbek72The 17th century Sher Dor Madrasah is also called the Lion Madrasah after the lions (or tigers?) depicted on the entrance - Samarkand


uzbek126The amazing blue and turquoise tilework adorning the Registan - Samarkand




uzbek89A lovely photo of Uzbek women from the Fergana Valley on holiday in Samarkand

















uzbek90Walk through Tilla-Kari Madrasah to a courtyard edged with this mosque - Samarkand


















uzbek84Inside the mosque, which also has a small museum - Samarkand


uzbek86Blue and gold are the colours of choice in this part of the world, this being the mosque ceiling - Samarkand




uzbek105Peer down from the top of Ulugbek Madrasah's minaret - Samarkand


















uzbek97Past Tilla-Kari Madrasah on the horizon is the huge Bibi-Khanym Mosque - Samarkand


















uzbek141Lining the madrasahs are the dormitory rooms - Samarkand


uzbek117Most of the rooms have been converted to souvenir shops - Samarkand




uzbek80..though a couple have made a stab of replicating a 19th century student's dormitory - Samarkand

















uzbek108Arabic script mixes with azure mosaics - Samarkand

















uzbek122When the Registan lights up at night it looks stunning - Samarkand


uzbek124I gather the evening entry is a relatively new introduction - it's a separate entry fee and opens an hour or two after the site closes for the day - Samarkand




uzbek143A view of Sher Dor Madrasah from Ulugbek Madrasah - Samarkand

















uzbek130The ornate dormitory rooms - Samarkand

















uzbek135Only a few souvenir shops were open in the evening, though I guess that depends on the number of visitors - Samarkand


uzbek125The evening ticket is different from the Sound & Light Show, which is held on special occasions (or presumably when a tour group pays for it!) - Samarkand - Samarkand




uzbek148The Tilla-Kari Madrasah - Samarkand

















uzbek151In the centre of a roundabout is a statue of Amir Timur, who was born near Shakhrisabz, an hour's drive south of Samarkand
















uzbek155The entrance to Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum - Samarkand


uzbek162The mausoleum is the resting place of Amir Timur, aka Tamerlane, who conquered much of Central Asia and the Middle East towards India at the end of the 14th century - Samarkand




uzbek163Blue and golden mosaics adorn the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum - Samarkand

















uzbek165A mural on the side Registon ko'chasi building - Samarkand


















uzbek167A popular restaurant with tourists, on the main road close to the Registan - Samarkand


uzbek169A newly married couple pose for photos beneath a statue of former president Islam Karimov - Samarkand




uzbek174Gumbaz Synagogue serves the 200+ Jews living in Samarkand

















uzbek175You'll come across plenty of melons in Uzbekistan - Samarkand

















uzbek184The small domed building in the centre of the Hazrat-Hizr Mosque complex houses the tomb of former president Islam Karimov - Samarkand


uzbek183Hazrat-Hizr Mosque was restored in the 1990s - Samarkand




uzbek185A great view of Bibi-Khanym Mosque from Hazrat-Hizr Mosque - Samarkand

















uzbek198More lovely tilework, this time of Bibi-Khanym Mosque - Samarkand


uzbek187A cool place to relax for a drink is the Samarkand Art House, set beneath Bibi-Khanym Mosque - Samarkand




uzbek204But even better are taking off your footwear and sitting or lying on a tapchan, a Central Asian table-cum-bed - Samarkand

















uzbek206Ulugbek was a 15th century Timurid leader more noted for his work as an astronomer - Samarkand
















uzbek207The remaining section of Ulugbek's observatory, which would have been used to see the stars back in the 15th century - Samarkand


uzbek209The Afrosiab Museum houses a 7th century fresco from the Sogdian kingdom - Samarkand




uzbek222Shah-e-Zinda is a must-see series of mausoleums spanning several centuries - Samarkand

















uzbek226There's as many pilgrims here as foreign tourists which makes it a busy place - Samarkand

















uzbek228I wasn't expecting it to be particularly impressive but it's a highlight of a visit to Samarkand if you're an admirer of azure tilework


uzbek230Uzbek bread is a speciality, with different designs depending on which part of the country you're in. But with me being a Coeliac I didn't touch it with a bargepole - Samarkand




uzbek231I'm sure the stall-holder called these rectangular blocks halva, but it was a blend of milk and sugar more like fudge. Whatever it was it tasted good! - Samarkand
















uzbek233I guess someone forked out for the Sound and Light show - Samarkand

















uzbek236A potted history of civilizations is projected on to Tilla-Kari Madrasah. Tickets are limited but there's plenty of space outside the ticketed roped-off area. I say plenty of space but it gets mighty busy with locals wanting a peak!- Samarkand



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