I just submitted an article about Kyiv, and was reminded of my first journey there a couple of years ago. Uzbekistan came to mind. Why? Well, as I was waiting in transit at Riga airport, I noticed an Ilyushin from Uzbekistan Airways on the tarmac. I remember staring dreamily at it while sipping a so-so coffee.


Uzbekistan, the country, is the object of my desire here, not Uzbekistan Airways, a spin-off company of the old Soviet Aeroflot. Always a sobering thought. (However, in all fairness, the airline “has distinguished itself as one of the better managed post-Soviet airlines”, their website claims).

But the cities of Uzbekistan, well, the names alone evoke mystery, romance, magic. Just listen: Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent. Aren’t you picturing shiny minarets, the sound of the muezzin calling out prayers at sunset, swarthy carpet sellers, men smugly exchanging hard currencies in a dark corner of the souk…

Oh who am I kidding? If someone handed me a ticket, I’d jump on that Uzbekistan Airways flight in a minute.