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.
Oh yeah, love this. Samarkand sounds spicy, mysterious, a little dark and foreboding, exciting…
Doesn’t it though…
As does Bagdad. And Mesopotamia… although a little less accessible these days, sadly.
Fully agreed. Our friend just got back from Tashkent and posted the photos to Facebook. Amazing! I think it’s pretty difficult for Brits to get a visa though, especially from Turkey. We’ll dream for a while, too… 🙂
Look what you did — I never even thought twice about Uzbekistan before, and now I want to go explore.
I want to go too! (haha)
We were in Uzbekistan last August/September. It was an amazing place to visit and the sites are really incredible. Unfortunately there are tons of French tour groups in Bukhara and Samarkand, so it feels really touristy during the day. Bukhara is nicer at night and we enjoyed walking out of the old city to the bustling markets, etc…The best, in my opinion was Khiva, it still has it’s old world charm and it’s not too touristy. Great people, wonderful sites (although not as big or impressive), but IMHO don’t miss Khiva if you go!
@Jillian: How exciting that you’ve been! The French are everywhere, aren’t they. In a war zone, in the middle of a shoot-out, French tourists would probably still be snorkelling and lounging on the beach nearby.
Never heard of Khiva, so I just googled it. It looks very interesting, very Arabic. Thanks for the tips.
I agree! I’d be on a plane in a second, but then again, I’m a sucker for going anywhere.
Have you been to any of the central Asian countries? I wonder how difficult it would be to get along not speaking any of those languages. I don’t know how widespread English education is there. I always feel a bit guilty if I go somewhere and don’t speak the language even a little bit–or don’t try to speak it (when I went to Mexico and Israel). Although maybe it’s a boost to the local community to hire a local translator. That might be interesting.
@Cathy: Thanks for your comment. I’ve never been to any of the countries in Central Asia. Yet 🙂
As for language, I find that using just a few words (something to do on the plane) is useful – along with general sign- and body language. A local translator is actually a very good idea – especially if you need to negoatiate something of consequence.
Had an opportunity to go to Uzbekistan a couple years ago which didn’t pan out 🙁
Let us know when the Kiev piece is up!
@Lola – We should ask the TBEX or TBU organisers to set up a conference in Samarkand. Wouldn’t that be wonderful…
You said it! Those places – Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent – sound just the places that are off the merry-go-round.