Tashkent

Tashkent, Uzbekistan by CC user 31223088@N08 on Flickr

Introduction

Not just serving as the capital city and the main port of entry into Uzbekistan, Tashkent is one of several cities that have been historically significant on the legendary Silk Road, making for a destination worthy of stopover of at least a few days during your explorations of this Central Asian nation.

While a considerable portion of the original Old City was lost during a traumatic earthquake in 1966, and the ensuing Soviet style developments replaced them with utilitarian blocks, what remains still serves to make this place a major destination for those interested in the history of this major trading city during ancient and medieval times.

With mausoleums paying tribute to many great figures of the past, mosques that bear witness to the religious beliefs of the local populace, and museums that tell the story of days gone by, there is plenty to see and do during your time here.

Tashkent, Uzbekistan mosque by CC user travelourplanet on Flickr

Cultural Experiences

After getting sorted in your accommodation, the first sight that you should check out in Tashkent should be Hast Imam Square, which contains a trio of religiously significant sites. The tomb of Hazrati Imam is located here, who was a famous scientist, poet, and a noted scholar of the Koran.

The Tellya Sheikh Mosque is also located here, which is known for housing the Osman Koran, which is the oldest known existing manuscript of the Islamic holy book in the world.  This hall of worship also boasts an entire library of manuscripts with intricately carved ceilings, making it a great place to wander around for a few hours.

The future scholars and preachers of Islam learn precepts and debate the meaning of lines of the Koran at Kukeldash Medressa, an Islamic university that has been in existence since the 16th century. Complete with sweeping courtyards, lush plants, and hauntingly beautiful Islamic architecture that makes it stand out from the brutalness of the Soviet era architecture that surrounds it, a stroll around the Kukeldash Medressa will put you in touch with the new faces of faith in this major world religion, all while putting you under a spell with its beauty.

Tashkent, Peoples' Friendship Palace by CC user azwegers on Flickr

Other Attractions

To begin your education into the back history of this mysterious and mountainous nation, a visit to the History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan is really a necessary trip to make before leaving the capital city of Tashkent.  Despite the present day status of Uzbekistan as a Muslim nation, Buddhism used to be the spiritual backing of many of those that lived here in the past; as such, the first floor is dedicated to Zoroastrian and Buddhist artefacts, including a Buddha statue excavated from a temple near Termiz. The 2nd floor details the conquest of the nation by Soviet forces during the 20th century, with the top floor being effectively a monument to the cult of personality that the authoritarian president Islam Karimov has surrounded himself with since his “election” in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Those looking to take in a little culture before shipping off to the mountains or Samarkand should buy a ticket to a performance at the Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. Constructed by master Soviet architect Alexey Shchusev, it is one of only three theatres in the former USSR with the designation “Grand”, with the others being located in Minsk and of course, Moscow. This hall of culture was constructed by Japanese prisoners of war during the Second World War, whose contribution is recognized on the exterior of this building.

Finally, those with an affinity for sweeping Soviet-style plazas should check out the Peoples’ Friendship Palace, as well as the grounds that surround it. Sporting wide open spaces, statues, fountains, and native Tashkentites going about their daily routine, this public park is an ideal place to people watch.  The Peoples’ Friendship Palace itself is a great place to check out cultural performances as well, with space for 4,300 people to take in the best live shows that Tashkent has to offer.

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