Visit the most magnificent cities of the
ancient Silk Road with Islamic expert
Diana Driscoll. These include Uzbekistan’s
second largest city, Samarkand, built
by the infamous 14th-century Emperor
Tamerlane; the medieval city of Bukhara,
with its dazzling blue mosaic domes;
the jade-green city of Khiva; and
Nukus, which once protected Savitsky’s
collection of Russian avant-garde art
from the Soviets.
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Board the overnight flight from London
Heathrow to Tashkent with Uzbekistan Airways
(regional connections available). (N)
Arrive in Tashkent and transfer to Hotel Grand
Mir (or similar) for a rest. After an introductory
lecture and welcome lunch, visit the house of
Ural Tansykbaev who studied with Russian
painters in 1920s Tashkent. In the afternoon,
fly to Nukus and overnight at Hotel Jipek Joli (or
similar). (B, L)
Morning tour of the Karakalpakstan State
Museum of Art, which houses the collection of
Igor Savitsky, who secreted away thousands
of Russian avant-garde and post avant-garde
paintings during the Stalinist Soviet period.
Besides this rare and extensive collection of
art (second only to St Petersburg), he also
collected thousands of Uzbek artefacts, textiles
and jewellery. Tour the museum with a local
specialist. En route to Khiva, visit the medieval
Mizdakhkan necropolis, which sits on the ruins of
a Zoroastrian citadel and stop at Chilpak to see
the fourth-century Zoroastrian Tower of Silence.
Stay for 2 nights at Hotel Asia Khiva (or
Full-day tour of the old walled city of Khiva,
capital of Khorezm between the 16th and 20th
centuries, and one of the most remote of the
Silk Road cities. Visits include the Kunya Ark (old
fortress), the original residence of the Khiva
khans; the beautiful decorated Tash Hauli (stone
palace); the Friday Mosque; and madrasas
(theological colleges), which now house
museum collections. (B)
Transfer to Urgench airport and fly to Bukhara.
Upon arrival visit the Persian Samanid brick
mausoleum and the imposing ark (fortress) of
the Bukhara emirs. Afternoon at leisure.
Stay at Emir Hotel (or similar) for 4 nights. (B)
Take a full-day walking tour of Bukhara,
visiting the Kalon mosque and minaret, several
madrasas, traditional Bukharan bazaars and
the architectural ensemble around the Lyab
i-Hauz pool, fed by the waters of the royal
canal. Continue down the narrow streets of old
Bukhara to the old Jewish quarter. See one of
the city’s hidden gems, the Jewish synagogue,
which houses a collection of ancient torahs
dating back approximately 600 years. (B)
Morning visits to the Chor Minor, a curious fourtowered
gatehouse; the Balyand neighbourhood
mosque, a jewel of 16th-century architecture;
and Sitora-i Mokhi-Khosa, the summer palace
of the last emir of Bukhara. Continue to the
Fayzulla Khodjaev Museum, where you can see
the daily life of a Bukhara merchant in the
early-20th century. Afternoon at leisure. (B)
Drive along the royal road to the 11th-century
Rabat i-Malik caravanserai (a trading route
stop-off). Continue to Gidjuvan, renowned for
its traditional ceramics, and see Abd-al-Khalyk
Gijduvani mazar. Return to Bukhara via Vabkent
to see the minaret commissioned in the 12th
century by one of the rulers of Bukhara. (B)
Drive to Shahrisabz, birthplace of Tamerlane,
where he built an enormous palace, of which
part of the beautifully ornamented audience
chamber remains. See Tamerlane’s family
burial ground. Drive alongside the Zerafshan
mountains to Samarkand for a 2-night stay at
the Emir Khan Hotel (or similar). (B)
Drive to the ancient deserted site of Afrosiyob
on the outskirts of Samarkand, where a
settlement once thrived until it was destroyed
by Tamerlane. Archaeological finds are housed
in the Afrosiyob History Museum. Continue
to the observatory of Ulug Beg, Tamerlane’s
astronomer grandson, and see Bibi Khanum
mosque, built by Tamerlane for his favourite
wife. End the day at the magnificent Gur Emir
mausoleum where Tamerlane is buried beneath
the Timurid fluted blue domes. (B)
Visit Registan Square, framed by three brilliantly ornamented madrasas, and see the
Shah-i- Zinda necropolis, an extraordinary
collection of mausoleums that feature
exquisitely decorated majolica facades.
Continue to the Museum of History, Culture
and Art. In the afternoon, transfer to the train
station for the Afrosiyob train to Tashkent. After
a farewell dinner, overnight at Grand Mir Hotel
(or similar). (B, D)
This morning, take a city tour to see the
highlights of Tashkent, including Kukeldash
mosque, Muyie Mubarak library and Tillya
Sheikh mosque. In the afternoon, transfer to the
airport for a flight to London Heathrow. (B)
As per itinerary – B: Breakfast,
L: Lunch, D: Dinner, N: No meals.
A collection of expertaccompanied
tours focusing on creativity in its
many forms. All tours are open to everyone.
This tour is fully escorted
throughout by the lecturer, as well as an
experienced local guide.
This tour is better suited to
the hardier traveller as it includes some simple
accommodation and long road journeys.
The tour involves some long
drives and requires a good level of fitness as
there is walking over rough terrain and up some
Diana Driscoll read
ancient Middle East and
Islamic studies at Soas. She
is an independent researcher
who gives regular talks at the
British Museum. Her area of
expertise is the Islamic world:
religion, history, culture and languages.
Watch our video interview with Diana on Compass Online.
This tour can be booked / reserved online by clicking on one of the coloured links below.
UZA2018: 10 Nights
There were many inspirational moments on this tour, but reaching the 40th step to the Shah-I-Zinda necropolis in Samarkand was perhaps the best moment. A street of mausoleums, burial sites for some members of Timur's family - it is a feast for the eyes - especially refreshing after the formality of the Registan. Here the patterns, drawn from different parts of Timur's empire and boldly juxtaposed, seem infinite, lively and confident; and the colours are gloriously vivid. To see the tiling for the first time was spine-tingling; and the rest of the street lived up to the initial promise. A truly memorable experience.Dr Mary McGrail
Our first evening in Khiva was magical. We walked by ourselves in the almost deserted streets of the old city and felt transported in another world, with the beautiful mosques and madrassas rising in the dying light. There were many amazing moments during the group visits but I would pick the climb to the Zoroastrian tower of silence near Nukus, looking at the great Oxus river and thinking of the flow and ebb of the ancient civilisations and cultures that were built and destroyed over the centuries in this now forgotten heart of Central Asia.Dr Mireille Levy
Bukhara is largely built of brown mud-brick, and as a result is perhaps visually less...
The ancient city of Khiva lies around 450km north-west of Bukhara, and only around 40k...
Samarkand is one of the world's oldest cities, located in the very centre of Uzbekistan...
Although little remains of Tashkent’s history, there has been a settlement on this site,...