What to see
The capital of Tashkent preserves only a small proportion of its architectural past. A massive earthquake in 1966 flattened much of the old city and it was rebuilt with broad, tree-lined streets. Of interest among the older buildings are the 16th-century Kukeldash Madrasa
, and the Kaffali-Shash Mausoleum.
Tashkent houses many museums of Uzbek and pre-Uzbek culture. These include the State Art Museum
, which houses a collection of paintings, ceramics and the Bukharan royal robes. The Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts
exhibits embroidered wall hangings and reproduction antique jewellery..
To the south of Tashkent is Samarkand, the pivot of the Silk Road and the city transformed by Amir Timur (better known at Tamerlane in the West) in the 14th century into one of the world’s greatest capitals. The centre of the historical town is the Registan Square, where three huge madrassas – including Shir-Dor and Tillya-Kari – built between the 15th and 17th centuries, dominate the area. Decorated with blue tiles and intricate mosaics, they give some idea of the grandeur that marked Samarkand in its heyday. The Bibi Khanym Mosque, not far from the Registan, is testimony to Timur’s love for his wife. Timur himself is buried in the Gur Emir.
The Shah-i-Zinda is a collection of the graves of some of Samarkand’s dignitaries, the oldest date from the 14th century as Samarkand. Other sites of interest in Samarkand include the Observatory of Ulug Beg, which was the most advanced astronomical observatory of its day.
West of Samarkand is Bukhara, which was once a centre of learning renowned throughout the Islamic world. In Bukhara, there are more than 350 mosques and 100 religious colleges. The centre of historical Bukhara is the Shakristan, which contains the Ark, or palace complex of the Emirs. Not far from the Ark, the 47m- (154ft-) high Kalyan Minaret, or tower of death, was built in 1127 and, with the Ishmael Samani Mausoleum, is almost the only structure to have survived the Mongols. It was from here that convicted criminals were thrown to their deaths. Other sites of interest in Bukhara include the Kalyan Mosque, which is open to non-Muslims, the Ulug Beg Madrasa and, opposite, the Abdul Aziz Madrasa.
Explore Khiva, northeast of Bukhara, near the modern city of Urgench. Khiva is younger and better preserved than either Samarkand or Bukhara. The city still lies within the original city walls, and has changed little since the 18th century. Part of its attraction is its completeness although it has been turned into a museum town and is hardly inhabited, it is possible to imagine what it was like in its prime when it was a market for captured Russian and Persian slaves.
The Fergana Valley is famously known as the Pearl of Uzbekistan due due its richness and picturesqueness. The Fergana Valley lies in the eastern part of Uzbekistan between the Tien Shan Mountains and the Pamir Alay ranges and is shared by neighbouring Kygyzstan and Tajikistan. It is the most fertile and populous area of Uzbekistan. Fergana is the largest town in the valley with its Russian colonial architecture and streets shaded with palm and poplar trees, makes a good base from which to see the older and more interesting towns of Kokand and Margilan. See the natural silk production at the Yodgorlik Silk factory at Margilan or the fascinating bazaar and beautiful Khonakhah Mosque