Beguiling Uzbekistan is one of Central Asia’s most captivating destinations. Lying on the ancient Silk Road, it possesses a wonderful mix of beautiful landscapes – including river valleys, desert and steppe – in addition to its wealth of historical attractions.
Contrasting between Soviet and Islamic heritage, the medley of cultures and historic connections to the Silk Road help make this one of the most distinctive destinations in the Middle East.
The question is, what are the finest experiences to have here?
1) Visit the museums of Tashkent
Uzbekistan's capital may have less in the way of archaeological treasures than some of the country's other top destinations, but it certainly makes up for that with its excellent selection of museums. These are among the finest places to learn about Uzbek and pre-Uzbek culture, and include the History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan, which looks at the region's past from ancient times all the way to the present. Similarly, its art museums display a host of fascinating artefacts, including ceramics, wall hangings, and antique jewellery, that provide a window into the culture.
2) Gaze in wonder at Registan Square
Splendid Samarkand is perhaps Uzbekistan's most fascinating destination. Not only did it occupy a key point on the Silk Road, but it was one of the world's greatest cities in the 14th century. While it's peppered with incredible sites, none stands out more than the spectacular Registan Square. Home to three vast madrasas, the square is through them adorned with stunning, intricate mosaics that add colour, grandeur and a real sense of the past.
3) Admire Mir-I-Arab
Among the qualities that makes Uzbekistan stand out from other Middle Eastern destinations is the presence of its imposing madrassas. Mir-I-Arab, located in fascinating Bukhara, is one of the finest. This madrasa is decorated with exceptional tile work and this, paired with its size, render it one of the city's most imposing buildings. This is enhanced by the fact that it has been considered Bukhara's foremost educational establishment for hundreds of years.
4) Discover the spy stories of the Ark
Also located in Bukhara is the Ark - a building filled with some of the nation's darkest spy stories. It is the oldest building in the city and, in reality, is more like a small town - though nowadays much of it is in ruins thanks to bombings in the 1920s. Remarkably, it was occupied from the 5th century right up to the time of the bombings, and as such has an incredibly rich history for travellers to discover. Plus, it now houses a series of museums, including an archaeological museum, where you can delve further into the country's intriguing history.
5) Exploring Shakhrisabz
The birthplace of Tamerlane, Uzbekistan's famous 14th-century conqueror, Shakhrisabz is one of the country's greatest highlights - in no small part thanks to its medley of attractions. Indeed, its importance in history alone is enough to fascinate any traveller, even without its range of monuments.
In addition to its associations with Tamerlane, Shakhrisabz was also located on the Silk Road, and is over 2,000 years old. Its longevity, paired with the fact that it regularly welcomed hosts of traders from across the world on the Silk Road, mean that the city today is a tangle of ancient quarters, fine monuments and bustling markets. The suzani, which are coverlets made with silk or cotton, are among the city's most famous products, and make an excellent memento of your time here.
6) Explore Fergana Valley
The green Fergana Valley is not only home to Uzbekistan's lushest, most fertile terrain, but also its industrial heartland. These contrasting qualities help make it such a wonderful place to visit, with travellers able to admire the scenery and also get to grips with the country's modern side. Plus, it is little-visited by tourists, meaning you can enjoy a real sense of exploration and adventure when you come here.
Above all, don't miss the Yodgorlik silk factory in the town of Margilan - a perhaps surprisingly rare example of a working silk factory still located in one of the major Silk Road destinations.
This article was produced in conjunction with Uzbekistan Airways, the national airline of Uzbekistan.
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