Diverse and entrancing Uzbekistan

| July 22, 2013

Cox & Kings clients, Duncan and Gwenda McInnes, report back on a unique and fascinating trip to Central Asia’s enigmatic republic of Uzbekistan.

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We experienced an inauspicious start to our Uzbekistan trip when, having been meticulous in packing within the 20kg luggage limit and checking with the Uzbekistan Airlines website that the hand baggage limit was 8kg, staff at Heathrow check-in informed us that the limit was 5kg. We then held up the entire queue as we moved clothes from our hand baggage into our checked baggage. The arrival process was quite a long one, but we were delighted to reach our hotel and enjoy a late breakfast followed by immediate access to our room for a rest. We then headed out to lunch at a traditional restaurant and had a tour of the city of Tashkent visiting our first Mosque, Madrassa and Minaret. Later, we visited the Museum of Applied Art, showcasing fine examples of wonderful silk designs. The day ended with dinner in a yurt and then a few hours’ snatched sleep before heading once again to the airport for our flight to Urgench.

We boarded our coach and headed into the desert. We all felt so expectant at the things we would be seeing, that none of the party appeared tired. Seeing the ancient hill forts and walking around them was amazing. We had lunch in another yurt and ate our second dish of Plov, a dish we would become very familiar with, in its many guises, over the following days. The Cox & Kings brochure warns travellers not to expect a culinary feast, and we would describe the food as wholesome, but boring to western palates. After lunch, we visited a traditional farm and then drove on for a two-night stay in Khiva, where we became totally entranced by the architecture and richness of its adornment. The wood-carving in Khiva was so beautiful. We received a warm reception from all the inhabitants of the country; the young and old wanted to photograph us as much as we wanted to photograph them in their national dress.

We felt extremely fortunate in having the most wonderful guide and we all fell under her spell. Nothing was too much trouble for her and her stories had us all entranced. Uzbekistan is a country with such a barbaric history over so many centuries – Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan and then Tamerlane. Despite all the blood-letting, its poetry, art and literature are wonderful and build extraordinary pictures in the mind.

We were so very fortunate to be travelling with the most diverse and interesting, but like-minded people. The journey from Khiva to Bukhara, 11-plus hours over what could only be described as cart tracks at times, was undertaken with great humour and camaraderie. The journey served to give us great insight into the country. Bukhara was so different from Khiva and we again were introduced to some superb architecture and enjoyed our visit to a carpet factory.

After an amazing three nights in Bukhara, we drove for five hours to Samarkand. We arrived in the evening and settled into our hotel. The morning started with a visit to the burial place of Tamerlane and his family. Its beauty was beyond anything we had imagined. We then headed for Registan Square, the size of which made us gasp. We returned in the evening to experience the ‘son et lumiere’, which was not quite what we expected, but will live on in our memories as it started to thunder and rain – adding to the event. The next day we drove to Tamerlane’s birthplace at Shakhrisabz. Unfortunately, it rained for part of the day, but we experienced yet another area of this diverse country.

The train journey from Samarkand to Tashkent was a rail buff’s dream and having our bags go by coach was inspired, allowing us to soak in the views and the whole train experience. We then arrived fresh and were able to have a walk around Tashkent and experience the underground.

We had the most rich and rewarding time. Our special praise goes to our guide who went above and beyond her remit to ensure our safety and enjoyment. Providing water for us on the coaches and changing our money into Soum, made our lives so easy and stress free. We made so many new friends and came back with more than 1,200 photos. There was just so much that was special, it is impossible to do justice to it all. Seeing so many craftsmen and women at work gave us a view of such a different way of life.

Thank you Cox & Kings for such a unique and fascinating trip.

View a selection of Cox & Kings’ Uzbekistan tours.

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