Just Back From: Uzbekistan
by Annya Sand
Do you know your Uzbekistan from your Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, or Kazakhstan? Here's a tip: Uzbekistan has a vibrant art scene, complete with galleries, museums, and regional events. London-based artist Annya Sand went to Tashkent during Style.Uz Art Week, an annual five-day fall festival of arts and culture. She suggests you do the same.
So, what brought you to Uzbekistan? I was invited to exhibit my work in the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan.
Was it your first time? If not, how often do you go? It was my very first time; however, I have wanted to visit for some time, as I was always interested in Uzbekistan's inspiring art culture.
What was the best tip you got before you left? And where did you find it? I am fortunate to have a very good friend, Gayane, who is originally from Tashkent. She created an entire itinerary of places to visit, and recommended that I watch an incredible film called The Desert of Forbidden Art. The film tells a story about the process of creating the Nukus Museum, and shows the development of the Republic of Karakalpakstan and how it was influenced by Communism. It is a remarkable film and I highly recommend it to those with even the slightest interest in art and Central Asia.
How did you get there? I flew from London Heathrow with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines to Almaty in Kazakhstan, and then flew with Air Astana to Tashkent.
Where did you stay? There are a number of modern hotels in Tashkent, but I chose to stay in a classic historical hotel called Tashkent Palace. It is situated in the city center, within walking distance of all the main galleries.
What did you do? I thoroughly toured around Tashkent. For a day trip, I took the Afrosiyob high-speed train, which operates seven times a week, from Tashkent to Samarkand. In Samarkand, I visited the Registan, Mausoleum of St. Daniel, the Old Town, and the Statue of King Timur.
I went to a handful of antique jewelry shops in Tashkent and Samarkand, and visited the studios of very talented craftsman and fantastic fabric designers. The timing of my stay in Tashkent coincided with the Style.UZ Art Week, and therefore I used the opportunity to go attend art openings, film festivals, concerts, and fashion shows that took place throughout the week.
Glad you packed: Scarves! Uzbekistan is a modern Muslim country, and therefore women need to cover up, especially when visiting holy sites. I am also very happy that I packed jeans and comfortable shoes.
Wish you'd packed: Warmer clothes. Tashkent was very warm during the day, but becomes pretty chilly at night. I also wish I brought an extra suitcase for all of the souvenirs that I could not resist buying while in Uzbekistan.
What you Brought back: Everything! I brought back inspiring hand-crafted wooden pieces, Uzbek jewelry, and beautiful silk scarves made by a young designer, Saida Amir, who uses unique-yet-traditional methods in her designs.
Favorite Meal or meals: Uzbekistan has a very active food culture, and a visitor must be prepared to eat meat, and a lot of it. I ate so many different things while in Uzbekistan, it is impossible not to! I tried traditional Uzbek cuisine, including plov, kebabs, Central Asian dumplings (manti), tandir kabob, Uzbek bread, and the sweetest pomegranates, melons, and grapes. It was lovely to find out that there are restaurants from all over Central Asia in Tashkent. After trying a traditional homestyle restaurant like Caravan, I recommend visiting a more romantic restaurant like Blue Cupolas, as well as Georgian restaurant Gruzinskiy Dvorik (Georgian Yard).
Were you there for the right amount of time? I spent six days in Tashkent, and another four days would have been perfect since I really wanted to visit Buhara, a very historical place. I am eager to come back for another visit.
What's the #1 tip you'd give a friend who wanted to go? For anyone visiting Uzbekistan for the first time, I recommend going to Tashkent during the Style.UZ Art Week, which takes place in autumn. This way, a visitor can experience multiple cultural events in a very short period of time, while also enjoying wonderful weather.