Journey The Silk Road Into Uzbekistan Rich History

  • Posted on: 12 January 2011
  • By: Senichi

Go back into history along Uzbekistan’s Silk Road Cities Kiva, Bokhara and Samonkand. Once part of the USSR Uzbekistan now stand as an independent country in the middle of central Asia.  Around it are Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afganistan and Turkmenistan.  The capital Tashkent’s still bear resemblance of its former association with Russia, through its architecture and the mix of people that you come across. There are the pale face Russians, who stayed after Uzbekistan gain its independence and the oval-faced, almond eyed individuals in brightly-coloured striped robes.

Before the Russian Uzbekistan played a significant role in the Silk and spice trade, that gave it wealth and defined the region.  A visit to the region especially Samarkand, Khiva, Bokhara and Tashkent and you will find remnants of its rich history in trade, architecture and past rulers – Alexander the Great, Genghis Kan and Tamburlaine).

A good way to explore the region is to revisit the Silk Road starting with the city of Khiva. It is near the Oxus and the border with Turkmenistan. The city grew rich on trading-silk, slaves, jewels and spices; today most of this is gone but remain is its beauty and magic, with it girdle of thick mud walls and delicately-tiled domed palaces, Tombs and Mosques, Khiva looks straight out of a fairy-tale.

Wandering the narrow alleys and courtyards, their sun-bleached brick wall richly golden in the sunlight, makes Khiva magical. Tiles green, blue and golden shimmer on domes and towers. Doors are inlaid with ivory and coral.  The royal harem where wives and concubines lived in silk-hung, richly-carpeted chambers guarded by eunuchs evokes the romance and glamour of the Arabian Nights.

The trade route that once joined Khiva to Bokhara still remain and a journey along this sandy-banked Oxus lined with mulberry trees exposes the country’s change in fortune.  Silk is still a major export complemented by cotton, wheat and maize. You will soon arrive in Bokhara, the city of the Emirs. History has it that some the Emirs of Bokhara were worst than the Khans of Khiva.

Bokhara is hectic, a bit dusty and rich in ancient Madrassahs and Mosques tiled and carved with true artistry, like the 155 foot high Kalon Minaret that so impressed Ghenghis Khan he let it stand while  pulverising the rest of the city. One thing that stands out in Bokhara is the domed arcaded markets where merchants take their jewels, silks and carpets to trade.

From Bokhara you can drive to Samarkand a city with a violent and rich past. Along the route, for every few miles you will past crumbling skeletons of caravanserais, once graceful impressive arcaded structures built around great courtyards, which were once a refuge for caravans of as many as 10,000 pack animals. Samarkand is a busy and culturally rich place an arrival the magnificence of its architecture arrests you. The smell of ripe musk melons and grapes pile high for sale, the earthly taste of the red wine form the surrounding vineyards assault the senses.

Samarkand, reputedly founded by Alexander the Great has gone through many hands, from Arab invaders to Genghis Khan then to Tamburlaine – made it his capital in 1370. A drive through the apple and fig plantations out of the city up to Kurt Hill and you will find the remains of the a six-hundred-year-old observatory built by Tamburlaine’s grandson Ulughbeg, a poet, astronomer and scientist. From Kurt Hill you can see the city of Samarkand and watching the setting sun makes Uzbekistan unforgettable.