Reflections on my Uzbek Trip

Trip Start Feb 22, 2013
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Trip End Mar 02, 2013


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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Saturday, March 2, 2013

 






Having returned back from Uzbekistan now I've had some time to reflect on this trip. This is a trip I had wanted to do for many years but didnt think would ever be possible with the cost of airfare and obtaining visas. 

Uzbekistan is always referred to historically in terms of the Silk Road so I had images of dusty caravan trading towns. We dont think so much about the 70 years of Soviet occupation and influence. 

While the historical buildings remain the bazaar atmosphere that continues in places like India and Turkey is long gone. Even neighbouring Xinjiang in China which I visited in 2011 still maintains the market atmosphere. Maybe as it was low season a lot of the traders and atmosphere was gone. 

 
 
Everyone kept asking how I was enjoying it and maybe it was too much to take in at once. It also didnt match the image I had. It was very multi racial which we are not aware of as I only see the ethnic Uzbeks at the Mosques and restaurants in Korea. 

The Central Asian "Stans" are completely different from what we imagine a "Stan" to be. Although there are some cultural similarities with Afghanistan and Pakistan they have had a totally different experience being part of the Soviet Union 

We were raised to think the Soviets were an "evil empire". While there were abuses that took place they did have a very positive influence on the historical sites. They were active in excavating, discovering, restoring, and preserving many of the historical sites and treasures. 

 
 
While they did first bomb sites in Bukhara they quickly recognized the rich historical and archaeological heritage and were quick to bring teams of scientists in.  We owe a debt to them for the efforts they put into preserving historical heritage and discovering new ones. 

Most of the people I spoke with had positive things to say about the Soviet legacy. They are highly educated, speak a variety of languages, and mix with different ethnic groups. There is a developed infrastructure with the rail network, metro, and high speed rail. There does not seem to be opportunity for English Teachers as their levels are already quite high. 

The country was very safe and I was surprised by the religious diversity. I got to visit three Russian Orthodox Churches, and two Jewish Synagogues. 

 
 
I kept hearing the term "the President decided...". I dont know if that is a figure of speech for the government decided or do they literally mean one man is deciding every little detail such as where to put a traffic light?

The heavy security and police presence does seem a bit too much from a westerner with no Soviet experience. Locals did not understand my concerns and were glad that they have no bombings. We dont have this kind of police presence in Japanese and German trains stations and there are no bombings there. 

Also for another dry desert country with so much sunlight I'm surprised why there is no developed infrastructure for solar power. They could have one on every home and build solar farms in rural areas. 



My biggest disappointment by far was in Uzbek music. Whenever I goto Uzbek restaurants or look on youtube there are so many amazing arabian style dance party music songs playing. Even in the restaurants I visited and while we were driving or walking around this type of music was often playing. 
 
Uzbekistan Music Video playing in Seoul Uzbek Restaurant.
http://youtu.be/_aWogaALfEo

This is my favourite song from Feruza Jumaniyozova that I found on youtube dancing at the historic sights in her hometown of Khiva. 
http://youtu.be/gpZEb0QLMEY
I'm not sure now if this might be ethnic Tajik music. 
 
 
 
None of the hotels had Uzbek music channels as they cater to mainly Russian and Western visitors that dont have this interest. I didnt see any music shops and the two times I was taken by locals there was some communication problem and I didnt get any of the songs I wanted. 

I was only ever taken to one CD shop in Samarkand. It probably wasnt the right place, had very little selection, and the stuff I bought is mostly rubbish. I'm going to have to go again just to get the music I want.   
 
It was quite easy going to a music shop in Urumqi Xinjiang to get ethnic Uyghar pop music. Some of the biggest stars in Xinjiang are actually from Uzbekistan. So I thought it would be just as easy getting Uzbek music 

See blog article on ethnic Uyghar folk and pop music
http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-blog-entries/londone7/16/1320398975/tpod.html

I'm definitely interested in going back if I can deal with getting the visa again and can get a good airfare. I want to visit the Fergana valley which is where the third Kingdom of Kokand was situated (having visited the Kingdoms of Bukhara and Khiva). I also want to travel into bordering Kyrgyzstan where there are also some historical sites in Osh and some other sites
 
http://www.orexca.com/kokand_uzbekistan.shtml
http://www.orexca.com/historical_tours3.shtml

 
 
Another place that interests me is the Aral Sea and Karakalpakstan region where there is the cemetary of dead ships from an ecological disaster that dried up the river bed. 
http://www.orexca.com/historical_tours13.shtml
http://www.orexca.com/aral_tour3.shtml 

This is definitely a place Muslims should visit. We are told we must goto Saudi Arabia for pilgrimage but Uzbekistan has so many Islamic sites to see. There is the tomb of the Prophet pboh cousin at Shah-i-zindah, the worlds oldest Quran, the tomb of Imam Al-Bukhari who wrote the Hadiths. There are also the tombs of Prophet's Job and Daniel. This was also a centre of learning and the birthplace of the father of algebra and the inventor of the globe. 

 
 
Daegu Uzbek Restaurant Exterior
http://youtu.be/r4l8y7fQTcE

Daegu Uzbek Restaurant Menu and Interior
http://youtu.be/T42hS-gwDIE
 
Daegu Uzbek Restaurant Article
http://globaldaegu.blogspot.kr/2012/10/uzbek-restaurant-samarkand.html

This was one of the trips I'd wanted to do for many years and part of my plan of coming to Korea where I could get a much cheaper airfare then trying from Canada. Having accomplished this along with Xinjiang China and lots of other Asian trips I feel I've accomplished more than most and maybe its time to leave Korea and return back home.
 
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