UZBEKISTAN – THE ANCIENT TOWNS ON THE SILK ROAD
Try to ask someone, randomly, if he knows where is Uzbekistan: you probably won’t have an answer to your question. But if you name Samarkand, you’ll see his/her enchanted expression.
I wanted to visit Uzbekistan for knowledge pleasure, to learn central Asia history and have a picture of the fairytales that I used to listen when I was a kid, which narrated of flying carpets, overwhelming palaces and lost cities in the desert.
You can’t tell the whole charm of this country, which evoke far worlds, in contact with the West through the silk road; fragrances, spices, camel caravans and great travelers such as Marco Polo and great leaders such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Tamerlano.
The visit starts from the independent region of Karakalpakstan, one of the most outlying territories in the world. Nukus seems unreachable among the desert land around Lake Aral.
And guess what? Right here, in the most outlying place in the world, you can find a museum with an extraordinary value, wanted by the Russian painter Igor Savitsky to host many masterpieces that the Soviet reign was deleting.
In the south-east, in the desert, there you are on little hills the fortresses of the VIII century a.d.: Chilpik Kala, Topraz Kala and Ayaz Kala, from those you can see an harsh and infinite, but extraordinary, landscape.
Over Amu Darya, the historical Oxus river, crossed by Alexander the Great, in Corasmia region, there it somes Khiva, a small town enclosed by walls that contain real architecture masterpieces: minarets, mosques and madrassas – the koranic schools that you can find in the whole country.
The atmosphere is magical, the tourism is still limited even after more than twenty years of independence from Russia, in september 1991.
After the never-ending Kyzylkum desert, here we are in Bukhara. Simply breathtaking. Almost all the wonderful buildings are concentrated in the old town. The population is calm, smiling, hospitable, the mosques and the madrassas are surrounded of magic.
The children play with kites, taking advantage of the warm wind that make them fly up to that incredibly blue sky.
Samarkand, the ancient Afrosiab and Marakanda of Alexander the Great times, a beautiful and modern city which collects all the best elements of the whole historical architecture in central Asia.
Once you reach Registan, one of the most overwhelming monumental squares, it’s difficult not to be astonished, admiring the three wonderful madrassas that close three sides. Right after Registan, the colossal Bibi Khanum mosque, which was not spared by invasions and earthquakes.
After that, maybe the most magical among the monuments in Samarcanda: Shah-i-Zinda necropolis, where, in enchanting mausoleums decorated with light-blue crackleware, several family members of Tamerlano are resting.
The landscape changes completely once you reach Termez, an harsh land crossed by Amu Darya river, right here in this point crossed by the Russian army when invaded Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan’s strange boundaries, drawn by Russia and the neighboring countries, Tagikistan and Kirghizistan enclosed an isolated, green and fertile valley in the North: Fergana Valley, where the wide cotton cultivation (established during Russian domination) are going to be placed side by side by wide wheat plantations and fruit trees. The witness of the silk road, which used to transit right here, is given by the presence of mulberry trees and the historical silk factory Yodgorlik in Margilan.
Tashkent, at last: the capital of the Russian print. Modern, elegant, with wide avenues and green parks.
Uzbekistan, a different country, a complicated country, maybe still without a real popular identity. All the different conquests and invasions though the centuries built its history.