Monday, June 20, 2011

Last days of Central Asia - Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

So folks, thanks for taking this Central Asia ride with me. In a few hours I head to Tashkent airport where I will board an Air Baltic flight via Riga to London. I will be in a different part of the world, a new section to my journey in 2011 will begin. 
After two short days in London I will be heading for two weeks in Cameroon, West Africa. It's strange how despite my first expereinces of sub-saharan Africa, I still head back there every trip.
Kulkedash Medressa.
 For now though, I need to reflect on Tashkent. It's quite a city to be honest. At around three million people it is the biggest city (population-wise) that I have visited in Central Asia. It has wide streets and fast cars and my guesthouse had one of the most beautiful simple rooms I have had all journey.
This dome is just part of the giant Chorsu Bazaar.
 Tashkent seems to follow a grand vision that the President, Islam Karimov, has for the country. Big and impressive. This is rather similar to his Kazakh counter-part, Nazabaev, although I believe they don't get on! But Tashkent is not just big and wide, it's also pretty clean, and from the outside at least, it looks rather modern. The obsession with blue (and near-blue) domes continues, there's a museum devoted to Timur himself. Inside there's a quote from Karimov. I won't try and repeat it, because I can't remember it word for word, but it says that anyone wondering about the might and power of the Uzbek people, should look to Timur to understand why they are so. (yes I paraphrase rather poorly)
Timur Museum, not the jade-coloured dome!
 The Central Museum is rather interesting, at least on the top floor. If you are like me, you are more interested in the last 100 years than the 60 million that preceded them. Perhaps this is because it is more relatable to the country I see today. Then again, if you are an archeologist like someone I met here at the guesthouse, you may indeed enjoy you prehistoric pots! Lots of information on Soviet times, not so much in English though. And looking to the future, thanks to oil oil oil!
A few choice Karimov quotes too. Can't miss out on those. A big TV tower was built in Tashkent in 1928, sending signals out 100km today. That seems really early for television, 1928. Then again, it only came to my country, Australia, in 1956. Rather slow really... It seems that television signals were first experimented by a Russian scientist in 1907. You learn something new every day!
Fountains and Tashkent Life.
 Many monuments and statues around town, including a weeping mother which apparently features in many Uzbek cities. She is weeping, I believe, of ones lost in war. Fountains also play a huge role in Uzbek lives here. As in many places I have seen in Central Asia, they double as swimming pools. It is pretty hot here!
Assumption Cathedral.
Other highlights include the bustling Chorsu Bazaar where you can get most anything. Except for a connector USB cable for my camera it seems! There is a beautiful Orthodox Church, Assumption Cathedral, in the midst of renovations. And then the Kukedash Medressa, a quiet little function Islamic school but very pretty near Chorsu Bazaar. Have I left anything out? I'm sure I have, but that is Tashkent and Central Asia.
Amazing, different places yet, but fascinating.

Before I go, I want to talk briefly about the police here in Central Asia. I was warned by people and especially the guidebook before I go that they would be the biggest problem in Central Asia. They would take my passport and not give it back until I bribed them, they treat foreigners poorly. Some horror stories. Well, touch wood & inshallah, I have less than half a day left and the worst thing I can say is they were curious about my passport, its stamps, Australia and me. They were also friendly. I had no issues whatsoever. Yes I was very careful to make sure all my documents were correct and registered where needed, BUT I have nothing but thanks and respect for the police doing there job in this part of the world. Tashkent went through a series of terrorist attacks back in the late 90s and early 00s but has been very safe since then.
Police of Central Asia - I salute you!

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