Uzbekistan diaries | By Sanaa Tauseef

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Uzbekistan diaries

EVERY journey begins with a first step; mine started with responding to an invitation from the Uzbekistan Embassy in Islamabad to visit and explore their beautiful country.

At first I couldn’t get my head wrapped around the idea of going to this foreign land as an influencer but nevertheless the idea of exploring Uzbekistan (which recently opened up their doors for tourism) was enticing enough to jump the bandwagon and pack my bags to experience the SILK ROADS in person.

Till date, we don’t have direct flights operating between Pakistan and Uzbekistan, hence the option offered was via Istanbul on Turkish Airlines; the route that would literally be taking me many “extra miles” to reach Uzbekistan from Pakistan.

After almost 26 hours of travelling (which includes 16 hours of transit at Istanbul airport) I landed early in the morning in Tashkent- the capital city of Uzbekistan.

Having read and ‘seen’ Tashkent through media reports, the city was a pleasant surprise. A modern metropolitan city bustling with business yet welcoming visitors from across the globe with open arms.

Language may be a barrier for some, as the locals mostly speak Uzbek or Russian, but the universal language of love speaks louder than its words.

The roller coaster ride started right after landing and checking into the hotel; which was neat, comfortable and welcoming.

I had one hour to freshen up before leaving for the first day of the city tour. On arriving in the lobby we were greeted by our group members who came from Russia, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and India…Wow…what a diverse group of people who will be spending their next few days together.

What connects people coming from different cultures, speaking different languages, following different customs???

You guessed it right ….Food! It is amazing how we all connected and communicated on our first lunch we had together as a group; while discussing Uzbekistan’s famous dish Pilev.

In Pakistan we call it ‘Pulao’ and in almost every Asian country there is a version of this delicious cuisine which is prepared with some variations in the recipe but the basic ingredients of rice and meat remain constant.

Tashkent did not disappoint you with its unique flavour and sacred (and of course … secret) recipe.

Being at the heart of Central Asia, Uzbekistan produces some of the finest fruit, especially berries, which they generously serve with their meals.

Another healthy tradition is to serve fruit and fresh salad (the most delicious ones I’ve ever tried) both, before and after the main course.

When dining out in Uzbekistan, don’t expect your meals to be served in haste. They enjoy having their guests around the place for extra hours, encouraging them to engage in person to person conversations.

Surprisingly every city of Uzbekistan prepares the same Pilev with their own traditional recipe thus bringing a different flavour to each city.

Unity in diversity! Being an upcoming modern capital city, Tashkent offers some amazing sites to the visitors.

Their underground metro stations were built between 1960s and 1990s and are not only a work of “art” to experience but also architectural masterpieces.

The three metro routes run through the arteries of Tashkent, connecting and facilitating the local commute.

It’s been called the second most beautiful metro stations collection in the world for its state of art modern infrastructure.

It is a must hop onto a ride as the commuters enjoy traveling in class and art.

Modern metros, entertainment parks, shopping malls especially the local bazaars of Tashkent like the Chorsu Bazaar are treats for the locals and tourists alike.

The bustling bazaar is heaven for getting bargain deals on their domestic products and an ideal place to shop for souvenirs to take home.

Every corner of Tashkent brings out the ideal blend of modern architecture with strokes of ancient art and history.

31 years ago, Uzbekistan got its independence from the USSR in 1991, but the history of this central Asian land will take you back to the times of Alexander the Great, Mongols and Timurid dynasties.

—To be continued

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.

 

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