Tashkent, Uzbekistan: A Handy Guide

For lovers of offbeat travel

By Stephanie D’sa

Tashkent is the capital city of Uzbekistan, a land-locked republic in Central Asia. The largest city in the nation, Tashkent has a population of close to 3 million. Tashkent has a unique culture and history, thanks to its position on the famous Silk Road. Its culture is a mix of Iranian, Turkic, Arab and Soviet Russian influences.

Since it was ruled by the USSR until 1991 and has a majority Muslim population since the 8th Century AD, Soviet and Islamic influences are the most apparent in the city.  Modern Tashkent is a multi-ethnic and cosmopolitan city, with neat grid of straight roads and streets, lots of gardens, public parks, fountains, museums and monuments.

 Things to See in Tashkent

 Despite its long and rich history dating back thousands of years, Tashkent has faced severe tragedies through the ages. Many of its monuments were destroyed in the modern era, especially during the Soviet Revolution in 1917 and the devastating earthquake of 1966. Most of the city had to be rebuilt, and the city architecture is a mix of Soviet style, old Islamic style and modern buildings. The following are some major tourist hotspots in Tashkent:

1.Chorsu Bazaar

This is a market in the traditional Central Asian style, located in the Old Town neighbourhood of the city. Its indoor section has a blue domed structure as well as an open-air market. The Bazaar is especially famous for its spices, dry fruits, meats and local souvenirs.

tashkent chorsu bazaar
Courtesy : Uzbek Travels

 2.Kukeldash Madrassah

This yellow brick structure is one of the oldest surviving in the city. Built in 1570, it has had an eventful past, and was used as a caravanserai (roadside inn), a fortress and a museum before finally reverting back to being a madrassah in 1991.

3.Tashkent Metro

The Soviets built this underground system. Each station has its own unique decorations and this system is one of the most elaborately decorated Soviet style metro systems in the world.

Inside the Tashkent Metro Station

4.Teleshayakh Mosque

Built in the 16th Century, this beautiful medieval mosque shows all the hallmarks of traditional Central Asian architecture. It also holds the unique distinction of holding the Uthman Qur’an, considered by Sunnis to be the oldest copy of the holy book on earth. This copy is believed to have the blood stain of Uthman, a close follower of Prophet Muhammed on it.

tashkent teleshayakh mosque

 5.Amir Temur Square

Temur (or Tamerlane) was one of the last great nomadic conquerors from Central Asia. He is a revered Uzbek hero and this central square in the heart of Tashkent stands in his honour. There is a well-maintained park and garden, and a huge statue of Timur astride a horse in the square. The facility also has a modern museum built in classical style, housing artefacts showing the story of this great warlord.

Interesting Facts about Tashkent

  •  The city’s name means “City of Stone” in Old Turkic language.
  • Uzbek government claims that the first ever demonstration of electronic Television was made in Tashkent, by Russian inventor Boris Grabovsky in 1928.
  • The tomb of Yunus Khan, grandfather of the Mughal Emperor Babur, is located in Tashkent.
  • Slave labour of Japanese war prisoners by the Soviet Red Army was used to build The city’s Opera House
  • Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri died in Tashkent under mysterious circumstances after signing the historic Tashkent Accord with Pakistan President Ayub Khan.
  • Uzbekistan is one of only two double-landlocked countries in the world, meaning one has to cross two borders from the country before reaching a coastline. The other such country in Switzerland.

Useful Words For When You’re There

  • Salom                          – Hello
  • Labbay!                       – How are you?
  • Rahmat, yaxshi          – I’m fine
  • Hayirli tong                – Good morning
  • Hayirli tun                   – Good night
  • Yahshi Ishlang            – Have a nice day
  • Ha                                  – Yes
  • Yo’q                                – No
  • Afu eting                      – Sorry
  • Rahmat                        – Thank you
  • Yordam Bering           – Help
  • Tushunmayapman     – I don’t understand

Travel Tips

  •  They use 220volt European-style round pins for electrical plug points in the country.
  • You can buy a local sim card for your phone, and activate it within a minute.
  • If you buy antiques made before 1959 in the local markets, you need special permission to take it out of the country.
  • All forms of local transportation are cheap and affordable in Tashkent.
  • If you shoot videos/photos near certain monuments, you will need to pay a small cover charge.

Local Cuisine

The signature dish is palov (pulav in Urdu), a main course made of rice, meat, spices, carrots and onions. Other dishes include various types of kebabs called shashlik, rich meat soups called shurpa, steamed dumplings called manti, local noodles called norin, and somsa (Samosa in Hindi/Urdu). Sumalyk is the popular sweet dish, made entirely with wheat and no added sugar. Tea without milk is the popular beverage. You’ll easily get alcohol here: Uzbek wines and Russian beer and vodka aplenty! Non-vegetarian food is the norm, though vegetarian dishes are available on request.

Using Money in Tashkent

 The local currency is the Uzbek Sum, but currency exchanges can be a hassle in Tashkent. The notes have to be perfect. They will reject ones with even minor defects. The most popular currency here is the US dollar. You can exchange currency in your hotel or the local forex office. Black market exchange is widely prevalent, but it is illegal and best avoided. It is better to carry some cash although most major currencies are excepted here . You can withdraw local currency from some ATMs using your credit cards, but such ATMs are not very common even in Tashkent.

Tashkent Fact File

 Location: In Uzbekistan, Central Asia; on the plains west of Altai Mountains near the Chirchik River, and on the road between Shymkent and Samarkand.

Connectivity: Tashkent International Airport is the main airport in Uzbekistan, with flights to Asia, Europe and North America; Tashkent-Samarkand High Speed Rail connects the two main Uzbek cities. The country also has a well-developed regular rail system, with domestic lines as well as connections to Central Asian nations as well as Russia; local transport is affordable with metro, buses and taxis available.

Climate: Continental Mediterranean

Languages: Uzbek and Russian are the official languages. Most people don’t speak English very well.

Time Zone: UZT – Uzbekistan Time (UTC +5:00)

Also See: A Dreamy Little Destination: Liechtenstein

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