Holiday in Central Asia (26): Tashkent in Uzbekistan

Our last day in Central Asia (Day 25) was one of the very busiest of a consistently full itinerary. 

In Nukus, the hotel offered the smallest breakfast selection of the trip.  We left the hotel at 8 am and reached the airport in a mere 10 minutes and then the flight to Tashkent was just over an hour. Back in in the Uzbek capital, the temperature was a comfortable 28C and our local guide was a woman called Sayora. I saw some of Tashkent in 2006. These days, it is very different: a thriving modern city full of new shopping malls, accommodation blocks, cafes & restaurants and bright lights, with a population swollen to 4M. 

Our visits before lunch could not have been more different, First, we went to the Khast

Imom Square to see the oldest Koran in the world: the huge 7th century Osman Koran. I saw this book on my visit in 2006, but the square and its buildings are new and the final new building, an enormous new mosque, is due to open in 2025.

Next we did something that I have not done before: we travelled a short distance on the famed Tashkent metro system which, in terms of grand design, is apparently second only to that of Moscow (where I have never been and do not expect to visit any time soon). The Tashkent metro has 46 stations and there is a security guard at the entrance to each. We admired two of the stations: one named after the Uzbek poet Alisha Noveji with a roof of domes and walls with turquoise panels and one named Cosmonauts and dedicated to the pioneers of space including the first man in space Yuri Gagarin and the first woman in space Valentina Tereshkova.  

At last, it was time for lunch.  Our meagre breakfast was about 7 am and it was now 1.30 pm. At the very large and overly ornate “Sim Sim” restaurant, we enjoyed kebabs. The afternoon involved two museums: one on the official tour and the other an optional extra.

We spent half an hour at the Museum of Applied Art located in the former palace of a 19th century Russian diplomat. The museum contains some beautiful artefacts. Then, having booked into our hotel (we were back at the Lotte City), those who wished to view a second museum – only me and two others did – had a few minutes to find our rooms before walking round to the newly recurated National History Museum. This proved to be more interesting than feared with a final, extensive section on post-independence Uzbekistan, so it was an hour well-spent. 

Back at the hotel, there was barely half an hour before the group was off again for a special farewell evening. It started with a classical concert of just over an hour and a half delivered by a full string orchestra.  I am a lifelong lover of classical music, but I did not recognise any of the four pieces (the last and longest was ‘Stabat Mater’). but I thoroughly enjoyed all of them. Then, we had a late-ish dinner at a restaurant with live music called “Caravan”. So it was about 10.30 pm before we returned to hotel, over 14 hours since we had left the previous hotel in the morning. 

Day 26 was all about travelling home: a four hour flight from Tashkent to Istanbul and then a three hour plus flight from Istanbul to London, again both with Turkish Airlines. I was met at the airport by a car arranged by VJV, so I reached home 16 1/2 hours after leaving the hotel in Tashkent. While I had been away, I had grown a beard and the UK had obtained a new prime minister, a new monarch and a collapsed pound. 


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