Visiting Central Asia had been on my brazier account for actually a while. So aback I assuredly got the adventitious to arch to Kazakhstan, I absitively to booty a pit-stop on my way there. This is how I got to Tashkent, the basic burghal of Uzbekistan, and additionally the best crawling burghal in former-Soviet Central Asia.
So what was Tashkent like? Considering the actuality that it is a accepted day-tripper destination, both from breathtaking and actual credibility of view, a lot has already been accounting about its assorted monuments and attractions. As such, I’d rather stick to my own observations about the burghal in this travelogue.
Uzbeks, in general, are actual accessible people. They’d go out of the way to admonition you with directions, admonition and annihilation abroad that you ability ask for. Ask any eyewitness for a direction, diplomacy are aerial they won’t accept your language. But, they’d be quick to accessible up the construe app in their phone, and ask you to allege to its articulation input.
Compare this with the absolve and “I don’t know” behavior that’s the barometer in abounding genitalia of the world. 🙂
“Welcome to Uzbekistan!”
Said the clearing guy as he formed my passport. This was the aboriginal in a account of abounding “wait, what!” moments that I was anon to accept there. Traveling in assorted countries, be it the Gulf, far-eastern Europe or alike India, I’ve never appear beyond an clearing or authorization ascendancy official who ‘welcomes’ visitors. Can’t accusation them; chump achievement is not allotment of their job. But it was abundantly hasty to apprehend that advancing from an clearing official.
This was not a one-off adventure though. On my way out of Tashkent, at the departures area, I accidentally alone a baby envelope from my laptop bag while checking-in for my flight. Over an hour later, aback I was at the lounge, I begin the check-in guy attractive about for me — “Sir, you forgot this paper!”
During my visit, the Novruz decorations were still complete about Tashkent. About speaking, Tashkent is an abnormally “green” burghal — befitting in apperception it is the basic of the country and the bench of about aggregate important over there, the cardinal of copse is adequately high. It was accessible for me to airing about the burghal and not feel tired, all acknowledgment to the apple-pie air and consistently affable April weather.
Tourism has a big role to comedy in the Uzbek economy. The country contains assorted celebrated sites, and is the birthplace of Tamerlane as able-bodied as the aboriginal Mughal Emperor Babur. Added importantly, Tashkent itself lies on the celebrated Silk Route.
All of this has prompted the government to focus heavily on tourism. There is an cyberbanking acceptance arrangement that works alone for day-tripper visas. Plus, you can calmly grab a “tourists’ flyer” from any hotel’s lounge in the city. Such flyers accommodate a acceptable accord of advice accompanying to important places to visit, things to do, etc.
These flyers were identical beyond all of Tashkent. This fabricated me curious, and yes, my assumption was actual — the government has, by and large, attempted its best to accumulate the tourism sector. Unlike Georgia, there are nounregulated drawing-room based hotels in Tashkent. There are a appropriate set of rules and regulations in place, with adequately acrimonious requirements for auberge and bout operators, including accomplishments checks and armpit visits.
Talk to any local, and they’d acquaint you that things were not the aforementioned bisected a decade ago. But over the beforehand of the accomplished few years, the Uzbek government has attempted to barrier bottomward bribery and adapt about every aspect associated with the tourism industry. This has bigger Uzbekistan’s acceptability as a “safe day-tripper destination”. Aback in the day, Uzbekistan acclimated to be a bankrupt enigma. Now, added and added tourists are absorption to Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and elsewhere.
The abounding cardinal of policemen on the streets of Tashkent is commodity that no company can abort to notice. Having apprehend a ample arrangement of abrogating animadversion about badge in Central Asia, I had my apprehensions. However, the association in compatible mostly accumulate to themselves and about consistently accost you with a smile. Personally, my acquaintance was the exact adverse of the online reviews — the locals did acknowledgment that problems appear aback visitors booty too abounding liberties (read: get bashed and balloon their way back).
That said, there are innumerable aegis checks at every accessible place, such as airports and alternation stations. And they adulation backyard things! Successfully entered from Gate A? Cast on paper! Went admiral to the lounge? Cast on paper!
Make abiding you backpack all the tickets and booking receipts in printed format. Repeat: accumulate aggregate on paper!
Picturize this: I animosity accustomed papers, and accumulate aggregate on my phone. The guy at the aegis board was all geared up with the cast in his hand. He was assured to be handed a cardboard that he can abode the cast on, but instead got the buzz from me. He gave me the abashed blaze of the century.
The basement is able-bodied developed, admitting best of it is from the Soviet era. In fact, one would be adamantine apprenticed to acquisition commodity that does not buck a mark of its Soviet legacy. For instance, I backward at Wyndham Auberge Tashkent. A abundant auberge with affable agents and actually fast internet (oh, and agitating breakfast).
However, this accurate Wyndham was annihilation like the ones that you ability acquisition in Bahrain or UAE. There were no ergonomic adjustable chairs and no avant-garde activity extenuative lamps. The furniture, admitting in absolute appearance and squeaky clean, about shouted at me — “I’m earlier than you!”
The table reminded me of my grandfather’s abstraction table, and the board armchair had a acceptable accord of accessory work. Let’s put it this way — if you were to abolish the flatscreen TV, the allowance would actually accord to the set of a 1980s sitcom.
There is a aerial acceleration alternation that runs from Tashkent to Bukhara via Samarkand — Afrosiyab Aerial Acceleration Rail (operating speed: 250 km/h). Since the cardinal of tourists is adequately ample about all annular the year, tickets are about awash out in advance.
With that said, there is one actual arresting botheration that visitors ability face in Tashkent. The country, by and large, is a predominantly banknote economy. About all diplomacy appear in cash, and it is not actual accessible to acquisition an ATM either. Added about than not, best of the roadside ATMs do not work.
I about biking with a actual negligible bulk of cash, and await heavily on cards. Naturally, I did not accept abundant banknote to go by, and the ATMs about the burghal weren’t actually in the affection to be of any help. Thankfully, Wyndham Tashkent had a alive ATM that dispelled USD (not the bounded currency). So one can abjure USD and catechumen it at an barter for Uzbek Som.
So actuality is a pro-tip: if you’re anytime visiting Tashkent anytime soon, accomplish abiding you backpack a responsibly appropriate bulk of cash. Perchance you acquisition yourself active out of cash, try the ATMs at hotels or banks — those are added acceptable to be working.
Visiting Tashkent was a different and memorable experience.
Even added different was aerial with Uzbekistan Airways, an airline that is a alloyed bag of emotions. On one hand, their Business Lounge wi-fi refuses to assignment unless you accommodate a bounded Uzbek cardinal for affidavit (yes, goodluck with your all-embracing adrift SIM card!). On the added hand, their airplanes are in acceptable appearance (read: cast new) and the flight acquaintance is actual pleasant.
Similarly, booking a admission is a mess, with no web check-in, and no mobile-friendly website. But the announcement and acquittance action is a breeze should you ambition to abolish — they’d alike acquittance 100% of the amount of some tickets. I can address on and on about Uzbekistan Airways, so conceivably this is commodity that deserves an commodity of its own for a after date.
It’s a benevolence I did not accept time to appointment Samarkand and Bukhara. Perhaps, some added time…
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a writer, educator, adventurer and analyst with a appropriate focus on accepted affairs. His op-eds about betrayal the atrocities actuality committed adjoin the minorities, such as the Rohingya bodies of Myanmar or the indigenous tensions in South Sudan and CAR. Sufyan bin Uzayr is a appear columnist and an accomplished web developer. Apprehend his blog at www.politicalperiscope.com
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