I have another night on my own tonight as my room mate still isn’t here due to flight delays but I can’t complain as it gives me a chance to have a good nights sleep before the start of our overland trip tomorrow. Although I wonder what state he’ll be in after being delayed for so long.
For me today was definitely better as I had a chance to explore the city and see some of the things that Tashkent has to offer. We grabbed a taxi into the centre and decided to start at Amir Timur Square for a couple of reasons – firstly it was somewhere that we could describe to the taxi driver and secondly as it is a good focal point in the city.
Amir Temur Square itself was really nice. It’s a sun trap, surrounded by a main road, right in the middle of the city and is centered around a statue of Amir Temur – a leader of the local people who unified a number of nations during the 14th century. We spent some time wandering around, taking photos, and watching some sort of promotional video shoot involving local school children but as this was our only day in the city we didn’t have time to take in the atmosphere for as long as I would have liked.
We spent an hour or so wandering around the city taking in sights such as mosques, a museum, open air art sale, Independence Square and numerous other impressive buildings before finally ending up at the park next to the Uzbekistan Senate building. One thing that’s fairly obvious as you walk around Tashkent is that the Soviet Union had a huge influence in the way the city was set up and the way buildings were designed. This gives the city a familiar feel, having been to Kiev a couple of years ago, but at the same time it has managed to hold on to its own heritage. It is this heritage that I was keen to see, even though most of the city is new, due to the fact our time in Uzbekistan is limited on this trip so we made plans to visit the Khazrati Imom complex after lunch.
Lunch was a simple Shashlik kebab with bread and tea at an open air food market but it was really nice and seems to be a favourite with the locals. If it’s your sort of thing then head down to the Chorsu Market area and you won’t be disappointed. It wasn’t imaginative food but it was tasty, cheap, filling and good quality which is the main thing.
After stocking up on supplies at the market we made our way to the Khazrati Imom complex that I mentioned earlier. The buildings here are built in the traditional style, although not all of them are original, and they are featured on the front of countless guide books on the country. I highly recommend a visit if you’re in Tashkent and won’t be visiting other parts of the country which have a wider selection of original buildings. However the buildings here are an attraction in their own right and include a mosque, a palace which is now a market and museum containing a large selection of Korans including one of the oldest copies in existence. I must admit I don’t know much about Islam but I found it really interesting to see all of the copies there and if you visit I’m sure you will too.
It was starting to get late by this point, and the weather looked like it could turn at any moment, so we made our way back to the market area in order to catch a taxi to our hotel. Instead of taking the main roads, now that we knew the route, we took side streets through local areas which gave us an insight into what it’s like to live in the city. One thing I didn’t understand, while walking through the area, was why the gas supply to the houses looks like this.
We had to shelter from the rain for a while before catching a taxi back but this gave us a chance to people watch.
Dinner was interesting tonight. We decided to have a group meal in the hotel restaurant tonight to get to know each other, and say goodbye to the people leaving the Dragoman trip in Tashkent, but I’m not sure we made the right decision as the service was among the worst I’ve experienced while travelling. Once we ordered it took forever for food to start arriving, people who ordered the same thing ended up being served a long time apart with meals that didn’t look the same, the people served first had finished their meals by the time 50% of the group had been served and one person was told that they had run out of what he ordered well over half an hour after our order was taken. The food, once it arrived, was actually quite nice but if you’re staying at the Grand Orzu hotel I’d recommend just heading out to a local restaurant. The service didn’t spoil the evening, however, and it seems like I have a nice bunch of fellow travellers. I look forward so travelling with them.