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Uzbekistan

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Travel Guide Asia Uzbekistan

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Introduction

Guri Amir Mausoleum, Samarkand

Guri Amir Mausoleum, Samarkand

© All Rights Reserved bsmethers

Though Soviet rule came to an end in 1991 and Uzbekistan has been an independent nation since that time, the country remains locked into a dictatorial government with a nasty attitude. Uzbekistan is a country that wants tourists to stick to a planned itinerary.

Despite this slight turn-off, Uzbekistan has enough going for it to still attract visitors. Among Central Asian countries, it is arguably the most interesting; cities like Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara have been around over a thousand years and bear the signs of a long, rich past: mosques, mausolea and minarets stand as proud testimonies to the Timurid period in the 14th century. Of course, for every structure dating back a thousand years, there are at least three ugly Soviet buildings. The best thing to do is to not let the abomination of Soviet design overshadow the glory of Uzbekistan's past.

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Brief History

The first people known to have occupied Central Asia were Iranian nomads who arrived from the northern grasslands of what is now Uzbekistan sometime in the first millennium BC. These nomads, who spoke Iranian dialects, settled in Central Asia and began to build an extensive irrigation system along the rivers of the region. At this time, cities such as Bukhoro (Bukhara) and Samarqand (Samarkand) began to appear as centers of government and culture.
The Mongol conquest under Genghis Khan during the 13th century, would bring about a dramatic change to the region. The brutal conquest and widespread genocide characteristic of the Mongols almost entirely exterminated the indigenous Indo-Iranian (Scythian) people of the region. Their culture and heritage being superseded by that of the Mongolian-Turkic peoples who settled the region thereafter.

In the nineteenth century, the Russian Empire began to expand and spread into Central Asia. The "Great Game" period is generally regarded as running from approximately 1813 to the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907. Following the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, a second, less intensive phase followed. At the start of the nineteenth century, there were some 3,200 kilometres separating British India and the outlying regions of Tsarist Russia. Much of the land in between was unmapped.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, Central Asia was firmly in the hands of Russia, and despite some early resistance to Bolsheviks, Uzbekistan and the rest of Central Asia became a part of the Soviet Union. On 27 October 1924 the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic was created. On 31 August 1991, Uzbekistan declared independence, marking 1 September as a national holiday.
The country is now the world's second-largest exporter of cotton, and it is developing its mineral and petroleum reserves.

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Geography

Uzbekistan covers 447,400 square kilometres and lies between latitudes 37° and 46° N, and longitudes 56° and 74° E. It stretches 1,425 kilometres from west to east and 930 kilometres from north to south. Uzbekistan borders Kazakhstan to the north, Turkmenistan to the southwest, Tajikistan to the southeast and Kyrgyzstan to the northeast. The country also has a short border with Afghanistan to the south. This Central Asian country is one of two doubly landlocked countries in the world, i.e., a country completely surrounded by landlocked countries (the other one is Liechtenstein). Less than 10% of its territory is cultivated and/or irrigated land, mainly in river valleys and oases; the remainder is desert (Kyzyl Kum) and mountains. The highest mountain in Uzbekistan is the Khazret Sultan at 4,643 metres above sea level, and is located in the southern part of the Gissar Range in Surkhandarya Province, along the border with Tajikistan. The Aral Sea used to be the fourth-largest inland sea on the planet, but since the 1960s, it has shrunk to less than 50% of its former area and decreased in volume threefold, because of the disuse of its water, much of which was and still continues to be used for the irrigation of cotton fields.

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Regions/Provinces

Uzbekistan consists of 12 provinces, 1 autonomous republic (Qaraqalpaqstan Respublikasi) and 1 independent city (Toshkent Shahri)

The 12 provinces, or viloyati are:

  • Andijon Viloyati
  • Buxoro Viloyati
  • Farg'ona Viloyati
  • Jizzax Viloyati
  • Xorazm Viloyati
  • Namangan Viloyati
  • Navoiy Viloyati
  • Qashqadaryo Viloyati
  • Samarqand Viloyati
  • Sirdaryo Viloyati
  • Surxondaryo Viloyati
  • Toshkent Viloyati

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Khiva

Walled City of Khiva

Walled City of Khiva

© All Rights Reserved ilyushin

Khiva is one of the cultural highlights of the country and is located in the west of the country, near the city of Urgench. The main attraction here is Itchan Kala, the inner town of the old Khiva oasis, which was the last resting-place of caravans before crossing the desert to Iran. Although only several of the old monuments remain, it is a well-preserved example of the Muslim architecture of Central Asia and still, there are a few structures like the Djuma Mosque, the mausoleums and the madrasas and the two magnificent palaces built at the beginning of the 19th century by Alla-Kulli-Khan. For this reason the Itchan Kala has been placed on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Aral Sea

The Aral Sea is located in the northwest of Uzbekistan and it shared with Kazakhstan which has the northern part of the lake. The lake used to be the world's fourth-largest inland sea with an area of 68,000 square kilometers. But since the 1960s the Aral Sea has been shrinking because of irrigation projects by the former Sovjetunion which meant that the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers were diverted and did not fed the Aral Sea anymore. By 2004, the sea had shrunk to 25% of its original surface area and on top of that the increase in salinity had killed most of its natural flora and fauna. By 2007 it had declined further to 10% of its original size and now there are 3 small separate lakes, only of which can support some fish to live in it. If you want to visit, it is possible but it requires some time and bumpy trip to the southern shores where you can see ship wrecks on your way there.

Samarkand

The Golden Mosque, Tillya Kari, The Registan

The Golden Mosque, Tillya Kari, The Registan

© All Rights Reserved Nat and Ev

Samarkand probably is the most famous and best known attraction in the country and is placed on the Unesco list as well. This 7th century B.C. founded city today still is a crossroad and melting pot of the world's cultures. but Samarkand played its most significant role during the Timurid period in the 14th and 15th century and major monuments travellers can visit today are the Registan Mosque and madrasas, Bibi-Khanum Mosque, the Shakhi-Zinda compound and the Gur-Emir ensemble, as well as Ulugh-Beg's Observatory.

Other sights and activities

  • Historical centre of Bukhara, Unesco World Heritage site
  • Historical centre of Shakhrisyabz, Unesco site
  • Fergana Valley, in the extreme east

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Events and Festivals

  • January 1 - New Year
  • March 8 - Women's Day
  • March 21 - Navruz (Islamic New Year)
  • May 9 - Memorial Day
  • September 1 - Independence Day
  • October 1 - Teacher's Day
  • December 8 - Constitution Day.

There are other religious holidays with varying dates:

  • Ramadan Khait
  • Kurban Khait

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Weather

Uzbekistan has a harsh climate with hot and dry summers and cold winters with some rain and snowfall, depending on wether temperatures are above or below freezing. Usually they are below and can drop to -40 degrees Celcius on some occasions. Still, Tashkent has average temperatures above zero during wintertime. During summer, daytime temperatures can rise well above 35 degrees Celcius and can hit almost 50 degrees in the western deserts.

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Getting there

Plane

Most flights depart and arrive in the capital Tashkent. The national airline is Uzbekistan Airways, which has flights to neighbouring countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as connections further away in Asia, like Japan and India. It also serves over a dozen destinations in Russia among which Moscow and St. Petersburg. Frankfurt, Paris and London as well as New York are the most important western cities to be served.

Train

Uzbekistan - Russia vv
There are three trains a week between Moscow and Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Trains leave Moscow on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 11.15pm, arriving 3 days later at 7.15 pm in Tashkent. In the opposite direction, trains depart from Tashkent at around 7pm on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Moscow 3 days later just after 3 in the afternoon.

Other connections to and from Tashkent include those to Ufa (3 times weekly), Tsjeljabinsk (once weekly), Kharkov (once weekly) , Saratov (every 4 days) and Almaty (once weekly, on Wednesday). The last one originates in Nukus.
To Kazakhstan, there are also daily trains from Kungrad (Uzbekistan) to Beyneu (western Kazakhstan). They leave in the morning and take around 10 hours.

By Car

With your own car, you have more freedome of going anywhere you like, but crossing borders, arranging visa, the right documentation of your car and insurance etc. means that all the bureaucratic hassle gets quite annoying sometimes.
You can cross most borders where public transport exists or where foreigners can cross on foot.

By Bus

Buses travel to most neighbouring countries, including services to Bishkek, Dushanbe and Almaty.
Crossings into Kazakhstan are on the road between Tashkent and Shymkent. Across the border you can also travel to Turkestan. There is another crossing between Karakalpakstan and Beyneu in western Kazakhstan.
There are three border crossings into Kyrgyzstan that are open to foreigners: at Uchkurgan (northeast of Namangan); Dustlyk (Dostyk), between Andijon and Osh; and Khanabad (between Andijon and Jalal-Abad). Most use the Osh crossing and onward transport is plentiful. Buses to Bishkek go through Kazakhstan and you will need a transit visa.
To Tajikistan, there are several options, but many choose to take the Oybek border crossing, get to Khojand and take a flight onwards to Dushanbe. Other main border crossings are Samarkand–Penjikent and Denau–Tursanzade.
There are also three border crossings with Turkmenistan: from Khiva/Urgench (to Dashogus), from Nukus (Konye-Urgench border crossing) and from Bukhara (towards Turkmenabat). Minibuses ply the routes on both sides of the border but you have to walk for about 15 minutes between borders. Avoid the hottest time of the day!

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Getting Around

By Plane

Uzbekistan Airways provides cheap flights between Tashkent and a number of domestic airports. Destinations include Samarkand, Andijan, Karshi, Namangan, Navoi (which is 45 minutes by bus from Bukhara), Nukus and Termez as well. Plane travel is the least safe mode of transport and international standards regarding planes and maintenance are not the case.

By Train

Trains link several of the major cities, including Tashkent, Termez, Samarkand, Bukhara, the Fergana Valley and Nukus.
Most services are provided on a daily basis, sometimes more.

By Car

Although most of the major roads are sealed, it is not recommended to drive a car yourself, better to hire one with a driver which is possible at majort hotels, airports and cities. Most offices won't let you drive one yourself. If so, you need an international driving permit.

By Bus

Cheap, reliable and relatively comfortable and fast buses operate between Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and to the Fergana Valley and further east toward to Aral Sea. Minivans and shared taxis ply the same routes, and many other routes and leave when full. They usually are faster and just a bit more expensive.
In general, if trains are an option, go for it. Otherwise, take a (mini)bus.

By Boat

The Aral Sea is almost dry and Uzbekistan is one of two countries in the world (Liechtenstein being the other one) which are doubly landlocked. As a result, travelling around by boat is not an option.

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Red Tape

Most visitors to Uzbekistan require visas to enter (except the CIS countries) and you have to arrange them before you fly to the country or want to cross borders. Sometimes, letters of invitation (LOI) are necessary as well, but they become less and less needed these days. Visas can be issued on arrival to nationals arriving from a country which has no Uzbekistan representation. Have a look at the website containing foreign embassies information to see if you need a visa before arrival.

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Money

See also Money Matters

National currency of the Republic of Uzbekistan is Uzbek soum. It was introduced on July 1. Uzbekistan has got multiple exchange rates. Official exchange rate is used for statistical purposes and customs clearings. Commercial exchange rate is used to exchange money form hard currency into Uzbek soums. The only notes you can convert are US dollars, Euros and Japanese yen. There is also unofficial exchange rate. While travelling, it is advised to carry small US dollar notes for fast and easy exchange. Uzbek soums are in denominations of UZS 1000, 500, 200, 100 and 50. Coins are in denominations of UZS 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 tiyn. At the time of writing, commercial exchange rate was 1 USD=1479 soums.

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Study

If you would like to get higher degree in English then you are limited to study only in Tashkent as universities in other cities provide education for local students in Uzbek language.

International Universities:

  • Westminster University (taught in English)
  • Management Development Institute of Singapore (taught in English)
  • International Business School "Kelajak Ilmi" (taught in English)

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Language

Uzbek is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. Uzbek is not only spoken in Uzbekistan but in other Central Asian countries as well. Uzbek was written in Arabic script until 1927 and in the Latin Alphabet from 1927 to 1940, when the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced. Since the mid-90's, Latin has again been adopted as the official alphabet.

Popular phrases:

  • Hello! - Assalomu alaykum!
  • Welcome! - Khush kelibsiz!
  • Good bye! - Khayr!
  • Thank you! - Rakhmat!
  • Please! - Iltimos!
  • Sorry - Kechirasiz
  • I am sorry - Uzr or Kechirasiz

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Health

See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Uzbekistan. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Uzbekistan. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria does, but only in the southeast and chances are very slim to get it. Pills are not necessary; buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

Post

Uzbekistan postal services are not developed as in most developed countries worldwide, but all letters and parcels are delivered (after customs check) to its destinations. Uzbekistan postal services "OZBEKISTON POCHTASI" have introduced many new services recently and level of service is increasing. EMS Falcon (company affiliated with Ozbekiston Pochtasi) can deliver letters and parcels within Uzbekistan fast.

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Quick Facts

Uzbekistan flag

Map of Uzbekistan

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Capital
Tashkent
Population
25,982,000
Government
Republic
Religions
Islam, Christianity (Eastern Orthodox)
Languages
Uzbek, Russian, Tajik
Calling Code
+998
Nationality
Uzbek
Local name
Ozbekiston

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This is version 30. Last edited at 10:17 on May 16, 13 by travelnetwork. 23 articles link to this page.

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