Most of Tashkent was flattened during the 1966 earthquake in which some 200 people died, and 300,000 were left homeless. They’ve rebuilt the city with help from the Russians (originally the Soviet Union, of course,) and the Japanese. Today it is a city of wide roads, tree lined boulevards and is shaping up to be a very attractive city. There are large parks and the people seem warm and hospitable. Many of course want to try out their English language skills so there are endless repetitions of “where are you from?” “how are you?” and so on.
We visited a lovely maddrassah – like most it now acts as a place of tourist shops. The associated mosque was also new, but had the massive distinction of holding the oldest copy of the Koran. This book was originally situated in Samarkand but the Soviets took it to Moscow and thence to St Petersburg where six copies of the work were made.
Subsequently, through a complicated series of museum manoeuvres through Central Asian countries, it worked it’s way back to Turkmenistan. They also hold one of the copies here. The original is made from deer skin, is hand bound and looks distinctly antique. It dates from the 8th century, so in the Muslim world must almost date from ground zero. It was published (if that’s the word) within a generation of the Prophet’s death.
Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos, but it was a magnificent thing to see. Also contained in the building were numerous other copies of the Koran – from the 10th century to the present. Some plain, some highly elaborate.
We were equally unable to take photos in the recently opened Tashkent underground. Each station is decorated in unique and very beautiful fashion. The first we visited was full of lovely dark green ceramic pillars, with fascinating art work on the walls.
Two stations later the station was decorated to reflect Uzbekistan’s connection to Russian space exploration. A third had chandeliers. Unfortunately, security concerns mean that no photos are to be had unless you go on line and Google them. It was well worth the visit.
Tonight we say goodbye to four of our companions. We’ve had a lot of fun and shared so many experiences. I shared the Hamman in Bukhara with two of the women who are leaving, and I can testify to us all being sisters under the skin.
I believe four new people will take their place.
Rather disturbingly Neil has shown us photos of the camping area we are due to stay at in Kyrgyzstan. It is currently covered in snow, and new snow is still falling. As the temperature here today is about 30 degrees, it’s going to be a shock to the system to be bush camping in sub-zero conditions. The guides are considering their options. Frankly, I’m up for camping in a yurt in those conditions – the idea of setting up in our small tents is rather less appealing.
Once we leave Uzbekistan we will have no internet connectivity until we each Bishkek. As Cavan and I will be flying directly from Bishkek to Dubai, this probably means that we will be completely unreachable for about two weeks and of course I won’t be able to post any updates. I guess this is what they mean when they talk about living off the grid.
Madrassah in Tashkent
Times of worship at the mosque
Rather brutal Soviet housing
Sheep grazing in the centre of Tashkent