Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, has been given a new, but unofficial name in modern history – the Star of the East. This 2000-year old city has been mentioned in the Avesta, one of the most ancient manuscripts dating back to the 5th century BC. Archeologists believe, from their latest findings, that Tashkent’s history dates back to more than 25 centuries.Tashkent , since ancient times, was a major center in Central Asia, connecting East and West, North and South, serving as one of the major centers on the Great Silk Road.
Shach, as it was then called, was famous both in the East and the West, for its scholars, architectsand poets. Tashkent has survived many triumphs and tragedies over the years. The silent witnesses of our ancient past are the historic monuments that have been preserved to this day. Unfortunately, the 12 gates that were used to let people and caravans enter this ancient city, have not survived.
Rebuilt after the 1966 earthquake as the very model of a modern Soviet city, Tashkent comprises concrete apartment blocks decorated with Uzbek motifs and illuminated slogans, yawning parade grounds around solemn monuments. Hectares of parkland and a remarkably comprehensive public transport system. There is also the other, older city, a sprawling Uzbek country town with fruit trees and vines in every courtyard hidden behind secure walls.
The Uzbek capital also operates as a scientific center. Present the Academy of Sciences, the ArtAcademy, the Academy of Armed Forces, the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, theUniversity of World Languages, the National Institute, the Institute of Law and the Islamic University are located in Tashkent. The six universities and numerous institutes in Tashkenteducate more than 90 000 young people from all the provinces of Uzbekistan and further afield. There is a series of special sight-seeing tours where guests can see and experience the harmonic combination of modern architecture with historical monuments. Examples are the Kukeldash madrassah on Chorsu square built in the 16th century, the Kaffal Shashi mausoleum also from the 16th century, Kukeldsash madrassah and the others.
As was the case long ago, so it is today – we continue to say our guests and friends as we did centuries ago: “Hush kelibsiz”, welcome on Tashkent’s hospitable soil!
Places of interest in Tashkent:
• Museum of History. The museum has the most interesting exposition of all periods of Uzbek history which gives an overview of Uzbek culture and people. One highlight in the museum is a small, peaceful Buddha figure from a Kushan temple.
• Kukeldash madrassah. This grand 16th century madrassah on a hill has a domed courtyard at the rear which has been under restoration for years. On warm Friday mornings the plaza in front overflows with worshippers.
• Chorsu Bazaar. It is open every day, but on Saturday and Sunday morning this huge open market beside Kukeldash is a great place to find crowds of people from the surrounding countryside (many in traditional dress) along with fresh produce, prepared food, tea, traditional Uzbek clothes, carpets, tea sets and household items. Tashkent has at least 16 such farmers’ markets.
• Khast Imam. This is one name for the plain square which is the official religious center of the republic. On the south-west corner the 16th century Barak Khan madrassah houses the Central Asian Muslim Religious Board, whose Grand Mufti is roughly the Islamic equivalent of an archbishop for Uzbekistan.
• Museum of Applied Arts – a wealthy Tsarist Diplomat, originally commissioned this house to be built for him in traditional style by artisans from different cities, but he was transferred before it was finished. Full of bright carved plaster decorations (ghanch) and carved wood, the house itself is the main attraction, though there are also exhibits of rare ceramics, textiles, jewellery, musical instruments and toys.
• The Amir Timur museum – Tashkent’s newest museum stands just north of the rehabilitated national icon’s statue. It has quite an impressive structure with a brilliant blue ribbed dome and a richly decorated interior.
• Alisher Navoi Opera & Ballet Theatre. By 1940, Soviet planners had decided a theatre would greatly enhance an area known as the Drunken Bazaar for its wine-soaked market. Japanese prisoners of war completed construction in 1947. The program changes daily, from Uzbek symphony to Russian opera.
• Tashkent Metro – construction began in 1972 and five years later the first train rolled. Some people say, that Tashkent metro has one of the beautiful metro stations. There are three lines acting and taking pictures is strictly forbidden.