City tour of Tashkent
Trip Start Aug 30, 2009
244Trip End Dec 25, 2009
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Our first "official" tour day in Tashkent was this afternoon. We had the tour briefing this morning and then some free time during when I managed to get to the TV tower for a city view and then the fine arts museum to see some Uzbek clothing, paintings, carvings, ancient pottery and such.
We are a group of 10 with our Uzbek tour leading included, 7 from England, and two from the U.S. (myself included). The tour group is through Explore in the U.K. and the Adventure Center in the U.S. This afternoon we piled onto a 40 person bus with our local guide, Natasha. Took awhile to get used to the cadence of her voice but once I did, she was quite easy to understand.
She was trying to cover every single building of import as we passed it on the bus. I felt my head swivel from side to side as she would say, “You see on your left, the building of finance, and on your right is the ministry of the interior, and on your left is the university which is no longer used as a university but is an office building, and on your right . . .” I am fairly sure I could not identify any of these buildings at this point.
We stopped first at the applied arts museum which had many of the same kind of things I had seen this morning in the fine arts museum but I paid to take photos in this one and I am glad I did. The embroideries are quite interesting in that girls married at 12 or 13 back then and were required to have 40 pieces of embroidery in their dowry. These were not small chair back covers either, they were often bed cover size. So friends and mothers would get together and each would embroider a strip and then they would put them all together. You can see where the strips have been joined plus all the people contributing to the embroidered piece did not always have the same skill and not always were even the exact same colors used. Natasha explained how we could tell where the pieces were from but I can only remember Tashkent at this point which often had “snakes” which just seemed to mean long curled multicolored embroidery.
This museum also had a couple of gorgeous rooms that were very Arabic in style in the decorations but also had paintings on the wall of love stories. One painting showed how the girls would get together to embroider and the men would sneak peaks at them so they could pick a bride and then go to their parents and say they wanted to marry the girl of such and such a house
Back in the bus and back to swivel head for awhile. We then stopped at one of the big parks, of which they seem to have many, and went to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. There is an eternal flame there and a large statue of the hero mother – a mother who has lost her son or sons in service to Uzbekistan. We were lucky to find an older couple there in traditional Uzbekistan dress and they did not mind having their photos taken, in fact he was quite proud to talk to us as he had just returned from the Hajj to Saudi Arabia. We walked through the park then to see the many large government buildings and some of the wonderful fountains there.
We had a few minutes at the art market where painters have spread their wares on the sidewalk in the hopes of attracting buyers. Also a few people were there selling jewelry and some other odds and ends. It was interesting to wander through and see the paintings of the beautiful countryside and wonderful people and buildings of the country.
Finally we ended the tour at the theatre square which has a huge fountain in the courtyard. While we were looking around a bride and groom who had just celebrated their nuptials arrived for photographs. They were kind enough to let all of us stand around and take photos also. This was the third couple we saw today. All the brides were in very elaborate elegant white western wedding dresses.
Back on the bus and back to the hotel. Natasha left us there so we didn't have any more neck swiveling. She will meet us again tomorrow morning for our final tour of Tashkent before we leave tomorrow late afternoon to board the train to another fabled town.