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  • Day1

    Tashkent, Museum of Applied Arts

    April 13 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    After our short coffee break it's time for our last activity on today's To Do list: the Museum of Applied Arts.
    Built in the residence of a former Russian diplomat, the museum hosts several examples of the different types of Uzbeki arts and crafts. Apparently Uzbekistan was well known for its skilled craftsmen already at the times of the Silk Road and the development of local handcrafts was nurtered by the commercial activities connected with the Silk Road.

    In the first room we see some fine embroideries enriched with typical symbols like the four elements (earth, fire, water, air), almonds (symbolising wealth, due to their high price), pomegranates (symbol of fertility) and the inevitable cotton. Uzbekistan was indeed for a very long time the first world producer of cotton: in order to sustain the growing cotton farms, during the USSR the waters of the main tributary river of the huge Aral lake were deviated, causing a natural disaster. Without its main sources of water, the lake started to shrink, while its salinity increased esponentially killing every form of life. The lake has now almost completely disappeared and only a tiny portion resists thanks to some ecological interventions of Kazakhstan. Where this huge continental sea was stretching until a few decades ago there is now only a salt desert with an unbearable climate.

    Back to the embroideries. They were created by unmarried girls with the aim showing their skills as future wives and housewives. The mothers of the girls were bringing the works of their daughters to potential grooms, who were deciding whether to marry the girl (never seen before) or not purely based on her skills with the needle. 🤔

    We then move to a section with richly decorated hats. Said explains that by looking at the size, shape, colour and decorations of the hat it was possible to determine the region of origin, the age and the social level of the owner.

    In the carpet section we see a machine showing the technique used for producing them: the double knot. With this technique it takes 2x more than to complete a carpet than with the Persian or Turkish technique.

    We proceed to a different section of the building: the reception hall. Already. The outside part is richly decorated with carved wooden columns and the typical "Ganch", intertwined decorations typical of this region. The most impressive part is however inside, with a stunning wooden ceiling carved and handpainted. On the walls not even one single squared centimetre has been forgotten by the decorator, who has added some beautiful niches filled with precious urns and vases.

    We then see some potteries with cotton design that are apparently very popular in the country, beautiful musical instruments decorated with mother pearl and fine wood carvings.

    In the last room we see some gold embroideries (which apparently could only be made by men) as well as jewellery. Apparently for their wedding brides wear over 5kg of jewellery! In general, in the past men could get divorced any time and the (ex) wife was in that case forced to leave the house straight away keeping only what she was wearing. That's why girls were always well equipped! 😂

    It's 4pm when we finish the tour of the museum. For the rest of the day we don't have anything planned apart from our flight to Urgench and dinner. Since we have to be in the airport at around 7pm, we need to go to dinner maximum at 5.30pm! But we were eating until just a couple of hours ago... 😱

    We decide to take an hour break in the internal courtyard of the museum and I order a juice just to have an excuse for sitting at one of the café's tables. My head is exploding because of the lack of sleep, but there is no place to lie down. And, even worse, the guide seems to be suprr happy to have somebody of his age to finally talk to and has the brilliant idea of sitting next to me and starting chatting.
    I find out he speaks 7 languages: Uzbek, Tagik, Persian, Turkish, Russian, Chinese and, obviously, English!
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