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    Tashkent

    June 13 in Uzbekistan ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    The capital of Uzbekistan, Tashkent is home to more than 2 million people and is the largest city in Central Asia. The overwhelming impression it gives is of financial wealth. Grand buildings line leafy streets and modern cars (especially Chevrolets manufactured in Andijan) are everywhere. At more than 2200 years old, it was originally a caravan town that grew up at the border of the settled and nomadic worlds. The modern face was created by the Soviets after a powerful earthquake severely damaged the city in 1966.

    First stop on our city tour was the beautiful 16th century mausoleum of Yunus Khan, the grandfather of the Mughal Emporer Babur (whose memorial we'd seen in Andijan). Nearby, the Khast-Imam Complex includes a number of madrassas and mosques. It's been the spiritual heart of the city for centuries. At one end is the stunning Barak Khan Madrassa, with its twin minarets. Once a place for religious learning, it's now filled with craftspeople peddling their wares. It is still used for religious purposes on occasion, and the Mufti of Tashkent (the country's top Islam cleric) is based here. Group member Caroline scored an excellent price on a silk wall hanging thanks to some skillful negotiating by our guide.

    Also in this complex is the world's oldest Koran, which dates from 655 and is housed within the Muyie Mubareck Library Museum. Complete with blood stains from the caliph who was reading it at the time and was murdered, it was a surprisingly large book. The murder apparently fueled the split between the Sunni and Shia branches of Islam. Equally impressive were the copies of the Koran in a multitude of languages- even Braille.

    A trip on the metro to visit the Chorsu market added a bit of fun, especially as many of the train stations are decorated in Soviet style. Not as impressive as what we'd seen in St Petersburg but still worth a look.

    A late afternoon visit to the Museum of Applied Art proved to be a real highlight, with beautifully presented examples of different craft work that characterize the Uzbek people, including embroidery (including with gold), carpet ,weaving, wood feet work and metal work. The whole museum in an exquisite house of ghanch (carved and painted plaster). Built in the 1930s at the height of the Soviet period, it's a real masterpiece (though I wouldn't want to actually live with all that colour!).

    Although this is a Muslim country, alcohol is available everywhere, but they just don't seem to make the most of their warm evenings with pleasant outdoor bars! A search for a glass of wine failed but we happened upon the beautiful Tashkent Opera House.
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