About Uzbekistan

Nature of Uzbekistan

The wildlife and landscapes of Uzbekistan are highly diverse. The high mountains in the country’s territory with summits between 2,500 and 4,600 m above sea level include the Ugam, Korjantau and Chatkal Ranges in the southwestern Tien Shan and the Turkestan, Zeravshan and Hissar Ranges in the Pamir-Alai system. In the central part of Uzbekistan there are the Nurata Mountains, the Aktau and Karatau Ranges and the Bukantau Mountains in the Central Kyzylkum.
The deserts of Uzbekistan, Kyzylkum and Karakum, are no less interesting. There are 23 protected areasreserves and national parks in Uzbekistan covering a total of 20.5 thousand km2 (5% of the country’s territory).

Fauna of Uzbekistan has more than 600 species of vertebrates, including 97 species of mammals, 424 species of birds, 58 species of reptiles. Flora of Uzbekistan is represented by more than 4,100 species of higher plants. Part of the rare animals can also be seen in Ecocenter “Jeyran” Zerafshan, Nurota, Amudarya, Surhandarya reserves. Here are working on reproductions of rare animals: sheep of Severtsev, horned goats (Markhor), jeyrans (antelopes), Przewalski”s horse, wild asses, bustards. 

Territory – 447.4 thousand sq. Km. The distance between the southern and northern extreme points is 925 km, between the western and eastern points – 1400 km. Uzbekistan shares borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan (Kyrgyzstan), Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The capital is Tashkent.

The state language is Uzbek. Russian is the language of interethnic communication for people of more than 100 nationalities living in Uzbekistan.

The population of Uzbekistan is over 30 million people, the rural population is 60%. There are 16 cities in Uzbekistan with a population of over 100 thousand people. More …

The birth rate is 450 – 500 thousand people a year. The average family size is 5-6 people, children and adolescents under 15 years old make up 43%.

Administrative division of the country: 12 regions (viloyats) and the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan.

The climate in Uzbekistan is sharply continental with short and warm winters and long hot summers. The average temperature in January is minus 2 – 5 ° С (the absolute minimum is 38 ° С) in July is 30 – 38 ° С (the absolute maximum is 49.6 ° С). The number of sunny days is about 300 per year.

Uzbekistan is a country with a rich history. It is home to many ancient civilizations. Here such powerful states as Bactria, Sogdiana, Parthia and Khorezm arose, flourished and disappeared. In the Middle Ages, this was the center of the huge empire of Tamerlane. More than 20 centuries ago, countless caravans carrying at that time priceless silk, porcelain, tea and spices from China to Europe passed along the Great Silk Road. World famous scientists and poets such as Avicenna, Alisher Navoi, Ulugbek, Al-Khorezmi were born and created their works here. Thousands of years ago, fabulous cities with mosques, madrasahs, parks and gardens were built here. Many of them have already been destroyed, but the surviving monuments of the Middle Ages in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are still worthy of admiration.

Tall and elegant minarets, grandiose mosques, medieval palaces and mausoleums, decorated with amazing ornaments, unique bustle and bright colors of oriental bazaars, ancient legends, traditional hospitality and age-old traditions of local residents attract numerous tourists from all over the world to Uzbekistan.

Arts and Crafts of Uzbekistan

Artistic crafts hold a big place in cultural heritage of Uzbekistan. The secrets of the craft have been followed for generations, ancient ornaments were kept, artistic schools were established, that have become the center of many types of artistic crafts. The combination of ancient and modern architecture, art and traditions create the uniqueness of Uzbekistan – the pearl of Central Asia. 

One of the most ancient and interesting types of applied arts of Uzbekistan is art ceramics. The products of craftsmen of Rishtan (Fergana valley), Gijduvan (Bukhara region), Urgut (Samarkand region) – amaze with their unique ornaments, bright colors and a fantasy of authors.   
In the settlements of Uba (Bukhara region, Nurata (Navoi region), and also in Denau (Surkhandarya region) skillful craftsmen make clay toy. Fantastic animals, birds, horses, sheep consist the main reserve of images for clay toys. The most famous toys are toy whistles. The Central Asian toy is a unique phenomenon, preserved in rare places, in each locality it contains original and unique images.

Carpet weaving – is present in Uzbekistan from ancient times. With its elaborate decoration, gamma of colors, unique drawing and ornament and high quality of weaving these products attract many tourists. Ancient traditions of weavers from Uzbekistan are embodied in carpets, each of which is a true masterpiece, that with time become of antique value, the pride of the owner and always an indispensable attribute of a luxurious interior. For the decoration of monumental buildings and interiors of palaces, museums, theaters in Uzbekistan are widely used several types of ancient oriental arts – ganch (alabaster) carving, stone and wood carving, painting on wood and ganch.

Ancient technicians of a varnish miniature are kept and widely used by modern masters. Skillfully painted with ethnic scenes, episodes from works of Uzbek poets casket, cases and decorative pumpkins, captivate with the brightness of colors, subtlety of lines and elegance of forms
No less interesting type of national art is copper embossing. Various dishes were made of copper that were decorated with the images of birds and animals, often – big plastic, for example, tips of the teapots and jugs. Geometrical ornaments, calligraphic paintings, astral motives were used.
A special place among Uzbek Artistic crafts holds a craft of making knives. The blade of the knives are made of high quality steel, and handles are made of wood, horns and metal that decorate with inlay, jewels and geometric ornaments.  

In addition, apart from handles of knives, jewelers richly decorated the sheath for the sabers, men’s belts, and horse equipment details. Still, the main aim of zargars (jewelers) was making different women’s jewelry. In the museums of Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara jewels of from different eras are kept. Moreover, the forms of these ancient jewels are used today by ustas (masters) in their workshops.  

Among a wonderful traditions, that is Uzbek art is rich by, artistic fabric decoration and a unique decorating of clothes – golden sewing hold a great place. The center of golden sewing was and still is Bukhara. Masters embroider various types of clothing – from national skullcaps to bathrobes, as well as large wall panels, theater curtains. In modern gold-embroidery workshops you can buy finished products, as well as order exclusive clothing

Museums of Uzbekistan

No doubt, the best way to learn about Uzbekistan, to familiarize oneself with its history and traditions and to understand the mentality of its people is to visit the country’s diverse museums. The first public museum in Uzbekistan was opened in Tashkent in 1876. Later, museums of regional studies were organised in the cities of Samarkand and Fergana, in 1896 and 1899, respectively. Though being quite miscellaneous and often casual, the museums’ exhibits could nevertheless provide some information on the local history, nature and society and contribute to the local people’s cultural and educational development. 

Currently, there are 444 museums of various kinds functioning in Uzbekistan, 156 of which are national. Most of them are museums of history and regional studies and memorial museums dedicated to outstanding persons that left imprints on the country’s history or contributed to the development of the regional culture.

In the years of Independence 20 new museums have been opened in Uzbekistan, including several major themed ones, such as the State Museum of History of the Timurids (1996), Museum of Olympic Glory (1996) and State Museum of History of Uzbekistan (1992).

The museums contain over 2.5 million exhibits in their exhibition halls and storerooms, including numerous archaeological, ethnographic and numismatic items, artefacts of material culture and decorative and applied arts, manuscripts and other written materials and articles reflecting the history of independent Uzbekistan. There are 3 museum-preserves in the country – those in Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.

Uzbekistan’s largest and most important museums are the State Museum of History of Uzbekistan, State Museum of Arts of Uzbekistan, State Museum of Applied Arts of Uzbekistan, State Museum of History of the Timurids, State Art Museum of the Republic of Karakalpakstan and State Museum of Nature of Uzbekistan.

The Uzbek national kitchen

Some people may think that the only dish of the Uzbek kitchen is pilaf. However, it is far from being so.

The Uzbek national kitchen has a long history and is closely connected with the Uzbek culture, language, traditions and climatic and geographical conditions. Unlike their geographical neighbours (Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, Kyrgyz and Turkmens), who always led only a nomadic way of life, the Uzbeks in the course of their history have been both nomads and a settled nation. This, together with the adoption of the culinary traditions of the Persian and Tajik cultures, made the local kitchen highly diverse and original. Most of the Uzbek dishes, such as pilaf, lagman, manty and a lot of others, have common roots with similar dishes from the kitchens of other Asian nations. However, Uzbekistan has its own special ways of cooking these meals and its own special dishes. Although the principal dishes formed thousands of years ago, the Uzbek kitchen has in the course of its history been enriched by new ingredients and cooking methods taken from the Russian, Ukrainian, Caucasian, Tartar, Uighur and European cuisines. 

The Uzbek national kitchen includes nourishing and aromatic meat dishes, thick soups with fresh vegetables and herbs, exotic sweets and original pastry. The peculiarities of the Uzbek kitchen, like those of all other national kitchens, are conditioned by the specificity of the local agriculture. Grain farming has always been a highly developed branch of agriculture in Uzbekistan, which has resulted in a wide range of dishes with noodles and breads. Sheep breeding is also one of the most advanced branches of agriculture in Uzbekistan, which is why mutton is the most popular type of meat, included in most of the dishes of the Uzbek cuisine. Horse and camel meat is also used in cooking.

The Uzbek kitchen contains a great number of recipes, with over 100 types of pilaf, 60 types of soup and 20 types of shashlik.

Pilaf is doubtless the most popular meal in Uzbekistan. It can both be eaten as an ordinary everyday meal and be served on special occasions, religious or secular. Certainly, each region boasts a special recipe. Pilafs from Fergana, Samarkand and Tashkent differ mainly in the way of cooking and in the additions to the main ingredients.
Among a variety of soups lagman and shurpa are the best known, the former consisting of noodles, meat and potatoes and the latter of mutton and vegetables.
Manty is a traditional dish consisting of large dumplings with meat, pumpkin and herbs steamed in a large pot.

Uzbek bread, which has a round form and is baked in a tandoor, a special clay oven, also varies greatly in shape and taste. Samsa is another national meal, which has the form of pasties filled with meat, onion and sheep fat and is also cooked in the tandoor.

In Uzbekistan no meal goes without sweets. They are served before the main course with green tea – the main beverage in Uzbekistan. The sweets include dried apricots, raisins, nuts, halva, parvarda, pahlava, honey and, in spring time, sumalak, the tastiest and healthiest dish of wheat with young shoots.

The basic meat dishes are usually fried in cotton oil and fat of sheep’s tail, with the addition of other sorts of oil, spices and herbs. As a rule, large quantities of onion are added to meat dishes, the proportion of onion to meat being much greater than that in European kitchens.

There are a number of meals with complex recipes requiring much manual work and, therefore, experience and skill. Pilaf with tens and even hundreds of kilogrammes of rice cooked for big events wants particular professionalism. Manty and chuchvara (meat dumplings) are made by hand, while sumalak, the popular spring-time meal, is boiled on weak fire for more than 10 hours, the preliminary stage of preparing the wheat grains taking several days and more.

Today modern gas and electric cookers and kitchen utensils are widely used for preparing national Uzbek dishes. However, traditional cooking methods are still very popular in the country. A kazan, a cast-iron semispherical cauldron, is one of the basic cooking utensils. The clay oven tandoor is also a very important cooking element for Uzbekistan, particularly in the rural area.

A lagan, a large shallow plate, is a type of traditional tableware, in which pilaf and other dishes are served. Forks are rarely used at an Uzbek meal: pilaf, for instance, is eaten with either the hand or a spoon. Other tableware includes a kosa (bowl) and piala (small bowl for tea).

The Uzbek kitchen varies considerably in different regions of Uzbekistan. Pilaf and dishes of flour are more common for the northern regions of the country, while the southern part of Uzbekistan is famous for vegetable and rice dishes with the addition of a great variety of other components. As for the pilaf, the Fergana valley is characterised by dark and strongly fried pilaf, while pilaf from Tashkent is lighter.

In Uzbek families meals are usually cooked by men. Pilaf with 100 and more kilogrammes of rice is cooked in a large cauldron exclusively by men. For a European tourist it is very hard to enjoy fully an Uzbek feast. First, the dishes of the Uzbek kitchen usually contain much fat and are very nourishing. And second, Uzbeks eat slowly, relishing every piece. A long series of dishes at an Uzbek dinner will strike the unprepared imagination of those who are accustomed to diets. Up to ten courses in one meal is a usual thing for the Uzbek hospitality.

Uzbeks usually have only three meals a day, but every meal consists of a number of dishes, each of which is highly nourishing and rich in calories. The main dishes are served for supper, first, because it is often hot during the day, and second, because many of the Uzbek dishes require much time for cooking, sometimes a whole day. And, certainly, a good feast with many people present, a real dastarkhan (Uzbek table), can be organised in the best way in the evening, when the bustle of the day is left behind.

There are dishes which are cooked only for big events and very dear guests. These are delicacies, such as kazy-karta, postdumba uramasi (a roll with the fat of sheep’s tail), tandoor-kabob (shashlik in a tandoor), norin, hasil (homemade sausage) and others.

The wide choice of soups and second courses in the Uzbek kitchen is contrasted by a rather limited variety of sweet food. A dessert usually consists of fresh fruit or juice of dry fruit with pahlava, nuts or halva. Sweet pastry is not so common in Uzbekistan as in the neighbouring countries.

Green tea is a traditional drink in Uzbekistan, as well as in a number of other Central Asian countries. For Uzbeks green tea is significant not only from the gastronomical, but also from the cultural aspect. The tea is served at every meal and is regarded as a symbol of hospitality. If a host offers tea to his guest, it means he is happy to see him at his home. Green tea is traditional throughout Uzbekistan, but in some regions, for instance, in Tashkent, black tea is no less popular.

Alcoholic drinks are not so popular in Uzbekistan as in European countries. However, wine is more common there than in most of the Muslim regions. There are about twenty wine factories in the country producing good wine from local sorts of grapevine. People also drink beer and strong alcohol, such as vodka and brandy.

Below is the list of the basic Uzbek dishes. No doubt, pilaf is the most popular and best known, its main components being meat, rice, carrot and onion. Uzbekistan boasts quite a variety of pilafs, which differ from each other in the way of cooking and are served in different situations (there is a wide range of ceremonial or holiday pilafs). Pilaf is not merely a dish; it is a real cultural symbol of the country. According to a tradition, if pilaf is cooked for guests, it must be cooked by the host himself. In many families this tradition is still alive.