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Uzbekistan: The Silky Stop on the Silk Road

Words + Photography by Luke Alland, shot on Pentax ME SUPER and Fujifilm's XT-2.

Where to begin with somewhere that completely threw me? I had very little expectation that Uzbekistan would leave me wishing that I had longer to explore the country and the region. It may cost a pretty penny to fly there, but once you're on terra firma the pounds will certainly look after you—the exchange rate is 13,000 Uzbekistani Som to £1.

While certainly off the beaten track, it won't take long for you to find something that makes the journey worthwhile, whether it's the mesmerising mosques, bewildering bazaars or mausoleums that redefine beauty. Forget what you think you know (or don't know) about Uzbekistan; people should be flocking to visit the trio of cities I had the fortune of visiting—Samarkand, Bukhara and the capital, Tashkent.

The lattermost is an extremely interesting entry point into life here. The city is far too big for the amount of people that live here, and interestingly albeit unsurprisingly, it lends itself to a much more peaceful way of life. The streets are clean, and but for a small army of green-clad tourist police (not to be confused with the actual army who are dressed in blue) stationed everywhere you look, it is nothing but a blessing. Everyone that I ended up speaking to had some understanding of English, and all of them wanted to help you enjoy the place to the fullest.

There's no real resentment towards tourists, and whilst tourists are definitely not a novelty, there is a select type of person of whom I encountered whilst there. You have the organised tours of pensioners (largely of French origin for some reason, I'll come onto that later), some very adventurous smattering of late-20s Europeans who all seem to be doing a road trip through Central Asia, and then Koreans. It was incredibly surprising to find out that Uzbekistan was such a destination for Eastern Asia. Every hotel bar I ended up in had a large number of quartets on their jollies.



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