Many, many years ago there was once a quiet, little girl who was happiest among books, especially picture books. She hadn’t yet learned to read, and would always be asking her family members to explain what she was ‘reading’.
One day, her father came home with a stack of magazines. The little girl went through them all, one by one. She was particularly mesmerised by the cover of one of the magazines. It had a picture of a blue dome against an even bluer sky, and she liked it so much that she wanted to see the dome for real.
The girl nodded.
“It’s quite far from here. Why don’t you wait till you are grown up?”
“Okay,” said the little girl. “I will go to Samarqand when I grow up.”
The years went by. The little girl grew up, the magazine got misplaced, her father passed away, but the blue dome of Samarqand and her dream of seeing it was not forgotten. Friends and family, who knew of this, would often ask when she was visiting Samarqand. Her answer always was, “I don’t know when. All I know is that one day I will.”
That day came four decades after she had first declared her intention to visit Samarqand. Last month, the now not-so-little girl made that trip to Samarqand and other places in Uzbekistan. There was a touch of the unreal when her plane landed in Tashkent and she couldn’t help but wonder if she was part of a dream. The fresh, cold air that hit her when she exited the aircraft convinced her that this was no dream, but the real thing ! 🙂
The 11-day trip to Uzbekistan took her to the cities of Nukus, Khiva, Bukhara, Shakhrisabz, Tashkent and, of course, Samarkand. She used various means of transport to travel within Uzbekistan — airplane, taxi, train, metro — crossing villages, towns, deserts, mountains and rivers.
The trip unfolded the way she had envisoned in her dreams and her planning. Only it was better. Initially, it was the monuments and their architecture that captured her attention. But as the trip progressed, the country came alive though its landscape, flora, fauna, foods, bazaars, music, culture, history, narratives and the people. The places acquired special characteristics and became memorable for that reason — sleepy Nukus, mysterious Khiva, spiritual and layered Bukhara, pleasing Shakhrisabz, cultured and elegant Samarqand, and modern Tashkent.
A very small selection of the 2000+ images captured by the now not-so-little girl during the trip. Please click on the any of the pictures to see the details.
Every day, every moment was an opportunity for the not-so-little girl to delight over and savour — like the pollution free air, the bright blue skies, the fruits, the new sights and sounds…. There were also moments of reflection, especially when she heard the local version of the history of the region, the nation — so different from the history she had been taught in her own country.
Sometimes, there was comparison as well between you and her own country, particularly when she saw how clean you were, and in complete contrast to her own country. Be it the bazaars, streets, roads, monuments, parks or homes — she found everything to be clean and litter-free. She was also amazed at the number of public spaces available for people to relax and socialise with one another. The broad roads, boulevards, pedestrian pathways and respect for pedestrians was another thing that amazed her. And most importantly, how safe she felt travelling in your country.
There were also moments of surprise and delight; actually many such moments, which our not-so-little girl was completely unprepared for it, and which turned out to be the highlight of her trip. You and her country have links going back millennia. While it was trade in the historical past, it is her country’s entertainment (both film and TV) industry that links both of you today. Thanks to that connection, she was instantly identified as someone from her country and therefore, someone special. She was quite gratified by this for she had often been asked in her own country, where she was from.
Wherever she went, there would be broad smiles of welcome. People sang songs from her country, offered her tea, invited her for a meal, offered to host her the next time she came… Then there were school and college kids who would stop and request to take selfies with her. She even gave her autograph to a delighted teenager in Khiva ! All in all, the people of Uzbekistan sure made her feel like a rock star. 🙂
The not-so-little girl is a little reserved, and while she liked to interact with local people during her travels, she would not take many photographs of them. One could say that she was not a people photographer. But your friendly, beautiful and hardworking people worked their magic on her and this time, she has ‘people photographs’ running into a couple of hundreds, instead of the usual 2 or 3.
A very small selection of photographs of the people of Uzbekistan. Please click on the any of the pictures to see the details.
It has been 10 days since the now not-so-little-girl returned home to her country. The bags have been unpacked, the laundry has been done, gifts bought for friends and family have been given or dispatched, the 2000+ pictures have been downloaded, and she is back at work after the holiday. Life and regular routine has resumed.
And yet, there is a part of her that is still there in your country. Never a day goes when she isn’t talking about you or sharing her pictures and memories of her time there. Just this morning, she sent her itinerary to someone who will soon be paying you a visit. (PS: You should know that she is also planning her next visit soon !) She had intended to write to you immediately on her return, but hadn’t accounted for how overwhelming the trip and everything associated with it was.
And how do I know all this? Simple (and as you may have already guessed), I am that not-so-little girl. 😀
Rakhmet (thank you), dear Uzbekistan, for being such a wonderful host and for giving me the dream trip of my lifetime. See you soon.
PS: In case you are wondering if I saw the blue dome in Samarqand, yes, I did. The only thing is I saw many blue domes, not just there but all over Uzbekistan. Wait for my posts !
My Dream Trip Uzbekistan Series:
Dear Uzbekistan | A city called Nukus | Art in the Desert: The Savitsky Collection at Nukus | The Mizdahkan Necropolis | 3 forts and a dakhma | Itchan Kala of Khiva | There’s something about Bukhara! | Monumental Bukhara | The Jewish Heritage of Bukhara | Shakhrisabz: The home town of Amir Timur | The Registan Square of Samarqand | The blue city of Samarqand | The silk paper factory at Konigil | The surprise & delight that was Tashkent | Uzbekistan: The food & markets special | The Uzbekistan trip planner |