A long-standing dream of wanting to travel to Uzbekistan, sustained over 4 decades, was finally realised in September 2015. The decision happened just like that one morning in November 2014. Instead of wistfully saying or whining that “I want to go to Uzbekistan”, I just told myself firmly, “I’m going to Uzbekistan”.
And just like that the planning began for #MyDreamTripUzbekistan. 10 months later I was boarding a flight to Tashkent and was back home in India 12 days later after THE trip of a lifetime. In those 12 days in Uzbekistan, I travelled through the country by air, road and train covering 1,292 km, according to Google Maps, in addition to the 800 km I travelled from Tashkent to Nukus by air.
10 months after my return, here I am writing the last post in the Uzbekistan series. I must admit that while I enjoyed writing about and sharing details from the trip, I enjoyed your comments, mails, and messages even more. The response was overwhelming and I loved getting queries and questions about the trip. Thank you all for liking, commenting, re-tweeting, and sharing my posts.
For all those who have been asking for details on how I planned the trip and how it worked out, here’s my ultimate Uzbekistan trip planner. It is based on the queries I received and presented in a Q&A format.
I arrived in Shakhrisabz after a 4-hour, uneventful ride from Bukhara. It was the first day of a 3-day public holiday in Uzbekistan for Qurban Hayit (or Bakri Id as we know in India) and the town appeared to be quite deserted.
Though I knew that the monuments would be open and my guide waiting for me, it was still a little unnerving to see empty streets and closed shops as my car drove into the town shortly before noon. I was surprised to see so few tourists in Shakhrisabz, especially considering the fact that it, or rather its historic city centre, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (inscribed in 2000). The harsh sun only accentuated the emptiness, as did a lack of green cover, which was ironical as I found out later that “Shakhrisabz” means Green City in English !
When I met Tursonay, my guide, one of the first questions I asked her was why there were so few people on Shakhrisabz here. Her answer was quite crisp and to the point: Shakhrisabz was not as grand or glamorous as Samarkand or Bukhara. But, she went on to add, the history of the region would have been very different if not for the most famous son of Shakhrisabz — Timur, Uzbekistan’s national hero. And for that reason alone, Shakhrisabz was important,
And over the next 2-3 hours that hot September afternoon in 2015, I got introduced to Amir Timur — as he is referred to in Uzbekistan — and got acquainted with his home town, Shakhrisabz.
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 them. 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.
She went up to her father and told him of her intention. Her father looked at the magazine cover and said, “This is in a place called Samarqand. You want to go to there?”
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 dream of hers, 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 ! 🙂