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Impressions of Uzbekistan

Tashkent is definitely not the most attractive and interesting capital city of the world. But it is the starting point for an exciting journey along the Silk Road, dotted with legendary cities, with names which speak forcefully to imagination.


What one does not find in Tashkent, is abundantly present in those really majestic cities along the Silk Road, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Granted, a lot of restoration has indeed been done in these places since Uzbekistan’s independence after the USSR disintegrated, as a matter of shaping and enhancing national identity. But that does not keep the Registan of Samarkand, the Ark Fortress of Bukhara and the bulky and yet very elegant Kalta Minor minaret of Khiva from being overwhelming, and from bringing back to life a mysteriously fascinating page of Central Asian history, culture and raw display of power, with Timur Lenk, Genghis Khan and others, and with the merchant caravans travelling between the vast Mongolian Deserts and Persia, India or Russia, along the Pamir promontory of the Himalaya, the camels loaded with silk, spices and anything else.


On a less upbeat tone, though: if you ever want to see for yourself what an ecological disaster looks like, there can be no more ghastly place to visit than Muynaq and its once so rich fishing fleet, now eerily rusting away on the dusty and dirty soil of what used to be the bottom of the Aral Sea. Yes, the Aral Sea is maybe still on some maps, but it’s actually gone: compliments of reckless industrialized irrigation, the price to pay for achieving the insatiable targets of cotton production in Soviet planning. Travelling is learning, also about things less joyful!


* Scanned Slides, 2000

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