A Silk Road-inspired journey through three cities of Uzbekistan reveals a treasure trove of mesmerising art, architecture and cultural heritage, along with hints of modernisation. Text & Photographs by Aamir Wani
The Silk Road played a significant role in not just the commerce of the old world, but also in shaping the future of the countries that lay on it. Today, it is mostly relegated to history books and travel pamphlets.
Many destinations market themselves to tourists as important stops along the legendary trade route between China and the Mediterranean.
In Uzbekistan, the charm of a Silk Road-inspired journey lies in its simplicity. The Central Asian country has only recently opened its doors wide to tourism.
But I recommend you visit it sooner than later, before this path too is trodden by throngs of selfie-obsessed tourists.
People often talk about the Chinese stretch of the Silk Road. Perhaps, this is why the Central Asian section of the route is far less travelled, but it certainly has no less to see.
From the beautiful blue-tiled city of Samarkand to the unspoilt Bukhara and the ancient fortress city of Khiva, Uzbekistan has an abundance of charm.
The cities I visited present thousands of years of history, art, architecture and cultural heritage—restored after repeated ransacking of the cities over time.
Many of the mosques and madrasas in the old towns have been turned into museums and offices, but the focus now seems to be on preservation.
Just like any country influenced heavily by modernisation, Uzbekistan’s camels have been replaced by bikes and cars, caravans of traders have been substituted by tourists and old mansion-style homes have become guesthouses.
But don’t let this transformation detract you. With its intimate back alleys, bazaars and mesmerising domes, Uzbekistan is one of the few places in the world that makes you feel as if you have barged into another era, experiencing something wonderfully timeless.