Much of Tashkent, which literally means "Stone City", was destroyed by a huge earthquake in 1966 and was rebuilt as a model Soviet city, the fourth largest in the USSR. The Uzbek capital is now built of glass, concrete and steel, with large, tree-lined avenues and public parks and a population of more than 2million.
Tashkent – Been There

The Uzbek capital now has something to offer

Photo by Alberto Paredes

Tashkent – Been There The Uzbek capital now has something to offer

Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, has clearly boomed since my last visit many years ago.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

The town is flowering with modern buildings, revamped museums and upmarket new restaurants in marked contrast to the previous post-Soviet gloom. It has the only metro system in Central Asia – a sleek, modern one, easy to navigate round and resplendent with rich marble and ornate chandeliers – but I cannot resist a return visit to the Railway Museum and its picturesque Soviet steam locomotives.

Its Navoi Opera House is one of the best in Asia, with great acoustics and a romantic faded grandeur, while the world’s oldest Qur’an, dating to 655 and written on gazelle skins, is to be found in the Telyashayakh Mosque in the north of the city.

I wander though the Tezykovka flea market, sprawling over a vast area and find a lovely old book-stand carved from a single piece of wood. The market has everything from rusty tools and battered Soviet electronics – dangerous-looking hairdryers and pastel-plastic clocks – to secondhand clothes and broken toys. It is a welcome taste of real life and perhaps the closest I get – outside the tourist bazaars – to the romance of the ancient Silk Road, with peoples of many ages and nations selling, buying and haggling, trying to turn a profit on very little.

Another highlight of Tashkent is its bread, which is lighter and fluffier than the stomach filling versions of Bukhara and Samarkand. On the road, Uzbek cuisine is dominated by fat-rich mutton and cottonseed oil, neither of which is a taste that leaves me coming back for more.

Tashkent offers some better options, including plov with some rare vegetables and Uygur lagman, its noodles showing the Chinese influence of the Silk Road, all eaten with fresh non. Plov is cooked in a large wok, with carefully separated layers of mutton, vegetables and rice, then onto a large serving dish in reverse order with the mutton glistening on top.

Confusingly, I learn that the meat is to be eaten last. “Plov is a communal dish,” says Jamshid. “You do not eat the best until you are sure everyone else has had their fill.” Such is Uzbek hospitality.

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