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Uzbekistan, a diverse, ancient cultural crossroads

Capital city Tashkent promotes rich cultural heritage preserved in Silk Road cities via tourism initiatives

By Sanjay Kumar

Published : May 16, 2023 - 13:32

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Registan Square, located in the very heart of the ancient city of Samarkand, was built during the Timurid Empire and served as a commercial center. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Registan Square, located in the very heart of the ancient city of Samarkand, was built during the Timurid Empire and served as a commercial center. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Uzbekistan is home to rich cultural diversity, fresh organic food and spiritual sites for some of the world's oldest religions. The country has all the potential of a world-class tourism ecosystem with its harmonization of cultural diversity, efficient connectivity and ongoing infrastructure development under the "New Uzbekistan" vision.

The ancient civilization of Uzbekistan was a crossroads of advanced cultures. Uzbekistan's cities such as Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Nurata, Shahrisabz, Kokand and Termez have important archaeological sites associated with Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam.

Tomb of the Old Testament Prophet Daniel, also known as Daniiel, or Doniyar in in the north-east of Samarkand.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Tomb of the Old Testament Prophet Daniel, also known as Daniiel, or Doniyar in in the north-east of Samarkand.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

The country has more than 4,000 historical architectural sites and spiritual heritage sites, over 7,000 historical monuments, more than 160 historically important Muslim sites and dozens of historical sites related to Sufism.

Invasions by Alexander the Great, the Mongols and the Timurids, as well as the profound influence of Islamic scholarship and culture in the medieval period, have all left their mark on Uzbekistan.

Courtyard of Po-i-Kalyan, an architectural ensemble with madrasa and minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Courtyard of Po-i-Kalyan, an architectural ensemble with madrasa and minaret in Bukhara, Uzbekistan.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Cities like Bukhara and Samarkand have many mosques, madrasas and architectural marvels. Registan Square of Samarkand presents Timurid architecture, while Khiva’s Itchan Kala fortress and Kalta Minor minaret showcase stunning Islamic architecture. Bukhara is home to more than 140 architectural monuments dating back to the Middle Ages.

Ulugh Beg observatory in Samarkand built in the 1420s by Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Ulugh Beg observatory in Samarkand built in the 1420s by Timurid astronomer Ulugh Beg.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

UNESCO listed the historical centers of Samarkand, Bukhara and Shakhrisyabz, as well as Khiva's Itchan Kala, as cultural heritage properties and the Western Tien-Shan mountain range as a natural heritage site. Uzbekistan’s history, geography and the co-existence of different ethnic groups such as Uzbeks, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Karakalpaks, Jews and Russians have shaped a cohesive diversity of traditions, languages and customs.

Tourists buying dry fruits at Chorsu Bazaar, a traditional market that existed in Tashkent from 18th century as center of four roads of the Great Silk Road.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Tourists buying dry fruits at Chorsu Bazaar, a traditional market that existed in Tashkent from 18th century as center of four roads of the Great Silk Road.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Uzbekistan's people have deep respect for family, hospitality and tradition. Uzbeks take pride in making their guests feel comfortable and well-fed, and their traditional foods -- plov (Uzbek rice pilaf), shashlik (skewered grilled meat) and obi non (bread baked inside a clay oven) -- form a major part of their everyday life.

Connectivity for tourists

In today's Uzbekistan, one can reach any part of the country using taxis, subways, trains, buses, flights and personal vehicles. Transportation is convenient and prices are comparatively cheaper than in many other parts of the world.

Tourists get off at Bukhara Railway Station from Central Asia’s highest speed Afrosiyob train of Uzbekistan Railways that run at a speed of 250km/h.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Tourists get off at Bukhara Railway Station from Central Asia’s highest speed Afrosiyob train of Uzbekistan Railways that run at a speed of 250km/h.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

The Silk Road cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are connected by Central Asia’s fastest high-speed train, the Afrosiyob, run by Uzbekistan Railways, which runs at a speed of 250km/h.

The international airports of Uzbekistan operate as transit airports connecting many countries to the east and west.

TV Tower of Tashkent built in 1979 and considered as tallest structure in central Asia.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) TV Tower of Tashkent built in 1979 and considered as tallest structure in central Asia.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

In the capital of Tashkent specifically, along with landmark spots like the traditional Chorsu Bazaar, Magic City amusement park, Tashkent TV Tower, Amir Timur Square, the Tashkent Metro, Uzbekistan’s State Museum of History and the Amir Timur Museum, tourists are showing interest in seeing New Uzbekistan National Park, newly designed foreign restaurants and pubs and Tashkent's Olympic City project for hosting the 2025 Asian Youth Games.

Magic city theme park famous among domestic and international tourists located in Tashkent city. The park is a fairytale castle and a fantasy town and has many with colorful houses, shops, cafes and entertainment facilities.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) Magic city theme park famous among domestic and international tourists located in Tashkent city. The park is a fairytale castle and a fantasy town and has many with colorful houses, shops, cafes and entertainment facilities.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Recent government initiatives

Uzbekistan's government is carrying out reforms to attract foreign investment and promote tourism. Projected investments in Tashkent's tourism industry in 2021-2023 hit $903.6 million, with 66 new hotels, 12 shopping and entertainment centers, nine parks and three artisan centers, according to government sources.

An Uzbek girl child pose for a photo for Korea Herald while playing at New Uzbekistan National Park near Tashkent, Uzbekistan.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald) An Uzbek girl child pose for a photo for Korea Herald while playing at New Uzbekistan National Park near Tashkent, Uzbekistan.(Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

With the initiative, "Concept for the Development of Tourism in Uzbekistan for 2019-2025," the Uzbekistan government took strides to simplify licensing procedures for operating accommodation facilities, which yielded remarkable results, leading to a surge in the number of guesthouses and hostels, even in rural areas. In line with the ambitious "Development Strategy of the New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026" project, the Uzbek government aims to invite 9 million foreign tourists.

The country is set to introduce a barrier-free tourism infrastructure in its major tourist cities and develop new tourist zones in Zaamin, Farish, Bakhmal, and the Aidar-Arnasay system of lakes to transform Samarkand into a bustling gateway for tourism.