Tashkent “the stone city” in Turkish is the largest city in Central Asia. Archaeologists estimate the city to be over 2,000 years old. Under the Soviet era, Tashkent was the fourth largest city in the USSR, behind Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kiev. Today, it is a modern and green city. Visiting Tashkent is a bit like a journey through time. A mixture of restored 12th century mosques, classic Russian architecture alongside brutalist buildings and statues of workers with big biceps: a city for the one who sees beauty where others see concrete. The capital is often overlooked as less interesting than its neighbours Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. I recommend spending a day to explore the city.
Le complexe Hazrat Imam
The religious center of Tashkent reminded me of Samarkand’s Rajastan. The complex consists of the Madrasa of Barak-Khan, the Tilla Sheikh Mosque, the Abu Bakr Kaffal Shashi mausoleum and the Islamic Institute of Imam al-Bukhari. The mosque is home to one of the oldest Qur’ans in the world, brought back as a souvenir by the Emperor Timur from the conquest of Iraq.
Adorned with a 30-meter-high turquoise dome, the Chorsu Bazaar is a place that looks and feels authentic. It is also the largest in Tashkent. This is where all the merchants in the region meet to sell fruit and vegetables. The market is impressive both inside and outside. It’s a mandatory stop for vegetarians looking for variety (Uzbek cuisine is not very diverse for vegetarians!) Depending on the season, vegetables and fruits invade the bazaar. On the counters, you will also find spices, dried fruits, toasts (lepeshka) but also meat and sausage with horse meat!
Amir Timur Square
This square was built to the glory of the communist regime. The statues of Lenin and Stalin succeeded one another. They finally gave way in 1996 to the current equestrian statue of the great conqueror Amir Timur. Behind the square is the Uzbekistan Hotel: the largest in the country, a classic example of the Soviet modernist architectural style of the 1970s.
The Tashkent metro is one of the most ornate in the world (like the ones in Saint Petersburg, Moscow or Kiev). The blue and red lines, built in the 70s and 80s are the most interesting and are a real journey back in time! See the article for more information.
Of you have time: Minor mosque
Completed in 2014, it is distinguished from ancient brick mosques by its white marble finish. Women aren’t allowed to enter the prayer room. Even though I couldn’t really see the top of the dome, I was able to see it’s base from the door.
Bukhara and Samarkand are easily accessible from Tashkent. If your itinerary includes Khiva (which I absolutely recommend!), it’s best to fly from Tashkent. For more information, see the article dedicated to transportation in Uzbekistan.