Tashkent is the capital of Uzbekistan, the forth largest city in the former Soviet Union (behind Moscow, St. Petersburg and Kiev), and the largest city in Central Asia. Home to about 2.4 million people, it is basically a Soviet city with very few sights that rank with those in Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara, Uzbekistan’s main Silk Road cities. What old buildings Tashkent had were largely destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1966. Tashkent means “Stone Settlement. ”

But this not to say that Tashkent is an unpleasant place. It is in fact a rather nice city. It has a mellow, friendly atmosphere. There are lots of trees, large parks, wide avenues, monumental squares, fountains, Soviet-apartment buildings, with a few mosques, bazaars, old neighborhoods, courtyard houses and Madrasahs scattered here and there. Tashkent spreads out over a large area and has a large Russian population. Like other Central Asian cities, it has its share of modern hotels and new shopping malls but also a lot of moribund factories and neighborhood where people have to scrape by to make ends meet.

Tashkent is the most Europeanized city in Uzbekistan and serves as a major transportation hub for all of Central Asia and the arrival point for international flights to Central Asia. Today, there are two International airports. The railway stations in Tashkent connect Uzbekistan with much of the former Soviet Union and beyond. Tashkent in the Soviet era claimed 16 colleges and universities and 73 research institutes. It was the home of factories that produced fertilizes, tractors, telephones, steel, textiles and movie projectors. Some are still around. Tashkent was the only city in Central Asia with a Metro until Almaty got one in 2011. Many of the Soviet-era stations have stucco designs and chandelier-like lighting and look more like ballrooms than stations. People from Tashkent are sometimes referred to as Tashkenters.

Though the climate is desert-like, the city’s canals, gardens, parks, and tree-lined avenues gave given Tashkent the deserved reputation for of being one of the greenest cities in the former Soviet Union. Spring is warm with occasional rain. The temperature often reaches and even exceeds 40 degrees C (104 degrees F) in July and early August. Att night the temperatures are markedly lower. Fall can often extends into early December. Occasionally snow falls in the short January-February winter but the temperature generally stay above freezing.

History of Tashkent

Tashkent has a 2,200 year history. It was captured by the Arabs in A.D. 751 and was a stop on the Silk Road, but not a major one. After the Mongols sacked it in 1240 only 200 houses were left standing. Tamerlane and the Timurids rebuilt it in the 16th and 17th centuries. Tashkent’s name, meaning "City of Stone," dates back to the 11th century. Over the years it has had other names such as Shash, Chach, Chachkent and Binkent.

Tashkent was an important city in the 19th century in the Kokand kingdom. In 1864, it was attacked by Russian forces, who laid siege to a Kokand-controlled fortress, cut off the water supply, and defeated an army four times their size in two days of street fighting. In one memorable incident, a Russian priest led a charge armed only with a cross.

Tashkent was the tsars most important city in Central Asia and was the site of many Great Game intrigues. It developed a more Western than Asian character. An American visitor in 1873 wrote: “I could scarcely believe I was in Central Asia, but seemed rather to be in one the quiet little towns of Central New York. The broad dusty streets were shaded by double rows of trees, the sound of rippling water was in every direction, the small white houses were set a little back from the street. ”

While situated on a Silk Road site, Tashkent is better perceived as a relatively modern city. It was a small community before the Russians conquered it and made it their administrative center at a time when Samarkand and Bukhara were the main cities in Central Asia. The Russians developed the city primarily in an Imperial Russian architectural style. Many Russians poured in when the Trans-Caspian Railway was completed in 1880. Tashkent saw a lot of bloodshed during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and afterwards, when radicals established a Soviet beachhead in Tashkent, from which Bolshevism was spread to a generally unreceptive audience in Central Asia.

Tashkent became the capital of the Uzbek SSR in 1930 and became industrialized when the factories were moved east during World War II. During the war, when much of the European part of the Soviet Union crumbled and starved under the Nazi onslaught, Tashkent became known as the "City of Bread. " On April 25, 1966, a devastating earthquake leveled much of the old city and left 300,000 homeless. Most of what you see today has been built after the earthquake. The 14 other republics of the USSR were each given a section of Tashkent to rebuild; and the dispersed and fragmented layout of the city today reflects this. Remnants of the old city can be found in the neighborhoods northwest of city center. Elsewhere, the architecture can be categorized as neo-Soviet.

Many of the Russians, Ukrainians and other nationalities who came to rebuild the city after the earthquake liked warm climate and decided to settle here, further Russifying Tashkent and diminishing its Central Asian character. As a result of being the focal point of Soviet activities in Central Asia, Tashkent attracted people from all over the USSR and is home to over 100 nationalities. The ethnic break down of Tashkent in 2008: was Uzebeks: 63 percent; Russians: 20 percent; Tatras: 4. 5 percent; Koreans: 2. 2 percent; Tajiks: 2. 1 percent; Uighurs: 1. 2 percent; and other ethnic backgrounds: 7 percent.

Orientation in Tashkent

Located at the foot of the Chaetal Mountains at an elevation of 478 meters, Tashkent is spread out over a pretty wide area and is near the near the border with Kazakhstan. It is fairly well organized and tourist friendly. The streets and sidewalls are spacious and most places of interest are found in a fairly concentrated areas. If not they can be reached by Metro or taxis that are relatively cheap.

Tashkent is situated in a valley of the Chirchik River, which is a tributary of the Syr Darya), Two main canals, the Ankhor and the Bozsu, run through the city. Fragments of the old city can be found in the neighborhoods northwest of the city center. In addition to the central city administration ("hokimiat"), there are 13 district hokimiats which provide many of the services normally associated with city administration. Long-term residents of Tashkent will often identify more with their makhallah (neighborhood/district) and the chaikhana (tea-house) there than with any city-wide institution or identity.

There are three areas of interest to tourists: 1) the central area around Amir Timur maydoni; 2) the downtown area east of Amir Timur maydoni; and the 3) old neighborhoods and markets around Chorsu bazaar. Many names of streets and landmarks have reverted to their pre-Soviet names.

In the area around Amir Timur maydoni there are government buildings and museums. Further west is Mustaqilik maydoni (Independence Square), with its large parade ground and monumental buildings. Between Amir Timer maydoni and Mustaqilik Madden Square is the Broadway (Sayilgoh kuchasi), a pedestrian-only shopping and entertainment zone with lots of restaurants and vendors. There are also shopping areas and places along Navoi, a wide avenue between Mustaqilik Madden and Chorsu bazaar.

Street names and numbers are relatively useless in Tashkent as street names often change name. Taxi drivers generally operate on the basis of landmarks and orientation points, not street names. According to Caravanistan tours: “You need to know the old names for these places. So don’t say first street left after Grand Mir hotel (new name), say Tatarka (old name) instead, or even better, Gostinitsa Rossiya (even older name). Byvshe (former) is a good word to know here. ”

Tashkent doesn't really have any proper tourist offices. A new government-authorized on was set up at the Kazakhstan border. Travel agencies may be able to provide you with information but they generally more interested in trying to sign people up for tours rather than offering free advise. The Uzbekturism office and the Hotel Tashkent and the service bureau at the Hotel Uzbekistan offer some information on arranged tours but are generally regarded as not very helpful.

Entertainment in Tashkent

Cultural and nightlife opportunities include the opera, ballet, classical music, folk music, folk dance and puppet shows. For entertainment news, see if you can find some English-language publications They sometimes have information on clubs, music events, restaurants and museums. Tashkent is home to several soccer clubs. The tickets for sports events are cheap and stadiums and arenas are rarely full.

Broadway (Sayilgoh kuchasi), Tashkent's main shopping street, is lined with cafes and restaurants, and bars. Adjacent to it is a park are with a whole bunch of beer garden and kebab tents. Many hotel restaurants become bars with music in the night. The number of nightclubs has increased dramatically since the Soviet era. There are techno clubs and jazz bars.

Some restaurants and hotels have dinner shows. around the city. The food often is nothing to write home about but is okay. The shows oriented for tourist often have folk dancing and music played with traditional instruments, Oftentimes, music is provided—either live or recorded—for dancing after the floor show. The larger hotels have "night bars" where people can gather until the early morning hours. There are also movie theaters; it can be hard finding ones with English-language films.

Dance, Theater and Opera in Tashkent

The quality of the dance, theater, opera and classical music is generally very good and very cheap. The Alisher Navvoi Opera and Ballet near the Hotel Tashkent was designed by the architect of Lenin’s Tomb and features a number of regional styles. It hosts quality opera and ballet, often for the equivalent of a few dollars. There are shows almost every night. Performances usually start at 7:00pm.

Among the dozen or so theaters and concert halls are Bakhor concert on Paradlar Alleyasi (for traditional female singing) ; Muqimi Musical Theater on Almazar 187 (with operettas and musicals), the Khamza Drama Theater on Navoi 34 (with Western drama), Tashkent State Conservatoire on Pushkin 31 (classical music concerts) ; the Republic Puppet Theater on Kosmonvtlar 1; the Tashkent State Musical Comedy Theater on Volgogradskaya (operettas and musical comedy). Sometimes folk music shows are sponsored at theaters, hotels and open air museums.

Tickets for concerts and performances are cheap. They can be purchases through booking offices, informal booths or tables set up on the streets or in main Metro stations, the box offices at the theaters an concert halls, hotel service desks and concierges at hotels can help you with tickets. The hotels and booking agents often charge hefty fees for their ticket services. Tickets bought from informal booths or box offices are considerably cheaper.

The Navoi State Opera and Ballet Theater is the most prestigious in the country and has a full season of Western opera, ballet and symphony productions, which sometimes star visiting artists from Russia. Tashkent also has ten theaters with regular repertoires. The most popular are Ilkhom Theater, Young Spectator's Theater, Khidoyatov Uzbek Drama Theater, and Gorky Russian Drama Theater, and Russian Operetta Theater. The Conservatory of Music, one of the best of the former Soviet Union, sponsors numerous concerts and recitals during the year. All performances in Tashkent begin at 5 or 6 p. m., and audiences are home before 10 p. m. [Source: Cities of the World, Gale Group Inc., 2002, adapted from a November 1995 U. S. Department of State report]

Theaters in Tashkent

National Academic Drama Theatre of Uzbekistan stages performances of different genres: comedy, drama, tragedy, classical works and plays by contemporary authors. The performances of comedies show various everyday situations, using human humor, technique of traditional street theater, as well as modern interpretations of ancient customs. The lecture theater has 540 seats. Tickets can be purchased in advance or directly before the performances. The theatre was founded in 1914. Address: Navoi street, 34 (Shayhontoxur area).

Alisher Navoi Grand Opera and Ballet Academic Theatre is housed in monumental Soviet-style building built in the middle of the 20th century. The inner courtyard has a charming display of national folk art. The architect of the building, Alexei Shusev, he also designed a mausoleum on Red Square in Moscow. Metro: Kosmonavty, Mustakillik. Website: www. gabt. uz Showtimes: 5:00pm on the weekdays; 5:00pm on Saturday and Sunday. Matinees (mostly for children) are held on Sundays and start at 12:00noon.

Russian Academic Drama Theatre of Uzbekistan stages mostly pieces designed for a mass audience. They are marked by professionalism of the actors memorable sets, costumes and music. The theater was opened in 1934, and in 1967 and moved to a new building in 2001. Website: ardt. uz

Republican Puppet Theatre was awarded the International Quality Award “for excellence and aesthetic education of young generations” in 1999 in Mexico. It has received a number of other awards, including for the play “Once again, Andersen” which opened the Krasnodar Puppet Festival in 2004. Address: Tashkent, Afrasiab, 1 (Yakkasaroy district)

Theatre Ilkhom began as a jazz improvisation group and grew into a theater group that a variety a drams in variety of dialects and languages Its long-term hit, “Happy are the poor” heroes features the languages: Russian, Uzbek, Italian, Yiddish. Over the past 10 years, the performances of the theater “Ilkhom” were presented at more than 22 international theater festival in 18 countries, including — Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Ireland, Yugoslavia, the United States and Russia. Address: Shayhontoxur area, St. Pakhtakor, 5, near Pakhtakor Stadium Website: www. ilkhom.com

Circus in Tashkent

The Circus occupies its own building and hosts spectacular shows with animals, acrobats and clowns as well as scantily-clad dancers and pop music. There are often daily performances that begin in the evening. Ticket cost about $2. The level of performances has dropped in recent years as performers have gone abroad to seek better opportunities.

Tashkent Circus began its history more than 100 years ago. Initially, the performances were held in the building of the so-called “Tashkent Coliseum”, built of wood and covered with an iron dome. In addition to circus performances, theatrical performances and cinema shows were held in the same building. After the earthquake of 1966, the government decided to destroy the old building, and 10 years later Circus moved to a new building, which it still performs in now. The famous Uzbek circus families, the Tashkenbaevs and Zaripovs dynasties, began their career in the years of the formation of the Uzbek circus art.

The circus performs around Uzbekistan in a temporary circus tent. . The cirucs tries to keep introducing new acts, performers and songs. More than 20 performances, more than 100 new numbers, as well as more than 10 major attractions have been added in recent years. Shows are often sold out. Address: 1 Zarqaynar ko'chasi (East of Metro station Chorsu), Tel: +998 71 244 3509, Website: http://cirk. uz

Shopping, Accommodation and Restaurants in Tashkent

Broadway (Sayilgoh kuchasi), Tashkent's main eating and entertainment street, is lined with cafes, food vendors, pizza and hamburger joints, restaurants, and bars. Adjacent to it is a park are with a whole bunch of beer garden and kebab tents. The area around Akadenik Sadikob and Burinu prospekti near Tinchlik Metro station.

There are also hotels with restaurants. Most serve pretty mediocre food. There are hundreds of small cafes in Tashkent offering local dishes at inexpensive prices. A meal of salad, bread, tea, soup, and shashlik at around $3. There also some ethnic restaurant, offering Chinese, German, Italian, Middle Eastern, American and Russian food. Many hotel restaurants become bars with music in the night.

Pedestrian-only Broadway (Sayilgoh kuchasi) is also one of main shopping streets. It is lined with shops and stalls and people selling stuff laid out on sheets. There also some artists and portrait painters. There is a large daily flea market, particularly big on Sunday, at the Hippodrome, two kilometers southwest of Sobir Rakhimov Metro Station. There is also a large Sunday flea market called Tezykovka, near the airport.

The accommodation situation in Tashkent isn’t so bad. There is a choice fancy hotels, Soviet-era hotels, two and three star hotels, bed-and-breakfast and rooms in private homes. Several new hotels have been built, including new Turkish built luxury hotels and s Hyatt, Wyndham, Ramada, Lotte and Radisson. With cheaper hotels often the main problem is finding the places or getting to them. Many are scattered around town. Some are a bit hard to find. There is no centralized organization that arranges homestays. Generally, booking agencies and travel agencies can book rooms at the overpriced expensive hotels. Generally you need the address of a place and good direction on how to get there.

Chorsu Bazaar

Chorsu Bazaar is Tashkent’s main market. Set up mainly for local people. It has entire sections with people selling big hunks of meat, melons, saffron, spices, pomegranates, dried apricots, oranges, apples, honey, tools, household items, clothes, cheap Chinese goods and other stuff. It is very large and often is bustling with people. In the central part of the bazaar is the main winter building — a huge ornamented, monumental domed structure.

For a long time, bazaars have served as centers of urban life in Central Asia — a place where merchants and local residents gathered to buy or sell goods, discuss news, sit in a tea house and sample national dishes. Earlier there were street performances of strongmen and maskaraboz (clowns), as well as puppet shows and dances. Among the crafts people that were there were jewelers, weavers, braziers, gunsmiths and potters. Especially valued Shash ceramics — jugs, bowls, dishes, and specially crafted leather — green shagreen. There craftsmen and their products can still be found at Chorsu bazaar.

At the bazaar you can find a variety of rice, peas, beans, sweet melons, dried fruits, and a huge amount of spices. In the dairy area you can try “Uzbek mozzarella” — “kurt”. At “ovkat bozor” (food market) you can sample a variety of street food and prepared dishes. Among the popular souvenirs are chapans (colorful cotton robe), Uzbek skullcaps and national fabrics. Near the bazaar are some of Tashkent’s main tourist sights: Kukeldash Madrasah, Khast Imam complex and Jami Mosque. Address and Metro Station: Tashkent, St. Navoi 48, Chorsu metro station

Alay Bazaar

Alay bazaar, was built after the birth of the “new” Tashkent. In 1905, in one of the small streets, a non-permanent “spontaneous”market appeared, where farmers and artisans traded. Among residents and merchants, this market was called Soldatsky, or Alai.

In the updated pavilion of agricultural products there are modern outlets where you can buy oriental spices, fresh vegetables and fruits, honey-sweet melons and watermelons. Bazaar has always been not only a shopping center, but also a place for pleasant communication, therefore, despite the price signs, bargaining at the bazaar remains one of the oldest and most pleasant traditions.

Next to the main pavilion there is a traditional teahouse. Here you can taste national dishes, drink fragrant tea and enjoy the singing of quails. Bread Pavilion is easy to find in the fragrant flavor that is familiar from childhood. The well-known Golden Pavilion has become much more spacious. The updated bazaar has become a new attraction for Tashkent residents and guests of the capital. Address: and Metro Station: Tashkent, St. A. Timur 40, metro station A. Kadyri. Closed on Mondays

Transportation in Tashkent

Many places can be reached on foot. For those that are not Tashkent has a good Metro system and taxis are relatively cheap and plentiful. There are also trolleybuses (buses connected to electric lines over the buses) and buses. Tashkent’s tram system closed in 2016 to make for more road space. Buses are very crowded and should be avoided. Trolleybuses are only little better. Public transportation runs from 6:00am to midnight and is ridiculously cheap.

The tickets for buses and trolleybuses are the same. They can be purchased from drivers, at some kiosks and shops and Metro stations. They are cheapest at the Metro stations but not all Metro stations have them. It is convenient to buy the ticket ins trips of five or ten. They needed be validated in a machine when entering.

Buses cost 1200 sum (about 13 US cents) Tashkent is a relatively advanced app but is Russian-only. Wikiroutes is a more realistic alternative for route planning. But why fuss. Taxis around the city cost only a few dollars at most unless you are going some place really far. Although ride-hailing apps are being used, it is usually quicker and cheaper to flag a gypsy cab down from the side of the road. A gypsy taxi is a private car that serve as a taxi. You can flag one down by standing on the sidewalk and holding at your hand to let passing driver know you want a ride.

Street names and numbers are relatively useless in Tashkent as street names often change name. Taxi drivers generally operate on the basis of landmarks and orientation points, not street names. According to Caravanistan tours: “You need to know the old names for these places. So don’t say first street left after Grand Mir hotel (new name), say Tatarka (old name) instead, or even better, Gostinitsa Rossiya (even older name). Byvshe (former) is a good word to know here. ”

Communication can also be an issue as many drivers speak only Uzbek and Russian. If you don't speak Russian have your destination and a nearby landmark written down in advance in Cyrillic, and have a pencil and a paper with numbers listed that you can use for negotiating the price. Agree on a price with a driver before you set off. Do this on paper so there is no confusion. Sometimes, taxi drivers try to charge ridiculously high prices especially if they know you are a tourist.

Train and Bus Stations: Tashkent Train Station, located near Tashkent Metro station, serves Moscow, Bishkek, Almaty, the Fergana valley and destinations north and east of the city. South Train Station, serves Samarkand, Bukhara, and other destinations south and west of the city. There is a major ticket office at the Hotel Locomotif and OVIR office. The long distance bus station is near Olmazor metro station.

Metro in Tashkent

Tashkent is the home of the first underground transport system in Central Asia. It was the only city in Central Asia with a Metro until Almaty got one in 2011. Many of the Soviet-era stations have stucco designs and chandelier-like lighting and look more like ballrooms than stations. Some of the stations are as beautiful as those in Moscow. The Metro is clean and attractive. It is comprised of three lines — Uzbekistan line, Chilanzar line and Yunus-Abad line — with 29 stations, that intersect in the middle of the city. The metro service is available daily from 6:00am to midnight. The trains run every three minutes during the day, and seven to 10 minutes at night.

Passengers uses tokens (jetton) which can be bought at the entrances of the station. If you are going to be in Tashkent for a while buy a bunch of tokens and save yourself the hassle of buying them every time you ride. Unless you know the Cyrillic alphabet it difficult to read the stops. Try to get a hold of a map that has both the English names and the Cyrillic names written on it. If not write the name of the station at your destination in Cyrillic and count the stops there.

The entrances to the metro station on the ground are marked with “Metro” signs. The Metro is especially convenient in morning and evening when traffic jams clog many streets. For the safety of passengers traveling in the subway, at the entrance to the metro are security personnel that inspect the bags of passengers with luggage.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Uzbekistan Tourism website (National Uzbekistan Tourist Information Center, uzbekistan.travel/en), Uzbekistan government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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