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Chorsu Bazaar


Chorsu Bazaar is Tashkent’s most famous farmers market, topped by a giant green dome, is a delightful slice of city life spilling into the streets off Old Town’s southern edge. If it grows and it’s edible, it’s here. Here, at the Chorsu crossroads, merchants through the ages have traded the wares of diverse lands. The official name of the market is "Eski Zhuva" (“Old Tower”), though its more known publicly as Chorsu (four waters).

The great two-storeyed dome is Soviet-built, an extension of the local tradition of a labyrinth of covered stalls offering protection from summer's fierce rays. Dried fruit and nuts sell upstairs, fresh fruit, vegetables, sacks of herbs and spices downstairs, spilling outside into carpets, slippers, shawls, all manner of entrails and smoking shashlik.

There are acres of spices arranged in brightly coloured mountains; Volkswagensized sacks of grain; entire sheds dedicated to candy, dairy products and bread; interminable rows of freshly slaughtered livestock; and – of course – scores of pomegranates, melons, persimmons, huge mutant tomatoes and whatever fruits are in season. 

Souvenir hunters will find kurpacha (colourful sitting mattresses), skull caps, chapan (traditional cloaks) and knives here. Chorsu Bazaar is always a fun place to shop but for traditional crafts such as cradles, musical instruments and Uzbek cloaks try Sakichmon St, on the western border of the bazaar, where it hits Beruniy.

For good prices on gowns and skullcaps, find the 'Chopon Bozor' section opposite Jar Fitness Centre, and between the dome and the Kukeldash Madrassah, built in the mid-16th century by the ruler's vizier, Kukeldash. After secular use as a Soviet warehouse and museum, the madrassah is reasserting a religious role as money from neighbouring malhalla restores the collapsed second storey, corner minarets and brightly tiled facade. Ask permission to view the inner courtyard of 38 student cells (hujra) that accommodate over 250 young men on three-year courses of Islamic study. Friday prayers take place at the adjacent, recently renovatedjummi Mosque, first built by influential Islamic leader Khodja Akrar (1404-1492). This area formerly marked the city centre or Registan ('sandy place'), where public executions were held. Until the revolution, unfaithful wives were sewn into sacks and dashed to their deaths from the madrassah's 20-metre-high minarets.

North of the bazaar is a strange new ziggurat-shaped observation platform that offers city views over Chorsu and the old town. Just behind is the shopping-mall-style Centre of National Arts, whose upper floors contain some top-end craft shops and one of the city's top exhibition spaces.

Hard-core explorers can head five bus slops up Uyg'ur St to No. 372 and the Sheikh Zainutdin-Bobo Mosque and Mausoleum ensemble, the 16th century remains of an extensive cemetery.