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Navoi Park

This national park, located to the west of Tashkent's city centre, is a much-needed green space in the over-crowded capital city. Manmade lakes, canals and fountains, cafes and ornamental gardens seem to cool the air in the sweaty summer months, and they make it a pleasant place to relax or picnic if you have an hour or two to spare. With the Navruz Wedding Palace, the Istiqlol Concert Hall and the Parliament of Uzbekistan all within the confines of the park, there are plenty of opportunities for people-watching.

Bunyodkor metro delivers you to monstrous square, centred on the monumental Soviet-style marble of the Istiqlol Concert Hall, formerly the Palace of People's Friendship a 4,000 seater for political and musical displays. Soviet architects had a field day here, erecting a pod of spectacularly hideous concrete monstrosities, the most eye-catching of which is the former Peoples' Friendship Palace (Istiqlol Theater), which appears like a moon-landing station from a 1950s film set.

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In front is a statue of the blacksmith Shamakhmudov and the 15 orphans from European Russia who he and his wife adopted during World War II.

Behind the palace, beside yet more fountains, is the Abdul Khasim Madrassah, the heavily restored 19th century college of a Tashkent man famous for his ability to recite the Koran by heart, a skill shared by all his children. Although medieval in style, this madrassa in fact dates from the early 19th century. It was famously the location of the signing of the peace treaty following the capture of Tashkent by the Russian general Chernyaev in 1865, and from 1919 to 1974 it was home to more than 70 Russian families who had fled from famine in Samara. The madrassa was restored to its former glory in 1987 and today each of its cells houses workshops for Tashkent's artists and craftsmen. Today the madrassah has a limited educational role but enjoys greater renown for its traditional craftsmen using hujra as workshops to produce 'antique' jewellery and other souvenirs. More than 30 artisans work here producing fine jewellery, paintings, ceramics and prints. It is possible (and recommended) to buy souvenirs straight from these producers.

Opposite is the vast Navruz wedding house, best visited during Saturday lunchtime when countless newlyweds and video-camera crews battle for champagne and floor space. They make pilgrimage to the statue of 15th century poet Alisher Navoi. His cupola offers a couplet of advice: 'Know, all human kind: the greatest curse is enmity; the greatest blessing-amity'.

From here, one can view the boating and swimming lake of Alisher Navoi National Park, dug out by Leninist youth in 1939 in only 45 days, and the bright blue dome of the Oliy Majlis or Uzbek parliament. Constructed with Bukharan granite and marble from Samarkand, capped with a turquoise dome, and decorated with a 10m-high, 4.5-tonne chandelier of crystal and gold in the central hall, Uzbekistan's parliament building is designed to impress. Uzbek nationals can gain access to the ground floors of the building; foreigners must be content viewing the ostentatious structure from outside.

Alisher Navoi National Park is the green heart of the city and it is the best place to escape the city life. People jog, swim, climb, ride bycicles or just enjoy reading books in this huge park. The Park has lakeside restaurants and cafes which serve everything from a three-course meal to a quick cup of coffee.

Just south of the parliament on Bunyodkor St (Milliy Bog' metro) is the traditional facade of the Culture and Art Exhibition Building, a gallery that sometimes has temporary exhibitions. Behind are statues to Uzbek writers Oybek and Abdullah Qahdor (Kodiri)