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Exploring old town

Over the hedge was a mud wall, and in the wall a timber door, and through a gap in the door's starved planking I could see a chicken yard fronting a poor low hovel thatched with reed, its stick ribs staring through their plaster. This downtrodden rural dwelling, its sagging thatch overshadowed by skyscrapers, gave a vivid idea of Tashkent's rapid expansion.

Questions about Tashkent's expansion. He told me that it had been agreed after the 1966 earthquake that nothing above four storeys high should be built in the city, and that for a good many years the planners had stuck to it. Then, under "pressures", the rule had been "relaxed".

Journey to Khiva by Philip Glazebrook

Tashkent's historic heart is jam-packed with museums, mausoleums and mosques, many of which are within walking distance of one another. They are the sole survivors of the 1966 earthquake and so it is here that you will get a sense of Tashkent in times gone by - the pace of life is a little slower, the people-watching richer, and the ghosts of the past are veritably trampling over one another to be seen.

The Old Town (Uzbek: eski shahar, Russian: stary gorod) starts beside Chorsu Bazaar and Hotel Chorsu.  A maze of narrow dirt streets is lined with low mudbrick houses and dotted with mosques and old medressas. Even taxi drivers get lost easily here.  On foot, you could easily get lost too, but that’s part of the fun. 

Wandering around you’ll often be invited into someone’s home, where you’ll discover that the blank outer walls of traditional homes conceal cool, peaceful garden courtyards. If you want to have real idea about a city , you must go to the heart of that city. In this part of city you can find the unique atmosphere, genuine picture of how the city lived for centuries before.

The Old Town has retained much of its old charm. Here you will find low adobe houses with shady courtyards, narrow winding streets and many ancient mosques and madressas.

Chorsu Bazaar (Tashkent's farmers market under a huge cupola, spices, grain, dairy products, fruits of the season), (Southern edge of the old town). Here you can encounter the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Central Asia and you will have a good chance to see people in the colourful local dress. 

Kukeldash Medressa, Nawai Prospect (on a hill overlooking Chorsu Bazaar, near the Friday Mosque). This Quran school was built in the 16th century during the reign of Abdulla-Khan by the vizier, scientist and poet Kulbobo Kukeldash, Kukeldash means the Khan's foster brother'. Kukeldash Medressa is one of the largest and best preserved Quran schools in Central Asia. The Medressa has a traditional composition with a large inner yard with hujras (pupils' cells) and darshakona and mosque in the corners. 

Ensemble Khazret Imam, (2 km north of the Circus on Zarquanyar). Tomb of one of the first Imams of Tashkent, Visitors may wish to visit the mosque in the Hast Imam area of the city. The library there contains the remaining fragments of the world's first Koran, written only 19 years after the death of Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). 

Tellya Sheikh Mosque with a beautiful Islamic library with ancient ceilings and ancient manuscripts and the Osman Koran. It is considered the oldest Koran in the world and is said to have been stained with the blood of Hazrat Osman in 655. 

Architectural Complex Zengi-Ata, (in the Zengi-Ata settlement near Tashkent). Burial place of sheikh Aj-Hodzha, nicknamed Zengi-Ata, which means "black", living from the end of 12th to first half of 13th century.  

Barrak-Khan Madrassah, (to the east of Chorsu market, among the clay-walled buildings of the old city). The Medrassah was completed in the 2nd half of the 16th cent. Barak Khan died in 1556 and is buried in Samarkand.  

The advance of suburbs and boulevards had eroded the old. Moslem quarter, and left it under siege. Its insanitary tangle of clay walls and twisted tarmac, the tunnelled entranceways and secretive yards and roofs where spring tulips grew, had always been anathema to totalitarian rulers, and were often threatened with demolition. It was too hidden from them, too various and unaccountable. But the 1966 earthquake which ravaged the modern town had left this subversive warren eerily intact. Its beams and walls had merely shuddered a little, shed a skin or two of dust, then subsided.

The Lost Heart of Asia by Colin Thubron