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Chorsu bazaar

"Chorsu" Bazaar (Old City), 48 Navoi St. (near Chor Su hotel which is under reconstruction now) Shayhan Taurski District, Tashkent Uzbekistan Open: every day

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.

There are acres of spices arranged in brightly coloured mountains; Volkswagen-sized sacks of grain; entire sheds dedicated to candy, dairy products and bread; interminable rows of freshly slaughtered livestock; and - of course - scores of the pomegranates, melons, persimmons, huge mutant tomatoes and whatever fruits are in season. Souvenir hunters will find kurpacha (colourful sitting mattresses), skull caps, chapan and knives here.

Tashkent Chorsu Bazaar is one of the largest in Central Asia. In the fruit and vegetable sections you are dazzled by the abundance and variety of the merchandise. On the stalls are piles of ruddy apples and honey-tasting pears, fuzzy peaches, prunes, large quinces, and bunches of black, pink and amber-colored sweet grapes. The yellow figs are carefully covered with green leaves. In baskets are pomegranates with ruby seeds and orange-red persimmons. And there are mountains of huge watermelons and pineapple-smelling melons.

In one of the pavilions you get enveloped in a cloud of spicy aromas. There are so many of them here! Saffron and cinnamon, red and black pepper, cloves, nutmegs, cardamom, caraway seeds, and cumin seeds, without which no genuine Uzbek plov can be made … Under another dome fresh mutton and choice beef are on display. Here and there sacks with of rice are piled, navat-sugar crystals glitter… Vying with each other, the salesmen loudly offer raisins and dried apricots, almonds and pistachios, walnuts and peanuts…

Chorsu Bazaar is not only the largest but also the oldest in the region. Over two thousand years ago this suburb of Tashkent, called Chach, accommodated artisans’ residential area. Here, at the junction of nomadic and settled tribes habitations, there developed in ancient times a sort of a market, where the local farmers, nomads and outlandish merchants exchanged and traded their goods. Early in the Middle Ages the bazaar came to be at the very junction of shakhristan- inner town and craftsmen’s rabad-suburb, thus turning into the real city center. Through each gate of the city, the arterial roads originating from the Great Silk Road traversed the city and converged in this very place. The bazaar was not only a trading ground but also a sort of a club where people learnt the news and listened to jarchi-criers shouting out the khan’s decrees. Maskaraboz-actors and ropewalkers performed in the bazaar square; here outlandish merchants told stories about mysterious faraway lands.

As in the old days, today Chorsu Bazaar is surrounded by craftsmen’s shops where they make and immediately offer for sale traditional jewelry, gold-embroidery caftans, suzane-tapestries, pichok-knives, wicker baskets, musical instruments, and metal trays of various sizes and shapes with chasings and engravings. In the carpet section they sell carpets and tapestries from Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara. Chorsu Bazaar, full of fabulous wealth and exotic goods, opens its gates with a hearty ‘Khush kelibsiz!’ – ‘Welcome!’