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Must-see in Tashkent


Our top list of must-see in Tashkent

  1. Chorsu Bazaar - Haggle till you drop in this vast goods emporium.
  2. History Museum of the People of Uzbekistan - The great repository of Uzbek history.
  3. Central Asian Plov Centre - Sample the Central Asian ambrosia and other Uzbek favorites.
  4. Khast Imom - An ancient Quran (the oldest in the world) lies hidden behind this Leviathan new mosque.
  5. Ilkhom Theatre - Progressive theatre with English subtitles.

Modern Tashkent is a big, sprawling city that’s best appreciated for its whole rather than its parts. If you’re short on time, pick your spots and hone in on them by car. At minimum check out Khast Imom, Chorsu Bazaar and a few museums. If you have a few more days cover as much as you can on foot – you’ll catch random glimpses of city life that are often more rewarding than the sights themselves. Old Town makes for the best wandering.

Tashkent’s main streets radiate from Amir Timur maydoni, emasculated by president Karimov without warning in 2010 as part of his grand plan to ‘beautify’ the city. The dozens of century-old chinar (plane) trees that provided shade for the legions of chess players and strollers who once populated the park were all cut down. With the chess players now gone, the statue of Timur on horseback in the middle of the square cuts a lonely figure. A glance under the statue reveals that the stallion has been divested of a certain reproductive appendage. Just who stole it is one of Tashkent’s great mysteries. Fortunately the horse’s formidable family jewels remain intact.

Nobody is quite sure why they cut down the chinar trees but conventional wisdom holds that the president wanted to allow unobstructed views of the new, preposterously large Dom Forum (Amir Timur maydoni). It’s usually closed but occasionally hosts state-sponsored events for honoured guests. You may recognise the tigers on the facade from the Sher Dor Medressa at the Registan in Samarkand.

Further west, good-luck pelicans guard the gates to Mustaqillik maydoni (Independence square), where crowds gather to watch parades on Independence day.  The shiny white edifice on the west side of the square is the relatively new Senate building. East of the square across Rashidov, the animal-festooned facade of the Tsaristera Romanov Palace faces the Art Gallery of Uzbekistan, and is now closed to the public.

North of Mustaqillik maydoni is the Crying Mother Monument. Fronted by an eternal flame, it was constructed in 1999 to honour the 400,000 Uzbek soldiers who died in WWII. The niches along its two corridors house their names.

The New Soviet men and women who rebuilt Tashkent after the 1966 earthquake are remembered in stone at the Earthquake Memorial. Soviet propagandists made much of the battalions of these ‘fraternal peoples’ and eager urban planners who came from around the Soviet Union to help with reconstruction. But when Moscow later announced it would give 20% of the newly built apartments to these (mainly Russian) volunteers and invite them to stay, local resentment boiled over in street brawls between Uzbeks and Russians in the so-called Pakhtakor Incident of May 1969.

A 375m three-legged monster, the epitome of Soviet design, stands north of the Hotel International (former InterContinental). The price of admission gets you up to the 100m viewing platform. You’ll need your passport to buy a ticket. At 110m there’s a revolving restaurant that serves a decidedly mediocre set Russian meal.

At the other end of town, Bobur Park is home to the poignant Seattle Peace Park, a collection of small tiles that recall the Cold War era with messages of peace designed by Tashkent- and Seattle-based schoolchildren in the 1980s. 

It’s worth taking the metro to reach some of these sites, if only to visit some of the lavishly decorated stations. A must is the Kosmonavtlar station, with its unearthly images of Amir Timur’s astronomer grandson, Ulugbek, and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, among others.