Central Asia Cultures

With Us, The World Is More Interesting...

<

Welcome to Uzbekistan - the crossroads of civilization and the heart of Central Asia. The center of ancient caravan routes, its 2500 years of history are yours to explore. Set between the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers where “hospitality is ranked higher than courage” we will welcome you as part of our extended mahallya – our community family. Learn about friendly rural villages, ancient settlements, temples and tombs, some of the oldest cities in the world overlaid with recent history but proudly claiming their heritage.

Bounded by the majesty of the Tien Shan mountains and the mystery of the Kyzyl Kum desert, Uzbekistan is an adventure filled with fascinating cultural discoveries, history and breathtaking natural beauty. Turquoise domes and graceful arched portals are graced with the sophisticated geometry of tilework, architectural patterns, calligraphy and floral designs. Let the magic of the ancient cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva enchant you.

Uzbekistan Hospitality

At the heart of Uzbek culture is its wonderful hospitality, renowned for centuries. From the days when Uzbekistan stood at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road, its grand cities hosted thousands of road-weary tradesmen who sought refuge from the desert and the perils of the open road. These caravans would stay for days at a time, enjoying the gracious generosity that has remained a living tradition to the present day.

- The Uzbek Tea Ceremony, a formal and graceful ritual, demonstrates in a very practical way the high priority given to hospitality. When a guest arrives, the hostess will serve tea, usually accompanied by a traditional snack. The freshly brewed tea is poured from the teapot into a ceramic cup and then returned to the teapot three times, allowing the full flavor and aroma of the tea to develop. The fourth time, tea is poured into the guest\\'s cup, filling it only halfway so that it will be the perfect temperature for the guest to enjoy.

Uzbekistan Traditions & Customs

The traditions and customs of the Uzbek people have been shaped by their unique position at the crossroads of the Great Silk Road. The treasures that flowed were not only the ones that can be held in one\\'s hand, but also those that touch the heart and soul. Art, philosophy, science, and religious ideals were exchanged, enriching the cultures of both the travelers and their hosts.

- Uzbek culture reflects a beautiful synthesis of these influences, while maintaining its own unique traditions. From the harmony of its architecture to the masterful detail of its applied arts, from the busy, noisy bazaars to the peaceful, laid-back chaikhana, a journey through Uzbekistan is unique and unforgettable.

It will be helpful for travelers to be aware of some of the conventions of Uzbek society. For example, when greeting each other, close friends or family members of the same sex will kiss on both cheeks. When meeting someone for the first time, a handshake denotes a formal introduction (however, women will generally not be expected to shake hands with men). At a meal, guests will be expected to take a turn as toastmaster, thanking and praising the host, saying something witty, and wishing good health and prosperity to all present.

Of all the traditions in Uzbek culture, those associated with the family and community are the most important. The community itself is structured self-governing units, the mahallya. These groups of neighbors help each other and together conduct joint activities. Weddings, funerals, commemorative ceremonies, and the rites of circumcision are all organized by the mahallya.

Uzbekistan Weddings

Many Uzbek ceremonies, especially those associated with family life, such as weddings and the birth an upbringing of children, represent the combination of Islamic rituals with more ancient forms related to mystical practices. A wedding involves the whole community, and it is not uncommon to see three hundred guests at the wedding party. The rituals begin with an engagement ceremony, at which the wedding date is set, and end on the day after the wedding with a ceremony in which the bride is formally received into her new family.

Uzbek National dress

When we think of Central Asian civilizations, one of the enduring images is of the beautiful fabrics and decorative needlework used in traditional clothing.

Although nowadays most Uzbeks wear European-style clothes, especially in the cities, some elements of traditional clothing are still incorporated. In the countryside and at national ceremonies you can still see people in traditional dress, and even today, gold-embroidered zarchapan (caftan) and turbans made of gold or silver brocade are indispensable parts of men\\'s wedding garments.

Uzbekistan Cuisine

In a nation where "hospitality is rated higher than courage", it is not surprising that the cuisine is bountiful. From the days of the Silk Road caravans, the meal laid out for a guest was never simple or plain fare - every inch of the table was covered with delicacies, enough for several helpings, and the bonds created over those meals often became lasting friendships.

Some Uzbek recipes are centuries old, with different rituals and ways of cooking them. The most well known of the national dishes, one that is featured at every feast, is an intricate pilaf (plov, osh) prepared with mutton and various vegetables and spices. Although women usually do most of the cooking, men are considered best at preparing pilaf. For special occasions, an oshpaz (special pilaf chef) may even be called in.

Among the other dishes that you will enjoy in Uzbekistan are traditional breads baked in tandoors (clay ovens), delicious soups flavored with various herbs and spices, unique stuffed pastries, and an abundance of fresh fruit.

Uzbekistan music

Music is omnipresent in Uzbek society. From the lullabies sung to an infant when it is first placed in its cradle, to the ancient laments heard at funerals and commemorative ceremonies, the strains of these melodies accompany every aspect of life.
Some of the Uzbek ritual traditional music is thousands of years old. Indeed, the sounds of the Uzbek instruments will convey to you the essence of the mysterious music of the East. Many of the instruments that produce these stirring notes have remained unchanged throughout the centuries.

Uzbekistan Bazaars

In a world where business transactions have become virtually devoid of human contact, Uzbekistan\\'s bazaars remind us of how vibrant and exciting commerce can be. The bazaars are no mere collection of shops. They have always been a dynamic center of the community, a place where not only goods and produce, but ideas, news, philosophies, culture and politics are traded.

Here, people still trade in the open air, placing their goods on the ground or on hand-built structures. Here, you will find everything - from succulent fresh fruits and crisp vegetables to fine jewelry and gold embroidery, from hand-tempered knives to handmade musical instruments, from ceramic bowls to painted cradles. Every item is offered by salespeople who know their merchandise intimately and can tell you how it is grown, where it is made, all the intricate details of its history. And if an item costs more than you were planning to spend, you can always strike a bargain.

Uzbekistan Chaikhanas

If the bazaar is the place where one can find out the latest news, the chaikhana is the place to discuss it in depth. These tea houses, preferably situated near a stream of clear water, with a central samovar to hold the tea, and low tables on mats for the guests to sit around, are the perfect place for men to discuss just about anything. It is at the chaikhana that men will cook up a pilaf, between endless cups of green tea, and also reach important decisions about the next project for the mahallya.

Uzbekistan Applied & Decorative Art

One of the most famous aspects of Uzbekistan\\'s culture is the mastery of so many decorative arts. Older examples of the centuries-old techniques may be viewed in museums, and in the bazaars you will find many examples of the recent revival of handicraft traditions that has brought about new interest and many new artisans.

From the famed blue-and white ceramic pottery and detailed gold-thread embroidery, to the intricately carved gourd snuffboxes, engraved copper lamps, and hand-forged daggers, Uzbek arts continue to enthrall a world audience.

Uzbekistan Festivals

The New Year traditionally begins with Navruz, the ancient commemoration of the coming of spring that has been celebrated for more than 2,500 years. With roots in pagan times and many of its traditions associated with the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia, it is a holiday celebrating how light and warmth win out over the cold and darkness of winter. The celebration begins on the 21st of March, but preparations begin several days beforehand: the villages and homes are cleaned and decorated, old and broken items are discarded, and people get new clothes for the holiday. And not only the homes are cleaned - this is also a time for tidying up one\\'s life, forgiving past offenses and debts, renewing friendships, and establishing an atmosphere of harmony and plenty that will hopefully last throughout the year.

The first week of May brings the annual Silk and Spices festival to the old city of Bukhara. Craftspeople from all the Silk Road countries, as well as from Georgia and Pakistan, join to offer the best of what this area has to offer. Travelers can view handpainted miniatures, see silk weavers and potters at work, taste a variety of teas and wines, indulge in locally made sweets, laugh and cry at the puppet shows, and be thrilled by tightrope walkers, all while listening to the strains of musicians who perform throughout the day. In the evening, special theatrical performances help tourists complete their knowledge of this unique culture.

The ancient city of Samarkand, an ancient center of the Silk Road, is host to a different kind of annual event: the Shark Taronalari international music festival. First held in 1997 with performers from 29 countries, by 2005 it had grown to attract visitors from over 50 countries, and featured such musicians as Uran Khai, the throat-singing band from the Republic of Tuva, the folk singer Simara Imanova from Azerbaijan, and Chinese and Indian musicians.

>