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Silk Road #MSTravelog from Uzbekistan

Read our MSTer journey in traversing The Silk Road of Uzbekistan!

By Farihah
26 Min Read
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Disclaimer: The personal opinion of the writer doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Muslim Solo Travel.

4 weeks agoJune 22, 2024 3:43 am

Midnight Arrival into Tashkent & Exchange Dispenser Discovery

From Almaty, Kazakhstan (more about this soon), I arrived in Tashkent, groggy, at midnight UTC +5.

prayer room signs in arrival hall at TAS airport, something I struggled searching in Almaty T1, & discovered was locked in Almaty T2, but found here in TAS.

ted by my #MuslimFriendly Tour Guide, Kamal was ready with my name tablet amidst crowd. I still couldn’t really register what was happening here…

But I saw lots of smiley faces.

“Is it the ‘warm welcome’ of another fellow Muslim country?” was what I thought…

l, my receptionist said “We have an exchange here!” as I told him I forgot to change to local currency.

Aha! Pointing me to an automatic cash exchange dispenser… One that reminded me of a lot that you see, in Singapore Changi.

4 weeks agoJune 22, 2024 1:16 pm

Sweet Tooth Breakfast in Tashkent & Discovering Candied Tea

Couldn’t start my day without tea, I was intrigued by the candied-looking sugar.

Asking the waiters what is it, indeed it is what I believed to be – candy. The only way to use it, is different! How? ⤵️

The Uzbeks use it in tea, as per what the waiters at the hotels said.

I forgot that porridge in this part of the world often tastes sweet… This one was similar to the belila I discovered in Alexandria.

Like the semolina porridge I had in Almaty the day before, I was longing for something salty.

So an additional scoop of blackpepper beef on top, made the porridge somewhat ‘umami’.

Shocked at Tashkent’s Summer Weather

Coming from mild Almaty, I felt like I was back in Kuala Lumpur, as we walked in the heart of Imam Hazrati Complex.

“I knew I should’ve brought my fan,” I muttered to myself, feeling angry for expecting Tashkent to have similar weather to Almaty.

ice cream to the rescue!

Post ice-cream break, our guide showed us the different Qurans. From the tiniest to the largest, one which was I think stolen in St. Petersburg.

I also found a carpenter whose family specializes in some sort of a locked box.

”Only in Tashkent!” he pointed and said that this is his family’s specialty carpentry work. Perhaps also showed that they’re awarded & recognized for it.

The ‘limited-edition-travel-souvenir-sucker’ in me, was sold.

Chorsu Market Run, Ayran & Seeing Horse Meat

In Chorsu Market, I finally saw the bakery that is often shown on multiple YouTube travelogs!

non is what it’s called,” my tour guide, Murod said.

Am I hearing correctly? Is it naan, or non?

After the bakery section, we meandered along the back alley.. The heat was too much, and a drink stall was inviting.

Prior to choosing what to buy for a drink, my guide made a blunder, and the local who also wanted to buy a drink corrected him. “That is not ayron,” he said to my guide.

”First time in Tashkent? Malaysia?” He asked me.

”Yes. What do you recommend?” my quest to understanding a local’s summer quench wisdom.

Kokteyl. We drink it during summer.”

“Have a sip first, if you like it, get it” he told me.

Was I hearing correctly? Cocktail is milkshake? This is milkshake?

bewildered by the definition of cocktail here

A quick search always does the trick ⤵️

But the aftertaste of ice cream from Hazrati Imam Complex still lingered on my tongue then.

So mint tea ended up being the choice, in the heat of summer.

Yuri Gagarin, a prelude to Moscow soon?

The train station in the heart of Tashkent, at best, is a prelude to my newly minted dream to visit Russia.

Kazan of Tatarstan first, because of a local Tatar I met in Almaty’s Library three days ago, who incidentally showed me the similarities of a Tatar mentality to Sarawakians of Malaysia. A personal reason I wish to explore by myself.

My home country, Malaysia also expressed its wishes to joined BRICS, less than 24 hours I touched down in Tashkent.

While Travel should not be affected, and I personally believe travel is beyond and antidote to the aftermath of politics. To an extent, it is, affected by geopolitics. And travel, is indeed, personal.

Hence a self-discovery, is part and parcel of solo travel, no?

4 weeks agoJune 23, 2024 9:11 am

Red Eye Flight to Urghench (UGC)

Having been blessed to travel, one thing that is incompatible with me (and many of us), is a red eye flight.

But I am here on a fam (familiarization) trip. So we have to go with the crowd.

4 weeks agoJune 23, 2024 1:22 pm

(FINALLY) Leaving Tashkent TAS Airport

A flight delay can be a curse (if you have interconnected flight) or a blessing (if you’re surrounded by open minded travelers).

Halal on UzAir!

Usually for my case it is the first. Unlike this one.

Told to board off the flight, as the doors won’t shut itself, I made new friends:

A sleep-deprived Japanese backpacker

… who came from Shymkent and shared his tales on camping in Mangystau. I took this encounter as an opportunity to check with him what’s up with Japan now. His tip: “too many foreigners! Because of the weak Yen”

A Kazakh who recovered his lost hat..

…because I helped him get it as he was already boarding off the flight and I was standing, nearer to his seat. He told me what was the difference between Astana (one I’m yet to visit), Almaty, and why he chose Tashkent. Spoiler: the weather.

A South Korean Mid-age Lady

I told her “eomonyi, oori Seoul kaja-gu, after Uzbekistan,” mix and matching my broken Korean and English..

Sharing our tales together, and cross-checking with how much time we have left to board the plane, made the delay less unbearable.

Once we were told to finally board the bus to our real plane, the bus ride felt like it was the longest 10 minute ever.

I sweared we toured the whole tarmac, as our plane waited for us at the technical space, at the end of the airport!

”When will we ever reach our plane?” one of the passengers said upon the realization that the bus seems to just be going round in circles, and have no end destination! Was the airport space this huge??

”No idea. Looks like we’re taking the bus to Khiva!” Azamat made everyone in the bus bursted out laughing.

Cute luggage belt conveyor in tiny UGC Urghench airport
4 weeks agoJune 24, 2024 1:07 am

Windy Khiva, the Khans and the start of Silk Road

Running on three (+one on the plane) hour of sleep, and coming here with no research (as I come on a familiarization trip, knowing all is prepared), I was shocked to discover that Khiva is a gated, compounded Old Town.

Today is a good day! It’s usually never windy like this

my guide beamed

”Is it similar to Cordoba or Madinat al-Zahra? Or Granada? But it looks like it’s bigger!” taking in the scenario as I walked along the alleyway, following my guide, Otabek.

inside the ‘complain room’ to the Khans.

Learning about the Khorezms, what is Khums, the different Khans, tasting brothy Mastava, and determining which tiles are original and which is not..

There’s a lot to unpack from here.

But if there’s one memorable line that I remember from all the Khiva tour, that would be “It was built in 36 days!”.

What was built in 36 days? The gates? The madrasa? That is something I am unsure of… and have to admit, lazy to double check. Exhausted from the exploration.

Passing by merchant after merchant who sell silk, cotton, non ‘bread’ stamp, and caravanserai, I’m starting to understand the gravity of The Silk Road.

Maybe Khiva is now my favorite Old Town.. after Khor Fakkan.

4 weeks agoJune 24, 2024 12:15 pm

Finally Understanding What Kompot is

After seeing kompot signs in cyrillic and latin from Almaty to Tashkent and now in Khiva, I finally understood what it is, now.

“Juice?” I asked my Tashkent guide few days ago. “Yes” he told me. But I wasn’t convinced then. That’s not juice from the looks of it.

”Juice?” I asked the waiter at the hotel’s restaurant in Khiva just now.

”It’s green apple, peach, red apple, and…” he explained to me.

”a-ha! It’s not juice. It’s a fruit punch!” I stopped him mid-way, excited after finally figuring out what it is.. after three days of wondering!

Kompot for breakfast punch. With Camca and pancakes.
4 weeks agoJune 25, 2024 2:21 am

Seeing Turkmenistan, life in Rural Uzbek desert on a six-hour road trip

Prior to this trip, I was checking, if I could enter Turkmenistan. But it states there that the country is not ‘Visa-free’ for my passport.

So I ignored the possibility of a short excursion here.

Until all the local guides that I’ve met so far said the same thing: “Even we don’t have visa-free to enter that country! We don’t know what’s going on there.”

A-ha! I’m not the only one.

But a stopover with a panoramic backrop view of Amu Darya river, which separates Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is enough (for now) to satisfy my curiosity on Turkmenistan.

Our lunch in the desert stopover provided a different glimpse into Uzbekistan.

Like anywhere else in the world, folks in the rural, most remote areas are… kinder. They treat you with the ‘benefit of the doubt’.

I’ve gotten the impression that I am either Uzbek, Kazakh or Turk, from the locals who work as breadmakers, locals who mend the mini market, and the local villager whos house doubles as a restaurant for hungry travelers.

They almost always, spoke to me in the local language, until I showed them I’m not by taking off my sunglasses, and by showing that I have a VISA card, one time in the mini market.. which led to the question “where you from?’

“Malaysia,” I said, pointing to myself.

The local had a look that what I delivered seemed like an unfathomable knowledge to him.

“Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia,” he counted these countries, one by one with his fingers, showing that these are the countries that they’re aware of.

A local’s house in the middle of nowhere, next to Amu Darya River.
4 weeks agoJune 25, 2024 11:23 am

Sunny Bukhara, A Sore Throat & Interacting with Bukhara Artisans & Locals

After arriving in the evening yesterday, my guide, Doni waited for me as early as 8 am in the lobby to start our Bukhara exploration today.

Mausoleum visits and the crash course of different religions here (Zoroastrian interested me as I never really hear about it where I come for), A walk to Labi Hovuz, exploring the mini museums inside the Ark, they’re all great.

The cherry on top was discovering the silk-covered Beshik (baby cradle). This internalized in me the gravity that Uzbekistan, was the center of culture, and arts during The Silk Road era.

The beshik, should be sold everywhere, in my opinion!

Communicating with an elder Uzbek lady who might have asked me if I liked Uzbekistan in local language.

Not knowing how to reply to her, except to smile, I extended the one Uzbek word (except thank you) that I remember: “Chiroyli,” which means beautiful, according to one of my guides.

Only now I feel adjusted to Uzbekistan…

But the heat, I still can’t get adjusted to it. It’s too dry, my lips are parched, and my skin is flaky, and now I have a sore throat.

“Do you love Bukhara?” I asked my guide as he led the way inside the Ark.

He stopped his steps as we were walking up the wooden stairs, turned at me, smiled, and said “I can sleep in Bukhara.”

“You can’t sleep in Samarkand? Tashkent?” I asked him.

“It’s not home.”

“The men appreciate it when their clothes are hand-washed by their women.” Doni said as I stopped him mid-way in Central Bazaar, asking him what type of soap is this.

Interacting with the artisans and supporting their craft, from asking what do their paintings and quotes mean, and the story behind their clothing design.. That is the beauty of Bukhara.

“Madam, I made this Madam… I studied fashion in France!” a lady showed me her accolades and her designs.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

“Suraya madam, Muslim name,” she replied.

The Adras is an honored clothing here, and depending on the jewelry, they’re indicators of one’s status. This one shows that this lady has five kids.
4 weeks agoJune 26, 2024 3:59 pm

Final Stop in Samarkand

As we arrived late in Samarkand, I caught a fever. My sore throat was just the prelude to it. 

My body felt hot, and I am not digesting whatever that I’m eating. But the smile on my guide, Maftuna, who’s waiting for me in my hotel lobby as I arrived late from Bukhara injected some energy in me. 

“How long have you been waiting?”

“One hour and a half..”

“Oh no, we better get going in a bit,” I told her.

After listening to the various campaigns that Amir Temur did long long ago, I’m starting to understand that out of all the rulers, this one is close to the hearts of Uzbeks.

In Registan, I learned about the different skull capes that Uzbeks wear –

Each skull capes have symbolism that indicates their status. Single, newly married, long-time married, or engaged. 

Indeed, the colors and the demonstrations make Samarkand worthy of the title World’s Cultural Tourism Capital. 

While walking inside the courtyard of one of the madrasahs in Registan, one man who was doing some calligraphy caught my eye.

Watch our Samarkand Reel here

“He wrote the Quran that we saw just now, that was penned throughout the pandemic,” Maftuna told me.

“I can write your name in Arabic, on this sheepskin,” he told me with a welcoming smile.

“Thank you very much,” I told him, feeling like I would love to get myself a personalized calligraphy, but the feeling of wanting to lie in bed was stronger as my body felt too cold and hot, at the same time.. 

“We could go upstairs and look at the view if you want,” my guide told me that there are also some free classes that I could participate in.

“I would love to. But I feel like being in my bed. I might need to skip dinner tonight,”  was all I could think of at the moment. ft an Uzbek cat.
3 weeks agoJune 27, 2024 8:01 am

More Mausoleums, Bibi Khanym Mosque and Train Ride Back to Tashkent

Feeling fresh from a 10-hour sleep, after being prescribed some paracetamol and amoxicillin by an Italian Doctor who’s on our trip, I was ready to explore Samarkand today..

Until, I found out that there was a change in plans. 

We’re checking out today. Instead of what was supposed to be a bus ride to Tashkent tomorrow, we’re taking the evening train today.

Feeling shocked at the news, I hurried to my room and started packing like a manic.

Not a great way to start my day but travel often comes with its share of ‘change of plans’ of course.

Bibi Khanym Mosque

In the courtyard of Bibi Khanym mosque, we finally saw the Quran that my guide in Tashkent talked about previously: “The original copy is in Samarkand, which you will see.”

With my guide Maftuna on the left, and tour coordinator Fatima on the right. Muslim ladies in the tourism industry!

It was situated right at the center, in between three sections of the mosque: two for the public, and one, for the royalty of the past.

As much as Uzbekistan is beautiful.. At this point, I already felt bored of seeing blue.

Cooling Breeze & An Encounter with The Pomegranate Potter at Konigil

Luckily we were off to the Konigil village.

‘Is this Amsterdam?’ I wondered as we walked into the canals, seeing women scraping wood with knives, as a process of making silk.

The breeze from the canals, the windmills, the dark wooden colors. This is definitely the breath of fresh air I needed from the many blue tiles of terra cottas and mosaics that I’ve seen.

In a pottery house, a young man who looked to be slightly younger than me showed me how to ‘turn the potter’.

His name? Also Amir! Must have been the third generation, if I’m not mistaken. 

“Which one is your family’s specialty?” I asked, feeling confused at the many different pottery designs on the showcase.

“This. The one with pomegranates,” he showed me

I’d love to have it, but the size was far too huge for me to buy. I don’t think my luggage would allocate space for that.

As I was about to leave, Amir stopped me, “You’re not hot in that clothing?” my guide translated what he was saying.

“I’m from Malaysia,” signifying that my turtleneck was not hot, but everyday wear for me. 

Turned out he wanted to give me a T-shirt. But there were no S sizes anymore.

He felt as if he needed to give me something when I clearly said “It’s alright.”

But he ended up giving me a finger protector, for knitting. 

So nice. Maybe this is what Azlin (read about her journeys here), meant by saying that the merchants and locals on The Silk Road are used to receiving guests, that their hospitality and the ability to make you feel welcomed, without asking for something in return is top notch.

Locals from The Silk Road is known for their hospitality.

“For you to come back again one day,” Amir said as I received his tiny gift. One that can fit in my luggage.

I have to come back, with a bigger luggage to store that pomegranate pottery one day, in sha Allah. On a business perspective, I thought of him as “wow, what a great salesman.”

Dua (prayer) Congregation in Shah-i-Zinda

In Shah-i-zinda, we passed by a couple of mausoleums, a couple of them dearest to Mirzo Ulugbek, grandson of Amir Temur; and one was for Kussam ibn Abbas, cousin of the Prophet SAW.

In the latter mausoleum, I was startled by the sudden entry of the Imam and him making a long dua in Arabic and Uzbek.

I wished I understood what he said. But it was an experience that is… untranslatable even through words.

Walking back to the entrance of Shah-i-Zinda, the sight of a young lad named Khalil carving in bright paint caught my eye. 

I stopped and asked him the same question I had previously to Amir. What generation is he, in this craft.

“Our grandfather helped restore many of the tiles in Samarkand,” he said, saying the ones in Registan are mostly done by their family’s craftsmanship expertise.

“I am still learning. My brother, is the expert.”

“How long does it take for you to finish this?’ I asked about the piece he was doing.

“Maybe six weeks. I am still learning. My brother would be able to do it faster.”

At the stairs, I see kids and adults alike, counting their steps down. According to Maftuna, there’s a legend that says if your counting upon going up, and down, equals to the same number, your sins would be forgiven. For one to believe, or not, that is entirely up to themselves.

the end of the stairs to Shah-i-Zinda

Ride Back to Tashkent via Train

The day went by so quickly, as all of a sudden it was time to ride back to Tashkent via their trains. 

At the train station, I was finally introduced to a drink that is almost equivalent to an isotonic drink — one I discovered late that Uzbekistan rarely has in stores. 

That drink was mojito. If you’re wondering, of course – it is halal-certified.

Why now, when I’m about to leave? 

The next time you feel parched, or in the mood for some isotonic, get this drink in Uzbekistan!

Are you a Muslimah Solo Traveler who’s keen to share your exploration? Email us & We can’t wait to hear all about it!

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Silk Road #MSTravelog from Uzbekistan

Farihah Keymaster

    If you’re thinking of doing a full on Uzbekistan tour, this travelog can give you an idea of how to structure your 7D6N solo itinerary!
    [See the full #MSTravelog here: Silk Road #MSTravelog from Uzbekistan]

    Have you been to Uzbekistan? What was your itinerary like?

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