Karakalpakistan & Uzbekistan Tour
March 27 - April 5, 2008


Day 07 Thursday March 27, 2008 Nukus, Karakalpakistan

Karakalpakistan is the north west corner of Uzbekistan. It is an autonomous state. The capital is Nukus where we will stay overnight tonight. As soon as we enter the country from Turkmenistan border, we crossed over the longest river of Central Asia, Am-u derya River. Much of its water is being drained out of the river with the canals that were built during the Soviet period. “Thanks” to the water of Amuderya, now Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan grow rice and cotton in both the Karakum and Kizilkum deserts. The result is sand dunes in the river bed of the huge river and a state, Karakalpakistan, craving for a drop of water. Central Asia is strict with photography. In this time and age when you can print pictures of the earth from your home computer, there is still no permission to photograph Amuderya over this bridge in the entrance of the country.


We met our guide, Utkir at the border. He has been guiding meli’s tours since 1996. He calls her “Mother”. Though we all had proper entry visas to the country, it took us more than an hour at the border. It is only 26 km to Nukus, the capital. We were all very ready to go to the city and grab something to eat. But when we saw a mini city –like settlement we could not help but jump out of the van for photography. Unlike Turkmens, the Karakalpaks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Khazaks of Central Asia build their cemeteries like little cities. Since most of these people used to be nomads, while they were alive, they had never owned a construction which they could call home. But when they died they wanted to have their permanent residence be what they could not have in their nomadic life; huge homes, palaces, mausoleums, mescids…


After getting lost in nukus for few minutes we finally found our restaurant. The    ” Sheraton Club”. It was good thing we did not build up our expectation too high. We would have been disappointed. It was a good lunch.



We stayed at the only hotel of Nukus. Gipeg Yoli Hotel – the Silk Road Hotel. The rooms were wide and very clean. The floors, the couches were all covered with hand


Kathy and Barbara chose to go to the market while the rest of the group was trying to recover from our early departure

made carpets. The court yard was being prepared for summer. There were men sleeping even in the courtyard. The yurt in the middle of the court yard was beautifully decorated with local materials, tassels a carpets. Kathy had volunteered to sleep in the yurt but it was already taken.


Elaine Pruett watches for birds and spots the birds like a cat would. The following is the list of bird species seen so far on the trip:

  1. Rock pigeon
  2. Common Kestrel
  3. White Wagtail
  4. Eurosian Caow
  5. House Sparrow
  1. European turtle dove
  2. Little owl
  3. Northern House Martins
  4. Northern starling

     10.   Vultures

11.Marsh Harrier

            12.Crested Lark

13.Herring Gull

14.Indian Myna
15. Eagle


Nukus is a very small city of 40000 people. However, it has a wonderful museum,Savitsky Karakalpak State Art Museum . In the ethnographic section the jewelry, embroidery and woven materials are displayed. All the utensils of a nomadic family made of clay, wood or animal skin are displayed in a yurt. The archaeological section had excellent examples of ossuaries of the Zoroastrians and the modern art section had a rich exhibition of art work of contemporary sculptures and painters.


Day 08 Friday March 28, 2008 Karakalpakistan – Khiva, Uzbekistan


We want to be in Khiva for lunch, so we left early at 8:00 am. Our first stop was a Zoroastrian settlement. Kashan Kala. The Zoroastrians believe in the powers of good and evil fighting all the time. The good Ahura Mazda is always clashing with the evil Angra Mainyu They respect fire, water, air and earth. When one dies, before the body disintegrates into the earth, it needs to be cleaned. The body of the deceased is left on hill tops like Kashan Kala. The rain washes it, the animals eat the flesh and after  a year, when only bones are left, then with a ceremony , the bones are carefully packed in ossuaries and saved in the houses.

From the top of the hill one could see Amuderya meandering slowly through the sand dunes. The salt fields were shining in the middle of the cotton and rice fields. There was no wild flower around. We were told that this has been the coldest winter of the last 60 years.

The 10th – 12th Century was the age of enlightenment for Central Asia.  Abu Beruni is one of many philosophers of that period.

“ The things which will make one’s life easy and meet the necessities of mankind can only be found in science”



On the road we saw “Winter Melon” hanging. There were colorful carpets and blankets hanging over the melons to keep them cool.

As usual we immediately stopped and started chatting with the venders. Kathy would never miss the opportunity of hugging the ladies who greet us so warmly. We were offered to try their melon. It was very sweet. We ended up buying 2 melons. They will be our desert after lunch.



                                     We left Karakalpakistan driving over  a pontoon bridge on Amuderya River


New Hotels are being built every where in Khiva. The only transportation in the city is donkey carts

We had lunch at one of the local restaurants in the middle of the ancient city.

We then started our tour of this city where the blue of the tiles are doing an intimate tango with the heat of the desert.


            The widest minaret of Central Asia                                                                           Mosque of the palace


Muhammed Musa El Harazmi
      ( 780 – 850 AD)

Khiva was one of the capitals of Harazm  Khanate. The history of the city goes back for 2000 years. The Sogdians, and  Parthians who ruled in the very same walled city were occupied by the Arabs in the 7th Century and were converted to Islam by the end of the 7th Century. The 9th century, during the Seljukian Era, the city went through an age of enlightment. Al Harazmi of Khiva was the one who first started using the number “0” and started logorithma and algebra.

What one now  can see in the city of Khiva was built in the 16th Century and was used until the Russians invaded the city in late 19th Century.


Khiva was on the Silk Road

Day 09 Saturday March 29, 2008 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

We are departing Khiva for Tashkent with a generous breakfast at 5:00 am. The quarter moon peeks through the morning fog. The Urgench airport (not overly officious) is new and clean. We have a lovely walk to our Uzbekistan airplane (a 757) through the dawn. The air is cool and slightly smoky. The men here are polite and hold open the doors. There re very few people on the plane. We get served breakfast but most of us were dosing during the one-hour flight.

Picking the luggage was not a problem since we were the only passengers with luggage. Our new van was waiting for us. We will check in the hotel before we start our tour of Tashkent. Our first stop was the Applied Arts Museum. We learned the meanings of dfferent designs in Suzanis.





Caliph Omar’s Koran

The applied art museum also had display of pottery, jewelry, carved wood and three museum shops kept us busy for couple of hours. Our next stop was the old Tashkent which was totally renovated. There no longer was the bustling neighborhood, narrow streets and children playing in the streets. The building where the original copy of Caliph Omer’s Koran was kept was totally rebuilt making it a look like a Broadway show stage. The Uzbeks have a different understanding of impressing the tourist; Get rid of the old and make things look “fancy”. They have even cut the old trees which used to be part of the old scene.

We found out that there was an exhibition of Uzbeki crafts in the nearbye shopping mall, we made a short trip to see the crafts people.

We had lunch at a Turkish Restaurant. For days we have been having more orless the same type of food. The Turkish food, especially the rice pudding was a pleasant change.

The Central Asian countries had celebrated Nevroz, the spring, on the 21st of March.The streets and parks were still decorated with bill boards and flowers left from holiday celebrations. The paper tulips and  the paper storks were all over the park when we went to see the statur of Alishir Navoi at the park next to the Uzbek Parliament. Alishir Navoi was the 15th century poet, and phylosopher who is known to be the father of Uzbek Language. In the same park there is an ancient medrese which is now a crafts center for paper mache and wood carving. We took a short walk through the work shops and went back to the hotel.


Our guide Utkir and
his daughter Mehlika

Our guide Utkir calls Meli “mother” and he had given Meli’s name to his daughter, Mehlika. Meli went  to their home to see her “grand daughter”. She is seven years old and she is recently selected to go to an art school for specially gifted children.  

In Uzbekistan, education and medicen are state supported. The compulsory education is for 10 years. Since there is a big problem of unemployment, most of the young men and women  keep going to university. Those who live in the cities may have two, three university degrees since they get paid by the state as long as they study in a university.

Day 10 Sunday March 30, 2008 Bukhara Uzbekistan



At 08:00 am we were ready to leave Tashkent. In our car on the train the floors were covered with hand made traditional carpets. There was a big TV hanging from the ceiling. We quickly got settled for our 6 hour train ride. In Semerkand, the preordered lunch was delivered to the train for us. We enjoyed seeing the farm land of Uzbekistan

Ibn-I sina delivering
a baby by Ceaserian sect



From our windows we could see the cotton farms were all plowed and were waiting to be planted. The mulberry trees were just waking up with few bright green leave s waving in the wind as the train swift by them. At 03:00 pm we arrived in Buchara and found our Driver Sasha who had crossed the desert from Khiva to meet us here. Our first stop was    Ibn-i Sina’s birth place.  Ibn-I Sina (915 AD) is known as Avicenna in the west and is considered as the father of modern day medicine. 


Our next stop was Gijduvan, a small village on the Silk Road which was known for pottery for centuries. We visited Ali Shir’s home. His son met us since his father was in Tashkent at the craftsmen’s exhibition. We found out how the clay is prepared with a flower added to the clay to give it proper elasticity. The pots are thrown on a wheel. The typical colors are soft earth colors of browns, yellows and deep greens.

It was 07:00 when we finally checked in to our hotel in Buchara. The hotel is only few feet away from the center of ancient Buchara. We had a pleasant dinner by the pool surrounded by 700 year old Mulberry trees. Mary and Colin cut a little branch from these old trees hoping they can bring a little life of Buchara to their new home in Canada.

The families were having dinner served on low tables. The kids were climbing on the statues of camels around the pool. The deep blue of the sky was reflecting the color of the tiles faced the buildings around us. The smell of shahlik – Shish Kebab was adding to the exotic setting of Buchara. In this ambiance, we would not be surprised if Marco Polo had walked around the corner and greet us!

Day 11 Monday March 31, 2008 Bukhara Uzbekistan


We met our local guide at the hotel. A Tacik lady, Persian speaking citizens of Uzbekistan, who was born and raised in Buchara. She loved her city. We were very lucky to have her today. Our first stop was the oldest monument of Buchara. The mausoleum if Ismail Samani. Buchara, a major hub on the Silk Road had her share of many invasions through out the history. Though the history of the city can be dated from 2500 years before our time, there is no architectural evidence left since the major architectural element used was sun dried brick or adobe. Ismail Samani’s Mausoleum reflected the traditions of Zoroastrian. Like many brick buildings of Central, this one too was under the threat of salt, we could see the salt on the walls.



The streets of Buchara is like an open air studio of artists and crafts men


         Coppersmith                                 Musician playing Rubab                           The scissors- man                                        A painter


    Chashma – Eyub Maqbarasi

We  have passed the Imam El Bhuhari’s Museum. Imam El Buchari was a 9th Century poet who had put together the Hadis of Profit Muhammed.

His museum was built as a crescent representing Islam and an open book representing his book of Hadis.

Our next stop was the Mausoleum of Eyub . The building was used between 12th through 17th Century as the water distribution center of Buchara. The water in seven wells of Buchara are accepted as sacret. A young boy came while we were there, and had his holy glass of water. We were told that on Wednesdays it is believed that the waters of all seven wells pour out of only this fountain. 

We continued our walking tour of the city towards the Ark. The butcher shop did not need a sign to let every one knkow that it was a butcher. We stopped at Labi House Mosque buit by a pool.







The ark was the walled fortress where the last Buchara Han’s residence was. He and his family had to leave Buchara when the communist Russia invaded Buchara in 1922. The Han died in Afghanistan; his family is now living in England.

The woman of Buchara had burned their scarves in front of the entrance of the fortress as a symble of emancipation.

The minaret of Mir Arab Mosque is the tallest minaret of Central Asia.


In the shade of the Kolon Minaret we are listening to our guide.

Of the two buildings facing each other, one is a working medrese and the other one is a working Cuma Mosque – a mosque which is used on Fridays only. We visited the arched galleries and the beautiful mihrab of the mosque.

Tiles on the entrance wall of Mir Arap Mosque

Men playing dominos in the park

  Entrance to the Ulug Beg Medrese


Day 12 Tuesday April 1, 2008 Shahrisabs, Uzbekistan

After a nice breakfast at our hotel we left for Kizilkum desert. We are going to drive through the desert to the city where Cengiz Han was born, Shahrisabs. LUNCH ….MARKET ….





We started our day with a short ride to visit the women’s cooperative. This was the oldest women’s cooperative in Central Asia started with the emancipation of women in 1927 in after the riot in Buchara. When we arrived at the factory, there was no sign of life. Soon we found out that the women had to move out of the big building since they no longer could maintain the building. We found their new place in a neighborhood. 35 women were working. When we arrived the power went off. The women were very hard working and creative. They were using sawing machines that were used for sawing the uniforms of the 2nd World War.

After we left Shahrisabs we found our selves in the rolling hills of Uzbekistan. The fields were all green. There were mountains with snow caps in the distance. Adobe houses. We stopped at the local market. This was the most colorful market that we have seen so far. Te animal market was in the back. Donkeys, horses and camels were on sale. Vegetables, meat, clothes, colorful plastic was being sold by the women who were all dressed in glittering out fits. Obviously, going to the Market was a big event for the children too.

We have arrived Samarkand before lunch. We have all been looking forward to eating Uygur food for lunch. The pasta with tomato sauce, lahman,  was delicious.






Day 14 Thursday April 3, 2008 Samarqand, Uzbekistan

Ulu Bey’s Observatory was founded by the grand son of Timur. He reigned the empire for 40 years . His sextant was built in 1424. He had discovered many of the star groups and contributed to astronomy.




Day 15 Friday April 4, 2008 Tashkent, Uzbekistan