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Uzbekistan

Visas
Visas required from all Western nations and must be obtained in advance at one of the Uzbek embassies around the world. The only exeption of the rule are the nations of the former USSR, who can travel visa-free in Uzbekistan. Sometimes visa can be obtained on arrival, but only if have an official invitation from "Uzbektourism" company. Today a visa policy of Uzbekistan became more complicated because of changings of confederational agreements between the former Soviet republics. Once you could travel without any problem around whole former USSR if you had the Russian tourist visa. Today you would be asked for a visa for every country you travel in ,or transit. It means, that if you intend to go by train from Russia to Uzbekistan, you would be asked for Kazakh transit visa, which can not be obtained at the border, by the way. Check it before you go.

Getting to Uzbekistan

There are two main entiry points to Uzbekistan : an international airport of Tashkent, and Tashkent-Chimkent border crossing if you are coming from Kazakhstan or Russia. Another options is to cross Uzbek border from Turkmenistan, Kyrgizstan and Tadjikistan. Afghan border is closed at present time. There are many regular and charter flights, which connect Tashkent with almost every capitals of Europe and Asia, as far as USA. National carieer , "Uzbekistan airlines" has comparently low fares for its destinations in Asia, but it would be hard to find any cheap flights to/from Europe. Sometimes its possible to find cheap deals if you fly to Uzbekistan from Moscow. There are daily trains between Tashkent and Moscow (56 hours) via Kazakhstan , Tashkent and Almaty (Kazakhstan). Buses departure from Tashkent to Ashgabad (Turkmenistan), Bishkek (Kyrgizstan), Dushanbe (Tajikistan).

Traveling in Uzbekistan
You can travel by train along the main railway line , between Andijan (Fergana valley) - Tashkent - Samarkand - Bukhara. In Soviet era you could continue to Khiva via Turkmenian territory. Today this route is problematical. Train fares are very cheap (around 3 USD from Tashkent to Samarkand, 450 km). Bus is another option. Regular buses run between Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara.

Important note !
According to the Uzbek law , the only way to change currency is via Uzbek National Bank , with their ravenous rates. In august 1999 an official rate was $1 = 80 sum , while the black market rate was $1 = 500 sum. The problem is that for currency exchange at black market you can be arrested and imprisoned for up to 15 years. In spite of the fact, that we didn't hear about tourists who were arrested for that... Just be careful ! The best option to change your maney is to do this before you enter Uzbekistan.

Tashkent
Tashkent is one of the largest ancient cities in Central Asia and capital of todays Uzbekistan with 2.5 million inhabitans. The earliest information about this city is dated in the Eastern annals of the 2nd century BC. Tashkent was known for its metal works, woven cotton and woolen clothes, ceramics, jewelry, gold, and precious stones from Bizantium in the West and China in the East, as well as for its production and exportation of weapons. At the crossroads of international trade, this city was one of the main centers of arts and crafts in the region. The most interesting part of Tashkent is an Old Town near Iski-juva Bazaar, a large market place that sells everything from cooked food to clothing. The entrance of the bazaar is the Khast-Imam Complex. Its centerpiece is the Barakhan Madrasah, a magnificent monument from the 16th century and the Al-Bukhari Islamic Institute - a training center for the Moslem clergy. Architectural ensembles from the 15th and 16th centuries - the Shakh Khavendi Takhur and Yunus-khan Mausoleums, Kaffal Shashi, Barak-khon and Kukal-dash Madrassahs, Jami and Cholpan Ata Mosques will fascinate you with their beauty. After a devastating earthquake in 1966, a new Tashkent emerged with wide streets and prospects, squares, fountains, concert and exhibition halls, but ,unfortunately many historical buildings were lost. For the most travellers Tashkent will be the gate to Uzbekistan via its international airport or central railway station. Every jorney around the country starts from Tashkent too.

Samarkand
Samarkand is the oldest city and the pearl of the Central Asia. With a history of 25 centuries, it is the city of legends. Samarkand was the center of the Soghd state. It withstood the armies of Alexander the Great and the Arab Haliphate, and survived dangerous days during the invasion of Chinghiz-Khan. Timur the Great gathered his army there, planning to turn Samarkand into the capital of the world. Since that time, Samarkand's culture has developed and intermingled with those of Iran, India, Mongolia, China and other countries. Registan One of the best-known symbols of Uzbekistan is Registan Square. Under the rule of Timur the Great, Registan Square became the official center of Samarkand. The square is surrounded by magnificent buildings of Ulugbek (1417-1420), Sher-Dor (1619-1636), and the Tilly-Kari (1647-1660) Madrassahs. The interior and exterior facades of the madrassahs are decorated with ornaments of glazed brick, mosaic, and carved marble. Registan is a place where the ruler's decrees were proclaimed, where justice was done, and trade was in full swing. Gur-Emir In 1404, Timur the Great ordered the construction of a mausoleum for his beloved grandson. Later on, mausoleums became the burying vault for the whole dynasty of Timurids. The majesty of architectural forms and lines and colorful mosaic designs make this mausoleum a unique monument of medival Islam architecture. The Ulugbek Observatory Ulugbek (Timur the Great's grandson) ruled the country for 40 years. During his rule, Samarkand became one of the world's scientific centers. In Samarkand, Ulugbek opened a school that united outstanding astronomers and mathematicians. Ulugbek was the founder of the city's observatory (1428-1429). There was a gigantic marble sextant with a radius of 40,212 meters and an arc length of 63 meters. The instrument was extremely precise.

Bukhara
The ancient city of Bukhara has more than 140 architectural monuments, and is considered a museum in and of itself, dating back to the Middle Ages. 2,300 years later, creations like the Poi-Kalon, Kos Madras, Ismail Samani Mausoleum and the Kalian Minaret are attracting a lot of attention. The Ismail Samani mausoleum is the oldest monument in Bukhara. It was built by Ismail Samani, one of the rulers of the Samanid dynasty. The Fortress Ark Citadel used to be the residence of the Emirs and now is a museum. Opposite the Ark stands the Bolo-khaus complex of the twentieth century which has survived to this day. The history of Bukhara is more astonishing than the rest of the cities in Uzbekistan. The Bukhara oasis of Soghdiana was once conquered by Alexander the Great. Bukhara was also ruled by the Kushan Empire. Bukhara's monuments are the great historical and cultural heritage of the Islamic world.

Khiva
Khiva is mentioned first in the manuscripts of Arab geographers from the 10th century. They describe Khiva as a city situated on the border of a desert. According to archeological data, Khiva had already existed in the 6th and 7th centuries. During 11th and 12th centuries, Khiva was a small town-fortress. Like other towns of Khoresm, Khiva was destroyed by the Mongolian invasion. From the second half of the 16th century as the capital of Khoresm, Khiva became one of the most powerful cities of Central Asia. In the 18th century, Khiva was ruined over nomad's forays, ruinous internal wars, and the invasion of the Iranians. But at the beginning of the 19th century, a new dynasty of rulers came to power. This period is characterized by great construction works. Majolica, marble, paintings, and carving were widely used in construction. Khiva is divided into the inner town - Ishan-Kala where about 60 historical monuments are located and Dishan-Kala - the outer town where citizens of Khiva live and work. The inner town is surrounded by a high clay fence with four gates pointing out the four sides of the Universe.