Uzbekistan is right at the heart of the ancient Silk Road, which once ran all the way from China to Europe. The steppes, deserts, mountains and gleaming blue-tiled cities tell a story of trade and conquest. For centuries, if not millennia, this is the route where not only goods, but knowledge, ideas and cultures crossed from East to West. The fabled cities of Khiva, Bukhara and legendary Samarkand were built to dazzle the travellers who have passed by for thousands of years. Join us now, as we journey in the footsteps of those ancient caravans, from grassy plain to desert, voyaging from city to city, crossing Uzbekistan in an unforgettable journey.
Departing from South Africa on 23 April 2019 and flying on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul with a stopover package included, we start our tour in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s historic capital at the heart of Central Asia. Destroyed by Genghis Khan, and restored by the much admired Mongol ruler, Tamerlane (also commonly known as Timur), this great trading city has much to offer those interested in the ancient Asian world.
The following morning we fly west to Nukus, a large Soviet city located near the border of Turkmenistan. Here we spend two days and will visit Chimbay village to see yurt building practices and the world-famous Savitsky Museum, containing some of the richest collections of artefacts in Central Asia.
A day excursion to Muynak, once a busy port on the Aral Sea is included. Up until the 1960’s the Aral Sea was the fourth largest saline sea. However, the Soviet government decided to divert the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers that fed the Aral Sea so that they could irrigate the desert region surrounding the Sea in order to favour cotton production. The Aral Sea is now 10% of its former glory and Muynak 160 kilometers from the edge of the sea. As the Aral Sea has retreated, it’s left a vast desert in place of the sea once plied by the pride of the Soviet fishing fleet. Muynak’s once prosperous industrial fishing and canning industry collapsed and thousands of residents fled the city in search of better lives. We’ll visit the interesting museum and the ship graveyard, a collection of old fishing boats marooned in the dunes that have now replaced the former seabed.
From Nukus we’ll proceed to Khiva, one of the fabled cities along the ancient Great Silk Route for two nights. Khiva is a unique city, claiming the title of the “7th Wonder of the World”, thanks to its authentic atmosphere dating back to the “era of the beginning of time”. Inside the fortress, Itchan Kalam, are all the architectural masterpieces of Khiva. Once inside the fortress, one is amongst the marvellous minarets and stone-paved alleys leading to the madrassa, with its lacy rough mosaic of the ancient walls. In 1990, Khiva was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We’ll travel from Khiva to the holy city of Bukhara by train through the Kizilkum Desert. We’ll have 3 days in Bukhara, one of the most ancient cities in Uzbekistan. Boasting 140 splendid architectural monuments, 350 mosques and 100 madrassas,UNESCO judged Bukhara to be “the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia”. Long a part of the Persian Empire, the city was seized by the Samanids in 903 AD, and went on to become a significant centre for intellectualism in the Islamic world. There will be time to wander at leisure in the old streets and visit tea-houses and bazaars.
Travelling via Shakrisabz, the birthplace of Tamerlane, the itinerary continues onto the fabled city of Samarkand. Samarkand is the same age as Babylon, Memphis, Athens, Alexandria and Rome (approx 2500 years old) We’ll be spending 2 nights in this majestic and beautiful city with its magnificent monuments and architecture. Alexander the Great dreamed of seeing the city, and when he did, he admitted, “I found Samarkand even more beautiful than I expected”. The Mongol chieftain and mighty conqueror, Tamerlane’s love of azure and turquoise is nowhere more apparent than on the exteriors of Samarkand’s mosques, minarets and madrassas. Terracotta tiles combined with gold and mosaics create a magical impact. It’s all rather breathtaking, to say the least!
We return to Tashkent by high-speed train for our last night in Uzbekistan. We wind up our tour with a day excursion into the Chimgan mountains, 80 kilometers from Tashkent.
Liz Cotton will be leading the group from South Africa and a professional local guide will be escorting the group throughout Uzbekistan. This will be a unique and unforgettable experience for every member of the group.
For further details please do not hesitate to contact Liz on +27 (0)21 786-2598 or cell +27 (0)83 357 4855 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.