Home Stay Experience in Uzbekistan

So many of us take vacations as a break from our fast-paced lives. We may seek a place where we can slow down, connect with the land and sky. We travel to new destinations for many of the same reasons but also to learn something about ourselves, and others, and to create memories to bring home along with the souvenirs. A trip to Central Asia should always include the major historic cities, yet the landscape and way of life in less inhabited areas is equally rich. No matter what kind of terrain you are traversing or which sites you choose to visit, local hospitality is an enduring tradition. There's nothing more welcome in this region than a guest!

A fairly new phenomenon for the tourism industry in Uzbekistan is the Home Stay. As Central Asia becomes a more popular destination, the people of the more rural areas are creating a type of Bed and Breakfast for visitors.
Imagine waking up in a pristine wilderness or a quiet, small village, where time seems to have stood still, the food is fresh and homegrown, and the bread is as warm as your host family's welcome! Days revolve around the rhythms of the harvest, of daybreak and sunset, and of shared meals. Add to this the fascination of another culture, friendly guides for daytime treks through beautiful, untouched landscapes, and invitations to participate in the preparation of food, crafts, and in local festivities and you will find yourself refreshed on every level.

Eski Forish VllageHome Stays create international friendships that last a lifetime. Hosts in Central Asia are ensuring that their guests feel at home, installing up to date features like hot showers and flushable toilets, and many are learning English.  But the charms of taking tea out doors on a traditional tapchan (raised platform and mattress), being surrounded by handmade suzani (embroidered wall hangings), and being part of the rhythms of life in a small village or unspoiled destination are still there.  They are traditional pleasures that endure, reflecting a savoring of life that we can carry in our hearts long afterwards.

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Architectural Jewels Of My Homeland, Uzbekistan

From private homes to major public buildings, the architecture of Uzbekistan reflects its history, and its unique place as a crossroads of cultures. Not surprisingly, Persian Islam is a major influence on the monumental side, but it permeates even into the way homes and villages are structured. In those areas that were under the control of Timur the Great, palaces, mosques, madrassas and domed market complexes were built to demonstrate the political, economic, spiritual and intellectual riches of the empire.
While the largest group of Uzbeks were originally nomadic, most are now settled. When you are travelling through the country by car, all you may see are seemingly endless long walls, but behind those walls are whole neighborhoods. Each home is surrounded by a wall, and inside there is a courtyard (usually with flowers and a grape arbor). Within the home, ceilings are high, rooms are spacious, and sometimes one will see airy outdoor terraces supported by tall, slender columns. This is because traditionally all social gatherings are held within the home, and must accommodate large groups of people. But this particular attractive feature has also been taken up by the newer restaurants and lodging establishments.
Ancient public buildings, on the other hand, are openly visible from most vantage points and are meant to be seen by everyone. Almost all display blue-hued, tiled domes and the large rectangular facades with arched entrances and balconies, leading to gardens and functional interiors. Timur and his successors imported many fine artisans from all corners of the known world to Central Asia to experiment with the tiles that now encrust some of the most impressive madrassas, palaces and mosques. Of particular note, is the tile work within the Shakhi Zinda, a necropolis not far from the equally magnificent Registan in Samarkand. As you walk amongst the various mausoleums you will see not just the usual brilliant turquoise and teal colors typical of Uzbekistan, but unusual glazes, notably majolica! (You will also see a departure from strictly geometric Islamic art in the Registan, where animals and faces are depicted along with flowering motifs.)
Another Uzbek architectural characteristic is the "flat-topped" minaret. Unlike the tapering spires we generally associate with these prayer towers, the Uzbek minaret is usually shaped more like a lighthouse. As a matter of fact, the Kalon Mosque's minaret was actually known as a lighthouse that guided caravans to Bukhara during the heyday of the Silk Road.
Trees are not plentiful in Central Asia, and so the primary building material has been baked brick. An aerial view of any older city will reveal a plethora of walls, rooftops, courtyards and domes all made of these warmly colored bricks, giving the panorama at sunset a marvelously cohesive feel. The Magoki Attori Mosque in Bukhara, which still stands on the same site due to a history of destruction and rebuilding, is a fine example of terra cotta architecture. Although only parts of its original structure still exist (it was a temple to the Zoroastrian religion before it was a mosque) it has been added to and restored over the ages. The trading domes of Bukhara (also of brick) are amazing not just for the fascinating range of fine crafts for sale there, but for a design that provides shade and coolness on even the hottest days. Look up into the vaulted ceilings, and marvel at the ingenious construction.
Although as mentioned, trees are not plentiful, they are still used for supporting columns and decoratively hand-carved doorways. For the most impressive display of wooden columns you will likely ever see, visit the Djuma Mosque in Khiva. The interior is a veritable forest of ornately carved columns, and no two are alike. The symmetry and sense of quiet makes it a place that encourages meditation and tranquility.

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Food and dining out in Uzbekistan

Because Central Asia was a hub of the Silk Road, many of the spices we associate with India, Persia the Middle East or China have made their way into the cuisine, such as coriander, black pepper and cumin. The presentation and the flavors are also blended with a traditional nomadic diet, and the result is something distinctly Central Asian.
Uzbek food is colorful, hearty and healthy. Poultry and meat, (mostly sheep and lamb) are eaten.

Kebabs with fries are practically ubiquitous. Yogurt and white cheese are abundant, and are served up with a variety of fresh herbs like basil and dill.

Noodles and rice are staples. In warm weather, harvest fruits and vegetables abound, and all kinds of lovely salads, cooked, raw and marinated, adorn the table. Bread is important, and is generally disk-shaped with a design stamped into the center, and sometimes a sprinkling of seeds scattered over the top. Because of the esteem in which bread is held, one never cuts it with a knife, but tears it into pieces by hand. Just about every cuisine has a dumpling, and the Uzbek kitchen is no exception; in this case these are called Manti, meat dumplings, and every daughter is expected to know how to make them if she is to be considered good wife material!

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