The most fascinating country many people never heard about.
Landlocked by its neighbors (including Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan), Uzbekistan lies in the heart of Central Asia (it is believed that Fergana Valley was considered the middle point between Europe and China on the Great Silk Road). Much of this part of Central Asia has been overlooked for years - but Uzbekistan is home to an unbelievable number of amazing mosques, madrasahs, and mausoleums in every shade of brown and blue. You can wow your friends and family with the trivia that:
     - Uzbekistan is one of the world's only two double-landlocked countries (the other is Lichtenstein) 
     - All its neighbors have "stan" in their names: Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Afghanistan.


It's an example of the Great Silk Road's best pieces. 
If you don't have time to travel from Turkey to Kashgar in China along the Great Silk Road, you will find three of the most route's essential cities in Uzbekistan. Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva were the important stopovers for traders. During the peak years of the trade, between 500 and 900 CE, the Silk Road's lingua franca for most parts of the route was Sogdian language, spoked in Samarkand and Bukhara at that time. All three cities have been meticulously restored to their former glory. 

The mausoleum in Samarkand inspired the Taj Mahal.  
The mausoleum of Tamerlane (Gur Emir), who was the progenitor of the Mughal dynasty, was one of the buildings that inspired the Taj Mahal. 

The melons are sweeter.
Fresh fruits and vegetables are staples in Uzbekistan - visit in August-October, during the harvest season. Uzbekistan is known for its sweet, fresh watermelons, juicy and aromatic apricots, and super-sweet and mouthwatering melons. Babur, who founded the Mughal dynasty in India, recorded as being obsessively passionate about melons, spent his youth in what is now Uzbekistan. In his memoirs "Baburnama", he credits the township of Akhsi in Fergana with producing a variety of fruit that he suspects has no equal in the world.

Uzbek plov is on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
There is a saying in Uzbekistan that guests can only leave their host's house after plov has been offered. Plov is the ancestral, irreplaceable traditional food; it is an essential part of Uzbek culture. Considered one of the most delicious meals in Uzbek cuisine, Uzbek plov has more than 100 types, based on the region, the way it is cooked, and the ingredients. 

It is a fantastic place for shopping. 
Throughout the centuries, Timur and his descendants called on ceramicists, artists, and architects to beautify the cities. Happily, Uzbekistan's artisan skills live on, and you can pick up handmade ceramics, needlework (suzane), silk fabric, skull caps (tubeteyka), and miniaturist painting in numerous shops around the country.  

It is unexpectedly cosmopolitan. 
The cities of Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara have a somewhat European vibe - landscaped public parks, cafes next to most of the main sightseeing points, beer gardens, and ice cream shops. The country has a very open society, keen on getting to know a foreigner. Around 88% of the local population is Muslim, but women do not wear the veil. Local women dress more conservatively than in Europe, so go for sleeves (short ones will do), knee-length skirts, and minimal cleavage. 

Tashkent's subway is one of the most ornate in the world.
Each station takes inspiration from its name, and as such, they are vastly different, ranging from baroque flourishes to traditional Islamic design or post-Soviet, post-modern mixture.

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