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Entries in Uzbekistan (11)

Sunday
Sep232012

Mr Berry in Central Asia

While not approaching the levels of India, Hayden was very popular indeed in Central Asia. Everyone wanted to hold him; in resturants he was often whisked out to the kitchen to meet all the staff, coming back with a small treat. Walking through the markets Hayden would come out with fists full of loot, being showered with small presents. Actually, having Hayden along was the perfect ice-breaker, allowing us interactions we would not normally have had.

The staff at the Mary museum were especially happy to see Hayden.

At the summer palaces outside Bukhara, the museum staff insisted that they would take care of Hayden while we walked around.

This shopkeeper in Bukhara wanted to know what we fed Hayden to make him so big, so that she could feed her own son. Baby food was non-existant in Uzbekistan, with everyone feeding their toddlers milk and yoghurt until they were old enough for adult meals.

Our kindly babushka washed some of Hayden's baby clothes for us, commenting that he seems to make a lot of hard-to-remove food stains. We gave her a big tip for her effort.

Saturday
Sep222012

Images of Tashkent

Water fountain outside the Tashkent Palace

Not a scene from Dragonball Z - it is a momument to the 1966 earthquake

Telyashayakh Mosque

Navoi Park

Friday
Sep212012

Uzbek Fried Chicken

Hmm... looks like Colonel Sanders had an identical twin in Uzbekistan who also liked Fried Chicken.

Thursday
Sep202012

Images of Samarkand

Shah-i-Zinda avenue of mausoleums 

Tamerlane's tomb

Registan Square

Uzbek weddings happen every day of the week during wedding season, and nowdays the brides wear European-style wedding dresses

Wednesday
Sep192012

Shakhrizyabz, birthplace of Tamerlane

Aq-Saray Palace, built by Tamerlane in 1380. The supports for the giant archway is all that remains. Above the entry Tamerlane had written "If you challenge our power - look at our buildings!"

Wednesday
Sep192012

Przewalski's horse

In the steppe of Uzbekistan we had the rare opportunity to see a herd of Przewalski's horses.

These horses, the only truely wild horses left, came to the very bring of extinction in the 1960s, with the population reduced to only 12 individuals. The effort to save Przewalski's horse was one of the first experiments in captive breeding (along with the Arabian Oryx), and became an iconic success in demonstrating that careful managed breeding and reintroduction efforts can save a "doomed" species and result in a viable wild population.

This small piece of the Kyzyl-Kum Desert, managed by the Jeyran Ecocenter, is not only involved in the effort to save Przewalski's horse, but is also breeding the critically endangered Jeyran gazelle and the Asiatic wild ass. In addition, they are undertaking an ambitious plan to import and acclimitise the African cheetah to the area, to replace the now all-but-extinct Asiatic cheetah as the keystone predator. This last goal is but one example of the uncomfortable compromises that environmentalists are forced to make - ideally the remaining Asiatic cheetahs in Iran would be expanded and reintroduced, but with that population on its way to extinction it may be more important to preserve the ecosystem niche for the sake of other species than to focus on the genetic intregity of the cheetah subspecies.

Tuesday
Sep182012

Potty training Uzbek style

An interesting difference in Uzbek culture is how they put their babies down to sleep at night. Rather than being placed in a cot, the babies are strapped in place on a small rocker (always face up, which must have given Uzbek's a lower level of cot death than other cultures). And rather than use a nappy, the babies have a bare bottm and the rocker they are strapped to has a hole in the bottom so the poo falls through and is collected in a jar. For urine they use a small wooden flute-like tube, which guides any urine into the same jar (obviously there are versions of the tube to fit both boys and girls). Our guide in Bukhara demonstrated with a doll, but walking through local markets we found many full-sized Uzbek cots, showing that the practice is still very common in Uzbekistan.
Monday
Sep172012

Images of Bukhara

Tomb of the Samanids, one of the only buildings to survive the Mongol conquest

Mir-i-Arab Medressa

Kalon Minaret 

Summer Palace

Sunday
Sep162012

Hayden's fashion show and my Uzbek barber

In Bukhara, at the Nodir Divanbegi madrassa, we attended an Uzbek fashion show, to make sure we were up on the latest designs.

But the star of the show only came out after the models left. We couldn't resist letting Hayden play on the big carpet. He delighted in crawling backwards and forwards, and the paparazzi came out to photograph his sauve moves.

On the way back to the converted madrassa where we were staying I popped into a local barber for a haircut. It was great - no small-talk (well... we didn't share a language), no messing around with head massages or a shampoo, just actual cutting of the hair (no offence meant, Georgie & Greg). The only quirk was that when he finished cutting, he wouldn't let me out of the seat until he took my head in two hands, sharped jerked it to the left and the right to make my neck crack, and then pulled down hard on my earlobes. Hopefully that is a normal Uzbek barber thing.

Saturday
Sep152012

A fistful of dollars

In Uzbekistan it is illegal to use a currency other than the Uzbek som. The Uzbeks have had quite a big problem with inflation: after the original som was floated in 1993 it had to be replaced by a new som currency worth 1000 old som only a year later. At the time, one som was worth about US$0.04, now it is worth around 100 times less. Unfortunately the Uzbek government refuses to believe the som is quite this worthless, making the official exchange rate poor, so the first thing we had to do after crossing the border was to exchange US dollars on the illegal blackmarket. This is what 1,000,000 illegal som looks like: 

Of course the low value of even the highest note (1000 som) means that paying any bill involves pulling out large wads of cash. As a result man-bags are quite common (you can't get enough in your wallet to pay for anything) and Uzbeks are very proficient at rapidly counting large numbers of notes.