The overnight stay at the desert camp was naturally on a full-board basis, and the meal we were served in the evening was one of the nicest we had on the trip, in my view. We ate at a long table set up under an awning near the caravan where the Kazaks who run the camp live and cook. First, bottles of water, vodka and port were placed along its length – the vodka very good (if you like strong spirits :) ) but the port a little sweet for my taste, though others in the group enjoyed it more than the vodka. We could also buy beer for 3,000 som, coke for 1,500 and additional bottled water for 500 – all very reasonable prices considering that everything had to be brought out to the camp.
The meal started with a buffet table of bread and salads, as everywhere in Uzbekistan, but here there was a particularly good variety of salads, including aubergine, roast peppers, a carrot and cabbage dish, beetroot … (see photo xx). After this we were served a tasty hot dish of beef, potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onion, all cooked in the one pot (a bit like Lancashire Hot-Pot for the Brits among us!) The meal ended with slices of very juicy water-melon, and then most of us drifted over to the campfire that had been lit a short distance away in the centre of the camp.
Out in the desert of course, the display of stars overhead was amazing, and we had a great time spotting shooting stars and satellites, and looking at distant galaxies through the binoculars of a keen amateur astronomer in our group – thank you Lawrence :)
This was a lovely way to end the day, although it would have been even nicer if one of our travelling companions hadn’t though it a great idea to play his transistor radio - not popular with the rest of us, who wanted to enjoy the tranquillity of the desert uninterrupted by the noise of the 21st century :(
We had lunch in Nurata in a house in a residential area not far from the main road. This was a real family home, and we ate in what was obviously their main sitting and dining room, with shelves of ornaments and family photos for decoration. We sat on cushions on the floor, as is the Uzbek way, either side of a long low table. As elsewhere in the country, I found this home cooking better than many of the meals we had in restaurants, and there was certainly plenty of it :)
We started with the usual range of salads, accompanied by bread of course, and augmented by some tasty cream cheese. These were followed with a bowl of the typical simple Uzbek soup – a clear broth with potato, carrot and meat (for vegetarians the meat was, we suspected, simply removed before serving). We were then served big platters of plov, the traditional Uzbek rice dish – very tasty, although I for one was a bit too full to do it justice. There was green tea and bottled water to drink, and water melon to finish the meal. I don’t unfortunately know what this lunch cost as it was included in our tour, nor, equally unfortunately, how you would go about arranging something similar if travelling independently, but if you have the choice between a basic restaurant or a home-cooked meal in Uzbekistan, our experience suggests the latter would usually be the best option!
One small downside that I should perhaps mention is that, inevitably, the ladies of the house are keen embroiderers, and they were keen to show, and of course sell, us their work. Prices were very reasonable though, and if you’re planning to buy a suzanne you could do worse than get one here as a gesture to thank them for the meal.
And one final thing worth knowing is that there is a clean toilet available at the foot of their pretty garden!