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In one of the hujira in the Shir Dor Madrassah at the Registan is a shop selling musical instruments. The owner has arranged a few rows of chairs in the small space and when enough visitors are gathered there he will give a demonstration of the various traditional instruments in his collection. These range from some simple two stringed ones (which reminded me very much in sound and style of those we heard in China) to a banjo-style one, Uzbek tambourine and a bamboo flute, which was my personal favourite.
I didn’t manage to record the names of all these instruments at the time but found this list of typical Uzbek instruments on the website below:
~ tanbur, dutar, tar, rubab, sato – all varieties of long-necked fretted lutes
~ ghijak and kiak – both spike fiddles
~ nay – a side-blown flute
~ chang – a zither
~ dayra – a frame drum
~ qoshnay – a clarinet-like instrument made from reed
~ karnai – a long trumpet
~ surnai – an oboe
~ naghora – kettledrums
~ dombra – a fretless lute
~ chang-kobuz – the Jew's harp
For more about these instruments, check out this article: http://worldmusic.nationalgeographic.com/worldmusic/view/page.basic/country/content.country/uzbekistan_624?fs=www3.nationalgeographic.com&fs=plasma.nationalgeographic.com
Updated Apr 4, 2011
Bread really is regarded in a special way in Uzbekistan, and the bread from Samarkand is held to be the best of all. It is recorded that Temur took not only bakers but also flour from Samarkand with him when he went on campaign, so highly did he regard the bread from the city. Nowadays, when young men leave home to travel away, their mothers break a piece of a loaf to be shared and the rest of the loaf is then kept until their safe return.
Here in Samarkand's bazaar, the bread is stacked high, each loaf having been shaped by hand and marked with the individual mark of the maker. The extra-large loaves the woman in the photo is selling are special celebration loaves - decorated with good wishes spelt out and baked on in the dough and sprinkled with coloured sugar - it's called shirmon-non
Making good bread is a matter of great pride and, just as with other arts and crafts, the art has been passed down from father to son for generations. Seeing the typical round loaves you probably think one's the same as another but every Uzbek housewife knows the difference - evevryone likes rich patyr-non but hard yopkan-non is an acquired taste and there are others. Whatever the loaf, it will have been baked in a round clay oven in the open air and the first thing any guest to an Uzbek home is offered is green tea and bread.
Updated Feb 5, 2010
Standing in the middle of the courtyard of the Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarkand, this massive marble Koran stand was once used to hold a 7th century copy of the holy text (claimed to be the oldest in existence) that Temur brought back to Samarkand as loot from Damascus. That Koran still exists - these days it is kept in the Tellya Sheikh religious complex in Tashkent, housed in a newly built library adjacent to the medressah and mosque.
The Koran stand has become the focus of an older belief. Barren Uzbek women come here to crawl three times through the lectern's legs in the hope that the legend that promises them a child for this action will come true.
Updated Feb 5, 2010
Pilaf is the national dish in Uzbekistan. Cooking pilaf is like a ritual in some families (about 1 hour to prepare it) and it's served in special occasions or when families have special guests. It consists on rice, meat (beef), onion, carrots and other vegetables i could not be able to understand :P. Delicious!!
Written Sep 2, 2007
Once the murals seen painted on the end walls of buildings in Uzbekistan would have been of sturdy workers exhorting the values of hard work or young people looking towards a bright new (Soviet-led) future. Lenin's face would have loomed large too -but all that is gone and now the murals that are such a feature of Central Asian street art from Iran to Kazakhstan are much more likely to be like this one -a gentle depiction of Uzbek maidens in a fruitful land blessed by the mythical semurg - the symbol of Uzbekistan's rebirth.
Updated Sep 9, 2005
Mulberry-leaf picking, to feed the insatiable silkworm grubs, takes precedence over every other task for a few short weeks in Spring. The trees that line the roadsides are cut back to bare stumps and even the venerable old trees such as the ones in the mosque courtyard here in Shakhrisabz are not exempt from having some of their branches trimmed in the last few days before the grubs begin to spin the cocoons that will yield the precious fibre. By then the mulberries that have not been denuded are in fruit - red and white varieties - and the ground all around the trees is littered with the falling fruit, and what a mess they make. More work in the constant sweeping needed to keep the ground clear.
Watch where you sit if there are mulberry trees around - the squashed fruit leaves a terrible stain that can only be removed by rubbing it with another mulberry. This really works, trust me - rub the stain with a squashed GREEN mulberry (it must be green) and the stain will wash out in the laundry. Nothing else will remove it. as well.
Updated Sep 6, 2005
As with bread, so with tea - the chaikhana is central to Uzbek life. Green tea cools the body down in the hot days of summer and warms you up in winter, settles the stomach fed on greasy food and refreshes the mind. Black tea is considered to be stimulating - it's always available but is only popular in Tashkent. Old men gather to while the day away in the company of others, whole families gather to enjoy each other's company for a while before moving on to continue their day, tired shoppers pause awhile in the bazaar, lone drinkers take a break in a shady corner - there is always someone in the chaikhana. If you are invited to join a party (as we were this one at the Lyabi Gor) take off your shoes, sit up on the takhta and share the tea, the company and the good will.
Updated Sep 6, 2005
Probably the first time on the trip that I felt like a walking $. But more annoying are the little kids who have been trained to say "hello", and "where you from?" and maybe "what your name?" They all know those same two or three phrases and only those phrases and only in that order. It's very institutional, and they just sort of walk away after that, so you don't get the feeling like they actually care. It's cool for a few times, but 20 times a day and it wears thin. I don't want to be rude, but sometimes I just want to be left alone.
Written Aug 29, 2004
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Written Feb 25, 2003
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Written Feb 25, 2003
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