I wish I'd taken some photos in the Tashkent Department Store across the road from our hotel. Still usually referred to by its old Soviet name of TsUM, a wander up and down the aisles here is a real blast from the past, a reminder of how department stores in the west once looked - I'd say in the 50s.
What to buy: Nostagia or curiosity about retail history aside, this is also the place to come to shop for some of those every day items that have caught your eye and you'd like to take home with you - practical souvenirs that are part and parcel of Uzbek daily life such as the ubiquitous blue, white and gold teasets with their pattern of cotton flowers.
Upstairs, the fabric department has bolts of ikats - pure silk, silk and cotton, and plain cottons at prices that more than compete with those you'll find at more tourist-oriented places - this is where the locals come to buy theirs and the prices reflect that. A couple of 1/2 metre pieces would make a wonderful gift gfor a quilter-friend back home.
TsUM also turned up trumps when two of us went looking for jokey prizes for our final night's award ceremony - For A. who resisted almost all temptation, the wooden spoon of shopping and cute fridge magnets that told the story, among them - MrL - king of the melons, B's never-ending quest for the perfect donkey photo, M's fixation with the loaves of non and for S. - queen of the ikats - a slinky houri clad in silk
What to pay: $1 for a fridge magnet, $7 a metre for silk ikat, your teapot? - that depends on the quality you choose.
You'll find small shops at nearly every corner. Here is the place to do some shopping, when you find, that the beer at the hotel is too expensive. You can buy almost evrything in this kioskes: bread, chocolat, bottled water, Wodka and beer.
On Theatre Square to the right of Navoi Theate there is a big modern department shop, which the locals like to call GUM. The locals prefer the bazaars and small shop. so here oyu find mainly expensive electronical things like wahsing machines and TVs. 'some of the small shops inside the bid store sell souvenir stuff and art work. If you have no time to do a propper souvenir shopping, than this is the place to go. When it is hot outside, the atmosphere is nice, cool and quiet.
This 19th century madrassah, greatly restored, was founded by a man famous for his ability to recite all of the Koran by heart. I’m not sure what such a religious man would make of his seminary’s conversion to a crafts centre and souvenir-shopping destination. But if it’s any consolation to him, many of the objects on sale here are beautiful and the peaceful atmosphere of the courtyard has been retained.
As in the Registan in Samarkand, each of the hajira (students’ cells) houses a different shop, but here the shops mostly double as workshops, so you can enjoy watching the craftsmen at work and can understand the skill and techniques that have gone into creating the object you buy.
What to buy: We particularly admired the detailed miniature painting on the small papier maché boxes and bought a couple as gifts for family (see photo 3). Other possibilities here are the traditional carved wooden Koran stands, walking sticks, wooden boxes, embroideries and rugs, musical instruments and silver knives.
What to pay: Our boxes cost $11 for the pair, after haggling (starting price $7 each) – we may have got them even cheaper with more effort but we were very tired from our long journey, and in any case less than £6 for two beautifully hand-painted boxes is enough of a bargain.
Depending how your travel plans are (i.e. if you go hiking as well and have a bit more of useful gear with you), you might prefer to buy your souvenirs just before leaving back home. Good choice ! I did find almost everything here.
Of course, the bazaars are THE place to do real local shopping for fruit, sweets, spices and all the other delicious Uzbek specialities (photo 1: spices, photo 2: sweets). But you can also get silk (photo 3) and carpets here and clothing as well (just stay I the southwestern part, i.e. west of the restaurants).
Another option would be Abdul Khasim Medressa, which is behind (southwest) of Palace of Peoples’ Friendship. The former students’ cells are now workshops for all kinds of artists. You can buy miniatures here (the delicate paintings on little boxes, plates, etc) or wood carvings. Popular are copies of Qu’ran stands to be used as bookstands (or sunchairs for small bears – lol; photo 4). Walk around, compare and you will be able to sort out the wheat from the chaff.
What to buy: For silk and other small and nice souvenirs, look at TsUM department store. They have silk on rolls, sold by the metre and from what I saw, wonderful designs and quality. They also have a small souvenir stall, where I got little cotton shopping bags with silk application (photo 5), between 500 sum (for the 14 x 14 cm) and 1500 sum (for the 26 x 26 cm). Oh, TsUM has also a small coffee shop, in case you need some rest.
Forget GUM (opposite the southern entrance to the bazaar), it is a normal store with food, clothing and household stuff, but no souvenirs.
Museum of Applied Arts and Museum of Fine Art also do have small shops, but a bit pricey. The one in Musum of Applied Arts did have lovely textiles, though.
The ZUM (abbreviation for the Russian "Tsentralnyi Univermag") still in 2000 kept fully the atmosphere and style of the shopping in former Soviet Department stores. If you find something you would like to buy look first at the price, approach the next Kassa to queue up there and buy a coupon for exactly the amount of money you saw written at the thing you want to buy. With this coupon you go back to the place of your desired purchase to queue up there again to receive the thing for your coupon (if it is not sold out in the meanwhile).
What to buy: Maybe the one or other souvenir but they tend often to be cheaper in the bazaars.
The authentic Central Asia is only two metro stops away from the Soviet centre of Tashkent. The Chorsu bazaar is my favourite place in Tashkent. Even if you have no real wish or need to buy anything you should not miss it. It is full of great views, sounds and smells,an incredible hustling and bustling but without any hassles and annoyances you normally would expect as a tourist on a big market in a Third World Country.
See also my travelogue!
Tashkent isn't really the best place for shopping in Uzbekistan - Bukhara and Samarkand are the places with the most choice when it comes to the wonderful handicrafts produced here - but Tashkent has several bazaars that are fun to browze around. Chorzu is the biggest but there are several others including a huge flea market at Yangiobod, in the south of the city, way past the Russian cathedral.
What to buy: The best buys in the bazaars are probably food items - the wonderful fruit (fresh and dried), nuts and spices, a loaf of fresh baked bread. Doppis (the traditional mens' hats) are cheaper here than from a tourist shop anywhere.
If Tashkent is your only stop, the shop at the Applied Arts museum has quite a good range of (expensive) traditional crafts, as does the Caravan Cafe.
Abulkasym Madrassah is an old Islamic seminary that has been opened to the public selling the various crafts of its artisans. It was interesting to see the shops located in the former student rooms with very low clearance entrances.
Each room has a different artisan who labors on a unique craft skill. I was especially impressed with these wooden bookstands used for holding the Quran. They are crafted of a single piece of carved wood cut to open in various fashions. The largest one I was told by an artisan was able to open into 16 different formations...amazing!
What to buy: Bookstands, ceramic plates, carved plates, jewelry and jewel boxes, secret boxes and wooden tables.
These are some of the items you can buy from the many merchants in and around Broadway, a pedestrain only open market place and restaurant area and a good place to stroll during the day.
This is where I bought some really nice and inexpensive Russian nesting dolls or "matryoshkas" in Russian.
What to buy: Communist memorabliia, oil paintings, trincates, antiques and various other souvenirs.
Chorsu Bazaar, a huge open market beside Kukeldash, draws crowds of people from the countryside, many in traditional dress.
Uzbeks use both Uzbeki and Russian as the medium of conversation.
A good number of them also have a workable understanding of Tajiki. In general, the Uzbeks are Sunni Muslims of the Hanafi sect. Today, they are refurbishing their mosques and madrasahs not only in Tashkent but in Samarqand and Bukhara as well.
I recovered the ambiance that I am so agreeable, of the fairs to the beastly of my childhood. When I told my Uzbekses friends that I had attended event identical in France, all of a sudden, I had the impression to become to their eyes a human being, and either the western tourist that I was again a little..
To offer the gifts, the flowers, odds and ends is a tenacious tradition, as well as the hospitality. This proud and rough people, that survives in extreme conditions, door a big attention to his hosts, and the traditions of welcome are maintained with a lot of happiness.
In Uzbekistan men wear different clothes. There are everyday clothes, hats, shoes, and wedding clothes. For everyday clothes, traditional Uzbek men wear coats that look like robes, called chapans (pronounced "cho-pans"). They are made of cotton. They wear caps called dopas (pronounced "doh-pees") in Uzbek. The caps are called tyubeteyka (pronounced "two-bet-ee-ka") in Russian. The caps are black and white, and are shaped like squares. Men wear shoes that are black and made of rubber. For weddings there are special shoes, hats, and clothes. Pants are white and made of silk
In the bazaar, are proposed of the traditional dresses, all embroidered of gold, and achieved with very beautiful cloths: velvet, silks...
As mentioned, since early Islamic times, Tashkent has served as a major force in the promotion of Islam in Transoxania and its environs. During the Soviet Era, for instance, it was one of the four centers of Islam in Soviet domains. Indeed, as the headquarters of the Muslim Board of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, it played a major role in the lives of Muslim Central Asians, in general, and of Uzbeks in particular.