Mixed (Uzbeki) Feelings

After one extra day in Dushanbe, so a completely broken stabilisation rod (the third one during our trip!) could be welded, we set off on Sunday for Uzbekistan. It’s the seventh country on our journey and after driving more than 12.000 kilometres already a new part of our trip has started. Not only has the time difference with Holland shrunk to three hours instead of six in Shanghai, with Uzbekistan the cultural part of our trip takes center stage.

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Until now we have enjoyed beautiful natural beauty and spectacular scenic roads in Mongolia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the coming weeks with countries like Uzbekistan, Iran and Turkey on the roll, we will indulge ourselves in Middle Eastern culture and hospitality. Well, that last one got off to a bad start with the border crossing from Tajikistan into Uzbekistan.

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We already learned form fellow travellers the Uzbeki border police can be a nuisance and we have to say, they entirely lived up to that expectation. First we had to clear the Tajik-side of the border crossing, which went extremely smooth. A little chat and some laughs and we sailed through all the formalities within 20 minutes or so.

Maybe it was because it was not that busy at the border or they were in a bad mood, but the Uzbeki-officials decided to direct all their force and time at us. First we had to cross immigration, which Mirian and I had to go through seperately since men only serve men and women only women. Since their were no women other than Mirian, she got cleared pretty quick, while I had to wait for a long time to get my entry stamp.

The  officer in charge was friendly but slow. After I got stamped into the country, the toughest part started: the clearance of our car. In contrast to other border crossings we did, this time the officers demanded to search the entire car inside and outside. Five officers emptied our car and every bag we had looking for drugs and pornography “No sex in this video?’ asked one of the officers when pointing at season 1 of ‘House of Cards’ which we brought with us from China. It was still sealed and I tried to reassure him there was no sex in the series, but he decided to unpack the dvd and watch it in his private screening room. Meanwhile another officer opened our iPhones and computers to look at the photos we took while another browsed through my camera.

Mirian already went with our medicine box and another officer inside to show all the pills we brought along. The Uzbeki are especially looking for anything with codeine in it, since that is considered a real drug here, but we only could show some ibuprofen and some other household medicines.

We have nothing to hide at all, but the whole search felt pretty intimidating and annoying. After the un- and repacking of all the stuff in our car (they even climbed on the roof of our car) we finally were let go after about an hour. After entering Uzbekistan, we were astonished to be stopped again after an hour or so at a check-point where we had to register our passports again and where an officer demanded to see everything in our car. We angrily told him we already were searched at the border and eventually he let us pass.

Of all the countries we entered, Uzbekistan made us feel the least welcome. We don’t know why they are so scared and paranoia, but it sure made us feel bad about this country. Especially since we had to drive quite some kilometres to our first stop: Samarkand. The roads we had to drive were terrible and full of potholes and dirt. Even worse, we had to drive into the night on these shitty roads with no roadside lighting at all, and other drivers driving either without any light at all, or turning and stopping without warning.

It was by far the worst driving experience we’ve had so far – I even narrowly escaped a collision with a dog on the road – and in hindsight should have stopped probably, but we managed to arrive safely at our B&B in Samarkand at around 11 pm.

That’s the bad side of the story, the good part is the warm welcome we got with tea and melon at our B&B, the waving kids to us along the road and the beautiful architecture in this city which we explored today and came here for in the first place.

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We first walked to the magnificent Registan, the biggest highlight in this city. This complex of buildings is a true feast for the eyes. Although heavily restored the whole site makes a big impression. The Registan was the heart of Samarkand during the Timur dynasty in the 15th century. It’s beautifully detailed and colourful and especially the gold domed ceiling in the mosque is a fantastic sight.

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We also visited the nearby Bibi-Khanym Mosque and some other blue tiled domes of some other mosques. Although it’s blazingly hot here in Samarkand with temperatures approaching 40 degrees Celsius, we feel it’s better to handle than Shanghai’s humid summer days, which we were used to. And in the shaded areas here the temperatures are even very comfortable.

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Tomorrow we will explore Samarkand a bit more and head out for Bukhara in the afternoon, another Silk Road-city we very much look forward to visit.

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2 Responses to Mixed (Uzbeki) Feelings

  1. Marijke Ransijn

    I lived in Dubai for 12 years until 2014 and recognise these mosques…. brings back so many memories… I LOVED the Middle East and envy you being there. Enjoy!!!!!

  2. Marie Anne

    Wat een prachtige mozaiken. Die kleuren!! Hoe hebben ze dat toen gedaan?!!
    Wat een monnikenwerk!

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