Uzbekistan is a jewel in Central Asia’s crown. Abundant with culture and natural resources, the country serves as a perfect example of the region’s enigmatic allure. Home to three of the most incredible cities in Central Asia – Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara – Uzbekistan also plays host to the type of natural wonders that leave travellers’ jaws gaping in awe.
These draw cards have meant Uzbekistan has been fought over and mistreated by various political dictators over the centuries, but traveller numbers are gradually beginning to increase as explorers get wise to the wonders this nation has to offer. A report published in 2013 by the International Air Transport Association highlighted the fact that Uzbekistan had become the fastest growing market for international passenger traffic. The proof, it would seem, is in the pudding.
Having cities situated along the Great Silk Road meant that over the centuries, hundreds of thousands of business deals would take place in the various Uzbek homes and caravans along the route. In order to secure the best business deals, it was essential for the locals to make the foreign tradesmen feel at home – giving rise to some of the finest hospitality a traveller will ever experience.<
Handshakes in Uzbekistan may only be shared between two men – women must be greeted by bowing your head and by placing your right hand over your heart. For female travellers, it may seem a little odd that you don’t receive the same attention as the males in your party initially, but it’s simply done out of respect.
Best seat in the house
In Uzbek tradition, it’s common for the most respected guest in the house at any one time to be seated furthest from the front door.
The dinner table
In an Uzbek household that’s entertaining guests, the table will be covered with food at all times. Cold food will be presented when guests arrive, and warm food will make its way out during the course of the meal. The table won’t be without some kind of food at any point during the sitting.
At any given meal, each and every guest must take turns at making a toast for the table. A short speech will typically include thanks to the host, a witty remark and wishes for good health, and be followed by everyone finishing a glass of vodka. This will be repeated until the entire table has made a toast – so make sure you snack on some bread to avoid the vodka hitting an empty stomach! As a side note, the length of the speech is sometimes thought of as an indicator of intelligence.
The silent bow
The silent bow often takes place alongside the handshake. Similar to the way females are greeted (as stated above), men will place their left hand (not their right) over the hearts and take a small bow. The bow is an enormous gesture of respect in Uzbekistan and other parts of Central Asia.
An old Uzbekistan superstition says that if you turn lepeshka (round bread), upside down or leave it on the ground, it’s a sign of bad luck. Other forms of bad luck are meeting a woman carrying an empty bucket, to shake your hands dry after washing instead of using a towel and to ask taxi drivers about how much of the journey is left (this may seem a little specific – but it is thought to create problems in the road ahead). There could be an entire book dedicated to Uzbek superstitions.
Plov for all
An Uzbek master chef is said to be able to serve plov (Uzbekistan’s national dish) to over 1000 people out of a single cauldron during busy periods such as holidays, festivals and other special occasions.
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