Of course, we are not going to describe you here everything about Central Asian culture, traditions and arts. But we try to draw your attention to certain things that could be interesting for you during planning your trip to the region.
If you are into decorative art, never skip an opportunity to see and learn how local masters make famous Suzani embroidery. Products and patterns of this ancient art are quite popular nowadays among interior designers all around the world. During one of such master-classes in Samarkand, Bukhara or Nurata you would be able to make a small pattern for yourself.
While in Tashkent, go underground – literally, because local tube stations (Tashkent Metro) are one of the best examples of fusion between Oriental and Soviet ornamental art and architecture, with rich marble and plaster décor, vibrant glass mosaic and candelabra.
Dorboz & Masqaraboz Street Circus
Combining best traditions of Chinese tightrope dancing and Indian court juggling with Polvon (strongman powerlifters) culture of Northern steppes, street circus shows in Central Asia are truly unique. Some 20 years ago, only in Uzbekistan, there were over 20 family based groups staging shows on busy squares all over the country. New economic and social realities changed the picture, but some Dorboz dynasties still in act in places like Fergana Valley, Shakhrisyabz and Khiva. They usually consist of acrobatic wirewalkers (dorboz) of all ages, polvons lifting objects like cars and clowns (masqaraboz), who make fun by harsh satire along with stunts like walking on burning coal. And all these accompanied by upbeat music of drums and flute.
The Karakalpakstan State Museum named after Igor Savitski is located in Nukus and became world famous by its unique collection of the 20th century contemporary art. Igor Savitski was a brave artist and ethnographer, who after appointment as a director of the local museum in 1960s brought to this remote part (and thus safe from watchful central authorities) of former Soviet Union hundreds of paintings of dissident and even banned artists. Nowadays its collection of the Russian Avant-garde is considered second biggest in the world.
Yurts and Camel Riding
Yurts (portable bent dwelling structure) are pride symbols and reminder of nomadic culture of Kazkahs, Karakalpaks, Kyrgyz and Turkmens. And as truly multi-ethnic country, Uzbekistan is also home for many of them. Although now not so many prefer to live in yurts constantly, but many families at least to keep them, often in their courtyard. Yurt looks simple, but quite complex by materials and multilayer parts. If outside looks rustic and simple, inside décor sometimes true masterpiece. And nowadays, tourists can spend night in yurts in steppes near Aydarkul lake or in Karakalpakistan. Camel or donkey riding is a bonus!
Nikoh To’y (Wedding)
Modern Uzbek wedding is an interesting symbiosis of ancient, sometimes pre-Islamic, traditions with the European approach. Although some aspects vary in different regions, Nikoh To’y is a biggest event in a series of wedding events. Mentioned “civilizations’ mixture” requires from bride and groom to change their vibrant national costumes to expensive custom-made dresses in turn of the hours, same as mixing traditional folklore music and dances with pop-stars – local and sometimes foreign (JLo also knows how Uzbeks do their weddings).
Alisher Navoi Theatre
The Alisher Navoi Theatre in Tashkent is a national home for opera and ballet. Build in 1947 (with participation of Japanese POWs), it has a wide repertoire of about 30 operas and dozen ballet plays of world-class quality, as well as some performances for children.
Choyhona isn’t simply a house with ayvan (high wooden canopy), broad ottomans and tea from samovar. It is a social hub of every traditional neighbourhood, where people relax, make deals, hold collective meetings etc. We suggest some strong green tea with oriental sweets or shashlik barbeque, and cage with singing partridge on vine above your ottoman near cool soy-pond…
Karnay & Surnay
Karnay is a huge 2m trumpet, which produces very powerful sound. Never played solo, but at least in pair (sometimes dozen in a row) they are accompanied by doyra drums and surnay flutes. Karnay bands are so loud that they are banned to play inside some theatres, unless pipes are shorten. Karnay is must for weddings and other celebrations and every town has its own, mostly family based, bands.