If you’re on the lookout for an epic travel destination that’s not only rich in Islamic history but also a feast for your senses, look no further than the heart of Central Asia – Uzbekistan! This country is swiftly gaining popularity among Muslim travellers, and there are several reasons why. I recently had the opportunity to visit this incredible country for almost two weeks, and I have so many stories and unique experiences to share. So, if you have been considering visiting for years but still haven’t gotten around to it, here are 6 reasons to visit Uzbekistan in 2024.
6 Reasons to Visit Uzbekistan in 2024
Islamic Architectural Marvels
You’ve seen pictures of Uzbekistan’s magnificent blue-turquoise tile monuments and buildings on social media. Interesting facts: those buildings are mosques, madrasas, and Islamic sites that have become significant attractions in Uzbekistan!
In Tashkent, visit Khast Imam Square, which is adorned with significant landmarks such as the Barak-Khan Madrasa, the Tillya Sheikh Mosque, and the Muyi Muborak Madrasa, housing one of the world’s oldest Quranic manuscripts. This square not only captivates with its stunning architecture but also resonates with the echoes of centuries of learning and devotion.
In the ancient city of Khiva, the Kalta-Minor Minaret stands tall, a symbol of the ambition of Khiva’s ruler back in the 1800s, Muhammad Amin Khan, who was killed and the construction of this minaret was stopped then. Despite being unfinished, its mesmerizing blue tiles and intricate design make it a focal point of the city’s skyline.
As your journey continues to Bukhara, you’ll see Po-i-Kalyan, ‘the foot of the great’, which consists of three structures built in the 12th – 16th centuries: Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque and a functioning Islamic school, Mir-i Arab Madrasah. It is said that when Genghis Khan travelled to Bukhara, he had seen the Kalyan minaret miles before entering the city. It intimidated him so much that it was one of the only buildings that the fierce Mongol ruler left standing.
Registan Square in Samarkand is a masterpiece of majestic madrasas – Ulugh Beg, Sher-Dor, and Tilya-Kori. Ulugh Beg’s Madrasa used to host around 200 students studying science, mathematics, astronomy, law, languages, and the Qur’an. Nowadays, you can find souvenir shops, little cafes, and galleries inside those madrasas.
HTG Tip: You can join an Islamic calligraphy workshop in one of the galleries inside the Registan Square. You can learn different types of Arabic writing and even try to write your own name on a piece of framed leather. You can also experience this or other exciting activities if you join our The Golden Age: Adventure In Uzbekistan 7D/6N trip! 🎨
Hub of Islamic Scholars and Knowledge
Uzbekistan may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think about science, but guess what? Some of the most important discoveries made by Muslim scientists occurred in its cities! Monuments and museums exhibiting these discoveries should be on your itinerary to learn about the history and marvel at how greatly these scholars change the world and our lives!
Imam Bukhari, known for his thorough compilation of Prophet Muhammad’s (صَلَّى ٱللَّٰهُ عَلَيْهِ وَآلِهِ وَسَلَّمَ) sayings and teachings, was born in Bukhara. When you visit Samarkand, include a pilgrimage to his mausoleum in your itinerary as an opportunity to pay respects and learn more about his great legacy.
Ibn Sina, known as the “Father of Early Modern Science,” grew up in Bukhara. His most famous medical work is “The Canon of Medicine” (Al-Qanun fi al-Tibb), which is regarded as one of the most influential medical texts in history. Al-Biruni, an astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, was also the first person to derive a simple formula for calculating the radius of the Earth and the first to describe how the Earth rotated on an axis around the sun. Ulugh Beg, a renowned astronomer and ruler, not only significantly advanced the field of science but also left a lasting legacy in education. His establishment of a Madrasah in Registan Square, Samarkand, fostered the growth of future scholars.
There are so many excellent intellectuals born and raised in Uzbekistan that the list is endless. For this reason alone, it is worth visiting Uzbekistan to learn more in person about the impact these great intellectuals have had – and continue to have – on our lives.
Halal Culinary Delights
With over 90% of Uzbekistan’s population being Muslim, halal food is not just accessible; it’s a culinary adventure waiting to be explored!
Plov, the national cuisine of Uzbekistan, is a culinary masterpiece. Cooked in a deep cast-iron pot, this dish combines rice, mutton or beef, carrots, onions, and vegetable oil. There are also meatless varieties of plov, making it a great option for fellow vegetarian Muslim travellers. Interestingly, each city and region boasts its unique variety of plov! In major cities, check out the plov centres, where you can see people preparing this dish in large metal pots, like the one pictured below. Guests might even eat or be served directly from this pot!
At the dining table, expect to be served traditional circular bread, known as Obi Non. A staple in Uzbek cuisine, this bread is a must-try. The locals take pride in their bread offerings, with each region offering its distinct taste and texture.
And, of course, you can’t miss out on Uzbek street food! Treat your taste buds to Ceburek (a savoury pastry filled with minced meat and spices), Somsa (a pastry filled with beef, pumpkin, or potatoes), and Shashlik (skewered and grilled meat) – all prepared fresh right in front of you, bursting with flavour.
In Uzbekistan, drinking tea is not just a custom but a way of life. Enjoyed at almost every meal, tea is a symbol of hospitality and warmth. When you dine in a restaurant, be prepared to savour a cup of tea at the end of your meal.
Bazaars and Shopping Sprees
Now, let’s immerse ourselves in the vibrant world of retail therapy, Uzbek style!
The bazaars in Uzbekistan are not merely markets; they’re lively hubs brimming with culture, tradition, and hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. The Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent is nestled beneath the city’s iconic blue-domed building. In the old city of Bukhara, there are three must-visit trade domes – Taki-Sarrafon (dome of money changers), Taki-Telpakfurushon (dome of hat makers), and Taki-Zargaron (dome of jewellers). Meanwhile, Siyob Bazaar, Samarkand’s largest bazaar, is near the Bibi-Khanym Mosque.
Now, what can you score at these bustling bazaars? Textiles are a must-buy in Uzbekistan, with silk and cotton production integral to the country’s economy and culture. The vibrant “ikat” fabric, worn by Uzbek women, showcases an array of colour combinations, making it a delightful challenge to choose the prettiest one among them all.
A “suzani” is another traditional Uzbek item that can be purchased. It is an embroidery that features specific iconic motifs (one of which is the pomegranate, yes, the fruit!) and can be found on blankets, jackets, pillowcases, and purses.
Painted ceramics are also available in the bazaars. From single pieces to entire sets that include teapots and teacups, these ceramics allow you to bring a piece of Uzbekistan’s charm into your home.
HTG Tip: Bargaining is not just encouraged; it’s expected! Don’t be hesitant to negotiate the price, and remember, a smile goes a long way. Engage with the sellers, enjoy the banter, and you might just find yourself with a fantastic deal! 🛍️💎
Uzbekistan is not only rich in history and culture; it is also a refuge for nature lovers!
Located merely 80 kilometres northeast of Tashkent, the stunning peak of Chimgan Mountain offers a visual feast and a playground for adventure enthusiasts. Travellers can partake in activities like hiking and trekking. If you’re visiting during winter, prepare for some exhilarating skiing or snowboarding down its snow-covered slopes.
Lake Aydarkul, is an oasis in the Kyzylkum Desert, about 400 kilometres northwest of Samarkand. The sheer size of this lake is awe-inspiring, and its shimmering waters starkly contrast the surrounding arid landscape. Travelers can enjoy boating on the lake, basking in the sun on its sandy shores, or even trying their hand at fishing.
The Kitab Mountain Pass is a must-visit for those seeking a scenic drive. This pass takes you through winding roads surrounded by the grandeur of the Nuratau-Kyzylkum Biosphere Reserve. The journey itself is an adventure, with each turn revealing breathtaking vistas. Upon reaching the pass, you can take leisurely walks and capture the stunning panoramic views.
HTG Tip: When you visit Samarkand, spend one day for a day trip to Kitab Mountain Pass, which then you can continue to Shahrisabz, where the great commander Amir Temur was born near this city, in the neighbouring village of Hodja-Ilgar. You can also experience the same if you join our The Golden Age: Adventure In Uzbekistan 10D/9N trip ✨
Warm and Friendly Locals
Beyond the enchanting landscapes and cultural riches, Uzbekistan reveals its true treasure – the warmth of its people. Travelling through this Central Asian country means immersing yourself in a sea of friendly faces and genuine hospitality.
While the primary languages spoken are Uzbek and Russian, don’t let language barriers dampen your spirits when connecting with the locals. The magic of a smile and simple gestures transcends any linguistic challenges. And for those moments when words might fail, embrace the power of technology! Google Translate can be your trusty companion, helping you break through language barriers and fostering connections with warm-hearted locals.
HTG Tip: For more tech-savvy tips, check out our 7 Essential Muslim Travel Apps article to discover other useful apps to ease your journey as a Muslim traveller. 📱
One unique aspect of Uzbek greetings is the prevalence of “salaam” or “assalamu’alaikum,” echoing the peacefulness of our religion. You can apply the same warmth when you want to greet the locals – be it a bazaar seller, security personnel in the metro station, or any local you meet. Greet them with a warm salaam to add an extra layer of friendliness to your encounters.
So, as you explore this welcoming nation, prepare to be embraced by its people’s genuine charm and open hearts.
Whether you’re interested in Islamic history, strolling through vibrant bazaars, admiring the magnificent architecture, or finding peace in Chimgan Mountain, this country will take you on a journey beyond the ordinary! There are definitely many more, but I hope these 6 reasons to visit Uzbekistan in 2024 have inspired you to book that trip finally!
I’m Gia, Trip Manager of Halal Travel Guide. I’m an Indonesian living in Jakarta. Besides writing (mostly about travel-related topics), I’m also keen on travelling and cooking. My love language is food, and I’m a cat person. I hope you enjoy this article!