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Travelling to Turkey from Uzbekistan

by samarkand (8/3/2009)

Travelling to Turkey from Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan! What similarities can I find between life here and life in Turkey? What differences?

Also Azerbaijan where I will go next? I have been to Turkey twice so have some idea of the country. I have never before been to Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan though I was an English teacher in Afghanistan in the early seventies. What follows will be more a journal than an essay but it has the theme for an essay which is ´Learning more about Turkish Life and Culture". Hopefully my understanding will change and improve as I travel further.


Actually what follows now is more a number of impressions after a month in the country, impressions that you may or may not notice as similar to Turkey. They are in no particular order, just as they come to mind.


Firstly, colours and patterns - the brightest,strongest and most varied mixture of colours in the most intricate and diverse range of patterns. In the tiles and decorations of the buildings (even if most are renovations) and in the clothes of the women and the embroideries and carpets hung and lain in the homes. There are the endless interweavings of turquoise and white in the mosques and madrassahs but the strongest contrast is between the reds and greens - women in all red dresses walking in green parks, red poppies in the green landscape as you look out the train window. And finally, not particularly colourful but still noticeable, the blacks and whites of the school children´s uniforms.


Next, the re-learning of Islam. Both countries were secularised in the 1920´s, both have seen a religious resurgence in the last decades,Uzbekistan since independence from the old Soviet Union in the early 1990´s. Re-learning in the sense that you can see pamphlets in the mosques instructing people how to pray and in the admonitions of the imam in the mausoleum to people who just want to touch the tomb - "that is not Islam!"  The call to prayer is only heard occasionally (depending on where you are in the country) but it is now allowed. Also a resurgence of knowledge about teachers and holy men and women (O.K.mostly men! ), good for tourism but even better for their own understanding because some of these people really were ´Masters of Wisdom´ - especially Naqshbandi and Gidjuwani in Bukhara.


However, the influence of the old Soviet Union is still strong here - the layers of bureaucracy (I never knew it was so hard to find and then post a postcard!), the use of the Russian language, the continued presence of Russian people in the country,the continuance of so many Soviet practices  especially in the economy with the dominance of cotton. I feel that, perhaps unlike the countries of Eastern Europe, the ´Stans´ have more overall to thank the Russians for - certainly, whilst the people and culture is very much the same, there is a huge contrast between the standard of life in Uzbekistan and that of a far more ´mediaeval´ Afghanistan that I knew in the 1970´s before the Soviet invasion and everything that followed.


Finally, a list:

- long lines of gaspipes running along the streets on the eaves of the old houses

- men and women working together weeding parks, cleaning streets; school children also have to

  spend some of their school time each week weeding and cleaning inside and outside their schools.

- holes in the road - not in the capital or the centres of the main cities but as soon as you are on the

  main link roads, holes everywhere, your journey a collection of swerves and slowing downs;

  apparently due to 4-5 months of snow in the winter months. However, I only once see road   

  mending equipment.

- and a line of 4 donkies with 4 elderly men in Uzbek hats passes our bus a number of times as we

  have to stop for road checks and then disappears (or did I imagine them?)

- and lastly, a statue for Hodja Nasreddin in Bukhara - he definitely got everywhere!

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