Uzbekistan: Golden Teeth and Neon Signs

We were unprepared. Here comes the apocalypse.

It was so cold, I had to wear a minimum of five layers of clothes each day.

In a way, the weather reminded me of London. It’s very strange, varying from rain and cold the first day and sunshine and warmth the next.

Unfortunately, I had lost the very comfortable and warm jacket (, so I was left shivering in the chilly air. Eventually, we bought a warm jacket for me. Even though it isn’t fashionable it has the interesting feature of being double-sided.

And at least it keeps me warm! There were times when it was absolutely freezing outside and I was glad I was wearing something thick.

Anyway, from the Caspian Sea, we breezed through Kazakhstan into Uzbekistan in less than one day (we were going to re-enter Kazakhstan later on). We took what looked like a very antique train to cross the border. We waited at the train station of Beyneu until around 1am, when we finally boarded. Fortunately, the train had beds. As uncomfortable and stiff they were, I was glad there was at least something to lie on that wasn’t my mom’s lap.
It was an unusual train – it had no assigned seats, the beds were more like stiff benches, to climb up to the bunk bed, there was only a foothold (no ladder) and the seats/benches were in an open carriage thus everyone could see you sleeping.

Eventually, we were woken up at 5am to pass the border. We were asked the weirdest question to date : Are you bringing any history books into the country?
Another peculiarity was that, during the day, a huge number of sellers passed by the carriage every five minutes, selling clothes, electronics, toiletries and even kitchen utensils.

We visited four cities in Uzbekistan – Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent(the capital).

Samarkand was my favourite.
It was very lively and the Registan (three madrases and a mosque) felt so grand and majestic.

One of the madrases was very unique, since it had paintings of animals on its frontal wall: a tiger in particular. For those who don’t know, Muslims are not allowed to use figurative art for religious purposes, so it was surprising to see this on the madras.

Registan was even more stunning when it was lit up at night. We only had one night to see it, so we stuck around the Registan for half an hour, waiting for the moment it lit up. It was worth it.

What really surprised me about Registan, though, was the sight of six weddings all at once. My mum said it was quite common in cities of historical beauty, but, living in London, I have rarely seen any.

But the Registan wasn’t the only highlight of Samarkand. We visited the tomb of Timur – who built Samarkand, Bibi mosque – a colossus which has never been finished, and the city necropolis. I particularly enjoyed the latter as it is composed of twisting corridors and colourful, tiled, rooms of tombs.

As usual, though, it is the presence of animals that grabbed most of my attention (to my parents’ frustration). I was thrilled with the encounter of two very cute kittens in Bukhara; while in Khiva, I witnessed a black cat having a rest on top of a thin wooden door. I also sighted a bunch of camels and a ram there. In fact, camels are very common all around Uzbekistan.

Indeed I also saw camels on the ride from Khiva to Bukhara.

More interestingly for my parents we also saw the land of Turkmenistan, as the road bordered it. At some point, we crossed the bridge where on the right side, the river was Turkmenistan, on the left side, it was Uzbekistan. The bridge had train tracks on as it is used by vehicles and train in alternate mode 😱.

Unfortunately, my mum had such a bad cold in Bukhara, that it was up to me, my sister and my dad to go sightseeing. I saw a
lot of madrases and mosques and I found it amusing that a part of the old city that was completely rundown had a wall built all around, so it wouldn’t leave a negative impact on the tourists’ view of the city.

Talking of walls, in Khiva, to my delight, there were extremely well preserved walls surrounding the old city. I quickly climbed one and, though I did get plenty of curious stares from the locals, I did not get questioned or arrested. Lucky me.
We also got to climb a minaret in Khiva. I found it fun climbing all the mismatched stairs with only my phone torch as a guide. Once we finally got to the top, we got a nice panoramic view of the city, including, no surprise, a wedding on the streets.

Another common denominator all around Uzbekistan, apart weddings and camels, was golden teeth. Pretty much everyone had at least one gold tooth (more often it was several, if not entire rows). It was very difficult for me to look at them while they spoke and it definitely made me more self-aware about my teeth, so I now brush them much more thoroughly and carefully every day.

Other curious things of the country were the number of neon signs on the streets, restaurants and shops and the constant presence of outdoor ovens. They are interestingly built like a cement igloo, the inside only exposed from the small hole at the top.

Now would be a good time to tell you of how and where I found Nemo stranded in Uzbekistan. Actually wait, let me talk about Tashkent, so you would be burning with curiosity. 😏

Tashkent was an interesting one.
We visited the observatory and I found out that, even though Timur himself wasn’t educated, he wanted others to be. I thought it was a kind and selfless act, especially since he did some savage slaughtering in his own time.
Tashkent was also the victim of a horrible and devastating earthquake in 1967. In honour of the tremendous efforts of the citizens to quickly reconstruct the city a memorial was built. It’s a powerful sculpture and I actually really enjoyed it. Moreover, when they restored the city, with the help of Russians, they didn’t just make it like it was before – they made it better. Specifically , each of the train stations was individually decorated with beautiful chandeliers and art all around. I’m sorry Britons, but compared to the Tashkent Tube, the London Underground is quite dull.

For some reason (I don’t see how) but my parents got nostalgic in Tashkent as they claimed it gave off an 80s feel. Ah, the youthful times! (for them)

While wandering around the streets we were particularly surprised to see row of women standing there with old style prams. We quickly realised that instead of babies, it was bread inside the prams, all wrapped up in blankets keeping the bread warm for the customers. Needless to say it was delicious.

I suppose I have held you on for too long. Yes, I did find Nemo, but unfortunately he was flattened on stone.

We stopped to ask for directions. I quickly got bored and started wandering around a statue – that is when I noticed the little orange clownfish, hidden in within the serious homage to the first, and only, Uzbek astronaut in space. Watch the video to see it in all its glory.

So, if you guys find Marlin, let him know. I found his son.