In late May the exotic city of Bukhara hosts its annual Silk and Spice Festival, a celebration of Uzbekistan’s 2,000-year-old heritage.
Rising on the famed Silk Road, Bukhara is the perfect setting for the cultural festivities, which unfold amongst its UNESCO-protected squares, mosques, minarets, markets and the bazaars of the old citadel.
Once conquered by Tamerlane, Alexander the Great and Ghengis Khan, while also being constantly visited by international traders and merchants over the centuries; the old city’s colourful past is reflected in the Festival through medieval decorations, parades, and the rhythms of traditional music and dances that attract local and international visitors alike.
Photographer: Ning Yu Pao
During the festival, local and other central Asian master craftsmen come from around the region to showcase their wares and skills. If you happen to visit during the festival, you will find wonderful objects made of gold, ceramic, fine silk, cotton cloth and animal skins in great abundance.
Carpet weavers display their precious rugs destined to adorn prestigious galleries and elegant homes in the East and West; pretty much as they did centuries ago.
Today’s artists and craftsmen are the descendants of the highly skilled ceramicists, goldsmiths, muralists, architects and miniature painters brought in from Persia by the Uzbek rulers to beautify their empire and, in particular, their most spectacular cities of Khiva, Samarkand, and Bukhara.
They brought with them new techniques and materials that made Uzbekistan legendary throughout the then-known world.
Uzbek cities with their gleaming turquoise coloured tiled domes became beacons of safety and admiration for the traders’ caravans coming from distant lands.
Here the travellers rested in local inns and caravanserais, where they would enjoy good food and water for themselves and their livestock. They welcomed the chance to recover from their long and often treacherous journeys before starting to do business.
In Bukhara in particular as well as in Khiva and Samarkand, seasoned traders and merchants seized the opportunity to acquire and exchange precious central Asian goods and sophisticated Uzbek wares, so coveted by their wealthy clients in far East Asia and Western Europe.
“Festivals are the living dancing museums of cultures and traditions”
National Geographic Society
Why you should visit Uzbekistan
Since the fall of the USSR in 1991 and the country’s independence, the new regime has focused on restoring its ancient cities and promote pride in local culture.
Uzbekistan’s newfound wealth through the sale of oil, gas, gold, and cotton ( the country is now the second largest producer of high-quality cotton in the world) provides the necessary funds to fix and improve local and international guest-infrastructure, roads and other public works.
The country offers a rare opportunity for today’s traveller in search of unusual landscapes and wonderful people and customes, to explore a still little-visited world that gave so much to Eurasia during the last two millennia of its history.
Here, at the heart of the Silk Road, it is easy to imagine exactly what explorers like Marco Polo would have experienced.
Spring and Autumn are the best seasons to travel; the days are balmy, the sun shines and the colours are vivid.
Nature is also at its best making the gardens surrounding the ancient monuments full of colour and fresh new blooms.
The landscape fills with gorgeous fruit trees and green pastures that contrast the spectacular red-sand deserts.
If an unforgettable fully customised journey to Uzbekistan appeals to you or you would like to join a small group led by a renowned Central Asian Ph.D. historian that departs in October this year, please get in touch with Nomads Secrets for more information and I will personally ensure your trip is truly immersive and extremely special.
That is why we travel!