One of the most ancient cities in the world and the largest one in Central Asia is Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, with the population of more than 2,5 million people. It is the main industrial, cultural, financial and educational center in Uzbekistan and Central Asia. The Tashkent oasis lies on the Chirchik river, within sight of the foothills of the western Tian Shan. The ancient name of Tashkent was Chach. Over 50 irrigation canals nurtured more than 30 towns of Chach blossomed into an exporter of cattle, horses, gold, silver and precious stones.
In 751, Chinese troops executed the prince of Chach, provoking the Arab invaders to crush them at Talas. Thereby the supremacy of Islam was established and Chinese hopes of Central Asian Hegemony were terminated. Under Samanids rule in the ninth century, the capital became known as Binkath, Arab pronunciation turned Chach to Shash and city walls fortified its mosques. Merchants stopped here with their caravans after tiresome journey from China over steppe and mountains, before continuing to Samarkand and Bukhara. Arab visitors described a verdant place of vineyards, bazaars and craftsmen. Karakhanid rule from the late tenth century maintained such prosperity and gave a new Turkish name: Tashkent (stone village).
In 1219 the Mongols invaded and the city was destroyed by Genghis Khan, although the great conqueror had found that the Khorezmshah had already sacked the city in 1214. In the 14th and 15 centuries under the Timurids and subsequent Shaybanid dynasties the city revived. During the next three centuries the Uzbeks, Kazakhs, Persians, Mongol Oirots and Kalmyks tried to establish their rule.
In 1809, Tashkent was annexed to the Khanate of Kokand. At the time, Tashkent had a population of around 100,000 and was considered the richest city in Central Asia.
In 1918 Tashkent became the capital of the Turkestan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic and in 1930, the city became the capital of the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic. Russians settlers, institutions and industries flooded in, particularly during the II World War (1941-1945), when evacuees from European Russia doubled the population to a million.
But the earthquake of April 26 in 1966, destroyed the city, 300,000 people became homeless, many families were moved to other regions, until the city was rebuilt again. Number of people from all over the USSR were sent to Tashkent for reconstruction. That’s why we can call the city as multinational city, because most of the people who came to rebuilt the city stayed here for permanent.
Since 1991 Tashkent is the capital of Independent Uzbekistan. The population of the city is about more than 2,5 million. Tashkent consists of old and new part of the city. 10% of the population of the city still lives in the old city, which is called “eski shahar” in local language. The old city is the live witness of the history of the city. It has old mud brick houses, narrow streets, canals, mosques and bazaars.
The modern part of the city has been growing very intensively. There are a lot high buildings, modern apartments built in western style, parks, avenues, museums and theatres.
Kaffal Shashi Mosque
A beautiful monument Mazar Kaffal Shashi is situated in the city’s historical part called Khast Imam. Abu Bakr Mukhammad Kaffal Shash was from Tashkent, one of the propagandists of Shafiist and a poet. The mausoleum was built in 1541 instead of the old graveyard. A high dome crowns this simple brick construction with fragments of majolica decoration. The remains of the one of the first Islam preachers in Tashkent Abu Bakr Ibn Ismail Kaffal Shashi, who lived in the 10th century, are buried here. The mausoleum was constructed over his grave in the 16th century and became the place for worshipping.
Barak Khan Complex
Barak Khan Complex is one of the best monuments of the Middle Asian architecture of the 14th century. It includes one madrasah and two mausoleums, one of which was raised over the burial place of Suyudji Khan, the first khan of Uzbek dynasty of Sheibanids in Tashkent. Being a grandson of Ulughbek and an educated ruler, he engaged to his court many scientists and poets. He also invited the famous poet from Herat Zainaddin Vasifi as a tutor for his son Nauruz Akhmed (Barakhan). The poet wrote about Tashkent: “Anyone visiting this city just once, will never want to leave it and will stop to dream about paradise blessings”. Barakhan continued the construction of Medrasah during his reign. Nowadays it is the office of Uzbekistan Muslim Administration.
The main building of the complex is the mausoleum of Suynchikhan, the first khan of Uzbek dynasty of Sheibanids in Tashkent. He was the grandson of Ulughbek. He invited scientists and poets of the East. He invited here Zainitdin Vasifi from Herat as a teacher for his son Nauruz Akhmed (Barakhan). Barakhan continued the construction of Medrasah during his reign. Nowadays it is the office of Uzbekistan Muslim Administration.
Telyashayakh Mosque (Khast Imam Mosque)
Opposite to the Barak Khan Madrasah there is Telyashayakh Mosque. In the courtyard of the mosque there is a library which is rich and unique for its original Hadis and Koran. The 7th- century Osman Koran, said to be the world’s oldest, is kept in the mosque’s library. It was brought to Samarkand by Amir Temur in the 14th century, then taken to St.Petersburg by the Russians and returned here in 1989. At the time of research, a museum was being constructed on the north side of the square, to where the Osma Koran will be transferred.
On the eastern side there is the Imam Ismail Al-Bukhari Islamic Institute. It is a two-year post-madrasah academy with around two hundred students, was one of two madrasahs in Central Asia left open in Soviet times (the other one was in Bukhara).
Near the biggest bazaar of Chorsu there is a big architectural building of the 16th century Kukeldash Madrasah located at the border of the old and new part of the city. It was built in the second half of the 16th century in the time of Abdullakhan (1557-1598) under the leadership of Kulbobo Kukeldash who was a vizier (a minister), a scientist and a poet. As the result of the several earthquakes the facade, the second floor of the madrasah were crushed. After restoration, it still has preserved its original style and beauty. Madrasah Kukeldash is a active mosque, with a primary school, which teaches the foundations of Islam. About 200 students study here religious sciences, literature, history, mathematics etc.
Kukeldash madrasah is constructed very traditionally. Any Madrasah in the Muslim country usually has exactly this look. The facade of a building decorated with majolica and inscriptions a high smart arch entrance-Peshtak. Windows are supplied with sun-protection lattices – Pandjara, in patterns of ornaments we find twisted sacred for Moslems names of Allah and Muhammad prophet. Pass through Peshtak, the visitor gets into the court yard of the rectangular form surrounded with suites vaulted rooms – Hudjr, doors of which go inside. The courtyard often ends with a larger dome building – Darskhona (a room for lessons). Hudjrs served as habitation for students, and lessons, as a rule, were carried out in an open-air in a courtyard of madrasah, because the local climate allows doing it during the most part of year. Small turrets (Guldasta) in corners of a building are intended for Azanchi (or Muedzins) – the special attendants calling devout on a pray (Namaz) which should be made regularly through the certain time intervals.
Juma Mosque of Khodja Ahror Vali
Near to Kukeldash madrasah updated dome is visible. The main Friday mosque was constructed in middle of XV century. It has a name of the known public figure of Timurid epoch Hodzha Ahrar (1404-1490) – the main sheikh of powerful dervish of Nakshbandi institution. Because of earthquakes, the mosque was subject to numerous restorations. It is the third cathedral mosque in Uzbekistan surpassed only by two structures of this kind – the Bibi-Khanim Mosque in Samarkand and the Kalyan Mosque in Bukhara. The main Juma Mosque of Tashkent has by now been completely rebuilt, and now three domes instead of one crown the old city hill.
The Zangi-Ota Mausoleum is situated near Tashkent city, which was built at the end of the 14th century, in the burial place of Sheikh Al-Khodja. He was the follower of Khodja Ahmad Yassavy, who was the spiritual leader of all Turkic tribes in Central Asia. According to legends, the construction of this ensemble had begun by Amir Temur. The ensemble consists of three territories: a big garden, complex of buildings of the 14-19th centuries (mosque, madrasah, and minaret) and cemetery with Ambar-Bibi’s mausoleum. The mausoleum portal strong lines are impressive. The wonderful carved mosaics reflect simple beauty. Preserved fragments of mosaic inscriptions can be seen on the mausoleum wings. The white marble tombstone in Zangi-Ota mausoleum is unique with the stone carvings.
Museum of Applied Arts
The Museum of Applied Arts is housed in a traditional Uzbek house originally built by one of wealthy tsarist diplomat, scientist of oriental studies (Polovtsev). The house itself is the main attraction, as it was built using traditional decoration of the houses of 19th century in Uzbekistan with elements of wood carving, ganch (plaster carving), and wood painting. The collection is also worthwhile. Here you can see handicraft examples of Uzbek people of 19th century, such as carpets, rugs, copper dishes, embroidery, ceramics, jewellery, miniature paintings, silk production and etc. Omar Khayyam quotes frame two doorways: “The world is a great caravanserai with two doors: one entrance and one exit. Every day new guests come to the caravanserai.”
Museum of Arts
Collection of this museum consists of more than 50,000 exhibits gathered in five sections – decorative folk art and fine arts of Uzbekistan, Russian and Western European arts, and foreign Oriental arts. Decorative folk art and applied art is represented by pieces that date back to ancient times, starting from I century B.C. to I century A.D. These are discoveries made during excavations on the territory of Southern Uzbekistan – in Khalchayan castle, Varakhsha (Bukhara), and in a settlement of Kuva (Ferghana valley).Display of applied arts presents gantch (Uzbek plaster) engraving, ceramics, wood engraving and painting, embroidery from all regions of Uzbekistan, gold-embroidery pieces from Bukhara, Uzbek fabrics, carpets and decorative metal works. Expositions of fine arts of Uzbekistan start from the paintings of XIX century and continue by works of artists of XX century. One can see the masterpieces of R. Zommer, Bure, Karazin, Svyatoslavsky, Yudin, P. Benkov, A. Volkov, A. Nikolaev (Usto Mumin), A. Abdullaev, Ch. Akhmarov, U, Taksynbaev, R, Charyev, B. Djalalov, D. Umarbekov and others.
Fine Arts Museum of Uzbekistan
The Museum contains a major collection of art from the pre-Russian period, including Sogdian murals, Buddhist statues and Zoroastrian art, ceramics from the 9th to 17th centuries, tile fragments from Samarkand, Shakhrisabz, Bukhara and Khiva; finely carved wooden doors and shutters, Bukharian court robes heavy with gold embroidery, ornate metalware, along with a more modern collection of 19th and 20th century Uzbek applied art, such as suzane embroidered wall hangings. The large collection of paintings “borrowed” from the Hermitage by Grand Duke Romanov to decorate his palace in exile in Tashkent is of the most interest.
Museum of History of Timurids
The Amir Temur Museum is Tashkent’s newest museum and has quite impressive structure with a brilliant blue ribbed dome and a rich decorated interior. The Museum has been constructed in the honour of the 660th anniversary of Amir Temur, famous statesman and general, a founder of a great empire Maverannahr, the borders of which were spread from the Mediterranean Sea up to the Great Wall of China, from the Caspian Sea up to the Persian Gulf. The collection mainly consists of ancient manuscripts, paintings and engraving of Temurid’s epoch. There are valuable documents, including correspondence of Amir Temur and his descendants with the European monarchs, artful miniatures, and copies of Amir Temur’s portraits painted by European artists of those times. Originals of those pieces are stored in the National Library of France.
During the 19th century Grand Duke Romanov (1850-1918), a first cousin of Alexander III of Russia was sent to Tashkent for some intrigue and deals involving the Russian Crown Jewels.
He built a house for himself in the center of the city in 19th century. His mansion still survives in the centre of the city, just opposite of Independence Square.
Once a museum it used to be a museum, but now it being used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a reception place of high ranked diplomats and delegates.
Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is situated in the centre of the city opposite to the Tashkent Palace Hotel and near the Central Supermarket (Tsum).
The theatre was built in 1945-1947 by the architect Shusev, who was the author of the Lenin’s Mausoleum on the Red Square in Moscow. It is famous for its history of the construction, because hundreds of Japanese soldiers took active part in the construction. National artists of Uzbekistan Usta Shirin Muradov, A.Hudajbergenov, H.Boltaev have shown their skill in decoration works. According to the author of the project, each of the six side foyers has got an architectural decor typical of this or that province of Uzbekistan. The Tashkent hall, the Bukhara hall, the Khorezm hall , the Samarkand hall, the Ferghana hall, the Termez hall – they all have their own style and peculiarities. For instance, the masters chose and applied such a unique decor technique as carving on alabaster called “gunch” on top of the mirror surface. This element of decoration was for the first time used in the construction of the Bukhara Emir’ palace. The Khorezm hall is decorated with the carved panel of gunch reminding you of wood carving and typical of Khorezm. The theatre’s halls and foyer are decorated with mural paintings depicting scenes from Alisher Navoi’s poems and landscapes of Uzbekistan. They were created by artists Ch.Akhmarov, A.Tatevosyan and others. Upon the completion of the theatre building
The theatre has traversed a complicated creative path setting up a national and classical repertoire and discovering the great world musical legacy. The theatre’s repertoire included such national operas as Ulugbek, Dilorom, ballets The Ballerina, The Dream as well as classical operas and ballets such as Carmen and The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. Almost every evening you can enjoy ballet or opera show of Uzbek and Russian artists.
Near the 16th century Kukeldash Madarsah and Kaffal Shashi Mosque is Chorsu Bazaar. Chorsu is a vast open-air market where you will find all the wares that dreams of Central Asia are made of. Carefully woven carpets sit next to glistening ceramics, which in turn are neighbours of shiny watermelons, plump raisins and apricots. Chorsu also has a large number of spice vendors. There are shoe stores and handicraft shops, stalls that sell traditional clothes. Here you can buy traditional Uzbek men’s cap duppa. You will also find many choykhana (tea café) where you can have hot tea and kebabs (shashlyk).
Chorsu stands at the junction of Navoi Street and Samarkand Darvoza Street. Like most markets in Tashkent it is open every day of the week between 7 in the morning and 7 in the evening.
Tashkent TV Tower
Tashkent TV Tower is a 375 meter high tower. It is the highest construction in the Central Asia. The architectural design of the tower is a product of the team consisted of U.L. Semashko, N.G. Terziev-Tzarukova, engineers E.P. Morozova, and M.D. Musheeva. It is of a vertical cantilever structure, and is manufactured out of steel. There is an observation deck at the 97 meter level, where you can enjoy magnificent views of the city. There is also a rotating restaurant. The view from this restaurant provides a unique opportunity to understand the capital’s layout. On a clear day the visitors of the Tower can see the Western Tien Shan mountains.
At the heights of 100 meters and 220 meters the tower is girdled with 5 telecasting stations, radio broadcasting station and a meteorological station.
Tashkent Underground (Metro)
Tashkent is the only city in the Central Asia, which has underground. It is one of the cleanest, safest, and most reliable mass transit systems in the former Soviet Union. Tashkent is the largest city in Central Asia, with a population of over two million, and a good transportation system is essential. The metro construction was started in 1973 and in 1977 the first line began to operate. There are three lines of Metro which connect the eastern, western, and south-western parts of the city. The Tashkent Metro is truly amazing and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. The leading architects and artists of Uzbekistan took part in designing of the stations. In interior decor, there were used solid and stable materials: metal (engraving), glass, plastic, granite, marble, smalt, art ceramics, carved alabaster. Each station is originality work of art, devoted to a certain theme.