Uplifted by Uzbekistan
Updated: Jan 19
Revival of traditional arts, crafts, and textiles on the Silk Road
In late 2019, We returned from 17 spectacular days in Uzbekistan with a group of artistically-minded and culturally-curious travellers.
A burgeoning world-wide interest in Uzbekistan brought us together to traverse the ancient Silk Route, a pulsing artery of trade and culture for over 1400 years. During Russian, and later Soviet occupation, traditional arts were nearly stamped out. Today after decades of wintering, Uzbekistan's artisans are sending out fresh shoots in the traditional arts of ikat, suzani, paper-making, and pottery. Here are some highlights from our tour.
We visited Tashkent, Fergana Valley, Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand to witness the revival, and got as far as Nukus for the astonishing Savitsky art collection.
In Tashkent, we buzzed around on the beautiful subway with each station more like a museum hall.
The simplicity of natural dyed block print mulberry silk was an instant hit. Dyes are extracted from rugula, pomegranate, sheep bones, and strengthened with apricot resin.
At every turn, we were met by exuberant pomegranate and almond motifs on exquisite Suzani, executed by chain stitch or hook-like implement on traditional wall-coverings and bridal bedspreads to contemporary fashions.
Suzani workshop, Bukhara
Urgut market offers a chance to buy antique suzanis.
Uzbeki potters were renowned for their unusual green-blue glazes and unique design sensibilities. Today, artisans such as Alisher Rakhimov are reviving the art of their forefathers in modern and classic interpretations.
And of course, gorgeous ikats by the yard-- what put Uzbekistan on the textile map when Oscar de La Renta fell in love with the intricately woven bold patterns.
Modern interpretation can be found in the fashions of Muhayo Aliyeva under the Bibi Hanum label.
We loved the Uzbekis' passion for dance and music! Lost count of the number of weddings we were invited to dance along to.
The bazaars were an endless source of fascination and deliciousness.
With a history stretching back 5000 years, Uzbekistan's blue-tiled monuments are an architectural treasure. And as yet, relatively uncrowded.
Many travellers balk at the long trek to the Savitsky Museum of Soviet-era repression art. But our travellers unanimously voted the collection an unmissable highlight: In their words: "Haunting", "Mesmerising", "Astonishing". "I never knew."
Uzbekistan is quickly becoming a darling of Silk Road tourism. Layers of history, ancient trade routes, UNESCO world heritage monuments, a rich culture, fabulous textiles, arts, and crafts, and fabled walled cities made this an unforgettable trip.
For more wonders of the Silk Route, join us in Kyrgyzstan afterwards. More information here.