// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.
TASHKENT Like most of Central Asia, Uzbekistan was taken over by former Soviet politicians who made themselves dictators following the collapse of the USSR. For a long time Uzbekistan was quite authoritarian and difficult to enter, however I was fortunate that with the passing of the president just the year before (who'd been ruling Uzbekistan for almost 30 years) his successor started a process of liberalization and that included courting more tourism. So I arrived in Tashkent, the capital, which was unmistakably designed by the Soviets. Which is not necessarily a bad thing--- there are tree lined streets with pleasant enough buildings, large parks, grand plazas with impressive monuments, and of course, a very nice metro system. You'll also notice the Uzbek currency... which people carry around like bricks. 100 US Dollars was over one million Uzbek Som.
SAMARKAND Uzbekistan is really where East meets West, the cultural crossroads between Asia and Europe. The Scythians, who were Iranian nomads, founded kingdoms here in the 700s BC. Though the Greeks ruled here briefly for a century or so around 200 BC, most of the early influence came from the Persians and as such there are many Zoroastrian archaeological sites around Uzbekistan as Zorastrianism was the state religion of Iran before the Arabs conquered them in the 700s AD and changed the state religion to Islam of which is now the majority in both Iran and Uzbekistan. The city of Samarkand during this time prospered as a major stop on the Silk Road that connected East and West, as evidenced by the remarkable mosques, mausoleums, and madrasahs which you can see below. You can also see the high speed train which connects Tashkent to Samarkand.
BUKHARA Walking through Bukhara is like stepping back 2000 years in time. It's rare to find a city so well preserved. People have lived here for thousands of years and there's too much history to even begin to summarize. But during the Islamic Golden Age, Bukhara was a major intellectual center, second only to Baghdad. There are a great many ancient madrassas (educational schools) here. Genghis Khan even sieged the city in 1220 AD. It was besieged again during the Russian Civil War, when the Communist army took the city after four days of fighting in 1920. Perhaps the last quick note, there were once upon a time a large Jewish population in Bukhara (most of them are now actually living along 'Bukharan Broadway' in Queens in New York... one was my real estate agent come to think of it). An old lady (whose son lives there in Queens) was kind enough to give me a tour of the Synagogue, one of only two still operating in the city as the Jewish population has gone from around 45,000 to 150 since the fall of the Soviet Union. You can see the synagogue in the photo below. Additionally my guest house had formerly been a Jewish merchant house, and the decorations are still clearly evident in the rooms, which you can see in the final photo.