Uzbekistan is a fascinating country with rich historical heritage, impressive monuments, interesting culture and delicious food. This trip was one of my most remarkable travel experiences.

I used the modern high-speed Afrosiyob train to visit the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand starting from the capital of Tashkent. Afrosiyob train tickets are oficially sold through the Uzbekistan Railways site and become available 45 days in advance. Be sure to get them as early as possible (ideally in the morning of the day they become available for your intended date) as they sell out very fast.

Bukhara has a very nice old town that retains its old-time charm and features stunning medieval mosques, madrasas and other historical buildings, which are beautifully restored and preserved. Some of the city's gems include the Po-i-Kalyan ensemble with Mir-i-Arab Madrasa, Kalyan Mosque and the striking Kalon Minaret; the Lyabi Khauz ensemble including Kukaldosh Madrasa, Nodir Devonbegi Madrasa and Nodir Devonbegi Khonako (and the funky statue of folk hero Khoja Nasreddin); and the Abdulaziz Khan and Ulug'bek madrasas. They are all beautiful and intricately decorated with ceramic tiles in vibrant shades of blue. Other impressive sites include the Ark of Bukhara, the beautiful Samanid Mausoleum built in the 10th century and Chor Minor.

All of these and many other historical sites around the old town create a unique atmosphere. The old town's historical buildings and trading domes are full of merchants offering some very nice locally-produced ceramics, textiles and souvenirs, including the famous Bukhara carpets.

My next destination, Samarkand, features the breathtaking Registan ensemble which includes Ulugh Beg, Tilya-Kori and Sher-Dor madrasas. Walking around the impressive complex is an out-of-this-world experience. The complex also comes alive at night with beautiful light displays and a light&music show; a folk show presented in one of the madrasas was also enjoyable. Other significant sites in Samarkand included the beautiful Gur Emir Mausoleum, Bibi-Khanym Mosque and the fabulous Shakhi-Zinda Ensemble.

Tashkent also presents some interesting (and more modern) sites such as Independence Square, the 375 metres tall Tashkent Tower, the Memorial for Cosmonauts and Amir Temur Maydoni. The city's metro stations are beautifully decorated; I especially liked the outer-space themed Kosmonavtlar station.

A visit to the country's bazaars is an interesting experience - I visited the Central Bazaar in Bukhara, Siyob Bazaar in Samarkand and Alay Bazar in Tashkent.

Food was absolutely delicious in Uzbekistan. I loved the national plov rice dish, some very good kebabs, meat pies, various types of meat-filled dumplings and the chak-chak traditional desert. The varied types of tea on offer were also very good, as were the local bread, cognac and delicious varities of halva.

Additional info:
- country entry on Wikipedia
- country profile on Wikivoyage

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