Tashkent Travel Guide

Tashkent is one of the most ancient cities in Central Asia. Archaeological finds of artifacts and old city remains dated as far back as IV-III B.C., have been acknowledged. During its history, Tashkent had been named Djadj, Chachkent, Shashkent and Binkent. The name Tashkent was first mentioned in historical transcripts in the IX century.

The sunny Uzbek metropolis is a modern city where motifs of the remarkable monuments of the past and contemporary trends of classical  Uzbek architectural style have become harmoniously intertwined. In Tashkent you have a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a world full of wonders, from historic landmarks to unique ethnic souvenirs and handmade accessories offered by numerous shops, as well as dainty masterpieces of local cuisine.

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Main points of interest in Tashkent

khastimamKhast-Imam Square (“Khazrati Imam”) is the religious center of Tashkent. It is located in the old part of the city among  adobe houses and narrow winding streets which survived the 1966 earthquake. There are three several medieval constructions housed on the square: the 16th-century Barak-khan madrassah, Tilla-Shekh Mosque, mausoleum of Islamic preacher  Abu-Bakr Kaffali Shashi and Imam al-Bukhariy Islamic Institute- authoritative higher education institution in the Muslim world. Barak-Khan madrassah houses Central Asian Office of Spiritual Administration of Muslims headed by Mufti. It is here that original manuscript of sacred Osman Koran, or Ottoman Koran, written by khalif Osman in the 7th century, is on display in a special hall.  

The Kaffal Shashi Mausoleum. This monument was erected in honor of the imam Abubakr ibn Ali ibn Ismail kaffolAl Kaffol Al Shoshiy. The initial sepulcher did not survive. The present mausoleum was rebuilt in 1542. This is an asymmetrical domed mausoleum called a khanaka. Khanakas gave shelter to the pilgrims and wanderers with living areas referred to as khudjras. The mausoleums complex also included a mosque and a kitchen premise (oshkhona). Today it has a simple architectural view with a small dome. The preserved details of the mosaic decor indicate former richness of the mausoleum. Artistic decoration of the madrassah’s portal is not typical for Tashkent. Its vaulted circle is made as a niche called a kolab-kari. Tympans (pediments) and bearings are decorated with carved bricks and various mosaic decoration.

barakkhanThe Barak Khan Madrassah. It was built in the XVI century and the construction was supervised by the great Kukeldash. This building is considered one of the most beautiful and unique in Tashkent. Today the madrassah is the hub of art and handcraft souvenir shops of Uzbekistan traditional heritage.

Kukeldash Madrassah. The Kukeldash Madrassah is one of the most significant architectural sites of the kukeldash16th century in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Vizier Kukeldash supervised the construction work of the madrassah, hence this most graceful madrassah was named after him. The main portal with a height of 19.7 m leads to the inner courtyard with a two-storied premises that served as a dormitory. Each section contains a room and entrance that is referred to as an aivan. Two or three students shared one room.

jumaJuma Mosque (Friday Mosque). The first significant building of Tashkent, the Juma Mosque (principal Friday Mosque) was built in 1451 with the financial means of Sheikh Ubaidulla Hkodja Akhror (1404-1490). The principal Friday Mosque was erected on a hill so that one could see that majestic structure from afar. Since then until present day, people call this mosque the Ubaidulla Akhror mosque in memory of the great master of Sufism and leader of the Muslim clergy at that time. Ubaidulla Akhror was also a descendant of the prophet Muhammad. The destructive earthquake of 1868 seriously damaged the Ubaidulla Akhror mosque. In 1888 it was finally restored with finances granted by the Russian Emperor Alexander the 3rd. Later this mosque was renamed the Tsar’s mosque. However, the earthquake of 1966 destroyed this mosque once again. The ruins were brought down in 1997, and a new building was built on the same spot. The original image of this remarkable spot can only be remembered by rare photographs.

Sufi Zangiata Mausoleum. Tamerlane (Timur) builtthe Sufi Zangiata Mausoleum and his wife built the zangiotaAmbar-bibi Mausoleum in the 1490’s. Sufi Zangiata was the fifth “murid” of Sufi Khodja Akhmad Yasavi, who was considered the spiritual forefather of all Turkik tribes of Central Asia and Kazakhstan. The mausoleum complex includes the following structures: Namazgohk mosque (built in 1870), a minaret (built in 1914-1915), the Zangiata mausoleum, an inner courtyard with living accommodations (khudjras) of the previous madrassah (from the 18th –19th centuries), and a cemetery with the Ambar-bibi mausoleum.

decoState Museum of Applied Art of Uzbekistan. This museum was founded in 1937 for exhibiting seasonal handicrafts. The museum artifacts are comprised of over 4 000 pieces, which reveal the history of decorative art of Uzbekistan including wood carvings, ceramic pieces, coins, jewelry art, golden-sewing and embroidery pieces, currently mass produced by the local industry.

Art Museum of Uzbekistan. Art Museum of Uzbekistan was founded in 1918. From 1918 until 1935, museum-artthis museum was located in the former palace of Prince N. Romanov. From 1935 until 1966, however, the museum was relocated at the National House. A new building for the museum was built in 1974 on the same location where the National House was located. The initial museum collections were the possessions of Prince N. Romanov and other private collectors. These pieces were then nationalized in April of 1918 and other pieces were added from museum in Moscow and Leningrad. In the 1930’s, the museum’s collection was extremely large and portrayed mainly works of Uzbekistan artists. The works of European and Russian artists (from Prince Romanov’s collection), art from other sources and the local work of Uzbek artists are among the exiting exhibits.

subwayTashkent Metro. Among public transportation systems deserving recognition, the Tashkent Metro is one of the most remarkable sights of the city. The entire population of Tashkent and republic are very proud of it. The Tashkent Metro has become the visit card of Tashkent. All of the stations are splendidly designed where its cleanness and coolness in the summer are two of its top qualities. Originality and peculiarity, bright images of metro stations acknowledged both locally and abroad are the result of the creative work of architects, artists, engineers and builders from the Soviet era.

Independence Square. Independence Square (Mustakillik) is the largest square in Tashkent, surrounded mustakillikby public buildings and fountains. The administrative bodies of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Senate are located on the main square of the republic. Monuments symbolizing liberty and independence are located here. The Independence monument signifying the sovereignty of Uzbekistan is represented by a large golden globe with the outline of the country’s borders. The monument of a happy mother symbolizes the image of the motherland and the infant symbolizes the future of the young independent republic. There is one more memorial dedicated to the victims of World War II. It is the Square of Memory, which displays a mourning mother statue bent over an eternal fire. Over a million Uzbek citizens perished on the battle fields fighting against fascist Germany. Their names are written in the Memory Book with golden letters.

gabtNavoi Theatre.  The State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet named after Alisher Navoi is the biggest theater on the territory of Central and Southeast Asia. Its achievements represent the great pride of the Uzbek nation and its peoples. The theater originated from the State Uzbek concert-ethnographical ensemble, which included the famous Tamara Khanum. The search of a synthesis between traditional architecture and classic European architecture is typical for the architecture of a theatre. The portal is created with deep lancet arches and the side galleries repeat the motif of the main portal. An audience hall, numerous lobbies and staircases are all made of marble. Traditional motifs of architectural schools from Tashkent, Ferghana, Bukhara, Khoresm, and Samarkand are used in the panels. From the opening date of the theatre in November 1947, not only theatrical performances take place here. Memorials and other solemn events are also held at Navoi Theatre. In the search of new roads, the Navoi Theatre always takes the road of creation.

Sheikh Zainuddin Mausoleum. Sheikh Zainuddin Kuyi Orifon al-Toshkandiy is the author of religious treatiseszain and member of Sufic order Sukhravardiya. The date of his birth is unknown, but Sheikh Zainuddin is believed to die at the age of 95. His father Sheikh Shahobiddin Umar As-Suhravardi, the founder of a famous Suhrabardiya Sufi order (1097-1168), sent Sheikh Zainuddin to Tashkent to disseminate the ideas of the order. Sheikh Zainuddin was buried in the cemetery of Orifon settlement beyond Kukcha gate (presently the urban territory of Tashkent). The mausoleum is of the khanaka type. Next to the mausoleum there is a chillahona  (subterranean monastic cell), dating to the 7th and 8th centuries, where Sheikh Zainuddin used to meditate in seclusion within 40 days, and a 14th- century chartak. The mausoleum was constructed in the 14th century by the great ruler Amir Temur before his military campaign to India. It was 18×16 metres in area and 20.7 metres in height. In the late 19th century the mausoleum was rebuilt.

kaldirgachKaldirgoch-biy Mausoleum. The building of Kaldirgoch-biy Mausoleum is topped with a pyramidal dome, unusual for Uzbekistani architecture. The mausoleum was built in the early 15th century. Unfortunately, the original interior artistic decoration, as well as courtyard constructions, hasn’t survived. Kaldirgoch-biy Mausoleum, located on the site of former Sheikhantahur cemetery, is highly honored by the Kazakhs living in the south of Kazakhstan and in Tashkent region. According to a popular legend the mausoleum was named after early-18th century Kazakh Duglat clan leader Toliy-biy nicknamed “Kaldir-goch” (“Swallow”).

Sheikh Khavendiy at-Takhur (Sheikhantahur) Mausoleum. Sheikhantahur architectural complex shaikhwas formed around the memorial of a much respected Sufi Sheikh Khavendiy at-Takhur Mausoleum. Being one of the major architectural monuments of the Uzbek capital, the complex is located in the city centre on a rectangular site formed by Abay, Alisher Navoiy, Sheikhantahur and Abdulla Kodiriy streets.

yunusYunus-Khan Mausoleum. Mausoleum of Yunus-Khan of Mogolistan is located a short way from Sheikhantahur Mausoleum. It is one of the monumental structures of the 15th century that has survived to the present day. The mausoleum was most likely constructed by Yunus-Khan’s son Akhmad sometime in 1487 – 1502 after the death of Yunus-Khan. 

Chapan-Ota Mausoleum was built in the early 15th century by order of a prominent scholar and ruler choponotaMirzo Ulugbek. Legend says that Chapan-Ota was the Sufi tutor, patron of shepherds, who saved Tashkent from foreign invasion by dropping a mountain on the enemy army. On hearing this legend Ulugbek ordered to immortalize the scene of the event by constructing here a mausoleum. Eventually,  a mosque and cells for praying  appeared round the mausoleum. The burial site itself is located on one of the hills in the outskirts of Samarkand. Chapan-ota mausoleum is a one-room khanaka crowned with a dome and guldasta-towers. In the late 20th century the mausoleum was restored: the dome and the towers were decorated with tin plates, a new painted door was installed. It is noteworthy that the building was made of red and yellow bricks which gave the mausoleum an unusual multicoloured appearance. The mausoleum is entered through a high 4.5-metre portal. The cells haven’t survived but the restorers managed to reconstruct some of them. The mausoleum is located in the city’s residential district and is a place of pilgrimage to Muslim population.

romanovRomanov’s residence (Palace of the Grand Duke Nikolay Konstantinovich Romanov). The former Romanov’s residence was constructed in 1891 under the project of two architects V.S.Getselman and A.L.Benoi for the Grand Duke Nikolay Konstantinovich who was exiled to the remote area of the empire –Turkestan. The palace is a long two-storey building made of burnt yellow-grey bricks with basements specially equipped for habitation as it was rather cool there even during the oppressive heat. The basement also housed a spacious kitchen. The building of the palace was flanked with round towers gracefully blending with the building. Next to the palace there was laid out a garden by a well known Tashkent botanist and pharmacist I.I.Krauze. A circular wide alley in the form of roofed glass portico with columns led to the porch facing the Kaufman Avenue. This area was railed off by high intricately wrought grating with entrance and exit gates. Between the grating and entrance alley there was laid out a parterre edged by hedgerow. On both sides of the front staircase, on marble bases, there are bronze natural scale statues of lying deer with big branchy horns. The left wing of the palace accommodated the Grand Duke’s apartments, whereas the left wing was occupied by the apartments of the duke’s wife.

Amir Temur Museum. The Museum of History of Temurides (Amir Temur Museum) was opened in Tashkentmuseum-tim in 2006.The museum collection displays archeological, ethnographic and numismatic artifacts, ornament samples, military accoutrement, various items that were brought to Amir Temur empire through the Great Silk Road. Here one can see such valuable historical documents as diplomatic correspondence of Amir Temur and his descendant with European monarchs, skillfully made  miniatures, copies of Amir Temur’s portraits painted by medieval European artists. The original paintings are exhibited in the National Library of France.   

squareAmir Temur Square. In the centre of Tashkent there is a small square at present bearing the name of Amir Temur. In 1882, by order of general M. Chernyaev, at the intersection of two central streets – Moskovskiy and Kaufmanskiy avenues, there was laid out a small square just in front of the Turkestan Military Command. The park was designed by architect  N. Ulyanov and initially was called ‘Konstantinovskaya square’. The square was passable for vehicles. The modern name was given to the square in 1994 to honor the third anniversary of Uzbekistan’s independence. Same year there was installed the bronze statue of Amir Temur on horseback.

Chorsu bazaar and Old Town. Chorsu bazaar- the symbol of the Old Town- is a traditional oriental bazaarchorsu divided into two sections: merchandise market and food market where one can buy fresh fruits, dried fruits, local bread and spices from all over the world. Here the tradesmen offer you a wide array of handmade souvenirs from bric-a-brac to metal and ceramic tableware. The bazaar area is spotted with numerous chaikhonas (teahouses) and small stalls offering the visitors the dishes of national Uzbek cuisine: plov, shashlyk, lagman, norin and many other unusual dainty but inexpensive dishes.

cathedralRoman Catholic church. The construction of Catholic church in Tashkent was initiated by priest Justin Benaventura Pranaytis, a Curator of the Turkestan region. The implementation of the project by a well-known Polish architect Ludwig Panchakevich was started in 1912. Initially it was constructed by catholic soldiers who served in Tashkent. In later period the prisoners of war, among whom there were many skilled engineers, sculptors and bricklayers, were involved in the works. After the revolution of 1917, when Bolsheviks took the power, the construction works were suspended mainly due to the shortage of financial funds. On  22 October, 2000, the building of revitalized Catholic Cathedral of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was consecrated by archbishop Marian Oles- Apostolic Nuncio in Kazakhstan and Central Asia  from 1994 to 2001.

Uspensky Cathedral (Holy Assumption Cathedral Church). Uspensky Cathedral in Tashkent is uspenskyan Orthodox cathedral church of Tashkent eparchy, that is the principal church of Tashkent eparchy since 1945. The church has been rebuilt several times and acquired its present appearance in the late 1950s.

luthLutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is located in Sadyk Azimov street (former Jukovsky street). The first mass in this church was performed on October 3, 1899. The church was designed by the famous Tashkent architect Alexei Benoit and constructed by Lutheran community with money donated by I. Krauze. In Soviet times, the building of the church was used as a warehouse. In late 1970s it was conveyed to the Tashkent Conservatory, and after the restoration it hosted opera studio of the conservatory. It was at that time that an organ was installed in the church and concerts of organ music were regularly held. In the 1990s the building was passed to the newly established Lutheran community though at that time Lutheran congregation in Tashkent was rather scanty.

Tashkent  Museum of Railway Engineering. In 1988 Central Asian Railway was celebrating its centenary.museum-rail During the festivities on Tashkent station (Northern Railway Station) there were exhibited two locomotives servicing Central Asian railways. The exhibition aroused a keen interest among the city residents and guests, and numerous requests were submitted to make the exhibition permanent. Thus on August 4, 1989 when Uzbekistan was celebrating the Day of railway workers, the official opening of Tashkent Museum of Railway Engineering took place. Tashkent Museum of Railway Engineering is a member of the World Association of technical museums of railway engineering. The open-air museum is home to an impressive collection of old trains including 13 steam-engines, 18 diesel and 3 electric locomotives, 10 carriages and  the most interesting samples of the 20th-century repair-construction equipment. Three carriages accommodate the exposition that tells about Central Asian railways evolution and displays samples of communication equipment, decorations and medals, railman’s uniform of the past. The tour round the vast territory of the museum is conducted on special excursion train running along narrow-gauge railroad (750mm gauge). There are two trains, two TU7A diesel locomotives, two summer carriages decorated in oriental style, three PV38 carriages. During the excursion the visitors have the opportunity to learn about the history of railways, various locomotive devices and other railway equipment.

Background information in brief

Known as an urban settlement from the 1st-2nd centuries BCE, Tashkent was mentioned in ancient chronicles under various names: Shash-tepa, Chach-tepa. Starting from the 11th century the city got its modern name Tashkent presumably meaning ‘Stone town’ (from Uzbek ‘tosh’ –‘stone’).  In 1586 Tashkent was conquered by the Kazakhs khans and it continued to be under the Kazakh authority for almost 200 years, with short periods of subjection to Kokand and Bukhara rulers. In about 1630 Tashkent became the official residence of the rulers of Kazakh khanate.  In 1784 Yunus Hojja, the governor of Sheikhantaur region consolidated the city under his power and formed an independent Tashkent state which by the early 19th century managed to annex vast territories nearby. However, after the death of Yunus Hojja, the state was colonised by Kokand khanate (1807-1808).

Under Kokand khans Tashkent was surrounded by a moat and castellated adobe outer wall which was 20 metres in length and had 12 gates.  The new part of the city was built after the city was taken by Russian troops in 1865. The Ankhor canal became the natural boundary between the Old Town and New town.

In 1865 Tashkent was annexed to the Russian empire and from 1867 it was the principal city of Syrdarya region and Turkestan General Governorship, as well as the capital of Tashkent district within the Syrdarya region. The division of the city into Old town and New Town became more distinct, with old part of the city being the seat of handicrafts and trade and the new part accommodating industrial enterprises which appeared on the territory of former gardens, fields and country cottages.

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