Friday, October 30, 2009

Neighbouring Regions of Karakalpakstan - Navoi

Navoi city is located 347 m. above sea level, on the left bank of the Zaravshan River 360 km. southwest of Tashkent (400 km.). Navoi city is the center of Navoi region.Most of the province is covered by the vast Kyzyl-kum desert. The population in 2004 was 825,000 people living in eight administrative districts with the main centres of population being Navoi City, Uchkuduck and Zerafshan.

The Navoi region like Khoresm and Bukhara also adjoins the Republic of Karakalpakstan

"Navoi" is named after the great Uzbek poet, philosopher and statesman Alisher Navoi and has a total area of 110 800 sq km or some 24,8% of the total land area of Uzbekistan.

Navoi today is one of the most industrially developed regions of Uzbekistan the economy being based on large mining, metallurgical and chemical industries. Including the Navoi Mining and Metallurgy Complex, OJSC “Navoiazot” the “JV JSC “Electrochemical factory” and JSC “Qyzylkumcement” (both centres of chemical production), JSC “UPP” (Construction materials), and OJSC "Navoi" (electric power). Currently there are some 40 industrial joint enterprises operating in Navoi with companies from China, Russia and South Korea predominating.

The agriculture sector is also important and includes the growing of cotton, grains, vegetables, watermelons, viticulture, astrakhan sheep and silkworms. There are also a number of food processing and textile plants.

Transport infrastructure is well developed: there are 8 rail stations, 3 airports and 4100km of developed roads. Navoi Airport is also now a major cargo hub for the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Sites to Visit
Whilst it does not have so many historical monuments as its neighbours its two parks Yujniy (South park)  is the favourite places among tourists and citizens.  Stadium, swimming pool and cinemas are located in this area. 

Near the City of Navoi in the town of Karmana is the beautiful Mirsaid Bahrom and Hanak Kasim Shayh mausoleums complexes, dating back to X-XVI centuries also nearby these are the ruins of Rabati Malik caravan-saray (XI century) once on the silk road.Also on the way to the town of Nurat (75 km away from Navoi town) is an ancient blacksmith forge from 15 c., and a system of wells dating to Middle ages.

In Nurat itself are found the ruins of the prayer house of Shaihul Nuri and the Spanjvakta Mosque built in 1582 by Emir Abdullah. The town also hosts the famous holy site "The Chashma mineral Springs". The Kasim Sheik mausoleum (X—XI centuries) is also located near the city.

Nearby to Nurat are the beautiful and stark Nurat mountains in which many ancient rock inscriptions exist, dating to the bronze era which alone are worth coming to Navoi to visit. Numerous ancient rock paintings of people in strange clothes, some of which can be interpreted as images of "ancient astronauts" are found Sarmish gorge which is recognized as the largest canyon rock art gallery in the world. About four thousand of petroglyphs, which are engraved on the black shale are found in the area.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Neighbouring Region of Karakalpakstan - Bukhara

"The Kalayan Mosque at night"


Situated in the south-west of Uzbekistan the Bukhara Region has a total area of 39 400 sq km supporting a population of 13 84700 people, 68% (rural). The Kizil-Kum desert occupies a large part of the region. The climate is continental and arid. There are 11 administrative districts the capital the City of Bukhara, with 263 400 people. Other centres are the towns of Gidlduvan, Romitan, and Kagan.

The region is the traditional centre of Uzbekistan's oil and gas industry and has rich Mineral resources including graphite, marble, granite, gypsum, sulphur and limestone. It is also a centre for cotton and the production of textiles and also has other light industry. The main agricultural products are cotton and cereals, karakul lambs and sericulture (silk). Bukhara is also known for producing astrakhan rugs with the only factory in Uzbekistan.

One of the most ancient cities of the East Bukhara sits at the crossroads of two ancient trade routes and was a large commercial centre on the Great Silk Road and like Khiva it is famous as an open air museum.

"Poi-Kalon (Minaret) - Bukhara"

Bukhara celebrated its 2,500-year anniversary in 1997; legend connects the appearance of the city with the name of one of the deities of the Zoroastrian pantheon; Siyavush. At different times the city had been known under different names: Numizkat, Madinat-as Sufia, Fakhirs, Vikhara (the latter in Sanskrit means “monastery”).

In the 9th century Bukhara became the capital of the powerful Samanid state.It was during its period as the capital of the Saminid state in the 9th and 10th centuries that Bukhoro – i- sharif (Nobel Bukhara), blossomed as a religious and cultural mecca. Among those nurtured here were the philosopher scientist Abu Ali Ibn Sino (Avicenna after whom the word medicine is derived) and the poets Firdausi and Rudaki still figures of great stature in the Persian and Islamic world. The famous doctor and philosopher Avicenna spent his childhood here, the poet Rudaki composed his verses here and medieval historian and poet Firdausi lived here, too.

Bukhara’s library was glorified for its wealth of manuscripts written in Greek, Arab, Persian, Chinese and other languages. In the Middle Ages Bukhara had become one of the core religious centres of Asia: numerous mosques and madrasahs were constructed. In 18th century Bukhara became the centre of the Bukhara Emirate which existed up until the beginning of the 20th century. Today Bukhara is an administrative centre of Bukhara Province. The city has a population of 250,000 peoples.

Bukhara has preserved its history well and is visited by tourists from all over the world. Afterwards came the smaller Karahhanid and Karakitay dynasties however and Bukhara was badly damaged in 1220 when it was attacked by Genghis Khan and by 1370 it fell under the shadow of Timur’s Samarkand.

It is also considered to be a place of glory in the Muslim world; since it nurtured the author of the second most important Islamic book after Koran, the book of authentic hadiths, "Al-jami as sahih" known as the Imam Al-Bukhari and is the burial place of Nakshbandi- the founder of Sufism and the author of religious warrant "Nakshbandi". Both make Bukhara an important place of pilgrimage.

Those who visit Bukhara, will likely see strange "shaggy hats" on the top of the minarets. These are storks` nests. The “white bird of hope” serves as the city's symbol, a symbol of its firmness and stability. More than once throughout its history this rich city suffered invasion. The most devastating that of Mongols, but each time Bukhara revived; and what is more, it always revived on the same place unlike the neighbouring capital of Khiva that kept on moving to new locations.

The most ancient part of Bukhara is its citadel , the Ark, where archaeologists excavated finds dating back to the 4th -3rd century B.C. It is a twenty meter high artificial mound, at the top of the entrance ramp is the 17th century Juma (Friday) Mosque. The Ark now houses a museum on the city’s history, and the Zindan (emir’s palace) is now a big tourist attraction, showcasing his harem, treasury and such skin-crawling rooms as the Bug Pit, a torture chamber and the dungeons built initially during the 11th - 12th centuries and rebuilt after the Mongol invasions.

Outside the fort is the Registan once famous as an execution ground. It has witnessed some brutal executions; in its time perhaps the most infamous being the killings of British officers Col. Charles Stoddart and Capt. Arthur Connolly in 1842. Victims of a misunderstanding between the Emir of Bukhara and the British government (which failed to supply its emissaries with the appropriate gifts and royal letters of introduction), the two were imprisoned in the Bug Pit at the Zindan , then forced to dig their own graves before their ceremonial beheading in front of the Ark (the Emir’s palace).

The highest point in the city is the grandiose Kalyan (“Great”) Minaret built in 1127,towering 47 meters over the city is the greatest remnant of truly old Bukhara; Genghis Khan who destroyed most of the city, left the minaret standing, supposedly because he was struck by its beauty. The minaret, which draws visitors up its 105 steps to see a panoramic view of the city, was once the tallest structure in Central Asia. It has been called the “Tower of Death,” because, legend has it, executions were often performed by throwing the condemned from its heights.

Slightly narrowing at the top, its round tower it is the tallest minaret in Central Asia From top to bottom it is trimmed with a relief design constructed of blue glazed tiles. The ornamented bands ringing the minaret emphasizing its size and upward direction. At the same time, the diversity and rhythm of ornamental motifs enriching what is a rather simple and clear architectural form.

At the foot of the minaret connected by vaulted galleries is the famous is the “Poi Kalyan” ensemble. Opposite the mosque, its luminous blue domes in sharp contrast to the surrounding brown is the still functioning Miri-Arab madrasah built at the beginning of the 16th century it is amongst the most striking in the whole of Central Asia.

One of the oldest monuments of Bukhara is Ismail Samani mausoleum built at the beginning of the 10th century by the founder of the Samanid dynasty. The mausoleum is a perfect brick cube covered with a hemispherical cupola. This mausoleum of the samanids emirs with its beautiful decorative elements was the first major buildings in Central Asia to be built of fired bricks.

Nearby is the Chasma (city springs) of Ayub mazar that date back to the 12th century. According to the legend, the biblical prophet Ayub was once passing this waterless part of Bukhara, stabbed the ground with his stick and instantly there appeared a source with clear healing water. These artificial pools “hauzes” were not only for practical use (water and to cool the populous) but also to decorate the city.

In Bukhara at one time there were more than eighty pools. The most famous one is Lyabi-Hauz, which is surrounded by a plaza with cafes where people gather to eat, smoke and talk throughout the day. On the east side of the Lyabi-Hauz plaza is a statue of the wise fool Khodja Nasreddin (created by the folklorists Dakiki who also hailed from Bukhara) who appears in sunni teaching tales throughout the islamic world. Further east is the Nadir Divanbegi Madressa (1622) and to the west of the square the Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka. North is the Madrassah of Kulbaba-Kukedash (1568/1569) once the largest centre for religious studies in Central Asia.

Bukhara is not only famous for its mosques and madrasahs, mausoleums but also for its caravan-sarays, baths and multi domed bazzars which have been preserved and are still used as the main market. The bazzar includes the Taki-Zargaron ("the Dome of Jewellers"), the Telpak-Furushon ("The dome of cap makers") and the Taki-Saraffon ("The Money exchange").

Other important historical and architectural monuments of Bukhara:

* Ensemble of Bola Hauz, (early 18th - 20th centuries)
* Mausoleum of Samani, (9th - 10th centuries)
* Mazar of Chashmoi-Ayub, (1380 or 1384/1385)
* Madrasah of Abdulla Khan, (1596/1598)
* Madrasah of Madari Khan, (1556/1557)
* Mosque of Baland, (early 16th century)
* Ensemble of Gaukushon, (16th century)
* Khonaka of Zaynutdin Khoji, (1555)
* Khanaka of Nodir Divanbegi, (1620)
* Madrasah of Ulugbek, (1417)
* Madrasah of Abdulaziz Khan, (1652)
* Mosque of Bola Hauz, (1712)
* Mausoleum of Sayfiddin Boharziy, (2nd half of 13th - 14th centuries)
* Mausoleum of Buyon Kuli Khan, (2nd half of 14th, 15th or 16th c.)
* Mosques of Namazgoh, (12th - 16th century)
* Khanaka of Fayzabad, (1598/1599)
* Madrasah of Chor-minor, (1807)
* Chor-Bakr - The burial place of Jubayri Sheik's family, (1560/1563)

Outside of the city is

* The Summer Palace of Bukhara Emir Sitorai Mokhi Hosa, (late 19th century).
* The Holy Complex of Bahautdin Nakshbandi - includes the burial tomb of Nakshbandi
(1318-98)- the founder of the most influential Sufisi order and the author of religious warrant "Nakshbandi". One of the most holy places in the Muslim world.

Other places of interest in Bukhara Province are the Vardanzi and Kyzylkum Nature Reserves both established in the 1970ies to protect the rare Bukharin deer. Also found in the parks are the amudarian fasan, steppe cat, jackal, antelopes, wolves, various species of snakes and rodents.

A description of the main attractions:

1. Citadel Ark (VII - XX Centuries) - most ancient of all the Bukhara’s architectural monuments. Built on the place of a more ancient original fortress, Ark has seen multiple reconstructions and served as a residence for Bukharian rulers. The Citadel covers an area of about 35,000 sq. m. Mint and jeweller workshop, Vasir`s (minister) offices, jail, warehouses, small emir’s mosque, harem - all situated in the Citadel. Today Ark has number of museums: History Museum, Philately Museum and an Ethnography Museum.

2. One of the most famous architectual masterpieces is the Samanid Mausoleum (9th to 10th Centuries) - Family burial-vault of the Bukharian Samanid governors, one of the earliest known monuments of burnt brick built at the territory of Uzbekistan and perfectly preserved to our days. Architecture of the monument amazes by its harmonious simplicity, proportionality and singularity. The monument does not have any external plastering or tiling, instead, the builders were using just bricks positioning in such a way that to create unbelievably unique patterns, which change their look as the day progresses depending on the light intensity from deep shadows to a light and transparent lace.

3. Poi-Kalyan Complex including a cathedral mosque Kalyan (15th century) and the almost 50-metre tower of Kalyan minaret rises in all its splendour over the city
minaret Kalyan (1127). The facade of the mosque is decorated by glazed bricks, and the domes and the arches - by the superbly restored mosaic tiling intricately composed in inimitable epigraphic, geometrical and vegetable designs. Minaret Kalyan is 45.6m high and even today is the highest building in Bukhara. External surface of the tower is adorned in ten decorative belts each having its own geometrical pattern of bricks. A magnificent "sky light" completes the vertical of the minaret.

4. Chor-Minor (1807) - the original structure presenting what is left of a once small madrasah with a gateway structure of four small (some believe, Indian-style) minarets.

5. Kukeldash Madrasah (XVI), Lyabi-Haus Complex (XVII) – an basin of bricks 36m x 46m x 5m set in the wrench of 500-year old mulberry trees, a largest in Bukhara Kukeldash Madrasah and two structures linked to a name of the Bukharian Minister someone Nadir Divan-Begi: the Hanako (hostel and mosque combination) and Madrasah (both XVII).

6. A cult architectural complex of Bahautdin Nakshbandi (XIV - XVII) - created on the burial place of Nakshbandi – the founder of the Sufi Nakshbandia Order and a most respected saint and patron of Bukharian townsfolk. The complex includes two large mosques, a Holy Grave of Nakshbandi, a sacred well, a minaret, a basin and a trunk of an old mulberry tree ostensibly planted by Nakshbandi himself.

7. Sitora-i Mohi Hosa (XIX-XX) – the summer country-side residence of Bukhara emirs. Architectural style of the Palace is eclectic to include elements of both Eastern and European architecture. Interior most richly adorned in fretwork, white alabaster- and wood carving and marble supplemented with true masterpieces of the Bukhara textile craftsmen. Huge courtyard where antelope-gazelle used to roam and where peacocks and pheasants still walk about harmoniously completes a unity of the architectural ensemble.

8. The Jeyran Antelope Sanctuary - is situated 40 kilometres away from Bukhara near the town of Karaulbazar in the steppe land area. On its huge territory variety of wild animals are being preserved such as jeyran (steppe antelope), cheetah and Prjevalski Horse. Tourists have a chance to photograph the nearly extinct species in their natural habitat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Qarataw Vodka

People in Karakalpakstan are very proud of their Vodka which is reputedly one of the best in Uzbekistan.Vodka is sold in half litre bottles (sometimes 250gm) and also see below in 1.25 litre display bottles.

Qarataw Vodka

Toasting is an important part of Karakalpak Culture. Every guest takes his turn as toast master. The toast master stands up, his glass of vodka in hand and delivers a short speech, which ideally includes the following elements: thank you to the host, praise of the host or special celebrant/s (wedding/birthday), something witty or from the heart, and best wishes to the toastee their family and for all at the table for long life, good health and prosperity.

Then everybody clinks their glasses in the centre of the table or if a large gathering around the table. If you are drinking a decent sip will do, however in a direct toast you are expected not leave anything in your glass. When drinking at a celebration it is best to rapidly lay into a strong foundation of bread and cheese since the first toast usually will be given within minutes.

In many households in Karakalpakstan vodka is also an essential part for dinner, especially meat dishes. The other  most common brand is No'kis also made in the same distillery.

1.25 litres Qarataw Vodka

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Transport in Karakalpakstan

Air Transport

There are three airports in Karakalpakstan: Nukus, Muynak and Turtkul. In Muynak and Turtkul the runways are only able to take small aircraft.

Nukus City Airport has the capability of landing large passenger and freight aircraft. Flights to and from Tashkent (twice/three times a day) and to Moscow, St Petersburg and Samara in the Russian Federation (3-4 times a week).

Timetable for flights from Nukus to Tashkent

Uzbekistan Airlines has nonstop flights between Nukus and Tashkent.

Operational days
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Wednesday, Sunday


Timetable for flights from Tashkent to Nukus

Operational days
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday
Wednesday, Sunday
Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday

Road Transport

In Karakalpakstan there are 4,241 km of made roads and highways with almost all settlements within the republic being accessible by road.

Rail Transport

Railroads in the republic total 880 km total in length. The main railway from the east of Uzbekistan passing through Nukus onto Kungrad. The Chardjou-Kungrad-Beneu-Makat cargo railroad also passes through Karakalpakstan onto Russia and other European countries.


Karakalpak Telecom provide republic wide landline. Most post offices have nationwide and in Nukus in addition International Telephone Booths. Providers of cellular communication have good coverage in all built up areas.

Day Trips from Nukus - Mizdahkan

Photo: Mizdahkan Hilltop Credit: Geocoucou

The Archaeological and Architectural complex of ancient Mizdahkan covers a vast area of over 200 hectares.
A half day tour of Mizdahkan requires around 2-3 hours in total from Nukus to visit. It is located 19km accessible by bus / taxi from Nukus; to visit including visiting the beautiful Mazlumkhan Sulu, Shamun nabi and Halfa Yereshep mausoleums and the archaeological site Gyaur-Kala Caravanserai.
Mizdahkhan is located 3 km from the town of Xo‘jayli also spelled as Khodjeyli and Khodzheyli (Uzbek: Xo‘jayli / Хўжaйли; Karakalpak: Хojeli / Хожели; Russian: Ходжейли)  and is situated along one of the northern branches of the Silk Road - today the main arterial route from Kunya-Urgench across the border in Turkmenistan to Nukus and then onto the northern regions of the Republic - Kungrad and Muynak and up onto the Ustyurt plateau.

Mizdahkan sits on three hills on the south-western outskirts of Khodjeili, and consists of the antique pre - Mongol town of Gayur - kala, the religious centre the hill of Mazlumkhan sulu and the ruins of the unfortified city built during the period of the Golden Horde (the 13th-14th centuries AD.) that was once a major trade and handicraft centre of the ancient Khorezmian state. The first settlement on the site was formed sometime in the 4th century B.C. and building lasted until the 13th century A.D when the city was destroyed by the invading Mongol-Tatar tribes.

During 1985 - 1999 archaeologists excavated dwellings, streets and small hills containing rich ceramic complexes (pottery kilns and ceramics for food and wine), various domestic utensils, glass, unique ossuary’s, coins and highly artistic silver and golden articles. Many Zoroastrian sepulchres being preserved in the eastern part of Mizdahkan.

Today, one finds thousands of tombs, mausoleums, shrines and small qalas all over this hill. Some researches believe that the doctrine of Zoroastrianism was initiated and its religious teacher Zoroaster wrote his original holy book "The Avesta" at Mizdahhan.

Photo: Capitals - This finds show the high level of architectural décor in Khorezm in the 13th-14th c AD, which influenced not only on architecture in the steppe cities of Golden Horde, but also adjoining regions in Central Asia and the Northern Caucasus.

Gyaur Kala

Gyaur Kala (or Qala) meaning infidel fortress (name given by the Arab conquerors) is one of three Gyaur Kalas in the region. One is located not to far away across the river and south beside the Sultan Uvays hills and the other in Turkmenistan's Merv (old Avestan country of Mouru).The naming of these Kalas or fortresses as Gyaur Kalas assures us that they belonged to Zoroastrian kingdoms as the Arabs were particularly hostile and derogatory towards the religion.

The fortress appears to have been constructed and occupied by the 4th century BCE during the height of the Persian Achaemenid Empire. It also appears to have been destroyed by fire towards the end of the 2nd century BC and then rebuilt and occupied up to the 4th century AC until it was once again destroyed.

Photo:Mizdahkan looking west with the Necropolis in the foreground and
Gyaur Kala in the background. Credit: Zoroastrian Heritage


The two hills closest to Khodjeili are covered by a vast necropolis - a large, elaborate, ancient cemetery - literally a city of tombs and graves. Numerous ossuary's, coins, domestic utensils, items made from glass, and exquisitely crafted gold ornaments and objects have been excavated and removed from the site.

The oldest burials sites are found on the north-eastern hill and date back to the 2nd century BC. These sites show the use of Kurgan like burial practices, a practice prevalent amongst the nomadic people. Kurgans had mound covered graves that often contained artefacts. memorabilia and items to assist the dead in their afterlife. Usually, the size of the mound indicated the status of the person.

Over time the necropolis has been shared by many different communities and people of different religious backgrounds.

In the early 7th century the people of Khvarizem began to make ossuary's out of alabaster, many of which were decorated with a scene of mourning that some have interpreted as the legendary death of Siyavush, son of the Kyanian King Kai Kaus, a legend that was later recounted by the poet Ferdowsi in his epic poem the Shahnameh.

The eastern hill also contains a number of Zoroastrian ossuary burial sites dating from the 5th century AD. In 651 AD the Arab advance had reached neighbouring Khorasan, overcoming the defenders and captured the city of Merv. It was not long before they would arrive at the outskirts of Mizdakan and in 712 CE, both Mizdakan and other parts of Khwarazem fell. The Arab armies destroyed all the Zoroastrian fire temples and according to a report by al-Beruni, killed scores of the Zoroastrian priests. While some Zoroastrian burials continued through the 8th and 9th centuries, these soon ceased and the site was then on used for Muslim burials.

Photo: Maslum Khan Sulu

Famous Legends

The mausoleum Maslumkhan-Sulu is a multi-domed construction partially constructed  underground. Associated with the burial mounds of Tagisken and the mausoleum of Balandy II. The rich architectural décor of Maslumkhan-Sulu consists of bow-shaped tiles-crosspieces and a system of constructive stalactites. The monument was built during the epoch of the Golden Horde and has historical parallels to architectural monuments of the Western Kazakhstan and the Volga region.

Mizdahkan is shrouded a number of colourful local legends and folk beliefs that are all intertwined in the history of the complex.  On the top of the eastern hill in the 12th-13th centuries there was built the unusual semi-underground mausoleum the Maslum khan-Sulu. A young princess whom it is said died for her love of a man she could not marry. You can enter the mausoleum which has been restored to its former beauty. It is serene and beautiful inside, its walls lined with geometric patterns and carvings. It has been a place of local veneration for centuries.

Photo:Tomb of Maslum Khan

The legend goes like this - A long time ago lived Maslum Khan the beautiful daughter of the ruler of  Mizdahkan. Many rich and noble men sought her love, but she fell in love with a poor man. However she was a princess and he was a labourer, so there was no way for them to marry. She rejected all her suitors and the angry father decreed that his daughter could only marry the man who could build a minaret to heaven overnight. Inspired by his love, the lovestruck labourer built such a minaret and in the morning came to the palace to claim his prize. But the ruler still refused to let his daughter marry. The grief stricken youth jumped from the minaret that he has built himself and she jumped after him. Only in death could their souls be joined. They were buried together. On top of their grave a mausoleum was built. According to the legend the mausoleum was built from the bricks taken from the minaret that was destroyed by the order of her father.

Today only the domes and the portal of the mausoleum rise over the ground. Through a vaulted corridor down to a small room and further down to the main hall there run stone stairs; the passages from the hall lead to scantily lit small rooms covered by an octahedral vaults. On a hot day, when outside the temperature exceeds 40 degrees C, it is really cool in here; the streams of sunlight passing through the windows in the vaults illuminates blue mosaics on the walls and the vault of the mausoleum.

The niches of the main hall contain two tombstones covered with white and blue glazed tiles containing gilt patterns. The tombstones are decorated with Arabic epitaphs made in naskh script and quoting the lines from the Koran. There are neither names nor death dates of the people buried inside.

Just south of Muzkum khan-Sulu Mausoleum are the ruins of the most mysterious structure on Mizdakhan  the  Erejep Caliph Mausoleum built from adobe and hard-burned bricks. According to the legend, it is the burial place of a famous Islamic saint who preached in the area during the early Islamic period. It is believed that after his death that his spirit continues to do good deeds.

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the solid foundation of the mausoleum, built in the 9th-10th centuries, has a cane base to protect the building from ground water and to make it earthquake-resistant. However, only three walls and fragments of the dome and part of the façade (brickwork of the former portal and entranceway).

All around the mausoleum lies heaps of polished baked bricks. Pilgrims who have come there to pray building hundreds of little 'wish' piles by putting the fallen bricks one atop the other. According to tradition the number of the bricks in such a pyramid must be only "seven", and one must not take bricks from other pyramids – destroying the happiness of someone else you cannot build your own happiness. To take away even one brick means that you are committing a sin.

The magic power of the number "Seven" is also connected with the mausoleum of the Saint Shamun-Nabi. His mausoleum stands on the northern hill of Mizdakhan. It is said that he worked wonders, healed the sick, controlled the weather and the movement of the heavenly bodies; he understood the languages of animals and preached the belief in God.

The mausoleum was built in the 18th century on the ruins of an ancient structure. His tomb is an elongated sepulchre, some 25 metres long, topped by seven cupola domes. It is said that his tomb was built long so as to confuse pilgrims who liked to souvenir holy relics! However, when archaeologists opened the tomb, no remains were discovered inside.

Photo:Tomb of Shamun Nabi

Next to Shamun-Nabi Mausoleum there is a 5-metre-high burial mound supposedly built over the grave of the saint Djumarat. The mound is the highest point of the eastern hill and it rather nondescript and has a survey marker on top. Djumarat Khassab was a revered butcher. According to legend he used to come to the mound to hand out meat to the poor and needy in times of bad harvests or famine. For his kindness and his compassion he has henceforth always considered a saint.

Sources: A number of sources including;


Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Karakalpakstan Cooking (Some of Central Asia's Finest Cusine)

" Shorpa in preparation"


Karakalpak cusine whilst not that dissimilar to other Central Asian fare is more true to tradition than some and is noted for its high quality ingredients (some really tasty produce found in the Amu Darya delta lands).

They have none of the genetically modified vitamin depleted, tasteless produce (gunk) we endure from "agribusiness" who nowadays dominate our food chain.

The main staples in Karakalpakstan are flat unleavened bread or nan, potatoes, rice and pasta and some beef / mutton or fish.

Sausage, chicken and cheese are expensive and are therefore eaten sparingly.

Muslim beliefs do not prevent the consumption of either pork (albeit it's not that common) or for that matter alcohol. Most people (men) like a nice glass of fine Uzbek red wine or a bottle or two of the famous local "Qarataw" Vodka (particularly at celebrations - lots of toasts).

Most bazaars have a good selection of vegetables and seasonal salads. Including yellow carrots, potatoes, beetroot, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers, dill and coriander. Fruits are particularly good: especially the cherries, apricots, honey melons, water melons, grapes, and pomegranates. Other specialities include natural yogurt and honey.

The usual drinks taken during the meal is black or green tea served with sugar. In summer cold green tea also favoured.

Karakalpaks are also big on snacks and you will often find them eating dried fruit, nuts and sunflower seeds. Soft drinks, biscuits, chocolate bars, and other sweets are also common at celebrations.

The most frequently encountered dishes in Karakalpakstan include:

Plov - The common staple food for everyday meals but can be elaborated for special celebrations. It consists of chunks of fried mutton with onions, thinly shredded yellow carrot and rice steamed together in a large iron pot.

Shashlyk (Shaslik) - Also known as kebabs, are skewered chunks of mutton or pork barbecued over charcoal and served with sliced raw onions and nan.

Bes barmaq - Is boiled beef with small square cut pieces of pastry boiled in broth.

Ju'weri gu'rtik - Is a pasta dish made with ju'weri (dzhugary) wheat rather than normal wheat in small round pieces boiled in broth with beef.

Kesbas - Is made of pasta cut into slices and boiled in water with meat, carrot, onion, potato tomato and of course salt.

Samsa - Is a pastry pie stuffed with meat and onion or pumpkin, potato, cabbage, mushrooms or nuts and is baked in a tandyr (tandoor) or oven.

- after Plov, Manti is the most popular and favourite dish. It consists of large dumplings stuffed with finely chopped meat, seasoned with various spices and a large amount of onion, and then steamed over water. Can also be stuffed with pumpkin. It is usually served topped with sour cream.

Pelmeni - Stuffed pasta parcels filled with meat or vegetables.

Shorpa - Is a meat and vegetable soup cooked in a Kazan (see photo from my son’s birth celebration).

Lagman - Is a thick noodle soup with thinly-sliced fried meat, garlic and vegetables.

Some Recipes:

Samsa – To start a stiff dough is mixed, and then left for 20-30 minutes under an upturned bowl, then unrolled in plaits and cut on pieces of 10-15 grams. It should not be thicker than 2-2,5 mm. Edges more thin than the middle. Forcemeat is put in the centre, formed in dough and being baked in a high temperature. For the dough the following ingredients are required: flour - 25 g, water - 105 g, salt - 6 g; for forcemeat - mutton or beef fillet - 150 g, fat - 35 g, onion- 250 g, caraway seed- 1 g, salt and pepper.

Plov – There are two main steps in making plov. The first is called zirvak. In this step you brown the onion, yellow carrot, and meat in lots of oil in a heavy pot or a Kazan. After browning then you add water and spices and salt. Commonly used spices include caraway seeds, cumin, pepper, and red pepper. You cook the zirvak until the vegetables are cooked well.

The second step is the tricky step. This is this rice step. First you must soak the rice in salted water for 30 minutes. This is very important. After the zirvak is done, place the rice in a flat layer, and pour over hot water. Add salt and bring to boil. Keep the heat on high until all of the water evaporates. Then gather the rice not mixing the rice with the Zirvak, to the middle of the pot. Pierce holes in the rice all the way to the bottom with a spoon and lower the heat. Cover rice with a plate and then put the pot cover on. Then simmer. Cook and cover over low heat until rice is done and all the water has evaporated. Do not allow the plov to burn. When serving, carefully put the rice on the bottom of the plate. Then top with the zirvak.

Quantities used are dependent on how many people you are feeding. I have seen a Kazan which can take over 100 kg of ingredients and feed several hundred people. In general for every kilo of rice used 800gm of carrot and 80-100gm of meat and 50-70gm of onion required.

Mantı - Is prepared from dough and water, which is unrolled in layers by thickness of 4-5 mm and cut in squares of 12x12 sq cm. Meat, vegetables or greens can be used as a stuffing. Manti is cooked on steam during 35-45 minutes in special pot (called a Kas-Kan). It is served topped with sour milk or sour cream.

Pelmeni - tortellini-like pasta parcels filled with meat or vegetables It’s Ingredients are flour, eggs, water and salt. Dough is mixed up and left for 40-50 minutes for swelling. For stuffing use beef or mutton cut on slices and finely cut with onions or pass through the meat grinder, cold water, pepper, salt, thyme should be added and carefully mixed. The dough is unrolled in a layer of 1-1,5 mm thickness and cut on squares of 4x4 sq cm. On a slice of the dough stuffing should be put, corners are pinched and curtailed. When ends are connected, form a half moon with an aperture in the middle. It should be boiled in salt water or bouillon and served with "suzma" (sour milk). It can be seasoned with pepper, sliced onion and tomato, with black pepper or with sour cream.

Lagman - A stiff dough is mixed up from flour, eggs, water and salt; left to swell (enlarge) for 30-40 minutes under a napkin. Then, the dough is unrolled on layers of 1,5-2 mm thickness and diameter not less than 10-15 sm. Layers put in pile, poured with flour and cut in noodles with sharp knife. Slightly stir up noodles and boil in salt water. Before serving, special sauce, which is prepared from meat, potato, carrots, onions and tomatoes is added. These ingredients are all then fried together, adding some water as required and stewed till ready.

Sources: A number of sources including  http:www.karakalpak,com and my wife Dilbar.

Khiva - UNESCO listed ancient walled city 21/2 hrs south of Nukus

"Entrance to the Khiva Ark "
Khiva (khē'və, khēvä') a city of around 40,000 lies very near the border with Turkmenistan in the rich irrigated lands of Khorezm oasis on the lower reaches of the Amudarya river is believed to be 2500 years old.

The city exudes a different atmosphere to either Bukhara or Samarkand, being closer to the Persian sphere of influence. It lies some 1200 km from Tashkent and is in the heartland of ancient Khorezm once a satrap (province) of ancient Persia that once encompassed today’s northern Turkmenistan, and all of NW Uzbekistan including much of the autonomous region of Karakalpakstan.

The city, in existence by the 6th cent BC, was the capital of the Khwarazm (Khorezm) Kingdom and has been an integral part of the growth of Civilisation in Central Asia. The 712 AD Arab occupation and the introduction of Islam (over Persian Zoroastrian religious influences) changed its nature.

"Khiva - City of Minarets"

Being also at the helm of a fickle, changing Oxus River, Khiva became a critical stop on the physically hostile environment that the northern branch of the Silk Road stretched through on its way to the Caspian Sea and onto Russia.

This oasis town’s golden days were between 995AD and 1040AD when under Seljuk rule, Khiva’s master craftsmen in ceramic, glasswork and metalware had no peers in the region.

Irrigation systems too were constructed at this time (500 vineyards proliferated then). By the early 16th Century AD, as Bukhara waned, Khiva emerged as the capital of Shaybanids’ Khanate (1512).

For the next three centuries Khiva’s cultural and economic importance shimmered in the desert heat, a veritable caravanserai attracting fame from far off Asian, Persian and Arabian lands asa significant trade and handicraft center in the late
18th and early 19th cent.

It passed to Imperial Russia in 1873 and from 1920 to 1923 it served as the capital of the Khorezm Soviet People's Republic and of the Khorezm SSR in 1923 and 1924.

The ancient quarter of the city has been set aside as a living museaum and is UNESCO listed. Its minarets, madrassas and residencies have little changed from 300 years ago.

Khiva is split into two parts. The outer town, called Dichan Kala, was formerly protected by a wall with 11 gates. The inner town, or Itchan Kala, is encircled by a high brick wall, whose foundations were laid in the 10th century. Present-day crenellated walls date back to the late 17th century.

Khiva retains more than 50 historic monuments and 250 old houses, mostly dating from the 18th or the 19th centuries. Its centerpiece the Djuma Mosque, established in the 10th century and rebuilt in 1788-89, with its celebrated hypostyle hall which still retains some 112 columns taken from ancient structures. It also is the site of the Sheikh Mukhtar-Vali Complex, a mausoleum nominated for World Heritage status in 1996.

"Khiva - Minaret Kaltar Minar"

A magnificent large turqouise tower in the central city square also kown as the Guyok minar ("green minaret") was planned to be largest in the whole Muslim East. But the building of the minaret was halted at a height of 29m. According to Khiva's historian Munis, the construction was not finished because of the Khan's death in 1855. The succeeding Khan it is said did not complete it because he realized that the minaret would overlook his harem and the muezzin would be able to see the Khan's wives.

Whatever the true reason construction was halted and the minaret remains unfinished to this day. The minaret is unique both due to its size and unusual decor. It is the only minaret in the world entirely covered by a set of glazed bricks and majolica.

Khiva is a real gem not to be missed on any trip to Central Asia!

The historical and architectural UNESCO listed monuments of Khiva include the:

  • Ichan - Kala, (late 18th century - early 19th century)
  • Madrasah of Allahkulikhan, (1834/1835)
  • Madrasah of Kutlug-Murad-Inak,(1804/1812)
  • Tim and Caravansary of Allahkulikkhan, (19th century)
  • Madrasah of Abdullakhan, (1865)
  • The Mosque and Chambers of Anush Khan, (1657)
  • Tash-Hauli (palace Allahkulikhan), (1830/1836)
  • The Okmachit Mosque, (1832/1842)
  • Friday Congregation Mosque and the Minaret, (1788/1789)
  • Mausoleum of Said Allauddin, (14th century)
  • Madrasah of Muhammad Amin Khan, (1851/1852)
  • Minaret Kalta Minor, (1855)
  • Kunya-Ark, (1868/1888)
  • The Minaret of Tura - Murat - Tur, (1888)
  • Madrasah of Muhammad Amin Khan, (1871)
  • Madrasah of Shergazi Khan, (1718/1720)
  • Mosque of Baglandi, (19th century)
  • Madrasah of Arabkhan, (1838)

For further information see

Savitsky Art Museum Nukus


Everyone who comes to Nukus will most likley visit its famous Art Museum, named after its founder and first director Igor Savitskiy. As a student of Moscow Art Institute, Savitskiy was evacuated to Central Asia at the time of World War II.

Here he took great interest in archaeology, ethnography and ancient culture of the region and this passion of his made him stay here forever. He learnt about wonderful world of Karakalpak folk art in which, as he believed, the implicit magic knowledge of the nation was hidden.

In the museum there are exhibited the works of ancient and medieval art of peoples inhabiting this region, as well as the articles testifying to the trade and cultural links of the Khorezmians with The Orient and the Occident. The most ancient exhibits of the Museum are Zoroastrian terracotta statuettes of the goddess of fertility – Anakhita, mausoleum-like ossuarys (the vessels with the mortal remains of the dead ancestors, who were fire-worshippers), decorated with the images of lions, images of male and female heads. The period of late Antiquity (1st - 4th centuries B.C) is represented by a bronze pin in the form of a hand holding an apple, a silver finger-ring with a sard signet depicting a dolphin, a terracotta statuette of a woman holding a grapevine. Bronze lamps and a rich collection of pottery (khums for storing grain, jugs with relief decoration) date back to the 12th - 13th centuries.

The museum also displays works of applied art of Karakalpakistan dating from the second half of the 19th - first half of the 20th centuries. These works are represented by articles made from wood and leather which were widely used by the nomads during their military campaigns – saddles decorated with silver, containers for dishware, mortars for tobacco, carved doors for yurta. Of a special interest are the carpets, which were widely used by the Karakalkaks for decoration of their yurts. These are patterned carpet strips "beldeu" and "ak-bastur", which were manufactured according to the unique techniques of relief pile fabric weaving. There are also exhibited many national costumes, small tea-sacks, wedding headdress "saukkele", all embroidered with silk, pearls and beads by the anonymous craftswomen. And the luxurious collection of ancient Karakalpaki jewellery, made of silver with inlays of turquoise and sard.

Savitskiy also busied himself with preservation of paintings by Russian avant-garde artists who had been repressed and exiled to Uzbekistan during the years of Stalinism. The unique collection of Russian avan-guarde paintings of the 20's – 40's of the 20th century has brought fame to the Nukus Museum. "Many artists, whose works are exhibited in the halls of the museum, are well known in Europe, – says the director of the museum Marinika Babanazarova, – Robert Falk, Clement Redko, Lyubov Popova, sculptors Vera Mukhina and Sara Lebedeva got their artistic education in the art studios of Paris and Munich; their names are included into the catalogues of Paris exhibitions of the early 20th century".

In the exposition of the museum there are displayed real masterpieces of painter Volkov A. and a subtle master of style Usto Mumin (Nickolayev A.), famous impressionists who lived in Uzbekistan, such as Benkov P. and Kovalevskaya Z., early works of Natsykbayev U. and Karakhan N. whose style and perception were very close to avant-guarde trends, splendid canvases of Rozhdestvenckiy V., Korovay E., Kurzina M., Shevchenko N. The works of Russian artists of the early 20th century Kusnetzov P., Kuprin A. and Ulianov N. are other gems of the collection. The Museum also introduces the works of modern painters of Karakalpakistan – Izentayev J., Serikeyev B., Matevosian R., Kuttymuradov J.

Chilpuk Dakmah, the Temple of Silence, Nukus, Uzbekistan
Chilpik Dakhmah

A big role in the popularization of the museum collection has been played by the society "Friends of Nukus Museum".

Masterpieces from the museum's collection have been exhibited in Moscow, Tashkent and in Museums in the U.S, Germany, France and Italy.

To see the marvellous collection at the Savitsky Museum come and visit Nukus during your stay in Uzbekistan.

Source: Karakalpak State Art Museum