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Tashkent is the capital and largest city of Uzbekistan, as well as the most populated city in ex-Soviet Central Asia with a population in 2018 of 2,485,900. It is located in the north-east of the country close to the Kazakhstan border. Much of the city was destroyed in the 1966 Tashkent earthquake, though it was rebuilt afterwards as a model Soviet city.

The Chimgan Mountains , located 80 km East of Tashkent, are the part of Chatkal range of the Western Tian-Shan. The Valley of Chimgan is located at a height of 1200-1600 meters above sea level and is surrounded with mountains of which Greater Chimgan Mountain (3309 m) is the main peak and towers above the entire valley. Chimgan mountains include such beauty spots as Gulkam, Beldersay and others. In addition this district is the most ecologically protected part of Uzbekistan, because it is part of Ugam-Chatkal National Park, which includes various mountain landscapes of the Western Tian-Shan.

It had rained heavily in the night and I feared the worst. Snow could be seen below the clouds on the nearest mountain in the morning. However the weather began to clear and we were taken to a chair lift as a result of the previous day’s discussion. It was not the same one as we had seen the day before and there were other people present. Two of the group chose to go horse-riding and after some waiting around until 11.00 the rest of us were able to go up on the lift.

This was a very full day of sightseeing in Bukhara. There was a huge amount to see and it was all very interesting. Much more of the old city is preserved than in Tashkent and I believe Samarkand. Yesterday we were escorted by our guide to the citadel/castle and some of the many Mosques, Madrasahs (Koran schools) and mausoleums.

Today we were left to ourselves after visiting the mausoleum of a famous prophet outside the town. The rest of the day was spent with more sightseeing of the bazaars and souvenir hunting. I bought a silk carpet. For lunch we had the traditional Usbekistan meal of Plov, similar to the Indian Pilau. One of the group wanted to visit the Jewish quarter, so we went there and found the old synagogue which was really the only point of interest.

Today we had a long drive with a few stops to get to our yurt in the Kysyl Kum desert. The weather was not as hot as it had been, which was probably a good thing. First we stopped at Gishduwan which is known for its ceramic manufacture and visited the workshops of the master potter Abdullah Aka which is run today by his family. As the drive proceeded the landscape became more and more desert-like and we eventually reached the yurt camp just as the sun was setting.

We were compensated for the lack of a walk by being able to attend a big village festival with lots of food and much dancing by men and women separately. We joined in the dancing, but had to resist being plied with too much vodka. One is expected to down it in one! When speeches were being made I was puzzled because I could not identify the bride and groom. Then I was informed that it was not a weeding but a circumcision celebration: different country – different customs.

The Nuratau Mountains are an interesting natural region stretched out between Kysyl Kum Desrt on the west and Barren Steppe on the east. This massif includes three ranges – Karatau, Aktau and Nuratau. This mountain chain is not very high, the highest peak – Khayatbakshi Mount – being 2169 meters above sea level. In spite of this area is not very interesting for mountain climbers, because of the soft rock. However the Nuratau Mountains are attractive for many tourists due to their rich history, unusual monuments, mild climate and healing springs.

We were 2 days in Samarkand, perhaps the most well-known of the silk road cities. We saw most of the major sights on the first day. They are very impressive particularly the Registan square flanked by 3 great madrassas built over 200 years but all in the same style and made to harmonise. Unfortunately there is not really any other old city left. The area in between the ancient monuments is laid out as parks and precincts in a modern way including of course the souvenir shops.

Today was theoretically the last walking day, which most surprised our guide. Actually we drove 40 km and climbed 1300 steps to the top of a hill and then 200 steps down to see the cave of the prophet David. The cave turned out to be just a narrow cleft in the rocks with 2 candles at the end of it. It was certainly not worth the effort. It was some compensation for me to be able to make a short camel ride on the plateau at the top of the hill, since I had not been able to do this at the yurt camp.

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