News from Paradise
Ivar Dale’s articles on Kyrgyzstan have been published on the Kyrgyz page already. Now, Ivar has visited Uzbekistan, and while the following article is also available on the Uzbek blog, we thought such a long and exclusive piece also deserves highlighting here on the homebase. Enjoy!
‘For lust of knowing what should not be known, we take the Golden Journey to Samarkand’, wrote the poet James Elroy Flecker. And indeed, there was a time when you could learn a secret or two before the Emir of Samarkand gouched your eyes out and threw you to the hounds. In Islam Karimov’s Uzbekistan, however, you’re lucky to come away having learnt the name of James Belushi’s third wife.
To be a tourist in Uzbekistan is to ride the silk highway from one historical wonder to the next, from the architectural oohs of Samarkand to the archaeological aahs of Bukhara. These once foreboding places now offer streamlined pleasures for hordes of Western pensioners, merrily tailing the guiding umbrella up front. People seem to go about their daily business with a smile, ice cream is plentiful and the roads are wide and windy. The authorities are doing such a good job at keeping reality hidden from visitors, you could be forgiven for not realizing that Uzbekistan is one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
That is, of course, unless you’ve taken the bother of at least looking up your destination on the internet before leaving. But then again, maybe better not. Uzbekistan tends to get real creepy on you once you look behind the facade.