Social Profile

Food & Drink : Uzbek food is similar to that of the rest of Central Asia. Plov is the staple food for everyday and celebrations, and usually consists of chunks of mutton, shredded red and yellow carrot and rice fried in a cast iron or aluminium pot. There are dozens of variations of this dish. Shashlyk (skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal - kebabs - served with sliced raw onions) and lipioshka (rounds of unleavened bread) are served in restaurants and are often sold on street corners and make an appetising meal. Uzbeks pride themselves on the quality and variety of their bread. Samsa (samosas) are also sold in the street, but the quality is variable. Manty are large boiled dumplings stuffed with meat and shorpa is a meat and vegetable soup. During the summer and autumn, there is a wide variety of fruit: grapes, pomegranates, apricots - which are also dried and sold at other times of the year - and, dwarfing them all, mountains of honeydew and watermelons. In general, hotel food shows a strong Russian influence: borcht is a beetroot soup, entrecote is well-done steak, cutlet are grilled meat balls and strogan is the local equivalent of Beef Stroganoff. Pirmeni originated in Ukraine and are small boiled dumplings of meat and vegetables, similar to ravioli, sometimes served in a vegetable soup. There are a number of restaurants that serve both European and Korean food (Stalin transported many Koreans from their home in the east of the former Soviet Union, believing them to be a security threat). There is a hard-currency restaurant at the top of the Hotel Uzbekistan that serves Chinese and Korean food.

Tea is the staple drink of Central Asia, and chai-khanas (tea houses) can be found almost everywhere in Uzbekistan, full of old men chatting the afternoon away with a pot of tea in the shade. Beer, wine, vodka, brandy and sparkling wine (shampanski) are all widely available in restaurants. Kefir, a thick drinking yoghurt, is often served with breakfast.

Nightlife : Tashkent has a variety of theatres which show everything from European operas to traditional Uzbek dancing and music. The Navoi theatre, opposite the Tashkent Hotel, shows opera and ballet. The prices are low by Western standards; shows generally start at 1800. There is also a number of themed Western-style bars, restaurants and discos.

Shopping : The best place to experience Central Asia is in the bazaars. The bazaars of Tashkent and Samarkand offer goods ranging from herbs and spices to Central Asian carpets. In the Alaiski Bazaar in Tashkent, it is possible to buy decorated Uzbek knives. Silk is still produced in the country and well-priced silks can be bought at large department stores. Many museums have small shops which sell a variety of modern reproductions and some original items. It is possible to buy carpets and embroidered wall hangings. Bukhara is famous for its gold embroidery, and visitors can buy elaborately embroidered traditional Uzbek hats. Visitors should be aware that it is illegal to export anything more than 100 years old or items which have a cultural significance. Shopping hours : Food shops open 0800-1700, all others open 0900-1900.

Special Events : For further information on events in Uzbekistan, contact the National Company Uzbektourism (see Contact Addresses section). The following is a selection of special events occurring in Uzbekistan in 2004 : Mar 20-22 Navrus (Spring Festival), nationwide. May Film Festival, Tashkent. Oct 23 Children’s Peace & Disarmament Festival, Samarkand. Dec Pakhta-Bairam Harvest Festival, Karakalpak.

Social Conventions :
Lipioshka (bread) should never be laid upside down and should never be put on the ground, even if it is in a bag. It is normal to remove shoes but not socks when entering someone’s house or sitting down in a chai-khana. Shorts are rarely seen in Uzbekistan and, worn by women, are likely to provoke unwelcome attention from the local male population. Avoid ostentatious displays of wealth (eg jewellery) in public places.

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Information provided by Uzbekistan Tourism Board.


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