Capital's ugly building panorama

Our first impression of Tashkent was that it sucked. Huge ugly Soviet block buildings rose through hazy polluted air. For our first day we visited a couple 15th century mausoleums hidden in some back streets. Then we went to the “Old Town” to the bazaar.

Shaykh Hovandi Tahur Mausoleum
The old town didn't seem very old-- just run down. There was a mosque and medressa. Behind it we saw what looked like someone poking around in a manhole. As we got closer we saw a young man was making samsas and the “manhole” was an oven. I do, however, have the sneaky suspicion it was a manhole first since I've never seen a samsa oven built into the ground next to a street.

Juma Mosque and Kulkedash Medressa

Samsa maker using street oven
One thing that really stands out in Tashkent are some of the really hideous examples of Soviet fusion architecture-- in which they tried to fuse aspects of Persian/Islamic architecture—namely blue domes-- with Soviet architecture—such as metal scaffolding, concrete blocks and a sense of aesthetics gained by slamming your face against a wall. The result in the best of circumstances looks like an amusement park based on the Jetsons and in the worst case it looks just plain ugly. The bazaar is of the concrete and blue dome variety which is similar to the circus building-- a giant concrete flying saucer from a 1950s alien invasion movie. Since the bazaar is the center of the old town, it looks like a bunch of aliens landed.

The Chorsu Bazaar
In Park Navoi, there is a bizarre dome on concrete pillars as part of a stadium-- the People's Friendship Palace. Though these do add some color and humor to the landscape, most of the other architecture isn't that interesting. Tashkent, aside from the ugly buildings, also seems to have some swank Nouveau Riche areas with the usual cosmopolitan assortment of brand name stores. This area is known as the Russian part of town (as opposed to the the Uzbek Old Town), even though I think many of the swank places are owned by Turkish people.

One of the weird things you see in Uzbekistan is beggars holding huge wads of cash or with plastic shopping bags in front of them with piles of bills. Of course, this is just because there really isn't any change. The smallest bill is worth about 8 cents and the largest, about 80 cents. In the evening we walked past a Russian Orthodox church as the moon rose. From inside we could hear singing. It seemed strangely out of place among all the concrete buildings of the area.

Russian Orthodox Church

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