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A Local Look at Uzbekistan’s Colourful Markets

  • Stephen Lioy (text and photos)
  • 7 October 2012

When in Central Asia, one of the easiest ways to see life from a local’s perspective is to wander through the markets of each town – places where travellers can readily find things such as seasonal produce, freshly butchered meat and stacks of imported Russian and Chinese goods. Most of the items on sale in the bazaars of Uzbekistan are locally grown and produced, so the markets are a great stop for anyone looking to shop sustainably and responsibly. No matter which markets you visit, be sure to sample first and bargain hard to get the best deal!

Deqhon Bazari in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Late afternoon at the Deqhon Bazari in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

In Samarkand, a bustling tourist city replete with ancient Islamic architecture that once lay at the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road, travellers can explore an atmospheric market just past the main street of mosques and mausoleums. The Deqhon Bazari is a great place to stock up on dried fruits or fresh bread before heading further into the country’s desert landscapes. Of special note here is the first pavilion full of local sweets and birthday cakes. That fudge will melt quickly in the midday heat, so be sure to eat it quickly!

Vendors outside of Bukhara’s Kalon Minaret

Click to enlarge: Local Uzbek vendors sell souvenirs outside Bukhara’s Kalon Minaret. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Shopping for sweets at a market in Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Shopping for sweets at a market in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though the city of Bukhara does have full-on farmers’ markets further afield, the easiest shopping to find is the souvenir bazaar spread throughout the Old Town beside the 12th-century mosques and under the historic domes that have survived from the 16th century. Some of the former madrassahs in Bukhara have also been restored as workshops for local artisans who still work in trades that once helped make the city a trading centre famed throughout Central Asia.

Click to enlarge: Shopping street near Bukhara’s Kalon Minaret and Mosque, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Shopping street near Bukhara’s Kalon Minaret and Mosque. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Click to enlarge: Local craftsman, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Local artisans set up shop in Bukhara’s restored buildings. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

 

Click to enlarge: Night market in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Night market in the historic merchant district of Bukhara, Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Click to enlarge: Nuts, raisins, and sweets at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Nuts, raisins and sweets at the Chorsu Bazaar in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent, you will find one of the oldest markets in the country and in all of Central Asia: the Chorsu Bazaar. Though prices can be slightly higher here than in the rest of the country, the availability of so much fresh produce and easily packable snacks makes it a great stop. There’s even a station of the Tashkent Metro just on the outskirts of the market, making it a reasonably daily stop to stock up on an abundance of cheap, delicious and quality food items.

Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Cheap and delicious prepared food in the open-air Chorsu Bazaar of Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Perhaps the biggest bazaar in the country lies a full day’s journey away from Samarkand. Still maintaining the tradition of weekly regional markets, the Sunday bazaar in Urgut village is an excellent place to wander for a truly authentic glimpse of local culture. A walk through the districts of the Urgut Bazaar takes travellers from local produce and meat stalls to handmade crafts and immense rolls of colourful fabrics from which so much of the local clothing is tailored.

Click to enlarge: Young salesman in the Urgut Bazaar, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: A young salesman in the Urgut Bazaar. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Urgut Village, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Chaotic alleys in the atmospheric Urgut Bazaar. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Click to enlarge: Honey vendor, Urgut market, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Locally-sourced foods like fresh honey are sold at Urgut

Click to enlarge: Meat Vendor, Urgut bazaar, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Fresh meat for sale in the Urgut Bazaar. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

 

 

 

 

Click to enlarge: Fabric vendor, Uzbekistan

Click to enlarge: Fabric vendors in bazaars through Uzbekistan add a friendly and colourful element to the country’s markets. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Click to enlarge: Colourful clothing of Central Asia

Click to enlarge: Bright and colourful patterns are a key mark of clothing throughout most of Central Asia. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

Whichever colourful market you choose to visit in Uzbekistan, make sure to stop and chat with the people you meet. Whether there to shop or sell, the Uzbeks themselves are what make the experience truly special. With just a bit of Russian, you can use these markets as an ideal starting place for conversation about where you come from, what you’re doing in Uzbekistan and a bit of friendly bartering over so many products you never knew you couldn’t live without.

Whether shopping or selling, expect a lot of curiosity and interest from locals in the markets of Uzbekistan

Whether shopping or selling, expect a lot of curiosity and interest from locals in the markets of Uzbekistan. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lioy

If you’re looking for a way to support the local economy and get a glimpse of what daily life is like in Uzbekistan, the bazaar in each city is one of the most accessible routes available. Even in towns like Samarkand that are on a well-established tourist trail dating back to before Marco Polo’s visit, the local markets are a great way to interact with the Uzbek people who make travel in the country so interesting.

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Stephen Lioy

Stephen Lioy is currently on his fourth last year in Asia. After a year and a half of teaching English in Shenzhen, China, he left to travel Southeast Asia and on from there. He is currently homeless, unemployed and quite happy with it.
Stephen Lioy
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Asia, cities, food & drink, handicrafts & shopping, local knowledge, markets, personal experience, South-Central Asia, traveller tale, Uzbekistan, whl.travel,

2 Responses to “A Local Look at Uzbekistan’s Colourful Markets”

  1. Mary Want says:

    We travelled to Uzbekistan as part of a small group in 1996 and visited Deqhon Bazari where we bought food for our picnic lunches. When we took photos of stallholders and shoppers (having asked first, naturally) they were so delighted they wanted to give us gifts for taking their photos and we were pursued with cabbages and other vegetables!

  2. Jesse says:

    Though you don’t have photos of the fruits being sold in that market, I say their variety for those also add up to the rainbow colored aura of the local Uzbekistan Market.

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