Flag of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan is situated in the central and northern parts of Central Asia. It borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Turkmenistan, Tadjikistan and in the south with Afghanistan. Tashkent, a city inhabited by 3.8 million people, is the capital of Uzbekistan. The territory of Uzbekistan is 447 400 sq. kilometers. The population of Uzbekistan is more than 24 million, the largest in Central Asia.
One of the biggest desserts in Central Asia “The Kyzil Kum” is situated on the territory of Uzbekistan, and the “Tien-Shan” and “Hissar-Altay” mountains stretch in the northeast and the south of the country. The biggest rivers in Uzbekistan are the “Amu-Darya”, 1437 kilometers long, and “Syr - Darya”, 2137 kilometers long. The climate is hot, dry and sharp continental. There are few lakes in Uzbekistan. The Aral Sea is the biggest. As it occupies a rather vast area, it is classified as a sea. For the last few decades, the massive irrigation programmes led to a permanent drying out of large parts of the Sea. The former fisherman villages are now surrounded by arid and dusty sand dunes.
The biggest cities of Uzbekistan are Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Andijan, Namangan, Fergana, Khiva, and Kokand. Samarkand is the second largest city of Uzbekistan. In the year 1991, the population of Samarkand was 395,000 people. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are the main destinations of backpackers and holidaymakers from US, Europe, Japan and Korea.
The state language of Uzbekistan is Uzbek. It belongs to the Turkic group of languages. Russian is widely used in Uzbekistan too. Tadjik is spoken by many residents of Samarkand. English is the most popular language used in the majority of tourist centres, hotels and museums. It is possible to find a local guide with a fairly good knowledge of German or French.
Samarkand is considered to be one of the ancient cities of the world. Its architectural heritage is protected by UNESCO. According to the latest research of the Uzbek and French archeologists, Samarkand was founded 2750 years ago, almost as long ago as Rome. Samarkand was known to the ancient Greeks as Marakanda. The city flourished between the 14th and 15th centuries during the Amir Temur (Tamerlane) era. Amir Temur was a well-known commander and ruler, who proclaimed Samarkand the capital of his vast Empire. Alexander the Great (329 BC), Genghis Khan (1220) and many other conquerors, destroyed Samarkand, which rose from the ashes each time like a Phoenix.
In the 19th century Russians captured Samarkand. In 1925, Samarkand was proclaimed the capital of the Uzbek SSR. In 1930, Samarkand lost its capital status to Tashkent.
In present days, Samarkand remains the second city after Tashkent for business, culture and education in Uzbekistan. However, the city of Samarkand is unrivalled in the richness and diversity of its architectural and historical heritage in the whole of Central Asia. Samarkand also serves as a hub for travellers continuing from Samarkand to other ancient cities of Bukhara and Khiva.