Just back from a frankly amazing trip to Uzbekistan. Never have I come across such friendly, warm, selfless and hospitable people as I did in Tashkent.
The trip started fairly inauspiciously with BA losing my luggage. The prospect of spending a number of days in 36 degree heat in the same pants was not a pleasant one, neither for me nor the good burghers of Tashkent. Fortunately a brief sojourn to a supermarket furnished me with new trolleys, trousers and toiletries.
All was well however, despite my bag turning up at Tashkent airport just as I was about to check in (they handed it to me, and I handed it straight back). Among other things, I ate horsemeat at 5am listening to live Uzbek folk music, was interviewed on Uzbek radio, and performed ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ on Uzbek television with one of the country’s biggest pop stars, Karen Gafurdjanov.
I also managed to watch a cracking game of football – Uzbekistan were taking on Kuwait in a vital World Cup qualifier. The Uzbeks needed to win to go through to a play-off with Bahrain, the Kuwaitis needed a draw. After half an hour, Uzbekistan were two down, but thanks to a storming attacking performance ended up winning 3-2. Never have I seen a crowd go as nuts as the Uzbeks that night.
A big thank you to everyone at the Guli-Bonu Producer Centre in Tashkent for organising the whole shebang, and if you’re ever in Tashkent be sure to drop by Karen’s Elvis Art Cafe – it’s worth it for the salads alone.