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71 interesting anecdotes a Trini needs to know in Uzbekistan

For the last couple days travelling through Uzbekistan, I was shocked at how much culture shock even an experienced world traveller like myself experienced. For the first time, acting like a professional travel blogger, I had a notepad. Here are some of the notes I took while roaming Uzbekistan. Many people were happy to offer “interesting” facts to me … some of them were mundane and some of them were extremely interesting … of course, I’m not going to list 71 facts … as if I had so much time …

  1. Did you know that there was silk money in Khiva? Super interesting right? OF course, but the best part of having silk money was that it could be sewn into your clothing. Think of the applications! Here is a great article on Silk Money of Khorzem and I’ve also archived the contents of the article here (I get tired of stale links).
  2. Since the cities were all Khanates – there was a law saying that all men had to shave their beards off, because the Khan didn’t want men weaving money into their beards and smuggling it away.
  3. I learned that the famous Islamic physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the Latin world) was the one of the first people to advocate using women’s hair as suture material – about 1400 years ago. Here is a medical article from 2003, showing that we’re still researching this idea
  4. People in Central Asia love having golden teeth. In fact, walking around Khiva and Bukhara, you’ll see lots of people with full golden “grills”. Since people were originally nomadic, there were no banks that you could easily store money, hence people had to carry their money with them at all times … gold teeth were an excellent mechanism for this. It was fairly easy to deposit and difficult to withdraw 🙂
  5. If you’re travelling through Central Asia … you must absolutely love
    1. Dill – blame the Russian influence
    2. Vodka – see above, but you really have to steel your stomach for the drinking.
    3. Meat & Sausage – see below …  it’ll give you a great idea of what’s coming your way
    4. Bread – They have phenomenal breads over there … you’ll never go wrong with chilies and bread.
  6. Learn the difference between “No” and the Russian “No!”. The English “No” is a suggestion, while the Russian “No!” is an order. If you don’t learn the difference, then you’re going to be eating and drinking till your stomach and/or liver explodes.
  7. Learn how to say “No Thank You” in Russian … “Нет, спасибо” (Nyet, spasEEbah) expresses a polite but firm refusal. Saying “No Thank You” in English, is treated as a suggestion …. vendors will chase you even more fervently, if they know you speak English. Saying in Russian, is an absolute sales killer.
  8. Vodka is treated as an appropriate drink for every occasion – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. It really doesn’t matter … if you’re with friends, you’re going to be drinking a lot of vodka. Even after a sauna and hammam in a 100+ yr old Uzbek massage house, I was treated to Vodka … I also went through this “medieval” torture chamber
  9. As a follow up to my Uzbek massage … they’ll give you some ginger and honey to rub all over you. The attendants then tell you stand in a cooking room for it to heat your skin. Don’t put too much of the stuff on your nether regions as recommended … it will cook your stuff.
  10. Don’t bother with eating Chicken in Central Asia … you’re going to be disappointed 9/10 times and it’s the most expensive meat on the menu. Eat the mutton/lamb or the beef … they know how to do this well. The quality of the meat is also quite spectacular. I compare Kyrgi or Uzbek beef with any other beef in the world.
  11. If you want to be safe in your culinary adventures … you just need to know three words
    1. Shashlik : Which is basically BBQ/Grilled Kebabs. Chances are that your meat will comes with Armenian lavash bread. You’re going to be eating a lot of meat on your trip. When you get back home, you’ll be craving lettuce by the bushel. I’ve shown 5 different meals in 4 days, all with the meat, dill and vodka troika. If you’re lucky … you might end up getting some sauce on your meat.

    2. Lagman : It’s known as Laghman noodles in English, after Laghman Province in Afghanistan where it has its roots. It’s like a spaghetti in a soup – but just better. Do eat it by taking large mouthfuls.
    3. Plov : Think Central Asian Biryani … you’ll get the idea

      The Plov Master
  12. If you walk into an Uzbek restaurant for dinner, don’t be surprised with all the dancing, and with all the women drinking vodka by themselves. Many husbands are away in some other Central Asian republic working and bringing home the money. What else are the married women supposed to do with their time?
  13. Unibrows are “IN” … in Uzbekistan. They love their unibrows … like seriously. If you’re someone, who loves facial separation and hates the “Bert” look … then Uzbekistan is not your place.
  14. Dancing in Uzbekistan is super easy … all you need to know are the 5 basic moves
    1. Chicken dance
    2. The Ironman
    3. Indian “Screw the lightbulb”
    4. The Eagle
    5. South American “Pick da cotton”

If you can master combinations of these 5 basic moves, without any waist movement, then you’ll be a superstar dancer over there. If you’re travelling through this part of the world … and you remember 5 of the 14 bullet points I’ve given … then you’ll be in good standing!

About Rishiray

Rishi Sankar is a Cloud HRMS Project Manager/ Solution Architect. Over the past 15+ years, he has managed to combine his overwhelming wanderlust with a desire to stay employed, resulting in continuing stints with 3 major consulting firms (IBM, Deloitte, Accenture). He documents his adventures around the world on "Ah Trini Travelogue" with pictures and stories from the road/tuk-tuk/camel/rickshaw. You can follow him on Twitter at @rishiray and on Facebook at "Ah Trini Travelogue . He doesn't like Chicken Curry but loves Curry Chicken and is always trying to find the perfect Trinidadian roti on the road. He also doesn't like cheese and kittens ... and definitely not together. E-mail from his blog is appreciated like a 35 yr old Balvenie at [email protected]

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