Uzbekistan is a country with potential for an expanded tourism industry. Many of its Central Asian cities were main points of trade on the Silk Road, linking Eastern and Western civilizations. Today the museums of Uzbekistan store over two million artifacts, evidence of the unique historical, cultural and spiritual life of the Central Asian peoples that have lived in the region. Uzbekistan attracts tourists with its historical, archeological, architectural and natural treasures.

According to the Statistical Internet Survey, carried out in May 7-August 27, 2008, the largest proportion of those surveyed (39%) visit the country because of their interest in the architectural and historical sites of Uzbekistan. The next-largest group (24%) visit Uzbekistan to observe its culture, way of life and customs.

Cultural Tourism is the only major product Uzbekistan is providing to visitors since its independence. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are hot spots of tourism.

Tourist activities in Uzbekistan range from outdoor activities, such as rock-climbing, to exploration of its rich archeological and religious history.

In 2005, 240,000 tourists from 117 countries visited Uzbekistan. The industry earned US$30 million (90.9% of forecast). Overall, the tourism sector served 621,700 people and rendered services for 40.6 billion soums (73.1% of forecast). The industry earned 598.4 million soums. Each autumn, the Uzbek travel industry holds an International Tourism Fair.

Uzbekistan is located on the Great Silk Road and many neighboring countries (including KazakhstanKyrgyz RepublicTajikistan and Turkmenistan) promote their countries based on their location along the Great Silk Road.

The World Tourism Organization‘s Silk Road Office was opened in 2004 in Samarkand. This office was commissioned to coordinate the efforts of international organisations and national tourism offices of countries located on the Silk Road. Uzbekistan is also a member of The Region Initiative (TRI), a tri-regional umbrella of tourism related organisations. TRI functions as a link between three regions—-South Asia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe which is also by Armenia, Bangladesh, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Tajikistan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Ukraine.

Samarkand with its RegistanBibi-Khanym MosqueGur-Emir and Shah-i-ZindaBukhara with its Po-i-Kalyan Complex, Ark citadel, Samanid Mausoleum and Lyabi Khauz Ensemble, and of course Khiva with its intact inner city Ichan Kalamosquesmadrasahs, minarets, walls and gates are sites of tourism.

The general conference of UNESCO accepted the decision of inclusion in the list of anniversaries the celebrating of 2750th anniversary of Samarkand. Samarkand is one of pearls of East. Here are many unique monuments of culture and architecture, which are evidence of high mastery of the ancient architects. The restoration works are carrying out at the memorial complex Shah-i-Zinda. Basic principle of rebuilding of the center of Samarkand is a preservation of monuments in their integrity. The complex of historical center of the town is included in the list of a world heritage of UNESCO under the name “Samarkand is an intersection of world culture.”

Though Tashkent is often overlooked in the search for the Silk Road oasis towns of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, for the traveler there is much besides this to be seen. Today one can visit such sights as Mausoleum of Sheikh Zaynudin Bobo and the Sheihantaur or Mausoleum of Zangiata.

Ancient Khiva is one of three most important tourism centers of Uzbekistan with historical cultural and ethnographic potential. The territory of the Khorezm Province and Karakalpakstan is strewn with natural, historic, architectural and archeological sites. The Khorezm Province itself possesses near to 300 historic monuments.

In the last few years, the tourism potential at the region was improved with some new facilities and attractions. One of them is the Savitsky Museum in the town of Nukus, which houses a collection of works of avant-gardism. The museum also has regional collection. A number of “ecological tours” are organized to the ship cemetery located in Muynak area along what has once been the coastline of the Aral Sea.

In 2005 Khorezm was visited by 43,000 tourists, of which foreigners accounted for 19,700. The majority of them came from countries such as France, Germany, Israel, Great Britain, Australia and Japan. The visitors of Khiva were mostly at the age of 50-70 (46%); about 21% of tourists were of the age 30-40. 32% of the visitors of Khorezm was independent travelers, that received visa support” from local travel agencies.

After the modernization of the airport in Urgench it received international status. Now it corresponds to the first category of ICAO.

Desert fauna of Kyzyl Kum includes many kinds of rare animals. There is a Kyzyl Kum nature reserve at the flood-land (tugai) drained by the Amu-Darya. Another reserve (eco-centre)”Djeyran” is located 40 km to the south of Bukhara.

The region of the Aydar Lake is an area of potential for fishing, yurting and camel-back riding tourist activities.

In addition to fauna common for Kyzyl Kum, there are many kinds of water birds migrating from Aral Sea that make their homes around the lake. Many sorts of fish were introduced to the Aydar Lake, which nowadays works as a source of industrial fishing.

Another point of interest the Sarmish Gorge (Better known as Sarmishsay) is located on the southern slopes of the Karatau mountain range, 30–40 km to the north-east of the city of Navoi (Kermine) in Uzbekistan. This place is famous for various ancient monuments of anthropogenic activity concentrated in an area of about 20 km². The sights include flint quarries, mines, old settlements, burial mounds, crypts and petroglyphs, including monuments of the Middle Ages, early Iron AgeBronze Age and even Stone Age. There are over 4,000 petroglyphs still intact in Sarmishsay. Since ancient times this territory has been a sacred zone, where locals performed their sacred ceremonies on holy days.

A large number of tourists have been visiting Uzbekistan because of their religious-based interest. The followers of Sufism know that dozens of historical sights of Islam such as Mausoleum of Sheikh Zaynudin BoboSheihantaur and Mausoleum of Zangiata in Tashkent or Bakhauddin Ensemble in Bukhara, Bayan-Quli Khan MausoleumSaif ed-Din Bokharzi Mausoleum and many others monuments in Bukhara are related to Sufism. Uzbekistan is a country with predominantly Islamic roots.

There are more than 160 Muslim relics located in Uzbekistan.

Uzbek cuisine – perhaps most known national and developed aspect of the Uzbekistan culture and Uzbekistan people. Unlike its nomadic neighbors, the Uzbek people has had a strong civilization for many centuries. People cultivated wheat and bred horned livestock between deserts and mountains, in oasis and fertile valleys. Therefore, rich products have allowed the Uzbek people to develop certain traditions of hospitality which, in turn, have made their cuisine known to the whole world.

The most of popular items of Uzbek cuisine are following

Palov, the Uzbek version of “pilaff” – is a very solemn dish. It can be considered as an everyday dish as well as a dish for solemn and great events like weddings, parties and holidays. Rice is the most important component of plov, along with certain spices, raisins, peas or quince which are added to give it extra flavor.

Bread is considered holy for the Uzbek people.

Soups are of special importance. Uzbek soup is rich with vegetables and seasonings and contains lots of carrots, turnips, onions and greens. Most popular is Uzbek Shurpa. Shurpa is a meat and vegetable soup.

Shashlyk, also known as kebabs, consists of skewered chunks of mutton barbecued over charcoal and served with sliced raw onions and non (round unleavened bread)

Samsa (meat pies)is a pastry pie stuffed with meat and onion or pumpkin, potato, cabbage, mushrooms or nuts baked in a tandyr. Tandyr is a traditional cylindrical clay oven, heated with coal. Skill is needed when placing the raw samsas or non onto the inside wall of the oven.

Lagman is a thick noodle soup with thinly sliced fried meat and vegetables.

Manty are large dumplings stuffed with finely chopped meat, seasoned with various spices and a large amount of onion, then steamed in a special pot.

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