The first reason why we are taking a trip to Uzbekistan, no doubt. The stories of great travellers, in the forefront of which are Marco Polo, the great caravans of the desert, the axis linking China to the West... so many subjects of dream and wonder that Uzbekistan, by the grace of its architectural and archaeological heritage, allows us to get as close as possible. The Silk Roads are now being written, with the immense Chinese projects, in the present and in the future. But in Uzbekistan, they also retain all their magic.Great monuments have been bequeathed by the Samanid, Karakhanid or Timurid dynasties, including the incomparable Registan or the gigantic Bibi Khanum mosque in Samarkand, the Poy Kalon complex and its formidable minaret in Bukhara, or the small town of Khiva, a unique testimony to Eastern architecture on UNESCO's World Heritage List.There are even more historical sites: the citadels of the desert in Khorezm and Karakalpakstan, the Afrosyab hill in Samarkand, the remains of Buddhist temples in the south, around Termez, the petroglyphs of the desert... There is hardly a village that does not offer a mosque, a madrasa, a mausoleum or the ramparts of an ancient citadel to discover.
At the crossroads of civilizations :
In this country located on the borders of the nomadic empires of the steppe and the oldest cities fuelled by the first irrigation systems, at the crossroads of major trade routes such as the Silk Road and the major empires, from Alexander the Great to Genghis Kh?n and Tamerlan, the lifestyles, beliefs and popular traditions result from countless mixtures of people from all over the world. The country is also a meeting point for great religions or spiritualities: orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism, all enriched by legacies of Zoroastrianism, Shamanism or Mazdeism that other beliefs have never been able to make disappear completely.This diversity of beliefs can be seen in the architecture, in the motifs of the decorations and in the smallest sculptures of the wooden pillars of the village mosques, and has marked the population's way of being, living and thinking. Muslim certainly, but following an Islam with unknown aspects for those who have been exposed to the Islam practiced in the Maghreb or the Middle East. Sunni Islam in the region has been separated from the rest of the Muslim world by the emergence of Shia power in Iran, and isolated by the communist lead blanket that sought to eradicate it. For the past ten years, it has been brought back into the open as it existed in the early 1920s, transmitted by the oral tradition of the elders rather than by books that have been banned for decades, and is adapted to a secular population that has chosen modernity. A unique model.
© Dominique Auzias & Jean-Paul Labourdette