Trip to Uzgen
Uzgen was a brethren and rival city of Osh at the same time. With its strategic location on the Silk Road it became an important trading hub in Fergana valley. The city reached its highest glory under the Karakhanid kingdom. Karakhanids declared Uzgen their second capital and the city prospered economically and culturally.
Nowadays, Uzgen is famous for its medieval architecture, authentic bazaar, and legendary red rice. Such heritage is the primary reason to visit Uzgen while traveling Kyrgyzstan. Therefore, make sure to hit this city while in Osh and check the following attractions.
1. Uzgen Archeological-Architectural Site
If you could visit only one sight in Uzgen, it should be the ‘Historical and Archeological Complex’. It is a site where the glory of medieval Islamic architecture survived in the form of minaret tower and mausoleums. What makes this place twice as important is that it withstood the greatest tragedies of Fergana valley – earthquakes and invasions.
A minaret is an Islamic construction that aimed to gather worshipers to the collective prayer. Local narratives suggest that besides calling for prayer, people of Uzgen used their minaret as a watchtower. Considering its original height of 45 meters, it served as the best location to surveil the surrounding area. Nowadays, this tower is half of its original height (remember the earthquakes?), therefore, it is twice easier to climb on top of it. There, on top, you can embrace the whole view of the surroundings and take some good photos.
After descending from the minaret, you head towards three glorious constructions connected to each other. These are the mausoleums built for the rulers of the Karakhanid kingdom. According to historical sources, the founder of the Karakhanid dynasty was buried here. Mausoleums will amaze you with the variety of geometric and vegetative carvings on the walls and the traditions of the Ferganian School of architecture.
2. Uzgen Bazaar and Red rice
Uzgen bazar is an embodiment of an authentic eastern market filled with goods and trading spirit. By simply walking among its lines and crowd, you will encounter thousands of products, cafes and street food. Besides simply wandering through its alleys, I highly suggest you learn more about legendary Uzgen ‘red rice’. It is a unique and buy a kilo for yourself. Believe me, this extra kilo in your luggage is worth its place. If you want to make use of your rice immediately, join my Plov-cooking tour and learn how to cook the real Uzgen plov.
Speaking about rice: the legacy of an ancient rice mill technology is still preserved in Uzgen. There is a couple of rice mills operating on water across Uzgen. I can’t guarantee that rice mills are always open for your visit. Their work time is directly related to the harvest season and some other factors. Yet, occasionally, tourists get lucky to find them open and operating. Sometimes tourists arrange the visit through local guides (oh, by the way, I can organize this visit too!)
3. Uzgen Plov
And continuing the topic of rice – one can’t simply come to Uzgen and leave without eating Uzgen plov. It is an iconic dish made of rice, meat, carrot, onion, and spices. After going through frying, boiling and steaming processes, it will perfectly lay in your belly. The only obstacle is that they rarely serve plov by portions. You have to order the minimum amount that equals to 0.7-0.8 kilos. Costing nearly $15 (including the main dish, salads, tea, and service) it will easily feed four people. And believe me, it will be your best investment in food in the entire country!
Finally, after enjoying the architecture, adventured through the bazaar and delighted by the plov, take your taxi back to Osh (from this spot) and have a good evening!
On the way back to Osh (or from Osh to Uzgen) you will notice pavilions with melons and watermelons. Farmers bring them fresh straight out of gardens. Thus, get some melons and watermelons and enjoy them!