So, I recently travelled to Uzbekistan. The country is lovely, with winding hills, gorgeous parks, magnificent mosques and deserts/scrub landscape.
There were a few things that did strike me as interesting though, and the first was the language. Knowing some Iranian, I was able to identify a few Iranian words. The language is Uzbek, but the Turkish and Farsi influence was noticeable. The presence of the letter Ø (not present in English. Don’t be fooled by Motørhead and Møtley Crue) was the Turkish marker. It is a fairly rare sound in languages across the world. Secondly, the words “Mikånam (to do), Bashe (ok) were borrowed from Farsi. I lovelovelove languages, so this was a high-point.
A second point was how clean Uzbekistan was. With well over 30 million inhabitants, one would expect a bit of garbage lying around, but except for in rural areas, it was exceptionally clean. There were older ladies everywhere tidying, and it would seem the state provides some form of pension for carrying out this task. This is similar to Iran, where the unemployed get a sort of salary for cleaning streets and public areas.
Uzbekistan has no coastline. For those of you who have studies economy, it will come as no surprise that this affects the economy. Land-bound countries are typically poor. Why? Because of limited transport-possibilities. Transport by sea is much much cheaper than by land.
Infrastructure. Where other countries spend money improving roads (Spain!!), Uzbekistan prefers spending it on grand structures and luscious parks. The roads were horrible.
The main production is cotton, which explains why Uzbekistan is poor.
Religiosity. The people of Uzbekistan did not appear to be very religious, despite the majority claiming to be Sunni Muslims. Alcohol was readily available, non-halal food likewise. People were dressed modestly, but there were very few hijabs to be found. I asked our guide about recruitment to (for instance) organizations like the Islamic State, and he did claim there were some that had left to join, but it didn’t seem like it was pervasive. I did get into a conversation with a young boy in one of the stores though; he claimed my father was not a Muslim, as he is Iranian, thus Shia, thus not a Muslim. Other than that, the food was ok. The people were ok. The hotels were ok. The sights were marvelous. The currency was.. Approximately like the currency post WW1 in Germany. To get one dollar, one would need approximately 8500 Soms (Uzbek currency). A decent meal would run you about 50000-100000 Soms, and a proper Kebab cost about 12000 Soms.