Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Uzbekistan: Pearl of the Sands - a New Documentary

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At Urgut bazaar. Image: Richard Marshall
The Russian television network «Россия 1» premiered its new documentary about Uzbekistan this month. Titled Uzbekistan - Pearl of the Sands, this 40-minute film provides a wonderful overview of the country, its people, monuments, cuisine and applied arts.

For those of you who will visit Uzbekistan, this docco answers those questions of family and friends who ask "You are going where?" followed by "Why?"

And for travellers who have been there, it is a marvellous way to remember the places visited and the hospitality and warmth of Uzbeks.

The film has not fossilised Uzbekistan as a medieval Silk Road centre. Rather it showcases a modern country, proud of its heritage and traditions, and working towards a prosperous future.

The contributions of the great, medieval Uzbek scientists and mathematicians - Avicenna, Al-Buruni, Ulughbek, Al-Khorezmi - are highlighted.

Tashkent is shown as the modern, green, cultural city it is - the new and old buildings, bazaars, parks, fountains and industries.

Samarkand's Registan - the extraordinary architectural ensemble - is of course featured. But the film visits the master craftsmen, such as the tile makers, whose workshops are nestled in the former student cells of the madrassahs there. Viewers visit the paper making workshop at Konigil and the Samarkand carpet workshop. Ulughbek's observatory, as well as the glorious tiles of Shah-i-Zindar, Samarkand's necropolis are included.

Streets and people will be so familiar to readers who have rambled around Khiva and Bukhara or who visited the ikat weavers in Ferghana. There are great shots of plov, the national dish, as well as bread making.

The final segment, "Soul", looks at ancient Sufism, modern Islam and the remarkable generosity of Uzbeks. Rare footage is included of the thousands of Soviet orphans who were evacuated to Tashkent during the siege of Leningrad (1941 - 1944) and who were adopted by Uzbek families.

Bravo to Россия 1 for making this documentary freely available on YouTube (see below). Settle down with a pot of green tea, some dried fruits and enjoy Uzbekistan. Although it is in narrated in Russian only, without subtitles, it is easy to understand this excellent film. Remember to watch it in full screen mode. ( If this does not appear in your device, please go directly to

Related posts: Samarkand: The Revival of Papermaking
Samarkand's Magic Carpets  
Avicenna of Bukhara and Al-Khorezmi of Khiva
Tashkent: A City of Refuge
Uzbekistan as Film Location