CULTURE OF UZBEKISTAN / UZBEK CULTURE
The culture of Uzbekistan is rich in very different cultural heritages because of its strategic location and noteworthy history which has been coming through various civilizations. A wide mix of different ethnic groups and cultures along with sequential numerous conquests of ancient Persians, Greeks, Chinese, Arabs, nomadic Turkic tribes, Mongols, later, Russians in various periods of Uzbekistan history have considerably contributed Uzbek culture and lifestyle. That’s why it is very colorful and considered not only a cradle of the culture in Central Asia but also of the East.
Additionally, in the development and prosperity of Uzbek culture, the Great Silk Road has also played an important role. Being on the crossroads of the Great Silk Road has created favorable conditions to trade goods and at the same time exchange languages, customs and traditions, religions, ideas, and cultures of different nations for a long period in the present-day territory of Uzbekistan.
The culture of Uzbekistan can also be reflected in traditions, dance, music, songs, clothes, entertainment, and some other aspects as the cultural elements.
But, due to the peculiar cultural characteristics of each region of Uzbekistan which are obviously demonstrated in dialects, national clothes, and dresses, it is impossible to experience the whole Uzbek culture at a time. The most efficient way of getting acquainted with the culture of Uzbekistan widely is to participate in particular festivals in Uzbekistan. It is a good choice to witness and compare the cultural representatives of all regions in one place through their local songs and dances, national dresses, folk arts, and crafts in Uzbekistan.
Uzbek hospitality / Hospitality in Uzbekistan / Hospitality of Uzbek nation
Uzbek hospitality is an inseparable part of Uzbek culture. Throughout history, Uzbekistan was located in the heart of Silk Road. It used to host numerous passing by caravans. Thus, hospitality has become nature for the Uzbek nation! You can knock any door; a dweller opens immediately with a warm smile and invites you for a cup of tea in the house not knowing you and even without asking your aim of a visit. Hospitality in Uzbekistan is the honor of Uzbek people and the main quality of the culture of Uzbekistan!
Oriental Uzbek bazaars (markets)
Oriental Uzbek bazaars are one of the best and suitable places to observe Uzbek culture more vividly!
Do you know what name else Sunday has? Believe us; almost all Turkic nations know it. Sunday means “shopping day” or “bazaar day”. Monday is also described as “the next day after Bazaar”.
Although it is already the XXI century, bazaars are still an essential part of Uzbek culture and Central Asian people’s lifestyle. And it has not changed significantly from its form of medieval ages.
People cannot imagine the East without its bazaars! The role of oriental bazaars in local people’s life is vital! It is not only a place of shopping but also a center of communication, an exchange of news, emotions, and experiences, and even the relief of depressions! One can hear the latest unofficial news in the bazaar before it appears in Mass Media; if one is depressed, he or she can get rid of it by sharing with sellers. Because sellers make compliments to buyers to attract while buyers make compliments to sellers to get the lowest prices!
One of the main features of bazaars is bargaining! There is a saying: “A purchase without bargaining is not halal!” So, you can buy products even with discounted prices up to 40-50% by bargaining. This is a peculiarity of oriental bazaars which plays one of the main roles in the culture of Uzbekistan!
Each region of Uzbekistan has its own bazaars but we suggest visiting the following ones:
- Chorsu bazaar in Tashkent;
- Oloy (Alay) bazaar in Tashkent;
- Siyab (Siyab) bazaar in Samarkand;
- Urgut bazaar of handicrafts in Samarkand region.
Music and songs of Uzbekistan
Traditional Uzbek music is one of the means of understanding the peculiarity of the Uzbek nation. Because music and a song express a nation’s dreams, wishes, nature, mood, and intentions. As an example, we can mention the song “Sust Khotin” which has been sung throughout history to call rain during a drought period or a song “Oblo baraka” which has been sung by men in summer and autumn asking for a good harvest.
We can witness the deep history of traditional Uzbek music by seeing images of musicians, relating to the culture of the Kushan period, depicted on the frieze with a stringed instrument in the form of a harp in his hand, the other with a wind instrument similar to a flute, and the third with an oblong double-sided drum. From this, we can conclude that the Kushans and Sogdians knew the main types of instruments and used them both solo and in an ensemble.
Due to the numerous types of musical instruments, Uzbek national music is one of the most colorful not only among Central Asian countries but also in the whole world. Here are some main Uzbek musical instruments: Kayrok/Qayroq (stone castanets), doira/doyra (tambourine), Nay/Nai (flute), Rubab/Rubob (a lute-like instrument), Tanbur (a fretted string instrument), Dutor/Dutar (long-necked two-stringed lute), Sato (long-necked lute), Qobuz/Kobuz/Kobyz (Two-string fiddle), Karnai/Karnay (a long wind instrument), Surnai/Surnay (a wind instrument), Nogora/Nagara (drum with a rounded back and a hide head, usually played in pairs), Gijjaz/Ghijak (a group of related spike fiddles).
Many genres of traditional music have been formed and developed over the centuries. Traditional Uzbek music and songs have been accompanying all significant events in the life of the people for centuries. Uzbek folklore includes family rituals, labor, lullabies, holiday, and other songs. For example, at weddings they perform “Yor-Yor”, “Ulan”, “Kelin Salom”, etc., at funerals – “Sadr” and “Yigi”, there are also labor songs such as “Maida” and “Yozi”, lullabies – “Alla”, songs performed during such holidays as Navruz (the day of the vernal equinox), etc. Uzbekistan can boast with its following ancient genres passing from ancestors to generations: Shoshmaqom/Shashmaqam, Lapar (a dialogue song), Khalfa (Khorezmian genre), Katta ashula (two or more men sing by waving plates near their mount but without any other musical instruments), and Bakhshi genre (a folk narrator, creator, and promoters of epic traditions playing in single). UNESCO already included Shoshmaqom/Shashmaqam and Katta ashula into its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Soon Bakhshi genre is going to join the list.
Music not only keeps up spirits but also symbolizes the friendship and unity of nations. Thus, the Uzbek government has been hosting a well-known international music festival “Sharq Taronalari” (Eastern melodies) in Registan Square of Samarkand every second year at the end of August since 1997.
Dance art of Uzbekistan
Uzbek dance has been formed mostly by the ritual gestures of different religions and imitation of animals for thousands of years. UNESCO listed the Khorezmian dancing style Lazgi describes the imitation of Adam’s first move after a soul placed on him by staying still and starting to move with the tips of fingers. We can find exactly the same description in all holy books believing in Adam.
We can see the evidence of it ancient age in the archeological items, frescos of citadels and ceramic dishes, miniatures: wall paintings of dancing couples in Toprak Kala ruins (II-VI centuries); rock picture “Dancing lady” of Chelak region (Samarkand) (V century); a religious ritual dance carved on the Yakkabog stone (Kashkadarya) (VII century); miniature of Mahmud Muzakhhiba – “Dancers” and others.
Ancient dances like “Katta uyin” (by the rhythm of doira), family dances “Khona bazm uyin”, Khorezm dance with flames –“Otash uyin”, Bukhara female dance (performed only on knees), “Besh karsak” (performed by the men of Samarkand mountains) have reached to us and rural people are still keeping to them. There are 5 dancing style schools in Uzbekistan and each of them is unique:·
- Ferghana-Tashkent school (smoothness and softness of gestures describing lyric stories)·
- Bukhara school (a wide variety of gestures and a sharp change in the mood)·
- Khorezm school (sharpness and complex of movements)·
- Surkhandarya school (lightness and the vigorousness of gait. Use household attributes-spinning wheels…)·
- Karakalpakstan school (tremulous movement of the body, including virtuoso leg movements, sophisticated and complex arm gestures, and unusual shoulder and head gestures)
Both genders can choose a dancer’s profession. Mostly, their dancing styles and categories are disparate. But sometimes lady dancers can dance by men’s style! Believe us, it is really amazing! The following dances “Dilkhiroj”, “Andijon polkasi”, “Tanovar”, “a dance with plov”, and “Khorazm lazgisi” have become the business card of Uzbekistan in the World arena. The Uzbek nation is an event-lover. Any type of event (weddings, anniversaries, festivals, holidays….) cannot be arranged without a dance! Thus, there is a big demand for dance and it is developing quite noticeably. To promote the charm of Uzbek dance art, every year in September Uzbekistan arranges the International festival “Magic of Dance” in historical Khiva.
Askiya (the art of cuteness) is a genre of oral folk art based on demonstrating the beauty of the language through play, the formation of words of direct meaning to a figurative meaning. It is a debate or exchange of cuteness in a joking manner between two or more men over a certain subject. At the same time, participants should be extremely careful in using every word and phrase so that Askiya should not touch the opponent’s personality. One cannot find Askiya genre in any part of the world except Ferghana valley and Tashkent regions. One of the most unique genres of folklore, Askiya, which has improved over the centuries, has risen to the level of oral art. Askiya, as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind, was included in the Representative List of UNESCO in 2014.
National clothes of Uzbekistan / Traditional Uzbek clothes / Uzbek national dress
The peculiarities of the climate of Uzbekistan have been reflected in the national clothes of Uzbekistan. Here are the Traditional Uzbek male clothes: a shirt (koylak) with long vertical, wide pants (ishton), a quilted robe (chapan) without lining, with a thin or wadded lining, basing on the season, which was tied with a textile belt (belbog), leather footwear. A skullcap (doppi) is considered a must-have item of clothing. Wearing a headdress is an Islamic influence, which forbade going out bareheaded. Nowadays Uzbek men wear skullcaps for any events: mosques, burials, and marriage events.
Male quilted robes (chapans) were the same for all ages. But also there was a “zarchapon” – a darkened velvet robe with flowery or geometrical designs made with golden thread. Previously, only the emir and his entourage could afford such robes. Today, such a brocade robe and turban are an integral part of a man’s wedding suit. Here are the Traditional Uzbek female clothes: a tunic (koylak) dress and wide at the top and wide trousers (lozim). Usually, the tunic dress and its trousers are from the same fabric. As outerwear, they used to wear a robe (chapan) of the same cut like a man’s, later a fitted camisole with short sleeves came to replace it, and vests (nimcha) began to appear. Their heads had two shawls – one was tied over the forehead, and the second one was thrown over. The headscarves of noble persons had a decoration of gold or silver threads. By the end of XIX century skullcaps (doppi/doppa/tubeteika) with golden or silk thread embroidery replaced scarves. Women, going out, used to throw a men’s robe over their heads with a collar on their heads so that strangers would not look at her. Although, the sleeves of the robe were kept back, and later they began to sew them. They had a face covering – horsehair net (chachvan). In this form, all women had to go out, even girls who had reached maturity. It is worth mentioning about jewelry of Uzbek women. Silver or gold rings with multi-colored stones, bracelets, earrings in the shape of a circle or with fringes in the shape of domes, coral beads, necklaces from rings, a tall “tillyakosh” (translated as “golden eyebrow”), which got its name due to its form, repeating a woman’s eyebrow – all this was an indispensable adjunct to the garments of Uzbek women of all ages.
Nowadays women wear a more modern version of the traditional clothes on the second day of the marriage and afterward 40 days. The customs of wearing a traditional dress have remained in rural areas, and mostly elder people keep to it. Uzbek national clothes mostly were from cotton, silk, corduroy. The Uzbek silk “khan-atlas”, meaning “royal silk”, was created most probably for a king. Its threads are dyed using national dyes by ikat manner. The thread for the fabric was dyed with natural dyes of bright colors using the ikat technique. Atlas is perfect for hot summer, does not irritate the skin, and keeps the form of the product well. Nowadays it is not uncommon to find Adras (cotton and satin fabric) on fashion catwalks all over the world.
Certainly, above we wrote about the Uzbek traditional clothing. But it does not mean that all people dress up like this. Mostly, local people wear modern clothes nowadays. Uzbekistan is a liberal country and one can find people dressed up in religious, modern, and national clothes.
We hope you have some idea about the culture of Uzbek people!