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Moynaq / Uzbekistan
We saw where Karimovs ship ran aground

A few days before we were supposed to arrive in Uzbekistan Karimov the president of said country kicked the bucket. We knew next to nothing of him or his country so we seized the opportunity to read a bit about him. Islam Karimov’s wiki isn’t very flattering, and we hoped that his unexpected death wouldn’t ignite a bloody struggle for power. Or even worse, that our travel plans would be jeopardized. Our experiences upon entering Uzbekistan didn’t promise much good so we started to expect North Korean circumstances. But the welcome we were given proved to be the only negative point of our trip. Against expectation for example we had normal internet acces, and the streets weren’t filled with military or police (except at the entrances of the subway, of which you’re not allowed to take pictures) and everybody made a relaxed impression on us.

We were hardly bothered by police either corrupt or not and I could fly almost everywhere within city boundaries with my drone (although I never really asked permission for this, but instead positioned myself out of sight on rooftops). Being asked by us, people said they were really content with Karimov’s leadership and therefore planned on voting for his prime minister, so as not to have too much change in the country. But then again, those people probably never knew anybody who was boiled alive by Karimov.

Khiva / Uzbekistan
The bazaar at the west gate in Khiva

Beside torturing people Karimov also found time to turn Tashkent into a modern city by bulldozing the city flat an fill it with wide streets and modern empty buildings. As is customary in this region. But once we travelled further  into the country, finally we found ourselves in the thousand and one nights setting we had hoped for so much. For example driving along we saw cotton plantations on the side of the road where the slaves people were forced to harvest the cotton. The public treasury pockets of the leaders don’t fill themselves after all. Apart from that the old city centers of Bukhara and Khiva with their old slave markets, small alleys, ancient bazars, madrassas and mosques really gave us the idea that we had traveled back in time several centuries.

So in short, Karimov’s Uzbekistan is a beautiful country with a rich centuries old history (after the Khan brothers Timur conquered an empire from India to Egypt) that made a deep impression on us. Therefore we were looking forward eagerly at our next destination: Turkmenistan with it’s own presidictator.

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