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Uzbekistan Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Uzbekistan

As the capital, it’s not surprising that Tashkent offers some of the best shopping in Uzbekistan. Boutiques and small independent shops sell the best Central Asian style carpets, skull caps, suzani and other textiles, as well as presenting the odd fashion show to encourage shoppers. At the other end of the spectrum there are the large Soviet-style malls and the traditional bazaars where most locals still shop. For travel essentials, like money belts and rucksacks these are where you’ll find range and value. Traditional rugs and clothes, silk, spices and handicrafts can also be found in the smaller bazaars of Tashkent’s Old City.

In more touristy centres, like Bukhara and Khiva, the shops around the main sights sell everything a tourist might wish to remind them of their Silk Road adventures – crockery, textiles, ikat printed cushion covers, old Soviet memorabilia, knives and spices.

Good buys include Islamic tiles, paintings, hand-stitched bedspreads and linens – beware, the cost difference between chemical and vegetable dye, and machine versus handmade is significant. Make sure you know what you are buying. Carpets are another good buy and in Bukhara, the silk weaving and carpet centres located around the late 16th-century Tim Abdulla Khan, near Taqi-Telpaq Furushon Bazaar, are a good choice. Generally workers are honest about advising whether the carpet is either handmade or machine-made. There are a couple of bookshops in Bukhara that have interesting selections of photographic books and maps about Uzbekistan. Khiva has many similar shops and stalls that line the main tourist drags and has plenty of craft centres where you can watch a traditional suzani being stitched.

Shopping Note

Bartering is commonplace but it's not as lively as elsewhere in Asia. A gentle approach works best.

Shopping hours

Food shops open 0800-1700, all others open 0900-1900.

Nightlife in Uzbekistan

Like most of Central Asia, Uzbekistan doesn’t have a great deal of nightlife going on. There are the usual slightly soulless bars in larger hotels in Tashkent, and a few better places in cities where tourists tend to congregate. In Bukhara there is a very small wine scene, with one or two wine shops setting up shop in old buildings and offering tastings of the local wines, some of which are surprisingly good. There are also a few cabarets and puppet shows in the early evening. In Samarkand you can find some blues bars and cafes that attract a mixture of tourists and locals, as well as one or two restaurants that stay open until midnight, which is unusual.

The scene in Tashkent isn’t particularly sophisticated either, but there are some cinemas, ballet options and theatres that show European operas as well as traditional Uzbek dancing and music. The Navoi theatre, opposite the Tashkent Hotel, shows opera and ballet. Prices are low by Western standards; shows generally start at 1800. There are also a number of themed Western-style bars, restaurants and discos. Bear in mind, it’s not a good idea to be out on the streets alone after 2300.