24 Fun Facts About Uzbekistan That Surprised Me

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Uzbekistan is a country in Central Asia that many of my world-traveler friends have never ventured to, and it’s time to change that!

Uzbekistan is a nation with deep historical roots as one of the main stops along the Silk Road. Today, it is a vibrant cultural hub that’s just off the beaten path.

Prepare to be amazed by this collection of fun Uzbekistan facts!

1. You Can Stay In A Yurt Camp

One of the most exciting things you can do in Uzbekistan is to stay in a traditional yurt camp! Just as the Silk Road merchants did hundreds of years ago, you can camp in the Qizilqum desert.

If that isn’t the beginning of a tale of an epic adventure, I don’t know what is.

2. A Blue Tile Wonderland

Uzbekistan is home to some of the most beautiful blue tilework anywhere in the world. Traditional tilework includes Majolica, Mosaic, and Terracotta.

Tilework on buildings in Samarkand

These tiles adorn public buildings and sacred places of worship alike. One of the most beautiful locations with exquisite Timurid-era tilework is Shah-i-Zinda, a funeral complex.

Located in Samarkand, visiting Shah-i-Zinda should be on every traveler’s bucket list. The beautiful shades of blue and complex patterns are stunning to behold, paired with the ancient architecture.

3. Handshakes Are Only Exchanged Amongst Men

Only men shake hands when greeting one another.

Uzbek women are greeted by placing a person’s right hand over their chest and then graciously bowing.

4. Green Tea Is The National Beverage

Asia produces the best green tea in the world. There – I’ve said it.

The citizens of Uzbekistan would undoubtedly agree as it is their national beverage. The locals will drink it in chai khanas which literally translated means “tea room”.

5. Arranged Marriages Are Still Common

It is still common for marriages to be arranged in Uzbekistan and a traditional dialogue called Lapar is often performed between two singers at traditional weddings.

Uzbeks typically will get married on days that have the number 7 in them as they are considered lucky days.

6. Uzbekistan Has The Largest Open Pit Gold Mine

The largest open pit gold mine found in the world is in Uzbekistan. Located in Qizilqum desert, it produces 125,000 pounds of gold annually and covers an area a few miles wide and close to 2 thousand feet deep.

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Speaking of gold, Uzbekistan is one of the world’s top producers and gold is one of the country’s top exports.

7. Largest Shrinking Lake In The World

Once the 4th largest lake in the world, the Aral Sea covered an impressive 26,300 miles. Yet in the 1960s it began to shrink and by the mid-1990s, nearly 10% of the lake had dried up.

The dry aral sea with 2 rusted ships

The lake has continued to shrink as more water is diverted away from the rivers that feed the lake, and NASA satellite images show that the land is slowly turning into a desert.

8. It’s The Same Size As California

Uzbekistan is larger than most people think it is.

As the world’s 56th largest independent state, it is roughly the size of the country of Spain or the state of California in the United States. It covers an area that is roughly 172,700 square miles.

9. A Double Landlocked Country

Only two countries in the world are considered double landlocked countries – Uzbekistan and Liechtenstein.

This means that to reach the ocean, one needs to drive through more than one country.

10. Nature is Valued In Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has nine nature reserves and two national parks. The most famous of these is Zaamin National Park which was founded in 1926.

Mountains of Zaamin national park with resort at the bottom of the valley

Zaamin National Park features caves, ancient monuments, and even dinosaur tracks! It is known for its Juniper forests and the elusive creatures that call it home, including the Snow Leopard.

11. Cotton is Considered White Gold

Cotton is an important export for the nation that considers it white gold.

The government has been criticized by human rights groups because it forces over a million of its people including students and government employees to pick the cotton fields each year.

The country exports around 750,000 tons of cotton which is around 5 percent of the world’s production of cotton.

12. Traditional Tea Ceremonies Are Respected

Tea drinking is somewhat ceremonial in nature and proper etiquette must be followed in Uzbekistan.

One must first rinse out the piala or small tea bowl with a hot drop of tea, and then bowls of tea must be returned to the pot three times before one can drink it. It is customary that sweets are served alongside the tea.

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13. Uzbekistan Has An Eclectic Food Culture

It is not hard to see why the food culture is eclectic.

Uzbekistan food

By virtue of location, Uzbekistan was directly in the path of traveling merchants. Influences from Iranian, Russian, Arab, Chinese, and Indian cuisine have been combined into a fusion of exciting flavors.

Local cuisines are typically rich, heavily spiced, and aromatic.

14. National Food Was Invented by Alexander The Great’s Cooks

Palove is the national food of Uzbekistan and its origins can be traced all the way back to Alexander the Great. It is said that this dish was created by Alexander the Great’s cooks as a feast containing local mutton, rice, carrots, and onions.

Today, Uzbek master chefs need to be able to cook enough Palov/plov to serve a thousand men from one pot.

In different areas of the country, locals will add peppers, dried tomatoes, pumpkins, and other products to create their own spin on the national dish.

15. Uzbekistan Means “Land of the Free”

The name Uzbekistan if broken down into Turkish words means “Land of the Free”.

This may be a bit ironic for a country with such strict laws.

There are many practices that are illegal in Uzbekistan including gambling, having or using drugs, and drinking alcohol if you are under 20 years old. Homosexuality is also not legal, and surprisingly, nor is coffee.

16. Superstitious About Bread

Uzbeks take their bread (obi non or non) seriously. This round bread is always torn rather than cut with a knife. It is also never thrown out as that is considered bad luck.

Bread at an outdoor market in Uzbekistan

A regional bread called Lepioshka is considered a bread bringing good luck, as long as it is not turned upside down or placed on the ground (even within a container).

An ancient tradition that is still followed today is that traveling family members are to take a small bite of Uzbek bread before they leave on a journey. This piece of bread is buried or hidden by the family until the traveler returns home safely.

17. Uzbeks Love Sports

Some of the most popular sports in Uzbekistan are football and tennis. Many Uzbeks also practice the native martial art form Kurash.

It is said that local games should never be missed and are always memorable.

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18. Drinking Water May Not be Drinkable

Uzbeks will typically boil tap water before drinking it. Some regions don’t allow people to drink the water from the tap without treating it due to the high salt content.

When traveling in the country, drink bottled water or boil it before drinking!

19. A Great Place To Unplug

If you ever wanted to unplug your electronics, Uzbekistan is a great place to do so. Mostly because you won’t find reliable internet anywhere.

If you want to stay connected, buying a local SIM card is a must because Wi-Fi signals are few and far between.

20. Forbidden to Take Items Out of the Country Older Than 50 Years

If you like to purchase souvenirs when traveling, ensure that you ask the age of any piece before committing to buy it.

In Uzbekistan, you are not allowed to take souvenirs out of the country if they are more than 50 years old.

21. Home to the Largest Metro System in Central Asia

Uzbekistan is known for its beautiful metro stations in Tashkent. Artisans have taken painstaking care to ensure these stations are a marvel to behold with gorgeous marble pillars, ornate chandeliers, and engraved metal carvings.

Inside of Uzbekistan metro station

Of course, it helps that these stations make up the largest metro system in Central Asia and are a wonderful way for travelers to get around.

22. End Of Meal Etiquette

Manners and customs are important to follow when visiting a foreign country and local customs should definitely be followed in Uzbekistan.

It is common to run your hands over your face to express gratitude at the end of a meal, even in a restaurant!

23. Ask Before Taking Photographs

In Uzbekistan, it is important to ask local authorities to take photos of government and public buildings. Even transportation hubs such as metro stations should not be photographed without permission.

24. Most Delicious Melon In The World

Uzbekistan produces the world-famous Mirzachul melon which some people call the most delicious in the world because of its abundance of natural sugars.

This melon is also called torpedo melon or gulabi melon in other locales but is said to not taste quite the same. It grows exceptionally well in the soil of Uzbekistan during melon season!


Christina loves to travel and recently moved from America to Austria to experience everything Europe has to offer. Her passion for travel is rivaled only by her love of writing. Armed with her English degree, she funds her travels writing for several websites including MyCountryFacts!

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