Souvenirs of Uzbekistan
Symphony in clay
Uzbekistan has every reason to be called a paradise for those who have a fancy for decorative ceramics. The art of ceramics is one of the oldest among the national Uzbek crafts and art collectors know that each region of Uzbekistan has its own traditional ceramic school.
A large Khiva-made lyagan dish or deep badiy plate with beautiful blue and ultramarine patterns will look great on the wall; whereas a big, wide-necked turquoise-glazed khum container made on the potter's wheel by a Khorezmian master will stand attractively on the floor. Among collectibles there can also be cute traditional chirok lamps and little plates with decorative patterns and pictures of architectural monuments.
A collection of the blue Uzbek ceramic ware cannot be complete without large Rishtan lyagan dishes and duck-shaped obdasta-urdak containers covered with ancient patterns depicting pomegranate fruits and almond-tree blossoms. Here, in Rishtan settlement located in the Ferghana valley, in the 14th century craftsmen began covering their ceramics with ishkor glaze made from the so-called guliob herb growing in the foothills of the Tien Shan. Hundreds of years ago the renowned Rishtan blue ceramics were much the same as those produced today by Rishtan ceramists M. Kadyrov, M. Saidov, and G. Masharipov. These ceramics were then in great demand along the whole length of the Great Silk Road, from Xinjiang to Byzantine.
Antique connoisseurs will find it exciting to come across items made by the kulol master M. Zukhurov from Denau, Surkhandaria Province. His bowls are covered with abr pattern, which is believed to magically protect from the evil eye.
Not far from Bukhara, in the town of Gijduvan, under the deft hands of the sixth-generation ceramist A. Nazrullaev there come to life lyagan dishes and kosa eating bowls decorated with patterns reminiscent of peacock tail feathers.
Craftsman's playful creations
No one can remain indifferent to the cute, molded clay figurines made by Samarkand masters. Among them are folklore characters such as the Uzbek people's favorite, the legendary jester Nasreddin on his donkey. You can also find caravans of miniature camels and; candle-holders in the form of fantastic dragons resembling the terracotta statuettes found by archeologists in the ruins of ancient Marakanda (Samarkand).
In Tashkent art shops they sell humorous, brightly colored figurines made by masters V. Shurkov and; R. Mukhamedzhanov. Among the figures is a tea-house man with a tray full of; tiny tea-pots and drinking bowls, a man selling watermelons, and archly smiling old men aksakals.
The magic of folk needlework
Collectors of fine needlework will be charmed by the works of Samarkand and Bukhara embroidery masters. The famous Uzbek suzane tapestries resemble thin, skillfully embroidered carpets. Their patterns contain ancieni symbols of the sun and stars, flowers and plants, epigraphic wishes for happiness and good health or incantations to ward off troubles and bad luck. Viewing carefully patterned Tashkent-made palyak with red cosmogony circles, or yellow Surkhandarya-made suzane tapestry, or Urgut-made embroideries with images of kumgan jugs and teapots, one can see that the embroidery master always leaves the last curve incomplete: according to a popular belief, complete embroidery will bring its maker's life to an end.
As a 'token of remembrance' of; the trip along the Great Silk Road one could purchase a gold-embroidered zarchapan robe similar to that once worn by the emirs of Bukhara, or a woman's I kamzul gown made from famous silk velvet bakhmal with abr patterns.
Guard me, my lucky charm!
Women may want to have articles of j Uzbek jewelry - not only as keepsakes of a trip to Uzbekistan, but also simply as beautiful accessories. A lady in: even a plain dress will look "orientally"! charming and mysterious if she wears} the traditional earrings kashgar-boldak or dome-shaped earrings with chiming pendants, silver bracelets with carnelians, necklaces or strings of turquoise beads. Since ancient times jewelry items have been used as mascots and gems have been believed to possess magic properties: carnelians give happiness and protect from danger, turquoises raise spirits, pearls heal... Just as in the old days, modern Uzbek masters complete necklaces with filigree triangle or cylindrical tumor - a sort of etui inside of which Uzbek women and girls used to keep protective prayers or notes from their beloved.
Enchantment of wooden laces
Ornamental art was brought to perfection in the works of Uzbek wood-carvers and painters. The ornament of traditional little hexahedral table and stool tops is usually composed of a central design in the form of a flower or a medallion hemmed with narrow or wide geometric-patterned bands. The artistic value of a carved object lies not only in the beauty of the ornament but also in the rhythm of its elements and harmony of the patterns and form of the object they cover.
Those who like puzzles will certainly be attracted by the collapsible Koran stand known as laukh. A laukh is cut out of a single piece of hard wood without any fastening, hinges and joints and can be unfolded into a complex structure with a few richly decorated shelves.
Little cases and boxes made of rare woods will nicely do for keeping jewelry. Round or square boxes for rings and chains are made of beech or plane-tree wood and are decorated with carvings or paintings, usually with elegant rosettes on their tops. The caskets and cases for necklaces come in various forms and are usually decorated floral patterns called islimi or with fine pargori style carvings.
Exquisite patterns of metalwork
A good addition to an Oriental interior would be traditional brass containers called kumgan, aftoba and choidish with engraved or embossed patterns and the glow of light shining on the polished surface. Elegant hookahs with engravings made by hereditary master M. Madaliev from Margilan are true works of art. Bukhara masters often engrave their brass and copper decorative trays intended for wall-hanging with images of architectural monuments of Holy Bukhara.
A traditional pichok knife, made by Chust or Shakhrikhan smiths, can become a worthy item in any steel collection. The hand-forged steel blades of pichok knives usually contain a brass insignia - a kind of a trademark or copyright of the craftsman who made them.
Tyubeteika for everyone
Few of the guests visiting Uzbekistan can resist the temptation of buying the national scullcap tyubeteika. The traditional Chust scullcap made of black sateen with the pattern of four white cayennes is an integral part of the Uzbek men's national dress.
The exotic guise of an oriental woman can be emphasized by a purse or women's scullcap decorated with bright embroidery in red, green and blue made by Kashkadarya masters in tiny cross-stitches called iroki; or by gold-embroidered scullcaps from Bukhara, which shine on the head like precious diadems.
The most popular are jewelry cases, powder-cases, cases for pens and pencils, and cigarette-cases made of papier-mache and decorated with lacquered miniature paintings. The Uzbek school of miniature painting developed in the times of the Temurids. However, by the end of the 19th century many secrets of miniature painting had been lost and it was only during the last decades of the 20th century that traditional techniques and technologies of Uzbek miniature art were revived. The favorites of miniaturists, musawirs, were the subjects devoted to the romantic characters of Alisher Navoiy's and Omar Khayam's poetry, hunting and battle scenes evoked by the epic poems 'Shakhname' and 'Baburname', episodes of national holidays and rituals, as well as images of musicians and loving couples. Miniature paintings can also cover souvenir naskavok tobacco boxes, calabash gourds, leather cover of national doyra tambourines, chessboards...
For beauty and comfort in your house In souvenir boutiques and shops in the hotels and museums, or just inl a craftsman's workshop, in Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Ferghana Valley anyone can find a keepsake to his or her taste. It can be a| famous Bukharan or Khivan carpet, a silk tapestry from Samarkand, a joynamaz prayer rug, a striped gajari carpet from Kokand or arabi carpet with geometrical patterns from Shakhrisabz, a woven Karakalpaki carpet with pile patterns or a long baskura tapestry used for decoration ofyurts (nomadic tents). One can also buy a miniature souvenir yurt or tiny figurines of a camel made of white camel's felt, on dolls in national dresses.
Silver-soundings strings of the Orient
Since olden times, the ancient cities of Uzbekistan were well-known for musical instrument makers. Their unique instruments are made distinctive not only by their characteristic tone quality but also by the exceptionally elegant shape of the instrument body and intricate patterned carving on the rare type of wood, as well as bone and nacre inlays. Miniature Uzbek musical instruments such as dutar, rubab and fanbur with tiny strings and intricate ornaments in nacre are undoubtedly an excellent souvenir for oriental music devotees.
Certainly, any souvenir from Uzbekistan will adorn the home and for long continue to remind travellers of their happy adventures in the fabulous land of Uzbekistan.