The Fergana Valley
Personally, I know the Fergana Valley because the best dried fruit and nuts sold in Kazan, my home city, come from there. Indeed, the Fergana Valley is the most fertile area in Uzbekistan and in the southern part of Central Asia, that’s why it became the agricultural heartland in the region.
The Fergana Valley is undoubtedly your off the beaten track destination in Uzbekistan. Don’t set your expectations too high if you prefer visiting majestic historical sites like in Bukhara or Samarkand: in the Fergana Valley you will most probably not find them. Fergana is best enjoyed at the numerous local cafés, strolling through the green amusement parks, visiting the agricultural markets, savoring delicious fruit, vegetables and nuts and wandering at the local life as it is.
When visiting the Fergana Valley, even though you will most probably arrive in Margilan on a train from Tashkent, I would recommend to choose the Fergana city as a base for discovering the area around and the cities nearby. In Fergana you will find many hotels and restaurants and better tourist infrastructure than in Margilan, for example. When we were there, the wind was very strong and we had an impression a dust storm was at rage in the city.
Visiting a local market is always a good idea. In the Fergana Valley, as already mentioned above, you have to buy and eat a lot of local fruit and nuts. Approximate price for the dried fruit and nuts are the following: dried apricots (“kuraga”) or dried plums (prunes or “chernosliv”) costs 20000-25000 som per kg, almond and walnuts – 45000 som per kg. The (best and sweetest in my life!) pomegranates cost about 18000 som per kg.
You can also buy some local bread, which looks beautiful but is too dry to our taste.
For dinner, visit the restaurant “Traktir Ostrov Sokrovisch” ((Marifat 43, Fergana 150100, Uzbekistan); this place is not the cheapest one, but the food and the service are very good. However, beware of the size of the portions – they are big enough to get full quickly! We ordered “mixed kebab” and were expecting one skewer with different types of meat (that was not the only thing we ordered, so we were hoping for the mercy and understanding of the waitress that we could not eat so much more…). Instead, we were served four huge skewers with various meat. The price was also four-fold. To avoid misunderstandings, clarify your order in detail with the staff in advance.
From the Fergana city, you can reach Margilan with a taxi within 10 minutes. A taxi Fergana – Margilan will cost you about 10000 som and a collective taxi – 3000 som pp.
In Margilan we didn’t have a specific plan at first and just walked through the sleeping district and were cheerfully greeted (in Russian) by the children we met on our way. Generally, locals are very friendly and almost in every shop we visited, they asked where we were from and if we were married.
On the picture below you can find a map of Margilan with marked places of sightseeing and restaurants.
We took a look at the Said Ahmad Haji Madrassa and Khonakokh Mosque.
This city the most important silk production center in the whole of Central Asia is situated, which has been going on since ancient times. Nowadays, you can visit two authentic silk factories in Margilan.
We visited the Yodgorlik Silk Factory which was built in the 80s but keeping the old, traditional weaving techniques. We even heard that UNESCO supports this factory in order to keep the old weaving traditions preserved. We paid 50000 som for a private tour which is definitely worth your time. We witnessed the whole silk manufacturing process, from growing cocoons, silk fiber extraction through intricate coloring and weaving till selling the final product to retailers. It is immensely impressive how long does this process take…
There is also semi-automated textile production in the Yodgorlik Silk Factory where one women mans several bulky old-fashioned machines. In those buildings the noise level is incredibly high, we couldn’t imagine how these incredible women manage to work there all day long and staying calm…
You can read more about this place here.
We also visited the carpet production and marveled at the skills of the craftswomen and admired their patience in their work: sometimes it takes a year or more to weave a carpet!
After our factory tour, we walked to the other silk production site (Margilan Crafts Development Center), but there was only a small shop selling expensive clothes. Then we took a break at the Lagman House cafe and returned to Fergana.