Despite the closing of the Schengen borders, some places in Paris still allow us to escape to other countries. Just push the door of “La Maison de l’Ouzbékistan” in the heart of the French capital to be transported to a fascinating country. An open window to this country’s rich culture and artisanal ways, this Central Asian gem on the Rue de Rivoli offers a total change of scenery through the objects and books it offers, from which images of One Thousand and One Nights abound.
Following in the footsteps of the legendary Silk Road
Large rivers, endless cotton fields, arid deserts, steppes, high peaks, but also fabulous oasis cities nestled in green valleys: the landscapes of Uzbekistan offer a wide variety of beautiful panoramas. Situated in Central Asia, at the junction of the West and the East, Uzbekistan is crossed by the legendary Silk Road, which was used by convoys of merchants, pilgrims, and explorers to connect Europe and Asia.
Stroll in the Ferghana Valley, a cradle of history at the crossroads of great civilizations.
The Ferghana Valley is the most important region of Uzbekistan and is home to a third of the country’s population. Situated on the borders of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, surrounded by high mountains, some of whose peaks rise to over 3,000 meters, the region abounds in ancient remains that remind us that these lands were a melting pot of cultures and saw the emergence of great civilizations. This territory, which witnessed the development of Zoroastrianism – the religion of ancient Persia and monotheism before its time – and the passage of Alexander the Great, who used these roads to extend his conquests, was also at the heart of the building of the powerful Mughal Empire founded by King Bâbur. It is in the valley of Ferghana that great centers of craftsmanship developed which made the country famous internationally, including Rishtan, which is one of the oldest centers of ceramic art in Central Asia.
Contemplate the architectural wonders of Islamic art, with its sumptuous buildings with mosaic decorations
On the mythical Silk Road, several cities are real open-air museums and are full of architectural jewels, offering an admirable view. Samarkand, the glittering capital of the Silk Road, has many masterpieces of Central Asian architecture, including the dazzling blue domes of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, the splendid Registan Square, and the mosaic-covered facades of the Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis, which earned it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 2021. An essential stopover on the Silk Road and rich in 2,500 years of history, Bukhara is one of the oldest cities in the world that is still inhabited. A cultural, intellectual, and spiritual center that attracted princes and poets in medieval times, its aura remains ever-present. Its center is home to more than 140 medieval architectural monuments, including magnificent madrasas and minarets, as well as modest, flat-roofed houses built of traditional sunbaked bricks. 500 km away, in the northwest of the country, the city of Khiva flourishes in an oasis. Surrounded by ramparts, this marvelous open-air museum dazzles with its magnificence, especially when, at sunset, its buildings are adorned with an amber color and draw a panorama worthy of One Thousand and One Nights.
Brighten up your winter evenings by dressing in a sumptuous muniskat with ikat patterns
Renowned for its textiles and weavings, Uzbekistan is a country rich in traditional clothing, such as clothes with ikats. The patterns of these fabrics are obtained by juxtaposing yarns that are dyed before weaving, making fabulous overlapping colors. Legend has it that the superimposition of colors and patterns of the ikats was inspired by a divine rainbow reflected in the water of a pond. Struck by this wonderful vision, a weaver would have transposed this image on his silks in his workshop. Many prestigious fashion houses in Uzbekistan source ikat fabrics for their collections. The muniskat is a kind of dress folded under the sleeves, adorned with beautiful embroideries, whose patterns and colors differ according to the region. Nothing more fitting than this long indoor garment to sublimate the long winter evenings at home! To perfect your outfit, you can accessorize it with Ichigi: mules with soft soles decorated with delicate embroideries.
Embellish your interior with earthenware and ceramics of Afrasiab
Did you know that Uzbek ceramic craftsmanship is one of the most refined in the world? Originally developed in the ancient village of Afrasiab in the heart of the Ferghana Valley, this ceramic know-how is one of the oldest that exists. Uzbek ceramics are distinguished by several characteristics, such as elaborate compositions that combine themes from nature with triangles or complex strip patterns. Stylized birds and animals are popular subjects, often inspired by local legends. Using lead glazes, artisans have been able to create fantastic designs, and each piece is a unique work, often hand-painted. Models and manufacturing processes are passed down from generation to generation and make this craft practice an emblematic tradition of the country.
Cover your bed with a delicate embroidered suzani
Originally an Uzbek wall decoration used to decorate yurts in the steppes, the suzani has become an essential embroidered object for everyday life, with a thousand and one uses: bedspreads, decorative wall friezes, tablecloths, prayer rugs, crib covers or pouches. Sewn with delicate images and motifs, each suzani is made with the greatest care by the craftsman who chooses the colors and design. In local beliefs, these embroideries were reputed to have the power to ward off bad luck.
Discover beautiful rikhtagar vases
Like many forms of handicrafts in Uzbekistan, ironwork has been perfected through the transmission of the necessary skills from generation to generation. In an Uzbek house, one often finds beautiful metal vases, known as rikhtagar: copper skillfully worked in several stages by different craftsmen to obtain objects of delicate beauty. This metalwork, a typical Uzbek technique, is complex in its execution. The final result is a smooth and sublime piece that captures the light wonderfully when you turn it in your hand … not forgetting the relief engravings that bring the design to life.
Enjoy an och, a dish to make at home
A national and typical dish of the region, och – also called palov – is the pride of Uzbek cuisine. Blending Western and Eastern flavors and based on boiled mutton and pilaf rice, the recipe for och varies from province to province and from family to family. This dish is garnished with vegetables, such as carrots, chickpeas, turnips and onions, sometimes with dried fruits, to which spices, such as cumin, are added. Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, who designed “La Maison de l’Ouzbékistan,” likes to give those who request it her favorite och recipe. So, don’t hesitate … Take a trip to Rue de Rivoli to discover Uzbekistan!