Uzbekistan has a rich cultural heritage whose influence can be seen in civilisations all over the world. Long before the adventurer, Marco Polo, travelled there in the thirteenth century, Central Asian philosophers, scientists and medics were leading the world, and this history is just part of what Uzbekistan has to offer.
1. Science and Philosophy
Uzbekistan boasts an influential history in science and philosophy. The philosopher Avicenna or Ibn Sina (c.980-1037), a physician, geologist, palaeontologist, physicist, psychologist and mathematician was born in Bukhara and, and was, as Dr Jules Janssens described to Travel Tomorrow, “One of the greatest thinkers and scientist of all time”. His translations ensured the preservation of essential works from Aristotle, Galen and Euclid and his works have greatly influenced European philosophy.
Astronomy also has Uzbekistan to thank, as Ulugh Beg built the then largest observatory in the world by in Samarkand in 1428 and succeeded in calculating the position of 1018 stars. His masterpiece the Catalogue of Stars fascinated the scientific world.
As does mathematics. Dr. Jules Janssens explained that “the founder of algebra with the decimal system was born in Khiva: Abu Jafar Muhammed Ibn Musa al-Khorazmi, better known to us by his Latin name Algoritmus.” Algoritmus was also key in encouraging the use of the digital 0 as a placeholder which is essential in our modern day computer age.
Khiva was also echoed today at the 75th United Nations’ General Assembly where the President of Uzbekistan, Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, stated “we are ready to hold the International Forum “Central Asia at the Crossroads of World Civilizations” in the ancient city of Khiva in 2021 in cooperation with UNESCO”.
Avicenna’s medical discoveries were also influential and his Canon of Medicine was introduced in many European universities. “He was also one of the first to write about the importance of quarantine to prevent the spread of disease, described the symptoms of diabetes and showed that the heart is the central ‘motor’ that ensures that blood is circulated throughout the body. He also introduced anaesthesia in medical procedures and made a distinction between central and peripheral facial paralysis.” Dr. Janssen informed us.
Another marvel of Uzbekistan is their craftsmanship. From intricate woodcarving to beautiful terracotta tilework following methods dating back to the 12th century. Quality steel is also produced in Aksikent and you can still see Uzbek blacksmiths at work in the National Knife Factory in Chusti, creating beautiful knives from iron or steel with their intricately carved handles, the product of several hours work by master carvers. Chusti is also one of the main producers of the tubeteika, a black tetrahedral skullcap which is colourfully embroidered.
4. Historical Importance
Khiva, Samarkand and Bukhara played major roles in trade and commerce during the days of the Great Silk Road, the network of roads stretching over 10,000 kilometres from China to the Mediterranean.
Maqom (meaning “place” or “melody” in Arabic) is a genre of music played in Uzbekistan and UNESCO world heritage since 2003. It is performed solo or by a group of singers and an orchestra of lutes, fiddles, frame-drums and flutes. Performances usually open with an instrumental introduction followed by the main vocal section or nasr, consisting of two distinct sets of songs.