In Kungrad, Uzbekistan Muslims Sleep On the Floor
By Simon Says
April 17th 2005
It is morning in Kungrad and I have been woken up suddenly. The woman in about five minutes succeeded in rushing me out of the house to get to the train to Tashkent. But I am not planning to go to Tashkent which is quite far from here . The question is what do I plan to do. I don't know anything about this city . It looks strange to me. I suppose I could walk around a little bit and see more of it. I am pretty tired.
The woman had a small cat in the house and it would crawl up on me. To be secure when I was sleeping, I tied my belt to my back pack. When they woke me up and I was trying to write something I started to scream at them but I don't think they responded to my screaming.
I am trying to take a rest and some people came up to me they told me that I should sit in the park.
I arrived in this city not knowing where I would sleep and met a woman in the station who took me to her home. There I found a couch and was fed. "No beds." she said. "Muslims sleep on the floor." We ate round bread and some soup.
Now I still didn't have any Uzbek currency. In my half dream like state I went out of their house.
Despite not speaking the language it is not too difficult to understand them. Now I am trying to find a bank. The Bukharian cap seems to be the norm of the people of Uzbekistan. Many of the men seem to be wearing it .
Here I am at the NBU which I guess means the National Bank of Uzbekistan. There is a sign with a saying by Islam Karimov.
I have now discovered that Uzbekistan is really a strange country. I go to the bank to try to change money and they tell me they have none of their local currency and then she reluctantly hands me a thick wad of bills that is the equivalent of .
I notice that there are women here who carry umbrellas for the sun because the sky is very clear and blue here. It is starting to get very hot here.
Wandering around the train station I was detained by the police and they interrogated me, checked on the validity of my visa, and even had an English speaker around. Finally they drove me to the museum which was closed. I had the sense after this that the country was indeed a police state
I am at the museum of Kungrad. I was driven here by the police man. He drove me here in a Soviet style KGB style car, good looking and solid. It looked new in its condition but told old in its model.
Before that I was asking the police chief some questions about Kungrad. He told me that it is not really the center of the autonomous republic of Karalkapaksitan. Nukus is really the center and there is only one autonomous republic in all of Uzbekistan and that is Karalkapakia and the people there are Turkic like the Uzbeks but of a different type so they have their autonomous republic.
The other police detective treated me with a lot of suspicion. Luckily I was friendly to him. They wanted to make sure that I was ion the road to Tashkent. He called up several times. I was looking at the poster of the wanted people of Uzbekistan. It seems that I am subject to a lot of attention in certain places.
He told me that Nukus is the center of Karalkapakistan but as far as going to see the Aral sea, it doesn't really seem possible. I haven't figured out. A sea is important in Uzbekistan but I haven't figured out. He told me that this is a city of 100,000.
There are no cities near the Aral Sea. One thing that you notice about the women here and in general in Central Asia is that they become much more colorful than the women of the Middle East. There dress is not one solid color but usually one solid color and flowers of a different color like a black dress with white flowers or a blue dress with yellow or some of them don't even have a clear distinguishable color but consist of a pattern of flowers. Their head scarves are not the kind you would find in the Middle East but more colorful.
Generally my impression of the Islamic culture here in Uzbekistan is Central Asia is that it is one of tradition of family tradition and history. It is not a modern movement although it exists in modern times but hasn't been changed to become a modern movement like the Islam you find in the Middle East and Pakistan and other countries where the government is controlled by Muslims.
I am now at the main bazaar at Kungrad and for 200 sum I have had myself a water melon and it was really sweet, really juicy and really satisfying.
I guess my impression of Uzbekistan is improving now that I see it for what it is a country that doesn't really have many tourists as compared with some other places.
It should be interesting very interesting, as long as I don't get cheated.
I told them I came from Romania and they asked me if I came pishkom or walking.
I am on my way in a microbus to Nukus. The mystery of this land is a mixed place with people of mixed races living all together.
We have stopped off to pick up the cargo that is going to go in the back seat. The woman sitting next to me, the older woman in her fifties, is looking and blocking and helping at the same time. On her lap is a boy. Now she is wiping the sweat of her face with a handkerchief. The boy tries to get a hold of my water bottle but the grandmother or mother pulls him away saying that it is his. She asked me if I was an American and I said no.
The scenery is flat but lush. On both my left on my right side you can see fields. Animals are grazing. The road is narrow but adequate for the microvan. We have 14 human beings in the van, four of them are women, another four are men and the rest are children. For some reason under the electrical wires the ground is white.
The are more camels on the road. Even in the Arab countries I don't know how often one sees camels.
Pop rock music is being played and trance music. It is a good feeling crossing Uzbekistan in a microbus listening to techno music. It is relaxing. It could be better if it were mountainous. But it is pretty good as it is. There is a feeling of connection to the country. In a way you are more free on a microbus than on a train. In a train you are locked in for a long journey and you cross areas that are inhospitable to human life but here there is more freedom I can get out when ever I want. The fare is cheap and I don't have to talk to people who I find annoying. This country may be landlocked but it is not infertile.
Despite the fact that it is a cheap country it doesn't give you the feeling of being undeveloped. There are many electrical wires, and appliances and the road is paved well. Now they are playing Rap music.