Markets or bazaars featured heavily during our Central Asia travel odyssey. Apart from fresh food supplies they are often a great place to pick up a bus or a share taxi for transportation.
They are also full of local colour and the best places to see people going about their daily lives as they have for centuries on the Silk Road in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Not to mention the perfect setting to get your travel photography mojo in overdrive!
Markets in Kyrgyzstan
Visit Osh Bazaar in Kyrgyzstan if you want to buy: pink flip flops, a handy piece of rope, fabric and sewing materials, a fine chicken or goose, a hunk of mutton fat, fresh produce, shiny rounds of fresh bread, the best dried apricots and pistachios you’ve ever tasted, or if you need a spot of blacksmithing done or need your bike fixed.
People have been trading here in Osh along the Central Asia Silk Road since the 5th century BC so at Osh Bazaar they know how to do a market. Legend has it founded by either Alexander or King Solomon…take your pick…
The tiny town of Kochkor in the mountains of central Kyrgyzstan is a good place to organise horse trekking (at the Community Based Tourism office). It is a pretty town with apple blossom and white picket fences and the Saturday market featured a lot of … baby prams.
In the east of Kyrgyzstan the town of Karakol is a great base for beautiful trekking holidays and the local market is a great place to stock up with trekking supplies. Mmm that bread was so good, just the right balance of crispy, doughy and super soft.
Kyrgyzstan is the Central Asia country best known for its dairy products thanks to all those flocks of sheep, horses and yaks eating the fresh grass in summer mountain pastures. The cream, yoghurt, cheese and butter taste simply amazing, especially with fresh bread and intensely flavoured honey or jam.
If you’re in Karakol on a Sunday don’t miss their famous livestock and animal market, which deserved a post all of its own. Take a look at my post and photos about the once-a-month market to which people come from miles around to buy and sell livestock.
Bazaars in Uzbekistan
On the road to Samarkand’s main bazaar gentlemen in long coats and bulbous caps are overtaken by a donkey cart driven by two boys. In this Central Asia market there are pyramids of dried apricots, glowing plums, cherries and grapes; bread decorated with bright pink and yellow flower designs. The fresh produce was impressive and we tried shots of fresh boysenberry juice, wow!
Bazaars in Tajikistan
In the wild east of Tajikistan is a town called Murghab, which is an important staging post on the Pamir Highway. You have to be pretty desperate to try shopping here; Murghab was a tumbleweed kind of town and the market was the main place to see people gathered and socialising.
We were looking for bottled water for our next public transport journey. Unfortunately the only water we could find was almost undrinkable due to the high mineral content.
Travel in Central Asia is tough but incredibly rewarding, not least exploring the bazaars and markets of this region.
By Natasha von Geldern