We’re guessing that Uzbekistan isn’t on many families’ travel radar. It wasn’t on ours—until Trusted Travel Expert Zulya Rajabova gave us five reasons why it should be:
It’s the land of famous explorers and conquerors. Have your children been learning about Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Marco Polo? A trading crossroads for millennia, Uzbekistan is rife with history just ready to be brought to life: You can try on costumes from the time of Tamerlane, or ride camels into the desert as the explorers would have done, learning how to make fire and sleeping in a yurt.
You can make art with local craftsmen. Participate with your kids in a hands-on tutorial in ceramics, carpet weaving, calligraphy, embroidery, or woodcarving. And since an entire Uzbekistani family usually practices the same craft, the artisan’s kids will likely work alongside you (if the tutorial is arranged outside of school hours).
You can have a kid as your local guide. Zulya runs a Young Ambassadors program, through which she trains Uzbekistanis from 7 to 17 years old to guide travelers (always with a professional adult guide accompanying as well). In addition to showing you around the city of Bukhara, the local kids will take your family to their school, share a game of soccer, maybe even invite you into their home for plov, a savory, slow-cooked medley of rice, lamb, and vegetable—and the national dish of Uzbekistan—and some sweet halva, a sesame-based dessert.
Your child will gain a greater appreciation of family. Family is strong in the Stans. In Uzbekistan, families are big, and several generations often live with or near each other. American kids experience this beautiful bond, Zulya has found, and come away with a deeper respect for their own parents and grandparents.
The shopping is off the hook. Bukhara’s bazaars are some of the world’s largest and most diverse, and it’s not all produce and housewares. Ancient designs and fine craftsmanship have made Uzbekistan a hot destination for fashion designers, so the jewelry and textiles you bring home will put your teen right on trend. (Zulya can also introduce you to some of the country’s top designers.)
Zulya finds that kids aged nine and up get the most from a trip to Uzbekistan. That way, your whole family can stay in a nomadic yurt camp, ride camels to a picnic in the Kyzyl-Kum desert, and fully participate in Uzbekistani culture.