In some ways, walking down the streets of Tashkent, Shymkent or Bishkek doesn’t feel all that different from a stroll through the center of any city in the United States or Europe. You pass a variety of stores, restaurants, government buildings and shopping malls. The people around you are likely headed to work or to school, or just running daily errands. The faces may look different, but life kind of feels the same.
Then you head to the bazaar.
And you enter a completely different world.
The bazaar is the cornerstone of Central Asian life – the beating heart of any town or city. Often a maze of narrow alleys and crowded stalls, it overwhelms the senses and reeks of chaos. It is where centuries-old traditions come to life.
Farmers come from miles around to hawk their fruits or vegetables – apples, grapes, cherries, melons, peppers, carrots, potatoes – you name it, you can probably find it at the bazaar.
The aroma of spices floats far and wide.
Butchers show off fresh meat – perhaps a little too fresh for the squeamish.
As a sign of the times, today’s vendors also stock beauty products, school supplies and even electronic goods and SIM cards.
And enterprising men and women provide almost any service imaginable.
Need a dentist? Go to the bazaar.
Need a pharmacist? Go to the bazaar.
Need a manicure, pedicure or haircut? Go to the bazaar, of course.
(and yes, I did get a fabulous $3 haircut at the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek – thanks to Brooke Schoenman for giving me the idea!)
More than anything, want to get a feel for a way of life that has persisted for hundreds of years? Want to see the day-to-day lives of the locals? Want to try your hand at haggling and chatting up friendly vendors?
Go to the bazaar.
4 thoughts on “It’s a Bazaar Life”
The bazaars are really one the greatest things in Central Asia. I particularly loved Siob in Samarkand (the most amazing fruits) and Osh (they have everything! And the meat area is quite astonishing). And I remember a kind young man who gave us a bag of little yoghurt balls in Chorsu (Tashkent) as a gift and refused any payment.
Congratulations on the haircut!
Great photos! Visiting bazaars and markets is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. You learn so much about a place by watching local interaction.
What an odd mix, but cool for it. I am not against eating meat, but I really don’t need to see it with the fur still attached please.
I like that our farmer’s market in Freiburg doesn’t have the vendors of random things. I helps the mental illusion a bit more that I could be walking through the market of a medieval town. Though I have definitely seen them in other parts of Germany at markets.
I always try to find a bazaar or market when I am in a foreign country. I love watching locals go about their daily market activities while also partaking in some shopping and haggling. It is a great way to feel the vibe of a city. Great post!
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