Last October, I was lucky enough to visit Uzbekistan again. This was my fourth time to the country. During these stays, which were always in the context of one or another contract for the OSCE, I was able to see a good deal more there than the average visitor. Sure, Samarkand and Bukhara were also on my route, even several times. But I also made it to Khiva, which is a bit more off the beaten track, and to the shores of what-was-once-the Aral Sea.
Uzbekistan is an extremely picturesque place to visit. It is filled up to the brim with ancient history and amazing landscapes. It features deserts, mountains and ancient towns (several of which feel like open-air museums). It is so attractive to the casual visitor that it is very hard to see beyond the easy beauty and spot a bit of real life.
During my latest visit, I was determined to peel off this superficial layer, at least photographically. As much as possible, I tried to stay clear of the tourist locations and concentrate on the people I would encounter. I ventured out into the darker alleys and entered small shops, internet cafés and backyards. Even though the result is still meagre in comparison to what dedicated documentary photographers can portray, I feel I was able to catch a glimpse of real Uzbek lives. This was worth the effort.