Shopping has always been a big deal in Uzbekistan. Trace a finger along a map of the Great Silk Road – the ancient world’s most important trading-route network connecting the East and the West – and you’ll find this Central Asian nation nearly at its midpoint. From the second century BC, caravans from China to the Mediterranean converged here to swap spices, salt, teas, precious metals, and, of course, silks. Today, its former Silk Road bazaar cities, such as Samarkand and Bukhara, remain remarkably intact, with blue-tiled domes and minarets of sunbaked clay bricks.
These outposts are also home to traditional artisans who create patterned silks, ceramics, textiles, and carpets. In an effort to preserve the country’s oldest customs, the government doesn’t tax craft workshops, which gives visitors access to an impressive array of studios that double as some of the world’s most authentic souvenir shops.
In this area, which still echoes with the legends and legacies of historic headliners such as Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great, recent infrastructure investments from China and newly relaxed visa regulations mean that tourism is increasing. In short, now’s the time to visit. An organized tour with ample downtime makes for a fuss-free way to move between major cities in this far-flung destination. In addition to shopping-centric destinations, stops on a well-rounded tour might include the Soviet-style capital of Tashkent and the city of Khiva – and perhaps even a short stay in a traditional yurt camp in the countryside. Here’s where to shop along the Silk Road for well-made, timeless treasures.