February 24, 2014

Police on my back. Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Within one hour of my arrival in Tashkent I had been stopped in the street three times, my bag searched twice, and my pockets emptied out once by curt, unfriendly police. I was left in no doubt who was in control, although I was getting somewhat annoyed, but hey, this is Uzbekistan.

Onto Samarkand and more of the same. I was shooed away from the Registan on my first visit in a pretty unfriendly way with much shouting and gesticulating of arms, until I found a back way to the square (see 'The Noblest public square in the world'). Although if it was annoying for a tourist, how much worse would it be for a local?

Very early the next morning (6 AM, the light is better and I am totally jet lagged, otherwise I would be tucked up in bed at this unholy hour) I approached the Registan again, I really wanted to take some photos of the Madrasah and Minarets against the rising morning sun, when I saw a number of Police again standing in front of roadblocks, stopping any entry to the square.

I decided it was not worth the hassle, and started backtracking to return to my hotel, when they saw me and started shouting and gesticulating. "Here we go again" I thought, but they were waving to come over, chat, and share their breakfast.

Ham, the obligatory fresh Non, orange juice and fruit was passed around, while we chatted and laughed for a couple of hours. Photographs were encouraged, and I was taken to the best places to get a shot of the Registan. They were just young guys bored out of their brains on guard duty. They loved reading my Uzbek guidebooks and laughed nicely at my attempts at Russian and Uzbek, while bemoaning the fact that Australia had recently beaten Uzbekistan at soccer 6 - 0.

(Note: Faces blacked out as I don’t want to get them in trouble)

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