“May I ask where did you get these from?” We asked, pointing at the cloth and pottery. “Hmm…from a place, Fergana Valley”, the shop owner answered honestly.
Today Fergana Valley stretches across three former Soviet states, from eastern Uzbekistan through Kyrgyzstan to Tajikistan. As such, it is an area of incomparable cultural and ethnic diversity with Kyrgyz, Tajik and Uzbek people all sharing the same piece of land. Similar to Nukus, Fergana Valley has its own unique culture that is quite different from the rest of Uzbekistan. The locals here are more conservative, more religious, but also more curious and more welcoming. This is definitely not a dream destination like Samarkand and Khiva, but it gives a glimpse of how it was before souvenir shops took over or modernization destroyed the old neighborhoods in Uzbekistan.
Getting to Fergana Valley
From Tashkent – There is daily train leaving from Tashkent at 8 am. The ticket costs 52,000 Som (US$5) for a 3-4-hour journey.
From Tajikistan – You will be using Khujand-Kokand Border.
From Kyrgyzstan – It was in Kyrgyzstan that we saw a chance to visit Fergana Valley. We used Dostyk border between Osh and Andijon. Both borders has public buses to/fro the city.
Getting around Fergana Valley
Unless you don’t mind hopping around every 2-days, we would recommend you to use Fergana City as a base. Shared taxis are the easiest and inexpensive mode of travel used by locals as well. There is a transport hub near the bazaar and you can find regular shared taxi’s to Margilan (30-minutes), Rishton (1-hour), Andijon (1.5-hours), Namangan (1.5-hours), and Kokand (2-hours). Prices are range from 2,000 Som to 10,000 Som (25¢ to US$1) per seat. Of course, you are expected to pay more if you didn’t want to waste time waiting for seats to be filled up.
Did you know it takes one whole month to produce a piece of 30-meters of silk cloth from scratch? And it took 8-months for 2 people to hand-sewn a piece 300 cm x 210 cm floor carpet!
Owing to its position on the silk road, silk production has long been a crucial source of economy in Fergana Valley. We visited Yodgorlik Silk Factory that offer a free tour. The tour reveals every step of the painstaking process of how the silk is made and how the Ikat patterns are designed. From growing cocoons to turning them into yards of gorgeous silk, here you can see the whole manufacturing process.
For more than 800-years, the small town of Rishton is famous around the world for its ceramics due to the high quality red clay that is so pure that it needs no further additives. In the workshops throughout the town, there are only a few true masters left that still use traditional techniques. Usmanov Ceramic workshop is one of them and they give free tours in the workshop as well.
Is it worth to visit Fergana Valley?
Compared to places like Samarkand, Bukhara or Khiva, Fergana Valley has basically nothing beautiful to see at all. However, if you like off-the-beaten path authentic places with rich cultural traditions and meeting friendly locals, you will appreciate Fergana Valley more. We really enjoyed the free tours at the Yodgorlik silk factory in Margilon and the Usmanov pottery workshops in Rishton. They offered us a better insights and appreciate the art traditional handmade skills which were long forgotten in this fast-paced machinery generation.
Lastly, if you want to keep a track of all my photos and travels, remember to follow @wanderrsaurus on Instagram!