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Winds of change in Uzbekistan make this a land of inimitable hospitality

With only five million tourists coming in annually, it remains the sort of unspoilt place

Registan  in Samarkand could well be the loveliest square in Central Asia
Registan in Samarkand could well be the loveliest square in Central Asia | Photos: Anjali puri

Young Sanobar, who sells exquisitely crafted scissors and knives to tourists at her family’s quaint shop deep in old Bukhara, looks up as I walk in, and asks, “India?” To my surprise, she launches into an effusive account in Uzbek and broken English, of  her father’s heart surgery in India, her emphatic recall of  the prosaic names of  Gurugram hospitals — “Artemis bad, Medanta good” — sounding almost incongruous in this romantic setting. A squad of colourfully decked-out middle-aged women from the Ferghana Valley flash gold ...