Our tour didn't start until 10 today, so we were able to sleep in a bit. We packed, and had to move stuff around a bit because we'd be putting some stuff on a plane, but it didn't take very long. We backed up our photos and the trip log, and we did a Tripadvisor review for Aziz, the nice gentleman who helped us find a money exchange in Bukhara. There was a big buffet breakfast, which included a honeycomb with dripping honey. Besides us and a handful of other tourists, breakfast was filled with business bigwigs and tennis players. It was quite the weird combination, but still not as odd as the KLM flight attendants, French Marines and the Singaporean soccer team at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

Right at 10, we met Batir and Firdacz to start the tour. The first stop was the Shahid Memorial Complex, commemorating Stalin's purge of Uzbek individuals in the 1930s. It was right next to an enormous TV tower. The complex was nice and open, with a lot of greenery, and a canal running through it. We walked around for a little bit, then drove over to the Central Asian Plov Center. There were 4 huge stone cauldrons full of 50 kg (over 100 pounds) of rice, meat (either beef or lamb), carrots and oil. There was also an enormous cauldron that was four times as large, and we walked up close and watched them make a batch. Batir told us that the cauldrons were timed to be 30 minutes apart, so that new hot batches were coming out constantly. We were a little early to have any, but it smelled and looked great.

From there we went to a relatively new religious complex, the Hazrat Imam Mosque. Batir mentioned that the complex was built recently because there was a celebration of Islam in Tashkent, but Tashkent itself didn't have any of the famous mosques like in other parts of Uzbekistan. The new complex looked very nice, but was - understandably - much more plain vanilla than what we'd seen elsewhere. In that same area was the Khazrati Imam Mosque and the Tillya Sheikh Mosque. The library of the Tillya Sheikh Mosque contains the oldest known Quran in the world. The story (unconfirmed) is that Timur brought it back from Persia (present day Iraq) after one of his campaigns. This particular copy (not complete, but at least a third) is traditionally considered to be one of a group commissioned by the third caliph, Uthman. We couldn't take any pictures, and the Quran was in a special case to maintain temperature and humidity. The writing was enormous, and the pages were made out of calf skin. The final building in the area was a mausoleum for Kaffal Shashi.

There weren't very many people at any of these places. We walked through a local neighborhood towards the Chorsu bazaar. We happened to come upon a funeral, and large portions of the neighborhood had showed up. Batir explained to us the respective roles men and women have at funerals, including that women never go to the graveyard for the burial. As we approached the Chorsu bazaar, we saw a guy walking around with goats, using them for "mowing" the grass. Batir explained this is a common side hustle for people who have goats. At the bazaar, we saw tons of fruits and veggies (including raspberries that looked excellent), and then walked into this interior market that was chock full of meats, cheeses, and dried fruits. We asked Batir how to pick which place to choose, and he said you find somewhere that looks good to you, and then from then on you go back to the places you trust, and if something isn't good, you head to the next spot.

We went to an outdoor area that was full of people cooking food, and we grabbed a lunch of plov and minced kebab. There was smoke everywhere; we probably smelled like a grill. We did some small amount of shopping, then hopped on to the Metro. Batir mentioned the Metro stations used to be bomb shelters, so we couldn't take any photos. That's too bad, because they were decorated in very interesting ways. They weren't quite as ornate as the ones Justin remembered from Moscow in 1992, but way nicer than anything in the U.S. We got off at the Navoy station and walked around for a little while. Interestingly, the stations have different names for different lines, even if at the same place. So the upstairs at the "Navoy" station had a different name than the downstairs station, which was on a different line.

We got off for good at the Cosmonaut station. Right above the station was Interpol, so there was no one milling around. We walked over to the applied art museum. There was a lot of ceramics, suzani (needlework), copper engraving, embroidery, and rug making. Batir told us that the museum used to be somebody's house. We finished up around 3. It was a nice enough place, but not as nice as other places we'd seen in Uzbekistan. Overall Tashkent would have been much better as a first stop than a last stop. For most people, Tashkent is a first stop, as everyone flies in there. We were an exception because we drove in from Turkmenistan. If you're reading this, and you have a choice, come first to Tashkent, then head off to the other cities. It was a short drive to the airport from the applied art museum. We had set aside tip money for both Batir and Firdacz, but since these were 5000 Som notes (effectively 60 cent pieces), we had a giant wad for each of them. If we had a rubber band for Firdacz's tip, we would have rolled it up.

As we arrived at the airport, we couldn't get into the parking lot, as there was a tree trimmer that was cutting trees right above the entry gate. We were laughing at the whole thing, but there were several cars behind us honking frantically. We finally got parked, said our goodbyes, and got in line at the check-in desk. The conveyor belt was not working, so we stood there for a while in a warm (maybe 80 degree) room waiting for the belt to start back up. Once we checked in, there were no problems at customs (much easier than anything in Turkmenistan, or coming into Uzbekistan). At security, Justin had to go through the camera bag and show the agents what was what, and that everything turned on. Inside the terminal, there were 9 gates. We walked around until we found the lone bar, at the far end of the terminal. Basically we were buying stuff from the duty free store, which they were pouring on the spot. Crystal got a Crabbies Ginger Beer, which had booze in it. If we see it anywhere, we will definitely purchase some. Justin had two bottles, then a fifth, of Bacardi (they didn't have a smaller size).

It was a short flight to Bishkek, which we didn't expect - it was shorter because we gained another hour in time zones. It was dark when we landed. Once more, we couldn't pick a quick immigration line to save our lives. There was no customs line, since we had nothing to declare. We met our guide Jalil and our driver Rames, who had a 4Runner. We took a short drive into town. Our hotel (The Plaza) was pretty nice, and had an ATM in the lobby, which was also nice. We had a check-in, then grabbed a single drink at the bar, then hit the sack.

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