Uzbekistan: Gulcheza´s Family


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Uzbekistan, November, 2012

We got to meet Gulchenza and her family in Uzbekistan. They gave us a place to sleep and touched our hearts with their hospitality and charisma. 

Our aim is to promote travel empathy through bike travel. A great way to do so is by looking for opportunities to spend time with local families. So after riding 85 km that day we spotted a perfect place. A small house where a nice lady and her cute little girl are regrouping the cattle to sleep.

I try to approach them in the most friendly way “ My name is Roberto”, I try to say it slowly. “She is my wife Annika”, I present her to them to avoid confusion and explanations on why we live together and aren´t married yet. “Mexico and Germany we cycle here”, we both try to explain pointing to our bike and pedaling in the air. Then I inhale some air and ask the important question in the only language that perhaps they might be understood by them thank to their vicinity to Turkmenistan and Tajikistan: Turkish.

Our Outdoor Bed

Our Outdoor Bed

“Burda bır akşam chadır, problem var?” which literally means: Here one night tent problem is?

This blanket was hand made from Gulchenza's mother.

This blanket was hand made from Gulchenza’s mother.

And even though it sounds as if Yoda was our English teacher the words intended to be a sentence WORK. The strong looking lady with many wrinkles in her face asks us to follow her. She guides us to our resting place, which is basically a wooden support the size of a king size bed cushioned with hand made mattress made by Jamshio herself. A wonderful textile work worthy of admiration. The force is definitely with us today.

As we prepare our camp, Gulcheza, almost instantaneously wins our heart. With a smiley face and huge cheeks that support her charismatic personality the nine year old girl offers us yogurt and warm bread recently taken out of the stone oven. Annika and Gulcheza make friends automatically.

Gulchenza and Annika

Gulchenza and Annika

We show her our sleeping bags but she seems to be more entertained with our mini kitchen. Annika explains how it works and she laughs. After a few minutes of looking at it and playing with it, the little girls quickly understands the mechanism I take my camera out try to document the bonding moments between these two happy ladies.

She is curious about everything.

She is curious about everything.

As the sun sets and the work in the farm is almost over, the rest of the family make it´s presence. Three more sisters, a male son and the head of the family Nemat, a (funny) chubby old man that invites us for dinner and vodka. Nemat was indeed a peculiar character. After insisting for quite a while to join them for dinner we gladly accepted. We sat on the floor but ate on a table high enough so our legs could extend under it. He served Annika, Jamshio and me vodka, but to my surprise he did not serve himself a drink. Then one of the sisters brought a big pot filled with Somsa, one of Uzbek traditional plates. An “empanada” filled with meat and onion. There is one for everyone in the table, so Annika and I didn´t feel bad for eating with them.

We witnessed the fathers importance in the family. The whole family seemed to respect him in the best way possible. His big belly sometimes came across his way, especially when he wanted to eat in the table. That did not stop him form eating and of sharing his food with his daughter. They all seem honestly happy that we are present at their table. Annika joked around with Gulchenza an she laughed in response. I said to her mother “Your daughter is very intelligent”. Some how she understood what i said and nodded with a big yes.

The food was finished and the time to sleep approached. We said good night to the family. The stars looked particularly bright that night. Another wonderful night spent with a loving family. I could not understand what more could a human being wish for.

Gulchenza's Family

The next morning I took a lot of pictures. I then asked the eldest sister to write me their address. I wanted to send them the pics as soon as I arrived to Tashkent.

We packed our bikes and slowly left to our next unknown destination. “I hope the pictures arrive”, I thought to myself. Sometimes I believe that we really don´t pick the families, but the families pick us. How great is to travel by bike. I cannot imagining this happening if I were traveling by bus.

More than 60% of the population in Uzbekistan lives in densely populated rural communities.


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  1. Dear Roberto & Annika 2013.08.17

    I read your story in Uzbekistan’s road. It is fabulous journey and you explored real Uzbeks’ family. fantastic photos. and I have a quetion, let me know please, How do you like to travel around Uzbek rural? It is important for me because I work at travel agency and I plan to promote this destination for traveler.

    and What was the big problem to visit?
    Thank you for attention and I give you best regards.

    Elyor from Sarmarkand.

    • admin says:

      Dear Elyor,

      We are very happy that you liked the way we portrayed your wonderful country. We believe Uzbekistan should be a top travel destination. Travelling in the “rural” parts of a country was one of our favorite experiences, because we got to taste another part of the culture of the country. We also had the wonderful opportunity to meet extraordinary people as Gulchenza and many others. The challenging part about travelling in Uzbekistan might be the visa, and the rule of 2 day registry. That limits the amount of time we can get to meet people in the rural areas while cycling. It is challenging but in no way should represent a barrier for tourists to travel to Uzbekistan. I do think Uzbekistan should promote more the wonderful architecture it houses like the one in Samarkand, Bukhara and Tashkent that really stands out from any other place we have had the opportunity to visit. You can always contact us if you have more specific questions. We can also contact you with other tourists so they can give their opinion. Oh and another big plus is that Uzbekistan is an extremely safe country to travel, something that is worth publicizing about.
      I hope I answered part of your question. -Roberto

  2. Hi,
    Thank you for your reply. It was helpful for me. I hope that we will always contact.


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