Advertised as one of the greatest city parks in the country, Alisher Navoi park provides residents of bustling Tashkent a welcome respite from hectic city life. Shaded paths under massive trees along idyllic canals and grassy areas to relax, we could see how, in its heyday, this park was Tashkent’s primary leisure center. Sparsely populated last Saturday as Alicia and I went for an afternoon walk, there were still plenty of county-fair-esque rides and attractions manned by bored looking staff. The most popular business taking place in the park today was the selling of ice-cream to overheated wedding guests.
Constructed in 1939 in just 45 days by Leninist Youth, the park’s centerpiece is a massive man-made lake. Today, pleasure boats take Tashkent residents and newlyweds on a relaxing boat trips, and a pay beach is available in the warmer months for those who want to take a swim, or sunbathe. Despite today’s 30°c heat, no one was taking advantage of the swimming opportunity as the gates were presumably already closed for the season.
The most prominent building lakeside is the massive Supreme Assembly (Oliy Majlis – Uzbek Parliament). Underneath its impressive blue dome and behind its modern glass walled and columned exterior, the parliament chamber is decorated with an impressive 10 meter high 4.5 ton crystal and gold chandelier, which as foreigners, we’ll never be able to see, because we aren’t allowed inside. The view from outside however is spectacular enough.
Situated deeper into the park is the post-soviet monument to Alisher Navoi. Navoi, 15th century cultural hero to Central Asia, philosopher, poet, politician, linguist, mystic, writer, and painter, is immortalized here at the top of a man-made hill under a grand domed gazebo. While access to the monument itself is prohibited, stairs up all sides of the hill provide a good view of the structure, and serve as a favorite photo spot for newlyweds. From the statue, a promenade extends along the shore of the artificial lake to the park’s ornate eastern gate.
On the opposite side of the park is the architecturally interesting Culture and Art Exhibition Building, which was our original planned destination. The walk through the park ended up being a bonus because we got lost walking around. Several times a year, Uzbek artisans come here to showcase their crafts, and offer master classes to anyone who wants to learn, keeping the tradition alive for future generations. The building itself is ornately decorated entirely with hand carved wood in a traditional style. Quite a contrast adjacent to the impressive modern facade of the Supreme Assembly.
Park access is easy enough from the Tashkent Metro stop Milly Bog (миллий бог) which pops you out on the western side of the park by the Parliament building. Alternatively, stop at Bunyodkor (бунёдкор) metro at the park’s northern end and experience the epitome of monumental Soviet architecture that was the Peoples’ Friendship Palace, now known as the Istiqlol Theater. If you enter the park from this direction, you can also see the 19th century Abulkasym Madrassah, which we’ll save for another time.