Day of Motherland Defenders
14 January is the Day of Motherland Defenders, a public holiday commemorating the sacrifice of Uzbekistan’s soldiers. In larger cities you can expect to see parades and firework displays.
Central Asia’s premier winter sports festival takes place at the ski resort of Chimangan, not far from Tashkent. It attracts a mixture of professional and amateur skiers, snowboarders and mountaineers.
Uzbekistan’s Kupkari Championships take place each year at the start of March. Also known as Buz Kashi or Kok Boru, this adrenalin-fuelled game sees teams of men on horseback trying to wrest control of a dead goat, race with it up the pitch, and ultimately throw it into the goal. Teams come from across the country to compete and winning here earns great prestige.
If you love plov (also known as pilaf), this is the festival for you. For one day only Tashkent’s Uzexpo Centre becomes a giant, outdoor restaurant with cooking demonstrations from top chefs and the chance to try ten different varieties of plov.
Asrlar Sadosi (Echo of Centuries) Festival
Asrlar Sadosi is an annual festival of Uzbek culture, supported by UNESCO. The festival includes traditional horse games, music, dance, handicrafts and food.
Silk and Spice Festival
Silk and Spice has taken place annually in Bukhara since the early 2000s. Spread across three days, the festival includes exhibitions, workshops, conferences and live performances that promote the city’s cultural heritage. Accommodation is at a premium during the festival, so be sure to book well in advance.
In 2014 the Islamic holy month of Ramazan covers most of July, and during this time observant Muslims will not eat or drink during daylight hours. You may have the opportunity to share Iftar, the evening meal that breaks the fast, with a family: it’s an experience not to be missed.
Sharq Taronalari (Melodies of the East) Festival
The Sharq Taronalari International Music Festival (http://en.sharqtaronalari.uz), held under the auspices of UNESCO, is hosted in Uzbekistan every other year: it will next take place in 2015. Musicians come to Samarkand from around the world to perform their traditional styles of music and to establish creative partnerships.
Uzbekistan celebrates its independence from the USSR on 1 September. Join in the street festivals during the day and then, as darkness falls, sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Kurban Hait (Eid-al-Adha)
In 2014, Kurban Hait falls in October. Many of Uzbekistan’s Muslims travel at this time to Mecca; those who remain at home celebrate with friends and family.
Bazar Art is an annual art festival in Tashkent. It brings together fine artists, craftsmen and their work from around the country, and the event includes demonstrations and master classes as well as art exhibitions and shopping opportunities.
Pakhta-Bairam Harvest Festival
Pakhta-Bairam takes place each December in Nukus and it’s a celebration of a successful harvest. You can expect to see ylaq oyyny (a variant of Buz Kashi), wrestling, ram fighting and other traditional sports.