Become acquainted with the traditions, culture and daily life of the people by meeting them their homes. Usually Uzbeks have large families and several generations live together, which is why they have large houses on large lots of land. In fact, your travels through Uzbekistan will not be complete if you have not visited an Uzbek family, sat in a shady garden, tasted home-cooked food, and relaxed with a sweet fragrant wine.
To enjoy the pleasure of Uzbek home life, it is not necessary to plan ahead. In the older quarters of any Uzbek city when you spot a shady street concealed by vineyards, knock at any door and you will be welcomed inside. As special guests, the family will hand you fresh grapes cut from their vine and offer you a fragrant tea to drink. If you have time to linger with them, they will cook a delicious Uzbek plov (main dish made of rice, carrots and meat) especially for you; in fact, they may insist that you do not leave their home until you have tasted this famous rice dish.
All towns in Uzbekistan have these makhallyas or neighborhood sectors. Located just off the main roads, here you can enjoy peace and quiet. Trees and flowers, tended by the neighborhood, line the roadside. Every morning, old men sit outside their gates watching life go by; women exchange their art's and wares; young girls sweep the pavement outside their house and noisy, laughing children play endlessly. Overriding all this is the special feature of makhallyas — a respectful attitude to the older people of the neighborhood.
The warm climate of Uzbekistan makes it possible for people to enjoy an outdoor life for almost eight months of the year; meals are eaten outside the home and some people like to sleep on a trestle-bed in the open air each summer evening. The silence and cool comfort of the outdoors is complemented by the modest singing of female quails in cages hanging in the windows from the verandah beams.
The two most outstanding characteristics of an Uzbek family are hospitality and respect for their elders. So an important custom, the tea ceremony, involves brewing and serving tea in a piala (tea bowl) — this gesture being the host’s privilege. Each meal starts and ends with tea drinking. Oriental sweets, cookies, fruit, and vegetables are served first, with plov or manti (dumplings stuffed with meat and onion) to follow Uzbek cuisine reflects the lifestyle and culture of the Uzbek people. Fresh produce such as wheat, barley, rice, peas, corn, carrots, onions, turnips, pumpkin, melons, and watermelons have been used tor cooking Uzbek national dishes for centuries. Uzbek national dishes are very high in calories. Most meals combine these vegetables and fruits with dairy products and meat - the favorite varieties of meat being mutton, beef and chicken. Suzma (kind of spiced yogurt) and fresh vegetables are always served with all meat dishes.
If a dinner invitation is accepted, it is important to come on time. It is advisable for guests to take small gifts or sweets with them for the host’s children. When greeting the household, usually only men shake hands — women or people sitting far away greet guests by putting their right hand to their heart and bowing their head slightly, ten greeting people, it is important to inquire about their health, the home, family affairs and work. Shoes are taken off at the entrance of the house. The host will show guests where to sit, and the further this seat is from the entrance, the more kneeled is the position. A tablecloth will be laid on the trestle bed for those who are able to sit cross-legged all evening - the way it is done in the orient.
Hosts love to prepare a surprise — musicians will come and there will be a concert. The doyra player will warm up his instrument to achieve the cleanest and clearest sound. Another player will reach for the changh, an ancient Uzbek musical instrument, placed nearby. As the music begins to flow, its pure sounds will fascinate and delight listeners as the lyrical melody gives place to fast, passionate rhythms. The dancer, dressed in bright national silk, will appear centre-stage and will captivate the audience with her display of colour and stylistic, rhythmic hand movements that make Uzbek dance traditions world famous.
Now, when you are relaxed, get ready. The hostess will place large plates of plov on the table. This appetizing dish is not only the main course on any Uzbek menu — it is a legend. The skill of preparing plov, the different kinds of plov and its ancient origin, will be shared with you. Amongst the array of food on the table will be dishes with raising, dried sour barberries, chick-peas, cumin and in autumn, quince. Everything that is put into a plov is especially for you — as the Uzbek prove says, “A guest in the house is joy in the house”.