Siyob Bazaar in Samarkand
Located adjacent to the Bibi-Khanym Mosque, Siyob Bazaar is the largest bazaar in Samarkand. In the medieval times, the area was a trading and crafts suburb of the city during 8th till 13th century. The merchants from China, India and Iran met here to buy and exchange goods in caravanserais located in the area. The spirit of ancient trading culture of the great city can still be felt at Siyob. The bazaar is filled with stalls selling dried fruits, nuts, traditional sweets, honey, dairy products, bread, fruits, vegetables and meats. Many tourists frequent Siyob Bazaar not just for shopping but also to experience the silk route vibes.
Samarkand Non and strange event
While wandering around Siyob Bazaar, i could see Samarkand bread everywhere, famously known as ‘Samarkand Non’. I couldn’t fail to notice a woman of enormous size staring at me from behind one of the counters. I reckoned it was a general inquisitiveness towards tourists. Her eyes sparkled, she grinned exposing all her golden teeth. With husky gentle voice she gestured me to try fresh nons. After a heavy Uzbeki breakfast at the Inn, there was no way i could do justice to a massive non. I hesitantly declined her with Rahmat, the only word i had grasped since my arrival in Tashkent a day before.
When she saw me moving away, she leaped from her seat and landed in front me. Still holding that infectious smile, she pushed the Non in my face. Not knowing what else to do, i tried to bargain for the Non i didn’t want. Reluctantly I passed 10000 SOM thinking that would leave me in peace. Undeterred, she threw her arms around me and tried saying something i failed to decipher. This created a little commotion around us in the middle of Siyob Bazaar.
Umida and her Dilli connection
Then something really strange happened. She opened few buttons of her blouse and started pointing at her sagging breasts…I was aghast! What have I done to deserve this? Hiding behind a veil of embarrassment i searched for answers on unknown faces. While I was anxious, the onlookers seemed to be in awe! Just when I was preparing for a verbal assault, familiar words fell on my ears…Apollo…Dilli…
I turned around to look at her once again and i could spot a large vertical scar on her chest. At that moment chaos in my mind settled. I could relate to her excitement; i realized she had a heart surgery in Apollo hospital in Delhi. While she continued blabbering, Rahmat… Alloh… Apollo… was all i could comprehend. Strangers of Siyob Bazaar explained; for her the surgery at Apollo was nothing short of a miracle!
She hugged me and showered me with kisses. She rushed to a stall nearby and brought strawberries! When i tried to pay, she cupped my face in her palms and i could feel her warm breath of gratitude on me! I was overwhelmed with such tenderness from a complete stranger. I just happened to be from a country which gave her new life. Her name was Umida, which means hope. For Umida whose life revolved around selling Samarkand Non in Siyob Bazaar, everything from India represented hope; hope to live longer, hope to play with her grandchildren one day!
Uzbekistan and India share a grand historical bond which holds a special place in my heart. The encounter with Umida that afternoon sealed it forever!