For most tourists, Uzbekistan is synonymous with its ancient Silk Road bazaars in Samarkand or Bukhara. To wander through markets whose predecessors date back a millennia surrounded by blue-tiled minarets and mosques, can be a breath-taking experience. But there’s also a museum quality to these well-preserved, popular destinations. Visitors are far more likely to bump into tourists looking for souvenirs than any local doing their weekly shopping.
For visitors wanting to capture a more authentic picture of contemporary Uzbek life, the Abu Saxiy market is the place to start. Located on the western edge of the capital, Tashkent, Abu Sahiy is Uzbekistan’s largest market. The vast scale of the site is almost the size of a small town. Since it was founded in 2006, the market has grown to cover more than 60 acres with around 3,000 stalls and even its own fire station.
Visitors will find almost anything, whether its traditional clothing or Nike tracksuits. Rows of kitchen appliances and televisions sit next to steaming vats of rice and mounds of brightly colored spices. Just as colorful are the shipping containers that house most of the stalls. These containers have been a key part of the market’s identity since local businessman, Timur Tillyaev, founded the market by converting a few hundred of them into Abu Sahiy’s first stalls. Adaptable and cheap to rent, the containers became increasingly popular with traders and transformed the market into the main shopping mecca for Tashkent.
Today, the market attracts thousands of visitors every day, but unlike the bazaars of Samarkand, you’ll be rubbing shoulders with locals rather than guided tours.
Know Before You Go
Abu Sahiy has its own transit center, making it easy to reach by bus from almost anywhere in Tashkent. There are several cafes and food stalls for those who want to sample the local cuisine.