Festival of Traditional Arts under the open sky
This year the venue for the festival was a huge territory in the picturesque foothills of the Guissar Mountain Range near the ancient city of Shakhrisabz. Over 30,000 participants and guests attended the event. The author of the project is Gulnara Karimova, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan Foundation.
Festivals and events in Uzbekistan
Foreign visitors, delegations of researchers and connoisseurs of the ancient culture of the bright, mysterious and magnetic Orient picked their way towards the historic birthplace of Amir Temur (Tamerlane). In their free time after the diverse and informative festival programme, visitors went to see the ancient architectural monuments associated with the name of the outstanding military leader, including Ok Sarai (1380-1405), a famous summer residence of Amir Temur, the Khazrat Imam Mosque, the Dorus Siadad ensemble built by Temur in 1392 as a symbol of strength of his state, the Gumbazi Seidon Mausoleum and the Kuk Gumbaz Mosque built in 1438 during the rule of Amir Temur's grandson Ulugbek, an outstanding scholar and philosopher.
In the course of the two days of the festival, the extensive programme allowed one to "travel" across all regions of Uzbekistan (twelve provinces and the Republic of Karakalpakstan), which differ in their unique customs and traditions as well as clothes and fabrics, dances and cuisine.
To see such diversity of Uzbekistan with one's own eyes, it would take at least several months (the country's territory is 447,400 square kilometres; for the sake of comparison, Germany's territory is 356,900 square kilometres). The organizers of the festival offered a more convenient and economical way of travelling by concentrating the most characteristic and brightest manifestations of the country's traditional culture in one place.
The atmosphere of the festival was created by witty mascarabozs (jokers), dancers, musicians deftly playing national instruments and tightrope walkers.
'As a specialist in the arts I have visited a lot of various exhibitions and festivals but never in my life have I seen such a large-scale event featuring truly national traditions,' said Marcus Ritter, Vice-Director of the Institute of Iranian Studies under the Austrian Academy of Sciences.
The fair of national crafts was the embodiment of a lively and seething Oriental bazaar. Bright gold-embroidered gowns, satin dresses, silk carpets with intricate patterns, humorous ceramic figurines of folklore characters and multicoloured clay tableware including tea-bowls, serving dishes and jugs of various shapes and sizes were on sale. And no two pieces, down to the smallest ones, were alike. Craftsmen - metal-workers, miniature painters, embroiderers and wood-carvers - produced their masterpieces right in front of the eyes of the audience. Even weavers brought their looms, which looked graceless at first glance but produced real masterpieces right there on the spot.
The perimeter of the vast festival site was the venue for traditional types of competitions such as ulok-kupkari -emulation of horsemen, ram and cock fights and kurash - wrestling competitions.
Visitors liked the culinary contests best of all, during which representatives of all provinces competed in the art of cooking traditional dishes offered for everyone to taste.
How could one restore one's energy after a tour of the gigantic festival site? Festival organizers had thought about it in advance. Is there a better recreation than a midday rest in an Oriental marquee with soft carpets and quilted blankets on the floor, reclining on comfortable cushions, drinking green tea and eating Oriental sweetmeats? Oh Shakhrisabz, an Oriental fairy-tale come true!
7 am greatly impressed with the festival,' said Velin Belev, a lecturer of the New Bulgarian University. 'Everything here is interesting - local traditions, articles made by craftsmen and concerts by performers of national song, dances and music. People of Uzbekistan are very hospitable, which is rare in the present-day world. I have visited many countries but I have never had such a pleasant experience.
Taking part in the closing concert of the festival were performers of traditional and modern songs and dances, virtuoso musicians who played national instruments (nais, dutars and dombras) and folk singers with voices of a great range.
The highlight of the concert was a fashion parade of the latest collection of clothes in the ethnic style. The collection included over 70 pieces made of national fabrics and decorated with embroidery and other traditional elements. This magnificent demonstration showed that the national fashion industry had a rich historical and cultural source to draw on in creating modern collections of clothes.
The gala holiday ended in the ceremony of awarding prizes and presents to winners of the festival's contests. The grandprix of the festival, a trip to Great Britain to participate the exhibition of suzane (embroidered wall-hangings) "Colours of the Silk Road", went to Zulaiho Karimova from Bukhara Province and Ruhsoraoi Turakulova from Navoi Province.
Asrlar Sadosi festival is at the start of its long history. From now on, each spring, when nature in Uzbekistan bursts into bloom, local residents and visitors will have the possibility of participating in this major event in one of the picturesque historical spots of the country, which will take them on another cultural tour of Uzbekistan.