A really nice Sunday in Tashkent today. I started with an intense two sets of doubles tennis with friends at the Olympic Tennis Club. I was the chauffeur today for the family. Nadia got a serious haircut, which I love! We drove Owen and his friends to Paul for lunch and Nadia and I stayed and had a late lunch ourselves. We had lots of fun harassing Owen, but they were OK with us picking up their tab.
Not many people had cars in Uzbekistan for the first 20 or so years of their independence. With the opening of the economy, more people are able to afford cars. However, they have not learned to drive! The first car of choice for new drivers is either a Chevrolet Sport or Matiz. These are the craziest drivers, racing at all costs between stoplights. They switch lanes all the time without using their directional lights and you see a lot of accidents like the scene above. I was walking my dog Saturday night and came upon this three-car accident. I hope they will eventually learn that the roads are not a formula 1 racetrack and it is better to obey the traffic laws and get to their destination safely. My strategy to avoid accidents is staying in my lane, driving slowly and having a big car (Chevrolet Captiva). I wish I had a button on the dashboard with a laser that when aimed at a reckless driver, would stop the car, raise it in the air 20 feet and stay like that for two hours. It would teach these irresponsible drivers. Do I sound like an old man? 🙂
I am noticing more what I thought were Roma people. There was a big population in Belgrade but I have not seen the large settlements like there. In doing a bit of research, I found they are Lyuli or Luli people. Today there was a family begging in front of the supermarket. They are an ethnic group distantly related to the Roma of Eastern Europe. They settled mainly in Tadjikistan, arriving in the 1200s from the area of Multan, in the Indus Valley. They call themselves the Mughat, meaning “fireworshippers” or Ghurbat “exiled”. They do not have any of the Romany tradition and the only reason they are known as gypsies or cigani (in Russian) is because of their nomadic lifestyle. There is an estimated 12,000 Lyuli in Uzbekistan. They practice a form of Islam, but face discrimination in Central Asia. I will definitely try to find out more about their population here and their culture. You can read more about the Lyuli people of Uzbekistan here.