We were all surprised by the dust storm that arrived in Tashkent on Thursday evening. Usually, we get a notice through government authorities via SMS or the news organizations on Telegram. I think because it was such a rare and unusual meteorological event, we only heard about a cold front coming from Kazakhstan. As described in this Eurasia.net article, the cold air mass caused a temperature inversion. The dirt and dust particles picked up by the high winds did not settle back to the ground and instead, stayed in the atmosphere and finally settled over the city of Tashkent.
My air quality monitors were off the charts and the air filters in our home and school were working overtime. As you can see on the surface of our car, everything was covered in dust and the air remained hazy all day Friday and Saturday. We drove south to Samarkand on Saturday morning and it was not until we were 200 kilometers away, that we were out of the dust cloud. This was a rare event, but I do see air pollution being a greater concern in Tashkent and in Central Asia in general. The main causes I think are increased automobile use and construction sites due to the booming economy, the use of coal-fired power plants and climate change causing a drier climate. I see that environmental concerns were first and foremost in President Mirziyoyev’s inauguration speech yesterday, so hopefully actions will be taken to address the problem.
We had a nice day yesterday driving to Samarkand and settling into the hotel for the 10-kilometer race. Samarkand is one of the ancient cities of the Silk Road and a popular tourist attraction in Uzbekistan. The 4-hour drive was uneventful, thankfully, and the 4-lane highway, despite being uneven in sections, made for good driving. We checked into the hotel and registered for the race, taking in the awesome Registan. There were many people in the city for the race, which is probably welcomed by tour operators here who are recovering from closed borders caused by the pandemic. I noticed French and Russian tourists here in pretty good numbers.
We had a nice dinner with TIS friends at the Palatan Hotel. My lamb and grilled vegetables were of gourmet quality. We are staying at a small hotel next to the BibiKhanum Mosque. Although Samarkand escaped the dust storm, it did not escape the cold front with a temperature of -1C as I write this at 7:00 AM. It will get up to 3C by race time…