The steadily increasing of visitors in Central Asia in the last few years is a real trend, boosted by a favourable regime of visas issuing with the substantial exception of Turkmenistan. Getting a visa in Central Asia is becoming more and more easy. There is no shortage of reasons to travel in this part of Asia: from nature to culture, each one of the five Central Asia republics, Uzbekistan included, has its own characteristics. In Uzbekistan there’s the most important architectural heritage as, just to mention a few, the monuments of Samarkand and Bukhara two of the most evocative cities in the world.
Foreign tourists are pushed to Central Asia by several purposes, travelling has nowadays become a mass phenomenon saturating traditional destinations and people are looking for more exotic goals. In Central Asia you can still breathe the scent of adventure without encounter particular issues, obviously assuming you use good judgement and have a valuable insurance. People of Central Asia are traditionally welcoming, thus allowing you to live a journey soaking in the discovery of the local daily life.
As it is easy to realize, the local authorities are not deaf to the call of possible earnings coming from tourism. Uzbekistan is not exception, here the authorities supervising the growing of touristic sector have been in the recent past occupied in several meeting dedicated to this subject. Some of these meeting have been held in Kazakhstan as well, before the Expo, other encountering Kyrgyz diplomats in Uzbekistan and also the Minister of tourism of Malaysia, a Muslim country as Uzbekistan is.
However, schemes for the development of touristic sector in Uzbekistan are of primary concern to UNESCO, particularly whit regard to Bukhara, ancient town along the Silk Road and from 1993 World Heritage Site. Last 19 march the President Shavkat Mirziyaev signed a decree giving the go-ahead for a plan aiming to restructure the city financed by the Uzbek National Bank and the Russian, but of Uzbek origin, tycoon Alisher Usmanov declared in 2013 the 37th richest person in the world. In the UNESCO opinion this project could have a very negative impact.
In essence, the issue should be to build, on the northwest side of the citadel dating from V century, an area furnished of modern hotels, spas, shops and a 500 seat amphitheatre, demolishing an old market and almost 100 houses of private citizens. UNESCO estimates this project could lead to the revocation of the World Heritage Site status attributed to the city. The authorities hurried to declare the project will be realized with the cooperation precisely of UNESCO but the relating documentation in the last few months was apparently not submitted yet.
UNESCO has substantiated reasons to fear for the future of the Medieval city better preserved in Central Asia. The unique charm of Bukhara doesn’t origin from the single building but from the atmosphere of the whole urban landscape, the same landscape that could be disfigured from the modern structures. Worries are due to the previous plan of touristic development, supervised by Mirziyaev himself between 2014 and 2015, concerning the city of Shahrisabz. The result of this plan has been the levelling – using bulldozers – of some Medieval districts and the construction of a theme park.
The question of the touristic development of Bukhara produces thoughts: for which reason the Uzbek authorities should be not free to manage their artistic heritage pretty much as it likes? The culture of promote heritage conservation is recent in Europe itself: just look at the numerous Roman remains used in the past to build other edifices. The progress applies only to Western countries? The rest of the world has to stay stable over the centuries as a background to holidays of clerks looking for easy adventure and exoticism? Difficult questions.