MIR Moments: Dances, Dinners & Delights in Uzbekistan

MIR Moments: Dances, Dinners & Delights in Uzbekistan

Every few years, internationally respected dance ethnologist Helene Eriksen leads a group of enthusiasts to a different region of the world to explore its traditional dances, costumes and music. 

Since 2016, Helene has teamed up with MIR for an unconventional journey to the heart of the Silk Road, Uzbekistan, to explore the dances, costumes and music of the Central Asian desert region. Each handcrafted custom trip is open to members of Helene’s dance troupe, ANAR DANA, as well as to MIR travelers with a passion for the arts and the expressive dance movements of the Silk Road.

Tour Manager Abdu Samadov shares some favorite highlights and surprise moments from the most recent trip.

Join the March 17-29, 2020 departure of this special tour with Helene Eriksen and ANAR DANA. 

Contact us today!


Samarkand’s Hazrati Khyzr Mosque, dedicated to Uzbekistan’s patron saint of travelers
Photo credit: Lisa Peterson

A Lucky StartDuring our stay in Samarkand, we had two days of unexpected snow, but on our third day we had a very warm and sunny morning. We planned to head to Bukhara early in the morning, but we simply could not pass up the opportunity to visit an iconic spot: the Hazrati Khyzr Mosque, the oldest in Samarkand. The site is named in honor of the legendary Hazrati Khyzr, the patron saint of travelers.

We went up to the balcony, where we had great views of the snow-peaked mountains around the city. We also shared a meaningful conversation with the imam in charge of maintaining the mosque. He invited us in and chatted about the architecture of the mosque and shared some of the history of Samarkand. Before we departed for Bukhara, he gave our group special blessings for a safe journey.

Coming of AgeIn Bukhara, the group received an invitation to participate in a special Uzbek celebration called a Muchal Tuy. A Muchal Tuy is a coming-of-age ceremony celebrated when a girl or boy turns 12 years old, the age when they are considered to have reached adulthood. We attended the Muchal Tuy of the son of Firuza, an artist at Bukhara’s Philharmonic & Folklore Center.

There were more than 300 guests at the party. As the party also coincided with Navruz, there were several special holiday dishes on offer such as halisa (slow-cooked meat and wheat porridge) and sumalak (a sweet dessert made from germinated wheat and flour), as well as a large variety of meat dishes, fruits and drinks.  

As the guests arrived, they greeted Firuza’s son with gifts, money and well wishes. Once everyone gathered around the table, the local oksakol (the oldest and most experienced man in the community) began the ceremony, bestowing blessings to the young man and the host family.

Festivities continued with an amazing dance performance by Buxorcha, a local dance troupe. The ANAR DANA group members gave their special greetings and wished health, prosperity and happiness to the host. Helene also gave a special impromptu performance of Bukharan dance accompanied by a doira drummer.

Helene during a solo performance, accompanied by a <i>doira</i> drummer<br>Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Helene’s impromptu solo performance, accompanied by a doira drummer
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

The Party ContinuesThe Muchal Tuy ceremony coincided with another unique Uzbek celebration, the Sallabandon Tuy. This is a rite of passage ceremony for women gaining the title of matriarch, signifying their journey from a “novice” to an experienced and well-respected community elder. The ceremony is usually held during a family Muchal Tuy or Sunnat Tuy (circumcision ceremony), and highlights the life of the woman being granted matriarch status, honoring the work she has done from giving birth to raising her children.


Snapping some photos of guests during the celebration in Bukhara
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Firuza’s mother and mentor were being honored, so as a gift, she organized the Sallabandon Tuy ceremonies for them. The two women were presented with a special white cloth, called a salla, that was wrapped around their heads as guests chanted Bukharan folk songs. They were also given traditional Bukharan dresses, peshonabands (headdresses) and veils. Relatives, neighbors, friends and colleagues brought presents and congratulated the two women.

The group poses with members and special guests at the Guli Bonu Center for Dance in Tashkent, Uzbekistan<br>Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

The group poses with special guests at the Guli Bonu Center for Dance in Tashkent, Uzbekistan; renowned Uzbek dancer Viloyat Akilova can be seen in the center of the first row holding a red flower
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

Tashkent Top-OffIn Tashkent, we visited the Guli Bonu Center for Dance, where we had the opportunity to meet with the students. This is where we had the biggest surprise on our journey: a meeting with legendary dancer and world-famous choreographer Viloyat Akilova, one of the most revered dance masters in Uzbekistan. We also met with master choreographers Kadir Muminov and Damira Sagirova, and well as doira master Mamurjon Merdadaev, who hosted our group and took us on a tour of the center.

We were later treated to a special performance, where the students at the center displayed five different Uzbek dance styles: Khorezmcha Lazgi, Bukharacha, Samarkand, Andijan and Tashkent. After watching the performances, we shared tea and sweets with our hosts, exchanging conversation and good wishes. 


Travel to Uzbekistan with MIR

The group warms up for their performance
Photo credit: Abdu Samadov

MIR has more than 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Join our March 17-29, 2020 departure of this special tour with Helene Eriksen & ANAR DANA.

Contact MIR today!

Learn more about MIR tours that travel to Central Asia and to Uzbekistan, where you can experience Central Asian dance traditions for yourself:

You can also book a custom private journey. MIR specializes in personalized, private journeys, and we love to take your ideas and weave them into a trip tailored especially for you. Travel wherever, however, and with whomever you like, relying on our expert assistance. Contact us to find out more about our custom and private travel expertise – each trip handcrafted to your interests, dates and pace.

Contact MIR today at info@mircorp.com or 1-800-424-7289.

(Top photo: U.S. dance troupe ANAR DANA poses with Uzbek dancers after their performance in Bukhara. Photo credit: Abdu Samadov)

PUBLISHED: May 24, 2016

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3 thoughts on “MIR Moments: Dances, Dinners & Delights in Uzbekistan

  • george fusfield

    what are the prices for the silk route trip

  • Helene Eriksen

    You can follow the ANAR DANA tours with Helene Eriksen, Abdu Samadov and MIR on our Facebook page:

  • Susan Lind-Sinanian, Textile Curator, Armenian Museum of America

    As one of the participants in the 2016 tour to Uzbekistan I had a very exciting adventure; the wonderful tour guide, Abdul, host, Helene, the dancing, textiles,
    the food,
    accomodations, and the wonderful people of Uzbekistan. Sincerely, Susan Lind-Sinanian