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LE MONDE UZBEKISTANMeat lovers rave aboutthe local cuisine (right).Although the Aral Sea canstill be seen on manymaps, it has mostlydisappeared due to Sovietirrigation technology(left).Last year, the export value of textile products was1.6 billion US-dollar – which was twice as much asfour years ago. Experts estimate the potential for textileexports at up to 15 billion, which would createthree million additional jobs.Besides petroleum gas and textiles, Uzbekistanpossesses considerable gold, uranium and coppermines. Such rich resources bear great chances especiallyfor the rural areas – while the capital Tashkentis a thriving city, the infrastructure in the rest of thecountry still needs a boost. Particular urgent is thesituation in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous republicwithin Uzbekistan. This region in the northwesternpart of the country is still suffering from theevaporation of the Aral Sea. The winds that spreadthe extant salt crystals over large parts of the landwill soon be used for green energy: To deal with thegrowing demand for electric power, the governmentrecently started an international call for bids in orderto erect Uzbekistan’s first wind farm. The project willbe financially supported by the European Bank forReconstruction and Development (EBRD).The government is very active in bringing Westernknowhow into the country. Last year, theTashkent State University of Economics started a cooperationwith the IMC University of Applied SciencesKrems. The Lower Austrian institution currentlyoffers one master and three bachelor courses, givingUzbek students the opportunity to receive both theUzbek and the Austrian respectively EU-wide academicdegrees with every single study course. For itscourses, the IMC University sends its lecturers to theUzbek capital Tashkent in order to guarantee thesame quality level as in Austria. Students from bothuniversities furthermore have the chance to spendcourses abroad at the particular partner university(in pandemic times they have to be realised via internet,of course). Karl Ennsfellner, Chief Executive Officerat the IMC University, praises the efficient andgoal-oriented collaboration with the Uzbek officials:“The process of setting up the courses was realisedwithin one year, whereas such preparations usuallytake us two or more years. Besides that, we notice thatthe Uzbek students are highly motivated and haveremarkable English skills.”One of the bachelor degree courses by the Austrianuniversity in Tashkent is called Tourism and LeisureManagement, and this comes with very goodreasons. As soon as the current Corona pandemicwill be overcome, Uzbekistan will without a doubtPHOTOS: EMBASSY OF UZBEKISTAN, NASIM MANSUROVcontinue to welcome a raising number of tourists.It is a secular state, successfully holding Islamicfundamentalism at bay, which makes it a secureplace for travellers seeking an exotic experience.Even though Uzbekistan is a young country, the culturalhistory on its lands is very old. Uzbeks still flythe flag for Timur, the 14th century conqueror, whoby officials is considered as the nation’s founding father.Returning travellers rave about the Uzbek heartinessand hospitality, as well as about the hearty food(loved at least by carnivores), and historic towns.Four sites that recollect stories from One Thousandand One Nights are currently listed as UNESCOworld heritage: the historic centres of Bukhara,Shakhrisyabz, and Itchan Kala in Khiva (with thehistoric centre of Shakhrisyabz on the UNESCOWorld Heritage in Danger List since 2016, due toover-development of tourist infrastructure in thesite).In Khiva, the European Bank for Reconstructionand Development commissioned the urbanisationstudio Superwien from Vienna to elaborate an urbanplanning concept which recently advised policymakershow to increase the numbers of park areas andthe level of walkability.Apart from that, people from all over the worldaccept the arduous journey to Nukus, a town off thebeaten path in Karakalpakstan, in order to visit amuseum that by many is called the Louvre of theSteppes: The Savitsky Museum of Art houses the secondlargest collection of Russian avant-garde art inthe world, hence it is a must see for art lovers.By comparison, a trip from Tashkent to the impressiveTian Shan Mountains near Lake Charvakfeels like a pleasure cruise. The cable car that in summerdelights daytrip visitors going for a blow fromthe capital and in winter lifts ski lovers to the top ofthe slopes was constructed by Doppelmayr, the famedAustrian company.From an Austrian point of view, Uzbekistan is thesecond most important trade partner in CentralAsia. Austrian exports to Uzbekistan have doubledwithin the year of 2018, and in 2019 reached a recordhigh of 110 million euro.In February, the members of an Austrian businessdelegation visiting Tashkent and Samarkand, agreedthat it was the ideal moment to explore the chancesfor an intensification of these economic relations.The race is on.Uzbekistan’s touristicpotential is enormous:Historic centre ofBukhara, high-classtextile and handicrafttradition (above),Islam-Khodja Minaretin Khiva (left).The historic centre ofSamarkand (above).Inside the Bibi-KhanymMosque (right).36 Cercle Diplomatique 2/2020Cercle Diplomatique 2/202037