Each of these cities has its own specialties when it comes to art objects & craftsmanship. While Bukhara is most famous for its painting on silk paper and its astrakhan coats, the purest Silk products, and the most delicate pottery come from the Ferghana Valley. Last but not least, Samarkand is the place for beautiful embroideries and needlework known as “Suzanis“ as well as genuine vintage silk clothing.
Where to find real antiques in Uzbekistan
That’s a tricky question. According to Uzbek law, antiques are not supposed to be sold to foreigners because of national heritage protection issues. And every travel guide will warn you against doing this.
For instance, in the travel book The Golden Road to Samarkand (Macleod & Mayhew), it is clearly mentioned that Uzbek “custom staff are most concerned with preventing the export of antiques (officially anything over 50 years old or of high cultural value). In practice […] custom officers often question anything remotely old, although their motives are sometimes suspect. Even brand new carpets and embroidery can draw suspicion.”
Technically in those circumstances, anything you purchase (old or new) could potentially be taken away from you by an over-zealous customs officer (who will also check your suitcase if you’re taking an inland flight). Now, custom officers almost systematically check the luggage of tourists who are traveling on their own and outside of rush hour. If you are flying out of Uzbekistan from Tashkent, together with hundreds of other tourists, custom officers will likely be less mindful (all the more so as most outbound flights are scheduled after midnight). This could be your opportunity window to bring back some more “vintage” items.
It goes without saying that we’re not encouraging you in any circumstances to export objects with a high historical or archaeological value; this is a prohibited and immoral practice. But saying that anything which has been made before 1965 can’t be taken out of the country, makes no sense to me. A hundred years old would be more adequate, than 50.
Now, if you’re asking where you should go to try your luck at finding “vintage collectibles”, there are two places in Uzbekistan which are particularly interesting from a flea market perspective: the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand.