For those interested in the Soviet occupation of Uzbekistan, there is no better place than Navoi. This city, nearly a midpoint between Samarkand and Bukhara, was never under the jurisdiction of Tashkent. It was administered and supplied directly from Moscow. Locals who could not afford the trip to Moscow, even at the ridiculously cheap communist prices, would go to Navoi for access to goods available nowhere else in Central Asia.

The modern city of Navoi is completely artificial, the grand boulevards, square parks and rectangular apartment blocks the height of Soviet perfectionist ideology. Don’t try to spend the night as the local police are a bit jittery. This city remained closed to foreigners until 1996. Don’t forget to take a picture of the we swear they are not nuclear factory smokestacks. Two camel treking companies operate out of Navoi. It is expensive, for tourists only, but one of the few places that offer this service. I paid a little over 30 USD for a two day trek in a group of 15. I have heard of tourists paying over 85 USD per person.

If one does stay in the area, be sure to visit Sarmish and the beautiful, but often overlooked, town of Nurata in the steppes to the north. To get to either requires special arrangement with a taxi. $20-$30 dollars is reasonable for a taxi for a day in the area, but if you don’t speak the languages, be prepared to pay more. If you are in the area in late April-early May, the steppe over the mountains to the north of the city, the ground will be dotted with wild tulips.