If you cannot come to Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan comes to you.
Report on the Uzbek Culture and Food Festival (18/19 June 2023) by Kamila Erkaboyeva, the British-Uzbek Society Member Engagement Officer
Approaching the Tower Bridge has always been a milestone moment for every tourist. If you are in London and don’t visit the landmark- it’s almost a crime. But living in London for almost 17 years, I would have never imagined to approach Tower Bridge and be greeted with the smell of Uzbek osh, sounds of Uzbek doira and the vibrant colours of my homeland, Uzbekistan.
If you cannot come to Uzbekistan, Uzbekistan comes to you and that was magnificently felt at the first Uzbek Culture and Food Festival in London last weekend. The festival has brought not only the Uzbeks living across the UK, but also all nations and ethnicities of London to celebrate all together. The festival has started in the way a traditional Uzbek wedding would start; bold, loud and with a very warm welcome. You’re instantly greeted with the sounds of karnay, a traditional trumpet often played in the Central Asia region, dancers and the volunteers proudly placing their right hand on their heart – a gesture that doesn’t require words. You just know you’re sincerely welcomed from the heart.
The buzz of the festival is felt through the stage, as the presenters Camilla Anvar and Rashid Shadat start off with welcoming the guests and inviting the ‘Bahor’ dance assemble to the stage, making it very hard not to dance along with the sounds of ‘doira’, a traditional Uzbek base drum.
Of course, no true Uzbek gathering exists without Uzbek osh, and the guests were not disappointed with a special one tonne of Uzbek osh, which was cooked on the day of the festival. Along with a celebrity chef, Bahriddin Chustiy, and Muzaffar Sadykov – the founder of ‘Oshpaz’ have teamed up to prepare enough osh for all the guests at the event. The meat, rice, carrots and even one tonne of cauldron kazan has been specially delivered from Uzbekistan for the event. Seems that the only ingredient that was British for the Uzbek osh was the London air! The queue for the Uzbek osh was seen even outside of the festival’s designated area, but the visitors were only patient and dedicated to wait, because they knew that with a single bite they’ll be instantly transferred to Uzbekistan.
The British-Uzbek owned ‘Bobo & Wild’ or the famous ‘caffeine dealers’ were also seen at the festival helping clench the thirst, as the British weather didn’t disappoint, and the sun was generous enough throughout the first day of the festival.
The Uzbek Culture and Food Festival has also welcomed and highlighted other Uzbek businesses, craftsmen and designers, some who even travelled specifically from Uzbekistan for the festival to speak and elaborate on the customs, delicate craftsmanship and the beauty behind the traditional designs. Marhamathon Umarova, founder of fashion brand ‘Maru’ travelled from Uzbekistan to London to showcase vibrant and sustainable pieces of her brand. Special uniform for the event which was worn by the chefs at the festival was also kindly designed by ‘Maru’. Uzbek designer ‘Dildora Kasimova’ who unfortunately couldn’t make it to the event, has also sponsored the festival, and her summer collection was spotted from miles away.
The festival has given an opportunity not to just showcase and highlight the rich and vibrant culture of Uzbekistan, but also help those who have immigrated to UK to reconnect with their roots and meet new people.
The guests had an opportunity to dance and sing along with the ‘treasures’ of the Uzbekistan – Gulsanam Mamazoitova, Bunyodbek Saidov, and even Dj King Macarella.
Organised by Muzaffar Sadykov, founder of Oshpaz, with great help from Embassy of Uzbekistan in the United Kingdom, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Uzbekistan – first Uzbek Culture and Food Festival was a great success.
We couldn’t thank enough the sponsors, the volunteers, the organisers and the Uzbek diaspora for making this festival into a reality. Especially Kamola Makhmudova, Otabek Nuritdinov and Zamira Artikova who have been tirelessly and endlessly connecting and cooperating with the exhibitors, visitors and the guest singers and performers to make this event even more memorable!