When I get to Andijan I take a taxi to a hotel, only to find it’s being renovated. I still feel like shit. The workers tell me there is another hotel close by. I drag myself over there, and find out it’s forty dollars a night. So I leave and drag myself up the street a bit further in search of a cheaper place to sleep, but after three or so minutes I need to sit down. I look so miserable that I induce random passers by to ask about my well being. I decide to walk back to the hotel and shell out the forty bucks. I still feel rotten the next day, but thanks to the wifi I discover there’s hardly a better option in town than the hotel I’m staying at, so I stay put. I only venture out in search of something my intestines won’t immediately divert to the fast lane – a Snickers bar does the trick.
There are several reasons I decided to go to Andijan. Lonely Planet says it’s ‘probably the country’s purest Uzbek city‘. I don’t know what that means exactly, but since I am in Uzbekistan I ought to check it out. I also want to see the city where Central Asia’s perhaps most notorious – and certainly single largest – act of repression took place: the 2005 Andijan massacre. I don’t expect to run into anything related to the events of 2005. I didn’t even dare bring up the subject with people on the other side of the country – that’s how controversial it is. Andijan is also the region where Babur was born – he’s the guy who wandered down to Delhi and started the Mughal empire. My guide book says there is a museum dedicated to him, but Google Maps can’t find the address listed. Online I discover it’s located in a park named after Babur, but that isn’t much help because I can’t find the location of the park either.
On my third day in the city I have recovered enough to set out in search of the Babur museum. The reception lady has no clue what I am talking about, neither do some other people I ask in town. I manage to get directed first to the local library, then to one museum where I am lead about by one of the curators who carries along a flashlight since the lighting doesn’t work throughout the building. It’s nice enough – mostly history with some mounted animals thrown in for good measure – but it is not the Babur museum. Around three in the afternoon I finally realize that instead of asking around for the museum I should look for the park. It takes two more taxi rides but I end up in the right place, on the outskirts of town in a recreational area full of dodgy-looking fairground rides and dodgier looking food stands. On the top of a hill I finally find the Babur museum. It is closed.
According to the opening times on display outside it should be open, but nobody is around. It’s a small place anyway but the building is new and there is a giant staircase leading up to it. It must have cost a fair bit, and I can’t help but think the money would have been better spent fixing the lights in the regional museum where the employees not only show up for work, but actually are enthusiastic and patient enough to take a flashlight and lead a lost tourist with only a basic grasp of Russian on a personal tour through a few thousand years of local history.