Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s Mesmerizing Market

One of Chorsu’s most famous food items, the kurt

photography by: Omri Westmark

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To the untrained eye, the vividly turquoise dome in downtown Tashkent might look at first like a sport arena or a sumptuous temple, when in fact, it is the city’s largest market, better known as Chorsu Bazaar. A vestige of the Soviet era, the marketplace is home to an incalculable number of stalls that offer a nonpareil hodgepodge of unusual eats, scrumptious nuts and dried fruits, garments as well as traditional souvenirs, serving collectively as a microcosm of the nation’s rich culture and cuisine.

Since the times of the silk road, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan and Central Asia’s most populous city, has been a major commercial hub, acting as a cultural bridge between east and west. There is probably no greater testimony to the city’s centuries old traditions than Chorsu Bazaar, located in the very heart of Tashkent, next to the 16th century Ko’kaldosh Madrasasi. The bustling shopping complex comprises of hundreds upon hundreds of different-sized stores, ranging from a tiny stand to a whole supermarket.


Constructed in 1980 when Uzbekistan was still a part of the U.S.S.R, the market’s main building is imbued with Islamic aesthetics and Soviet monumentality alike. Featuring a massive dome with greenish ornaments and horseshoe arches, the edifice houses the meat and dairy sections while its second floor is fully dedicated to the country’s renowned dried fruits and nuts.


With strong odors wafting through the air and savvy shopkeepers relentlessly touting their wares, the large space provides a multi-sensual experience, perhaps not for the faint hearted. As visitors wander between the many stalls, they will come across sour cream-filled buckets, phosphorescent heaps of pickled cabbage and freshly slaughtered animals, just to name a few.

Despite its ginormous size, the domed structure is too small to actually accommodate everything this market has to offer, and thus, the commercial activity spills into the surrounding buildings and streets.


Incessantly inundated with meaty scents is a series of fast food stands centered around an inner courtyard. This cluster of eateries offers a plethora of traditional delicacies, including onion garnished lamb skewers, stuffed vegetables and most notably, Naryn, a noodle dish served with shredded pieces of horse meat, particularly popular in Tashkent.


Sold throughout the marketplace are some of the country’s most famous staple food items, one of which is the Uzbek traditional flatbread, locally known as Obi non. The disk-shaped bread is baked inside a clay oven and often decorated with sesame seeds and artistic imprinted patterns. Another exotic product one can find here is kurt. Found all over Central Asia, these golf-sized balls are either made of sour milk or yogurt, fermented and dried to form an extremely tangy snack that resonates with the region’s nomadic past.

Suffice to say that Chorsu also boasts an ample fruit and vegetables section, where farmers from the countryside flock in masses to sell their produce. Standing out among the endless array of mouthwatering fruits is a small booth which offers freshly cut slices of watermelon and Uzbek melon, the latter is globally renowned for its sweet and rich flavors.


Alongside the market’s edible stuff, visitors can also find entire areas allocated to clothing and knickknacks. Among the more unique types of souvenirs are Chapan, an Uzbek-style attire, beautiful ceramics with blue glaze Ishkor, and kurpacha, an ornamented, quilted mattress.


Due to its central location next to a metro station with which it shares its name, Chorsu Bazaar is easily accessible and open daily from 5AM to 9PM. Take not that haggling is widespread throughout the market, especially in the parts where souvenirs are being sold.