Is Tourism Doing This? Probably. – Samarkand

So, if you’ve been reading my blog then you know one of the things I’ve loved so much about Uzbekistan is the calmness of the people and especially the calmness of the bazaars. I’m no twenty-something Western backpacker looking for the thrill of a wild outdoor market. I’ve traveled the world, I’ve been to bazaars from Latin America to Africa and I’ve grown to mostly hate them. The yelling, the pushing, the shoving, the haggling over prices, the trying to take advantage of the naive foreigner. These big open air markets just don’t give me the same thrill they did fifteen years years ago. When I find myself in one now it’s for a purpose. Either there’s historical value, or I actually need to buy something.

But! Here in Uzbekistan it’s been different! We’ve been in bazaars in Tashkent, Kokand, and Ferghana and all three were calm. No yelling, no one hassling me, no pushing, no shoving, no one grabbing my arm trying to pull me into their stall, no one demanding I buy something form them. It’s been a pleasure shopping here.

That was all until yesterday. Here. In Samarkand. The vendors here are much more aggressive. As we waked through the Siab Bazaar people were shouting us “Hey meester! Hey meester!” If I stopped for just one split second it was “Madame! Madame! Madame!” Look! Look! Look!” They are much, much more aggressive here. Inside the Bibi-Khanym Mausoleum I truly thought I was going to have to shout ‘Back off!!!” at a souvenir vendor to make her leave me alone.

I’m trying to decide what to attribute the difference to and I think it must be tourism. Samarkand sees way more foreign tourists than any town in the Ferghana Valley does. The vendors have have been conditioned and learned to be aggressive sales people to make the deal.

Societies change over time and I’m seeing it in realtime over a cross country road trip.

It’s still not anywhere near as bad here as it is in East Asia or Latin America. Sure, some people shouted “Meester and Madame” at us and one lady wouldn’t stop pestering me but you’d have to multiply that by 10,000 to even get close to walking through the main market in Xi’an.