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Uzbekistan: A Land of Pilgrimage Tourism

Pilgrimage tourism in the near future can become one of the largest directions of both domestic and inbound tourism. “We have great potential to offer competitive international tours of heritage sites of Islamic, Christian, Buddhist and Jewish cultures,” said Aziz Abduhakimov, chairman of the Tourism Development State Committee.

For the development of pilgrimage (ziyorat) tourism it is necessary to increase the recognition of our facilities. Together with the Committee for Religious Affairs and the Committee on Interethnic Relations and Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries, a catalog of cultural heritage sites has been developed with information on the significance of the object, its address and the scheme of travel to it, as well as contacts of the administration. They will be distributed among representatives of the subjects of tourism and tourist information bureaus. All this should contribute to increasing the visibility of objects and, as a result, their attractiveness among tourists.

“We intend to receive guests at the highest level,” Aziz Abdukhakimov noted. “And to provide it, a working group has been created that is already studying the experience of such major pilgrim tourism centers as Saudi Arabia, Israel, Greece, the Vatican, India, China and others.”

Active work is carried out with the Association of Private Tourist Organizations to develop attractive specific routes. We plan to prepare and certify special guides-translators and tour guides. For them, courses are organized with the involvement of teachers from the Tashkent Islamic University and the Tashkent Islamic Institute named after al-Bukhari and madrassah.

There is a lot of work to create comfortable conditions for tourists in airports, railway and bus stations, and hotels. This involves the creation of bathing points (tahorat), prayer rooms in places of pilgrimage. A network of hotels should be established in the country, taking into account religious traditions and customs, with the designation of them as ziyorat-hotels. In particular, they will provide a prayer room, a halal kitchen, prayer rugs, a place for ablution, religious attributes and literature, signs of the Qiblah, the lack of picturesque images of people and animals.

For catering points, the introduction of a voluntary system of certification of tourism industry objects by halal, kosher standards with the appropriation of a corresponding mark of distinction is foreseen.

“Moreover, we initiate negotiations on the invitation to Uzbekistan leading hotel chains from Malaysia and Indonesia who have experience in introducing halal standards and servicing tourists from these countries to carry out similar activities in the country,” the chairman of the State Committee for Tourism Development said.

Among the priorities is the creation of conditions for foreign and domestic pilgrims, providing them with the maximum amenities for traveling around the country on religious holidays. If we are talking about the month of Ramadan, we should form a list of places for accommodation and catering points that organize daily meals sahar and iftar, cultural, religious and sports events held during Ramadan, and organize the dissemination of this information to the target audience. From the same position it is necessary to revise the mode of operation of shopping centers in large cities with the extension of the working hours from 10 am to 1 am, and the cafes and restaurants located in them - until 3 am. We plan to extend the regime of theaters and show performances about the life and work of the hadith and the great preachers living in the territory of modern Uzbekistan, with subtitles in English.

Another task is to create conditions for conducting mutual settlements using various international bank cards in places of pilgrimage tourism.

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(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)