There is so much great architecture outside of the tourist centers of Uzbekistan: Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva. The village of Katta Langar is one of those places in Uzbekistan that Soviet rule never quite got a hold on, and the rush of contemporary life and formulaic tourism has also passed by this little town.
All the better for those in search of a different Uzbekistan, venturing away from the crowded urban environment and into the soft green hills towards Tajikistan.
Katta Langar was settled at the end of the 15th century, when different Sufi groups pushed one weaker faction, the Ishqiya, out of their home and into the secluded cul-de-sac of Katta Langar. They have been there ever since, living a life that has changed little in all those centuries.
The village Friday mosque was built not long after the Ishqiya’s arrival in Katta Langar. From the outside, it may not look like much to the casual observer, but inside, it becomes an ocean of blue tilework, with 10 wooden columns holding up the intricate ceiling, each column with a different carving, lovingly drawn by the sons and grandsons of Timur’s enslaved master-craftsmen from nearby Samarkand.
A detail from the door.
Overseeing the town from up high is the mausoleum of the most powerful local sheikh, 16th-century Mohammed Sadik, who lies buried with his father and son, as well as a member of the Timurid dynasty, possibly one of Tamerlane’s daughters. The dome is classic Timurid style, but built with restraint, 4 tulip-shaped ornaments balanced atop with equal elegance.
If you couldn’t care less about architecture, there is still no reason to pass up on Katta Langar once you have made it as far as Shakhrisabz. These people want to meet you!
Get invited in one of the clay-brick houses, have tea and flat bread, and while away the afternoon on the tapchan with your new-found friends. The village of Langar itself is a dream of rural Uzbekistan: clay houses suddenly appear from behind a corner as you drive up the valley road, surrounded by tall trees swaying in the mountain wind that rustles up their leaves.
How to get there
Katta Langar lies 40km south of Shakhrisabz off the M39 towards Termez. Shared taxis from Shakhrisabz take you as far as the junction at Kyzyl Tepa, from where it’s another 6km hitch to Langar.