Mirobod was our first “Bazaar” experience in Tashkent when moved here in 2015. Bizarre would be good way to describe our initial visit, and it still isn’t my preferred shopping method, but if you want access to the best quality produce and don’t mind bargaining for every single item on your shopping list, a trip to the bazaar might just be right up your alley.
Formerly known as Gospitalny Bazaar, and still known as Gospitalny Bazaar to many of Tashkent’s taxi drivers where directions to anywhere are based on landmarks, even landmarks from Soviet times, Mirobod bazaar recently underwent an extensive renovation to keep the Uzbek tradition of bazaars going into the next generation. Similar renovations are underway at bazaars all over the city, with major works completed within the last few years at Alayskiy, and a full renovation just started at Parkent Bazaar in Maksim Gorky District. Each district of Tashkent has its own bazaar, or more than one, and despite western style supermarkets rapidly expanding their presence, bazaars show no signs of being any less popular. Most locals still rely on the network of over twenty traditional bazaars in Tashkent for their daily shopping.
Unlike Chorsu, which is an overwhelming experience just outside the old-town of the Uzbek Capital, Mirobod is slightly more manageable. Rather than being able to find absolutely everything you can possibly imagine, Mirobod is better known for day-to-day grocery items catering to the population of the immediately surrounding mahallas. Mirobod’s central location makes it an ideal spot for residents of the Grand Mir district, anyone who knows Tashkent knows exactly where I’m talking about, but it also does tend to be a bit more expensive, and frequented by tourists since there are many hotels in the area. This area of town is also a favorite location for teachers, diplomats, and other expats, so vendors here are quick to adjust prices accordingly.
Prices, or lack-thereof, are pretty much my main gripe with the whole bazaar experience. While I appreciate the nostalgic silk road ambiance, the whole “for you, my friend, very good price” thing for me is dead on arrival. This isn’t cultural insensitivity, but please just give me a fair price that I don’t have to think twice about. You aren’t my friend, I’m sure your tomatoes are just as lovely as the three other guys’ who just tried to sell them to me. I don’t want to make a deal, I just want my tomatoes so I can get on with my life.
Wifey has a different approach, as do many bazaar shopping pros, among whom I’m obviously not included. The time tested technique is to establish a relationship with a vendor who you will visit again and again. They get to know you, they become your friend, they give you a good price, and you keep coming back. Under the massive metal-roof shelter of Mirobod Bazaar, shoppers can find all of their grocery items usually at much lower prices, and of much higher quality than can be found in the western style supermarkets, such as Korzinka, that keep popping up all over town.
What Korzinka lacks in selection and personal relationships, it makes up for in convenience. All the prices are clearly displayed, and purchases are rung up at the cash register, but what you see is what you get, and there’s much less emphasis on quality when everyone is getting exactly the same thing. Not to say that Korzinka doesn’t offer customers a top notch product, it just isn’t the same experience as the bazaar. We do the majority of our shopping at Korzinka simply because I can’t be bothered to communicate with people for vegetables. But if you have knack for languages, and are all about totally immersing yourself in the culture of your host country, look no further than your local bazaar for all your regular grocery needs.