The ancient Kukeldash Madrasah is in the heart of Tashkent’s old city. It’s Friday afternoon, and the nearby maze of medieval unpaved alleys looks unwelcoming under a scorching sun.
But outside the old gates of the religious school, a crowd of bearded young Uzbeks and veiled women wait patiently. The entire plaza in front of this famous Islamic center is flooded with people from the nearby Chorsu Bazaar, Tashkent’s largest, oldest outdoor market. Handicrafts makers, flat-bread sellers, black-market money dealers – all are here. Everyone is waiting for afternoon prayers.