Despite the resurgence of the craft industry, antiques are still very much in demand and many people from the villages, struggling with the ailing economy, are selling off their family heirlooms to souvenir shop owners.

As a result, the Ichan Kala is full of antique silk, old chapons (jackets) and the odd paranja. There are also lots of antique carpets, water pourers and samovars and a surprising amount of jewelry. One of the more innovative ideas are rings made from old silver coins with flowing Arab script on them. The Feruz Khan Madrassah, the puppet shop next to the Zindan jail and the Okh Mosque seem to be the best places for picking up antiques.

The legalities of buying and selling antiques seem to vary. Some antiques are openly on display, such as carpets, silk and old clothing, whilst copper water pourers and jewelry tends to be hidden away unless requested, at which point the shop owner disappears into the mysterious recesses of his shop and returns with hands full of necklaces and bracelets.

It is also questionable as to what you can take out of the country and what you can't. Clothing does not seem to be a problem, but antique carpets can be and usually require a certificate from the seller. Anything large and metallic will invariably lead to wranglings with airport officials, whilst jewelry seems to pass unnoticed.

If you buy something that you know to be an antique then be prepared for a showdown at the airport, where it might be possible to pay a 'fine' to be allowed to take your purchase out of the country. In Tashkent it is possible to have your antique officially valued and if it is old, but under a hundred years old, then they can give you a stamp of approval.

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