Tashkent’s history is evident at every turn, but it is clearly zooming into the future too.

Tashkent is a cosmopolitan city with wide avenues lined with chic stores and restaurants. An eclectic array of architectural styles clash; Soviet civic buildings and drab towers rise into the sky and a labyrinth of turquoise-topped mosques and madrasahs twist and turn around 14th-century homes. It’s not uncommon to find several generations of families living together in the mahallas, traditional neighborhoods that offer a glimpse into Tashkent’s fascinating past. The flash of a smile inviting you in for a cup of tea and the heavy brass knockers on thick wood doors add shine to the visual feast. Behind the veil of the simple one-story facades you’ll find courtyards brimming with fruit drying in the sun. The scent of plov, Uzbekistan’s favorite rice and lamb dish, lingers in the air.

If you really want to get a sense (and smell) of a city, the bazaars are the place to be. Heaps of spices and nuts overflow in Tashkent’s Chorsu Bazaar. Women decked out in colorful dresses (their heads wrapped in even brighter scarves) sell piping-hot bread pulled straight out of the tandoor oven. Shop for patterned textiles and ceramics called kurpacha. If you close your eyes and tweak your sense of smell and hearing, your imagination will drift off as though on a magical flying carpet-style time machine.

Below ground, the city is equally appealing. The Soviet-designed metro stations mimic Moscow and Saint Petersburg’s with mosaics and shimmering candelabras. It’s easy to assume that Tashkent would be lost in the past since it was a Silk Road hub, but the capital’s modernity may surprise you.

Today’s transportation is much faster than the caravans that traversed the Silk Road from China. Because of its strategic location, Tashkent has been the focus of tyrants over the centuries wanting to get their hands on the city’s fortunes.

Learn about the country’s most iconic ruler, Amir Timur, at a museum dedicated to his life and rule. Timur’s penchant for grand architecture is seen all across Uzbekistan. The turquoise domes of the Hazrat Imam Complex are a lesson in symmetry, the Muvi Mubarak Library an instruction in faith; it is believed to contain the world’s oldest Quran.

Tucked within the grassy courtyard of the Kulkedash Madrassa, a 16th-century school, fortress, and caravanserai.

Tashkent holds tight to its culture and traditions, evident in the many galleries, museums, and craft centers across town. Uzbekistan is one of those countries that takes your breath away, over and over again.