them before they hit the floor. “Please,
do not do that. Bread is sacred,” he
That afternoon, I fell into conversa-
tion with Amir, the hotel receptionist.
He told me a story about bread and
Bukhara weddings: Uzbek weddings
are often huge, and the average meal
requires 300 to 400 loaves of non.
Following the wedding reception, the
oldest and wisest woman, the one with
the longest marriage and the most life experiences, holds two
rounds of non on the head of the bride. She walks her around
the reception room while the bride says goodbye to her old life
with her family. All the women and her parents kiss her and
say goodbye. The old woman holds the bread, reads to her
from the Qur’an, talks to her, wipes away her tears, reassures
her that everything will be all right, and then she leads her to
the room where her husband is waiting for their first night.
he following day, I drove northwest across the
Kyzylkum Desert, arriving in Urgench, the capital
of Khorezm Province. The non of Khorezm is flat-
ter, more cracker-like in texture, with
chekich stamp marks covering most
of the non, leaving a thin edge like
pizza dough. Here, names from Uzbek
folklore and literature are common-
ly used for decoration and to identify
the different bakers. At the stall run by
Salomat, a smiling, effusive woman of
middle age, she explained the meaning
of the names Tahir and Zuhra on her
bread. They are, she said, a kind of
Uzbek Romeo and Juliet, protagonists of an epic tale of star-
crossed lovers, well known to the everyday bread buyers of
Urgench. It is about fate, destiny, hope, sacred love, tragedy
and God’s will. Not, I thought, the sort of life lessons or liter-
ary reference that might ever be found on the plastic packag-
ing of pre-sliced Western breads.
Back in Tashkent at the end of my journey, I was sipping
green tea at a café when I noticed a car moving slowly down
the street. A small child was standing up on a rear seat hold-
ing a small crust of non. The window was partially open,
and as the car passed, the child accidently dropped the crust
onto the road. From a nearby group of women, one imme-
diately walked over, picked up the non,
blew on it, kissed it lightly, uttered
some words and placed the non on a
tree branch, for the birds.
Related articles atwww.aramcoworld.com
Bukhara tilework S/O 09
Tashkent J/F 08
Flatbread S/O 95
Samarkand J/A 84
Random House author and photo-
gmail.com) is a frequent contributor
. He lives in
California’s Central Valley.
Tashkent-style non dough is
stamped with chekich and bosma patterns,
and it is ready for the oven.
boy sets off in Samarkand using a bicycle
fitted with a customized rack and bags.
Throughout Uzbekistan, non is never cut with
a knife: It is torn by hand, lending a special
meaning to the ancient tradition of “breaking
bread” with family, neighbors or strangers.