UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in Uzbekistan

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage in Uzbekistan

Authentic cultural and historical monuments of Uzbekistan, along with folk art, traditions, and customs, are inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Thousands of tourists from different countries come to look at the medieval buildings of Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, and Shakhrisabz.

Even if you have never been to Uzbekistan, you must have heard about some of the intangible cultural heritage that was born in this country. For example, the traditional dish Palov and fabrics - satin and adras, which world-famous fashion designers such as Oscar de la Renta, Nicolas Ghesquière, and John Galliano used to create their famous collections.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List in Uzbekistan

The UNESCO list of the intangible cultural heritage of humanity from Uzbekistan includes 15 elements:

  • The cultural space of the Boysun region was recognized by UNESCO as a masterpiece of intangible cultural heritage in 2001, and in 2008 it was included in the UNESCO representative list.
  • Shashmaqom is a style that combines singing and playing musical instruments. It was named an intangible cultural heritage of mankind in 2003, and in 2008 entered the representative list.
  • Navruz is an ancient Zoroastrian holiday dedicated to the coming of spring. It has been on the UNESCO list since September 30, 2009, and in 2016 it was replenished with other countries, including Uzbekistan.
  • Katta Ashula is a singing genre of the inhabitants of the Ferghana Valley. It was listed in 2009.
  • The art of wit Askiya, was listed in 2014.
  • Plov: tradition and culture of cooking (was included in 2016).
  • The practice of the Margilan Handicraft Center for the production of atlas and adras in the traditional way (included in 2017).
  • Lazgi (lyazgi) - Khorazm dance (included in 2019).
  • The Art of Miniature (listed in 2020).
  • Bakhshi art - national stories with traditional music (included in 2021).
  • Sericulture and traditional production of silk for weaving (included in 2022).
  • Traditional stories and anecdotes about Hodja/ Molla Nesreddin (included in 2022).
  • Art of illumination: Təzhib/Tazhib/Zarhalkori/Tezhip/Naqqoshlik (inscribed in 2023).
  • Iftar and its socio-cultural traditions (inscribed in 2023).
  • Ceramic arts in Uzbekistan.

The cultural space of the Boysun

The cultural space of the Boysun region is located in the Surkhandarya region one of the most ancient places in Central Asia, where the trade caravans of the Great Silk Road to India passed. In the Boysun region, there are unique archeological monuments: the Teshik-Tash cave, the Payonkurgan fortress of the Kushans, the Kurganzol fortress of the era of Alexander the Great, rock paintings in the Kugitang mountains, Surkhi gorge, dinosaur footprints and much more.


Shashmaqom is a combination of poetry and music, which demonstrates the rich cultural heritage of the Uzbeks. Shashmaqom was created no later than the 11th century (according to some sources before the beginning of the 7th century). In the XVIII-XIX centuries, Shashmaqom was the main musical direction in Samarkand, Bukhara, and other large cities of modern Uzbekistan. Shashmaqom is also included in the UNESCO list of Tajikistan.


Navruz was included in the list of intangible heritage of mankind from Uzbekistan and 11 other countries. It is an ancient Zoroastrian holiday. Navruz is the celebration of the New Year, which begins on March 21. On this day, it is customary to treat loved ones with delicious food and exchange gifts. Folk festivals with fairs and national games are held in the cities of Uzbekistan. During the Navruz holiday, it is customary to cook sumalak, a sweet festive dish made from germinated wheat germ.

Katta Ashula

Katta Ashula, which literally means “big song”, is a genre of a traditional song that is typical for the inhabitants of the Ferghana Valley. It is a combination of oriental poetry, singing, playing musical instruments, as well as sacred rites. An integral element of the performance is a small tray or porcelain plate, which directs the sound toward the audience.


Askiya, the art of wit is a unique genre of oral art, during which the participants conduct a dialogue and argue on a given topic without affecting the honor of opponents. The genre was born in the Fergana region not later than the 15th century. The participants must master the art of improvisation, demonstrate the richness of the Uzbek language, and skillfully use humor.

The culture and traditions of making Palov

The culture and traditions of making Palov - with this name, a favorite dish of Uzbek people was inscribed on the list of UNESCO. Palov is a necessary part of weddings, commemorations, holidays, and folk festivals. During religious holidays, it is customary to treat Palov to the needy and the poor. The list of ingredients for Palov is simple: rice, meat, vegetables, and spices, combined in the correct sequence. But to cook a delicious dish out of them, worthy of being included in the UNESCO list, you need to have great skill and, of course, put a piece of your soul into the cooking process.

The Margilan center for the development of crafts

The Margilan center for the development of crafts – the local atlas and adras is highly appreciated by the world community. Atlas and adras fabrics began to be made many centuries ago in Margilan, which today is located on the territory of the Fergana region. Over the past 100 years, the practice of skillfully handcrafting fabrics has begun to be lost. That is why in 2007 a Center for the Development of Crafts was created in Margilan, the main goal of which is to preserve and revive the traditions of making atlas and adras.

Khorezm dance Lazgi

Khorezm dance Lazgi (lyazgi) is an ancient form of art of the Khorezm region. In the ancient settlement of Toprak-kala, which existed in the 1st-6th centuries on the territory of modern Karakalpakstan, scientists discovered images of this dance. Lazgi is often performed while singing national songs that contain words about love and friendship.

The art of miniature

The art of miniature is a special kind of Uzbek art, which is expressed in the creation of small paintings. Uzbekistan entered the UNESCO World Heritage List with this site along with Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey. Usually, the miniatures depict people, as well as national ornaments. Today miniatures can be seen on textiles, books, ceramics, papier-mache, walls, and carpets.

The art of Bakhshi 

The art of Bakhshi is epic poetry, which is read to the accompaniment of national Uzbek musical instruments: dombra and kobuz. Stories originate from folk tales, legends, and fairy tales. The art of Bakhshi is passed down from generation to generation and is also taught in specialized schools.

Sericulture and traditional production of silk for weaving

Sericulture and traditional production of silk for weaving - Uzbekistan shares this element of cultural heritage with Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Silk has been grown in Central Asia since the 5th-6th centuries, although some historians have earlier evidence. In Uzbekistan, a full cycle of silk production is carried out, from growing mulberry trees to dyeing silk threads and making fabrics, carpets, and curtains.

Traditional stories and anecdotes about Khoja Nasreddin

Uzbekistan shares the value of traditional stories and anecdotes about Khoja Nasreddin with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. Khoja Nasreddin is a folk hero who finds himself in funny and instructive situations. Many stories related to this character are known to both adults and children.

The Art of Illumination: Tezhib

Tezhib is a unique form of art protected by UNESCO, not just in Uzbekistan but also in Azerbaijan, Iran, Tajikistan, and Turkey. It involves applying gold leaf to calligraphic texts and patterns, or writing with gold paints. Originally, this technique was used for religious books. A master of tezhib must possess artistic skills. Today, as it was centuries ago, tezhib can be seen in religious and historical books, as well as in miniatures.

Iftar and Its Socio-Cultural Traditions

Iftar is the evening meal with which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan. During this time, eating and drinking are permitted twice a day – in the morning and in the evening. Iftar typically takes place immediately after sunset and the reading of prayers. It's customary to invite guests to iftar or to set tables for the less fortunate. Discussions about religion and traditional values, which unite different generations, are common during iftar. Iftar is also recognized by UNESCO in Azerbaijan, Iran, and Turkey.

The Art of Ceramics in Uzbekistan

Ceramics have been a part of Uzbek culture since ancient times, as evidenced by numerous archaeological findings across the country. Even today, in some regions of Uzbekistan, locals use handmade pottery for daily needs. There are also schools of ceramics where the secrets of the craft are passed down from generation to generation. Uzbek ceramics are valued worldwide. For example, Rishtan ceramics are well-known among collectors and connoisseurs of fine art.

We recommend learning about the non-material culture of Uzbekistan during a visit to this country. Be sure to try the traditional Uzbek Palov, get acquainted with the oriental culture, and take a piece of Uzbekistan’s intangible heritage with you.

Learn more about the tangible UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Uzbekistan.