Andijan is a conservative city, with a homogeneous ethnic Uzbek population and few Russians. Coming out with uncovered legs or shoulders, will generate disapproving looks. Most women wear a headscarf and a long traditional dress. Some are completely covered, the face hidden behind a veil.
Fergana is the youngest and least Uzbek city in the Fergana Valley. The presence of Russians makes this place more liberal and modern. Shorts and skirts are more popular than headscarves. Lovers walk hand-in-hand, and beer is available on every street corner. In Al-Farghoni park, pairs, who have just married, are being photographed in front of the statue of national poet Alisher Navoi. Schoolgirls are playing in the fresh haze of the nearby fountain. Two policemen interrupt their service for an open-air snooker game under the trees. The city center seems to be one big fair, as if the people have to celebrate something.
Belgian freelance photojournalist Nick Hannes travelled over land from Brussels to Vladivostok and back from October 2006 to October 2007, filing stories and photos of his discoveries on his news blog. During his 12-month journey Hannes covered 50,000 kilometers crossing the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Mongolia, China and Russia, meeting earthquake refugees, imams, nomadic shepherds and many more. EurasiaNet is presenting a four-part series of audio-enhanced slideshows, highlighting key stops on his trip. More photos and notes from his trip can be seen at www.nickhannes.be.