Who knows that today a well-known eastern hospitality reflects one of the most ancient and worship customs, which reached us? In ancient times hospitality of the Uzbeks same as the Tajiks was a rule of life and a moral law.
A wanderer found himself usually in a strange land amidst hostile nature, setting out long way. But he was consoled and inspired by a hope that in the nearest kishlak, even in a lonely house he would be given shelter and food.
Not to receive guest or to receive him bad, not observing traditions meant to disgrace a family, a village and a clan. The custom directed to show hospitality even to an enemy. In our days laws of hospitality became good traditions helping in mutual communication and behaviour of people.
The Uzbeks usually live in large families, which consist of several generations, where respect to elders is a tradition. There are also definite traditions in relation to men and women. One shakes hands, as a rule, only with men. During handshake men ask each other about health and state of affairs. It is accepted to greet women with a small bow, clasping a right hand to a heart.
It is impolite to refuse an invitation to dinner or supper or to come late. Usually one pays a visit with presents for hosts and sweeties for children. It is accepted to take shoes off at the entrance to a house. According to the ancient custom men and women should sit at different tables, but this custom continues today only in rural areas. A head of family sits guests down by himself. Seats, a little farther away entrance, are given to the most respectable guests. After the eldest of all present at the table returns thanks with best wishes to a hospitable house, a host offers guests traditional drinking bowl of tea, and then everybody begins to refect.
Traditions and customs of the Uzbeks have been forming during many centuries in the result of Zoroastrian rituals interaction of Sogdians and Bactrians on the one hand, and customs of nomadic tribes, later Islamic traditions and rituals enjoining by the Koran on the other hand.
The Uzbeks attach a special importance to customs, which connect with birth and upbringing of children, wedding and commemoration of deceased relatives. The "Fatiha tui" engagement precedes a wedding. Guests gather in a house of a promised in marriage girl in appointed date. After matchmakers tell aim of their visit, the "Non sindirish" ritual - "Breaking down of lepeshka (flat cake)" is conducted and a day of wedding is fixed. Relatives of bride present gifts relatives of groom and matchmakers. Since this moment bride and groom are considered betrothed.
Wedding is very important for the Uzbeks. They celebrate wedding as a stately event. It consists of a number of customs, which are needed to implement strictly. Bride's parents in her house dress groom sarpo (headdress) - wedding chapan and festive tyubeteika (skullcap).
After mullah returns thanks to betrothed about marriage and announces them husband and wife, betrothed usually go to registry office in order to supplement marriage before God by marriage before people. Indispensable attribute of wedding is a holiday cheer, at which many guests get together. 200-300 people are a common occurrence on wedding. Groom's parents should present the newly married couple a house or a separate flat, and bride's parents as a wedding present furnish a house for the first years of a young family life. Everything costs very expensive, but they don't pay attention to expenses in such cases.
The main event of wedding is a moving of bride from parents' home to groom's house. The ancient ritual of purification, according to Zoroastrian tradition, continues today in some regions of Uzbekistan - the newly married couple goes round the fire thrice before groom brings bride in his house.
The "Kelin Salomi" custom, which means a welcome of bride in a new family, which begins the next morning after wedding. Groom's parents, relatives and friends bless bride and present her gifts, and she greets everybody, making a low bow.
Such important event in a life of a young couple as a birth of a baby accompanies with the "Beshik tui" ritual - "A wooden cradle". Relatives of a young mother bring a richly decorated cradle - beshik and all requisites for a newborn, and also lepeshki (flat cakes), wrapping them up in a tablecloth, sweeties and toys on the forties day from child's birthday. Old women do a ritual of the first child's swaddle and laying child in beshik in a baby room, according to the tradition, while guests have a good time and help themselves at the holiday table. The ritual comes to an end with a presentation of baby, during which guests present baby gifts and strew beshik with navat and parvard in order child's life would be happy.
The birth of a boy is a special delightful event. It is necessary to do the ancient, ritual of a circumcision, which is sanctified by Islam, - hatna kilish or sunnat tui, before a boy becomes nine years old. One reads surahs from the Koran in the presence from mahallya and a holiday table is dished up.
Funerals and funeral repast take a special place in Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks cook a morning funeral feast plov (pilau) in twenty days and a year after a deceased's death. Funeral repast begins after morning devotion and continues during an hour and a half or two hours. One commemorates a deceased and reads surahs from the Koran during plov (pilau).
All these main events in an Uzbek family are accompanied with the participation of mahallya. Mahallya is a neighbor commune, which is based on the full independence and self-government with the aim of mutual management of affairs and mutual assistance.
It existed during centuries and it was a consolidation of craftsmen originally.
Mahallin committee, which is chosen by general meeting of people, governs the commune. The committee takes care of wedding, funeral, funeral repast and the ritual of a circumcision organization.
Mahallya is a self-sufficient organization, which satisfies vital spiritual and outward needs of citizens. The chaihana (tearoom) works here, hairdressing salons serve people, and the quarter mosque also works. However on Friday men go to the sobornal mosque. But mahallya is not only a commune of mutual assistance. The commune has also supervisory and educational functions. Children grow up in mahallya under the whole commune supervision and are brought up to respect and obey elders. Here is the ancient tradition of eastern mutual assistance - hashar. According to hashar people help their neighbors to build a house, to organize wedding or funeral feast plov (pilau), to resurface a street or a district voluntary and unselfishly.
Mahallya is a keeper of folk customs and traditions. It is arguable that a person is born and lives in mahallya. And mahallya pays its last tribute to this person.