Being Black In Uzbekistan | What It’s REALLY Like Being Black Abroad

“Black people are a rare phenomenon here in Uzbekistan”, our guide said.

This was in response to another (White) guy in our trip asking why we, the black girls, were specifically being swarmed for photos. I mean, It was obvious to us. We were the only black people in sight during our entire time in Uzbekistan. How could he not see this? ⁣⁣After all, this is my norm while living and sometimes even existing while being black.
Traveling(and living) while black means being hyper-aware of your existence and how it shapes your experience within the world. I’m also aware that other people are aware and it’s the exact reason that I have no choice but to be.

I can see the stares, sneaking of photos, and close whispers to their friends. Sometimes it’s in my face and sometimes it’s a bit more hidden. It mostly happens in places like Eastern Europe, Asia, and even parts of Mexico where there are few if any black people around.

I can usually chalk it up to curiosity, but the hardest part is not knowing. Thanks to media(especially historically) and universal stereotypes, we have a less than favorable image around the world and this may be the only perception that they have of us. So are these stares of pure interest or disdain? The latter must be taken into consideration and it can be exhausting when you simply want to enjoy your trip like everyone else. ⁣⁣
Somehow I’ve ended up becoming the attraction at every main attraction in places like Uzbekistan and Budapest. Like, I couldn’t take a few steps without being approached for photos by entire families. People followed us the entire time waiting for their chance to jump in a frame with us to the point that we had to turn people away.

Contrary to regions that I’ve traveled like Eastern Europe, these locals weren’t shy about showing their interest in us. They didn’t hold back. They gasped and pointed and…smiled. “Black is beautiful.”, one man told us as he shook our hands. The stares weren’t blank or flat. Little girls acted as if they’d just seen their favorite celebrity. They were very enamored in a way that I’d never experienced before…so we reluctantly gave in.

How to Handle The Challenges That Come With Being A Black Traveler

This is a reality of traveling while black and it presents itself in different ways for black travelers around the world. Some of us find it entertaining and others find it annoying, as nobody wants to be treated like a zoo animal when they’re just trying to enjoy their vacation.

I understand the intrigue so I can usually brush it off and not take any offense to it…I mean, who could blame them? 😉

The challenging part is discerning people’s true intentions and that would be up to the individual to decipher.

If you feel uncomfortable at any point, then throw your shades on and ignore with zero apologies. As a traveler, you owe nobody anything…especially not a photo. This isn’t as simple as changing our bright hair color in a primarily dark-haired region or even covering up tattoos that make one stand out.

We cannot change our skin tone. We cannot hide or coverup. With that being said, it’s important to do what you need to feel most comfortable and safe while traveling.

The black experience is not a monolith but that’s a completely different conversation.

I hope that you don’t let one place or experience stop you from seeing for yourself.

The world is your oyster too.

On another note, where do these photos end up anyway? Does anyone know?

I could start a series about being black abroad, especially as a solo female traveler. The treatment, assumptions, questions. Is that something you all would be interested in?

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Hey, I'm Ciara. I’m a global citizen and lover of travel. Want to know more? 

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