After the visit to Khiva (see preceding post), the Uzbekistan trip continued in the direction of Bukhara, a bus drive of close to 500 km (300 miles), at first surrounded by a domination of cotton fields…,
... then for a while along the Amu Darya River, once an important source for the Ural Sea, today (over)-used for irrigation, more or less the border to Turkmenistan…,
... followed by a long straight road (sometimes a bit jumpy) along desert land, Kara-Kum (black sand) in the south and Kyzyl Kum (red sand) in the north, with a welcomed break for a visit to a “tualet”. Then the green landscape comes back and you arrive to Bukhara.
Bukhara, one of the major sites along the Silk Road, has for centuries been a centre of trade, scholarship, culture and religion – once (9th and 10th centuries), capital of the Samanid Empire which covered a large part of Central Asia and Persia, and Bukhara was then the intellectual centre of the Islamic world. The Persian influence has always been great and, still today, the population is dominated by Persian-speaking Tajiks, although officially Uzbeks. Bukhara was the capital of an emirate until 1920, when the Red Army arrived, heavily bombing the city. The Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic was created, integrated into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in 1925.
The old city is partly surrounded by a wall and in the east you find the rests of a fortress, the Ark, with origins from the 5th century.
There are some 140 architectural monuments to see. Here are some pictures, in a total mixture. The top picture (taken in the sunset) is of the Po-i-Kaylan complex with its minaret from 1127, one of the few monuments which has survived invasions, bombings. The mosque is from the 16th century. Otherwise, it should be known that many of the Uzbekistan monuments have been heavily restored especially during the 1990’s.
Just outside the city centre you will find the Khoja Baha ud-Din Naqshband mosque, linked to the Sunni Islam Sufism, obviously much venerated by the population - many local visitors in their best dresses. (You may also notice the sweeping lady with her mobile phone.)
The market offers a lot for tourists, proposed by smiling people, addressing you in English, French…
You see a lot of carpets. Bukhara carpets is a well-known concept, although the ones we know today are mainly produced in Iran and Pakistan. (Please note the Lenin-version.)
You may also find some more surprising souvenirs.
Some photos from the local food market.
Bukhara is a very nice city for just walking around. There is a very nice and peaceful atmosphere and you meet a charming population.
One nice surprise was to run into an "after-wedding" women party.
Bukhara was the home of a large community of “Bukharan Jews”. Today only a few remain – one estimates 150.000 of them to live in Israel, some 60.000 in the U.S., possibly the reason why Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright have paid visits to the remaining modest little synagogue.
Next episode will bring us to Shakhrisabz.