Bukhara, Uzbekistan – 6/2014

June 8, 2017

Finally, we are back on track. We apologize for the delay in our blogs, but a three-and-a-half-month trip to Thailand, Myanmar, Laos and Singapore, places where we may not want to drive our expedition truck, in combination with a problem with the plug-in that was transferring our blogs to Facebook and Twitter, well —let’s just call it computer glitch. In any case, if you’ve been following us, we are back, and the amazing city of Bukhara was our next stop.

The massive fortress called the Ark is perhaps the oldest building in Bukhara.

Leaving Kiva, our visa actually gave us permission to explore the area around Beruni and Bostan to visit ancient ruins like Toprak Kale, but with temperatures hovering around the 110°F mark during the day and not a whole lot cooler during the night, comfortable camping might not be fun. Part of the restrictions of our Uzbekistan visa did allow us to wild-camp two out of every three days. All this was factored into the reality that we now had a drop-dead date on which we had to cross the border into China to meet our guide. With these constrictions and considerations, and still two and a half countries to cross, we headed straight through the Kyzilkum Desert to Bukhara.

After a little bit of searching online, we found a wonderful hotel in the center of town called the Lyabi House. Safe guarded parking was located just across the main park. This charming 19th century traditional Bukhara home was decorated with beautiful tile and antique articles. On the veranda overlooking a center patio we enjoyed a buffet breakfast. Our room was comfortable and the air conditioner worked. We were in heaven.

This water melon vendor in the market in Bukhara was happy to pose for a photo.

The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia. The city has existed for half that time. Located on the Silk Road, Bukhara has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion and when you look at the numerous mosques, madrassas, (schools), and amazing minarets, it’s no surprise that Bukhara is a World Heritage Site. Today Bukhara is more like a city museum with 140 archaeological monuments, but that did not detract from its history as we wandered through the narrow streets with people going about their normal daily routines.

This lady with her “golden” smile selling produce in the market reminded us of our Russia trip in 1996. During Soviet times gold teeth were very popular.

The legends that surround Bukhara can leave your mouth open in astonishment. The massive fortress called the Ark is perhaps the oldest building in Bukhara. By 500 A.D. it was already the residence of local rulers. The creator of the original Ark, as legend has it, was a young man named Siyavusha. He fell in love with the daughter of a local ruler. The girl’s father agreed to permit them to marry provided that Siyavusha would first build a palace on the area “bounded by a bull’s skin”, obviously intended to be an impossible task. But the young man cut the bull skin into narrow strips, connected the ends and inside this boundary built the palace and presumably married his sweetheart. Throughout history the Ark was destroyed and rebuilt many times after invaders like Genghis Khan sacked it and the Red Army destroyed it during the Russian Civil War. Portions of the walls, some as high as 66 ft., (20 m), are still being restored.

The peaceful setting of the 300 year old Bolo Hauz Mosque in Bukhara was impressive.

Another example of the amazing architecture in Bukhara is the Kalyan, “The Great Minaret”, also known as the “Tower of Death”. Legends tell us that thousands of criminals were executed by being thrown off the top. The tower is 149 ft. high, (45 meters), and was built in 1127 by Mohammad Arslan Khan. When Genghis Khan invaded Bukhara, he gazed up at the Kalyan Minaret in wonder, and in a rare gesture of humility, he bowed at the foot of The Great Minaret and ordered it to be spared in the ensuing orgy of destruction. Being an important stop on the Silk Road, beacons in its tower created a lighthouse to guide lonely trade caravans through the desperate wastes of the Kyzylkum Desert.

Of all the artisan crafts that are practiced in Uzbekistan, ceramic pottery is perhaps one of the most delicate and refined. We did see many beautiful examples in the market that tempted us, even as difficult as they would be to pack for our journey ahead. We also knew that on our way east, we would stop in the town of Ghijduyan where the workshop of one of the more famous potters was located, and we always like to buy souvenirs right from the artist.

As you look at the pictures in this blog, you must be amazed that many of these structures are hundreds of years old. We spent almost a week in this famous gem along the Silk Road and never grew tired of the changing light on the magnificent buildings. Just before we left, we made sure to walk across the street from our hotel and touch the saddle of the statue of legendary comic and story teller Hoja Nasreddin. It would bring us good luck.

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