Silk Road 28: Bukhara, Oct 2019

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Silk Road Uzbekistan Oct 2019
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Bukhara, Oct 2019

Oct 18, 2019

After a very nice time in Samarkand, it was time to move to Bukhara, Uzbekistan. To get to Bukhara from Samarkand, we had purchased tickets on the Afrosiyob high speed train the day before, from the ticket office in Samarkand. Prices were very reasonable; about $10 per person, business class seating, on a modern, high-speed train for a journey of about 2hrs

Bukhara, Oct 2019, High speed train reached over 230kmph
High speed train reached over 230kmph

The trip was short, and uneventful and the Hotel Fatima, where we had booked to stay in Bukhara, had arranged (included) a taxi pickup from the train station to the hotel. The hotel was in the main square of the city, and was clean, nice and comfortable.

Bukhara, Oct 2019, The hotel’s resident kitten was playful and energetic; but was a different family of cat to what we are familiar with; she was shorter, stouter and did not have long pointy ears. Anyone know this breed?
The hotel’s resident kitten was playful and energetic; but was a different family of cat to what we are familiar with; she was shorter, stouter and did not have long pointy ears. Anyone know this breed?

Bukhara is an ancient city in the central Asian country of Uzbekistan. It was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West, & served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The mother tongue of the majority of people of Bukhara is Tajik, a dialect of the Persian language,[2] although Russian is spoken as a second language by most residents. & Uzbek to a lesser extent. Bukhara served as the capital of the Samanid EmpireKhanate of Bukhara, and Emirate of Bukhara and was the birthplace of Imam Bukhari. During the Islamic era, Bukhara was a major medieval center for Islamic theology and culture & has about 140 architectural monuments dating largely from the 9th to the 17th centuries. UNESCO has listed the historic center of Bukhara which contains many well-preserved mosques, madrassas, bazaars and caravanserais as a World Heritage Site.

After freshening up, we started exploring Bukhara. Since our hotel was in the main square, all sites we wanted to visit were within walking distance. Right outside our hotel was a nice open park area, with gardens, fountains and an open-air restaurant. This area was the Lyabi-Hauz complex, which houses multiple well preserved/rebuilt mosques (prayer), madrassahs (school), caravanserais (lodgings for Traders/travelers) and Khanakas (gathering place for Sufis for spiritual retreat), and was located in the heart of old Bukhara.

The garden in this main square of Lyabi-Hauz had a statue of Mulla Nasruddin Hodja on his donkey, the quick-witted, Sufi philosopher, wise man remembered for his funny stories, anecdotes and sometimes a fool, a butt of a joke. He forms the central character of many children’s folk stories in Central Asian, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, the Central Asian version of Don Quixote.

Below are some scenes around the old town

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Local tourists with the statue of Mulla Nasruddin Hodja on his donkey
Local tourists with the statue of Mulla Nasruddin Hodja on his donkey
Bukhara, Oct 2019, An entrance into the main square of the old city
An entrance into the main square of the old city
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Old mosque, restored
Old mosque, restored

Inside of a restored Caravanserai

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Remains of bath houses and caranvarasai that were excavated in the old town center
Remains of bath houses and caranvarasai that were excavated in the old town center
Bukhara, Oct 2019, A traditional iron-work shop still in use
A traditional iron-work shop still in use

Inside a typically well restored Madrassa

Manual art work on brass

Bukhara, Oct 2019, ”Trading domes” one of several here, were actually used for trading, during the Silk Road times. Note the nest and birds on top of the largest dome; this was a consistent theme
”Trading domes” one of several here, were actually used for trading, during the Silk Road times. Note the nest and birds on top of the largest dome; this was a consistent theme

View of restored cultural relics in Bukhara

Bukhara, Oct 2019, View inside one of the trading domes; still filled with shops selling to tourists
View inside one of the trading domes; still filled with shops; this time selling to tourists

Dinner one evening was at the Labi Hovuz outdoor restaurant in the main square outside our hotel; complete with music and dancing

Dinner at the Labi Hovuz restaurant

The most famous site in Bukhara was the impressive Kalyan Minaret, which is a minaret of the Po-i-Kalyan mosque complex in Bukhara, and the most prominent landmark of the city. The minaret, designed by Bako, was built by the Qarakhanid ruler Mohammad Arslan Khan in 1127 to summon Muslims to prayer five times a day. It is made in the form of a circular-pillar baked brick tower, narrowing upwards. It is 48m (157 ft) high, 9m (30 ft) diameter at the bottom and 6m (20 ft) at the top of the column. It was also used as a watchtower to spot enemies in times of war, a place where decrees of the rulers were read, and where criminals were thrown out of, to their death.  The mosque complex consisted of the Kalyan minaret, the Kalyan mosque and the working Mir Arab Madrassa

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Inside the huge and impressive Kalyan mosque, with the equally impressive Kalyan minaret. The blue domes in the back belonged to the Mir Arab madrassah opposite the mosque. The mosque was designed to hold 12,000 worshippers
Inside the huge and impressive Kalyan mosque, with the equally impressive Kalyan minaret. The blue domes in the back belonged to the Mir Arab madrassah opposite the mosque. The mosque was designed to hold 12,000 worshippers
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Close-up of the minaret, showing the delicate and intricate work on its façade
Close-up of the minaret, showing the delicate and intricate work on its façade

Legend has it that the Kalyan minaret so impressed Genghis Khan that he ordered it to be spared when all else around was destroyed by his men, when he conquered Bukhara in 1220AD.

Bukhara, Oct 2019, The mosque was at the far end from the entrance, across a large courtyard
The mosque was at the far end from the entrance, across a large courtyard

360 degree view of the Kalyan mosque

Bukhara, Oct 2019, The sides of the mosque were long covered corridors with beautiful brick and tile work
The sides of the mosque were long covered corridors with beautiful brick and tile work
Bukhara, Oct 2019, The Mir Arab Madrassah, with its 2 blue tiled domes, was across the square from the mosque
The Mir Arab Madrassah, with its 2 blue tiled domes, was across the square from the mosque

This was an active, working madrassah; where there were students in residence learning Islam, science, math etc. While we were there, it was evening time for prayer, and we saw all the students come down for prayer to the mosque under the right-side blue dome of the madrassah. Visitors were not allowed inside, but we snuck in anyway 🙂

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Very interesting write-up of the Mir Arab Madrassah
Very interesting write-up of the Mir Arab Madrassah
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Latticed view of the mosque from the mausoleum inside the madrassah
Latticed view of the mosque from the mausoleum inside the madrassah

Inside the Mir Amir Mausoleum

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Interesting view of the many domes of the Kalyan mosque rooftop
Interesting view of the many domes of the Kalyan mosque rooftop

We also checked out the Museum of Judicial History, which was the prison, the Zindan (prison dungeons), where particularly disliked prisoners were put in a bug pit

Bukhara, Oct 2019, The Zindan prison
The Zindan prison

We then went to see the Ark of Bukhara, which is a massive citadel fortress, built around 500AD and housed the emirs, their chief viziers, military leaders, and numerous servants. It was destroyed multiple times, including by the Mongols, and rebuilt numerous times. Views of the Arc below

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Walls of the Arc Citadel
Walls of the Arc Citadel
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Entrance to the Arc Citadel
Entrance to the Arc Citadel
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Ornate mosque inside the Citadel
Ornate mosque inside the Citadel
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Courtyard where the Emir’s used to hold audience with his viziers and his subjects
Courtyard where the Emir’s used to hold audience with his viziers and his subjects
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Interesting mosque near the Citadel; note the nesting birds on the top of the largest dome
Interesting mosque near the Citadel; note the nesting birds on the top of the largest dome

We then went to visit the mausoleum of Ismoil Somoni—the founder of the Samanid dynasty, which was the last native Persian dynasty to rule the region in the 9th to 10th centuries, after the Samanids established virtual independence from the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. We had visited his statue and memorial park in Dushanbe.

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Mausoleum of Ismoil Somoni; the brickwork was quite unique; and the style was borrowed for the design of the Ismaili Center in Dushanbe
Mausoleum of Ismoil Somoni; the brickwork was quite unique; and the style was borrowed for the design of the Ismaili Center in Dushanbe
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Simple tomb inside the mausoleum of Ismoil Somoni; note the brickwork inside
Simple tomb inside the mausoleum of Ismoil Somoni; note the brickwork inside
Bukhara, Oct 2019, The 16th Century Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah in the north end of the main square, just outside out hotel. Note the intricate mosaic tilework at the top of the archway, of the Simurgh, a mythical Persian bird, a symbol of benevolence and fertility
The 16th Century Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah in the north end of the main square, just outside out hotel. Note the intricate mosaic tilework at the top of the archway, of the Simurgh, a mythical Persian bird, a symbol of benevolence and fertility

We decided to have dinner at a small restaurant that night, with a view of the Kalyan minaret; the food was great, and the view was even better

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Kalyan minaret and the Mir Arab Madrassah behind it
Kalyan minaret and the Mir Arab Madrassah behind it

Next day, we decided to check out the local Maktab Bozori market at the edge of the city, and other sites in Bukhara. We took a taxi as the market was not within walking distance. This was a true local market vs the tourist markets in the trading dome markets in the city center, & everything was available in this bazaar, from clothing, household utensils to foods. Some views from the Bazaar below

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Traditional gowns
Traditional gowns
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Rugs and cloth
Rugs and cloth
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Bread was ubiquitous as were eateries
Bread was ubiquitous as were eateries
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Friendly locals
Friendly locals
Bukhara, Oct 2019, This local wanted to converse with us, but no English; loved his golden teeth
This local wanted to converse with us, but no English; loved his golden teeth

Below are other scenes from our wanderings around Bukhara

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Ancient alleyways in residential areas
Ancient alleyways in residential areas
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Chor Minor ancient madrassa complex. Chor refers to the 4 minarets. Note the nesting birds on top of one minaret
Chor Minor ancient madrassa complex. Chor refers to the 4 minarets. Note the nesting birds on top of one minaret
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Another friendly local; love those shiny teeth. She was so amazed & happy that I wanted to take a picture of her
Another friendly local; love those shiny teeth. She was so amazed & happy that I wanted to take a picture of her
Bukhara, Oct 2019, I love these old vehicles, still functional. Any idea of make/model/specs?
I love these old vehicles, still functional. Any idea of make/model/specs?
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Original Jama masjid or mosque. All mosques had such a plaque outside them
Original Jama masjid or mosque. All mosques had such a plaque outside them
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Another style of mosque
Another style of mosque
Bukhara, Oct 2019, The home of the first female teacher of Bukhara; recognized and celebrated
The home of the first female teacher of Bukhara; recognized and celebrated
Bukhara, Oct 2019, There was a working Jewish Synagogue that we visited. Jews settled here during the Silk road trading days; currently, there are only a small handful of Jewish families left here
There was a working Jewish Synagogue that we visited. Jews settled here during the Silk road trading days; currently, there are only a small handful of Jewish families left here
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Chilling at the Main square outside our hotel; lively restaurant with nightly music in the back
Chilling at the Main square outside our hotel; lively restaurant with nightly music in the back
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Pleasant café & shops inside a restored Caravansarai
Pleasant café & shops inside a restored Caravansarai
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Window of a residence
Window of a residence
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Seniors enjoying a game of chess & tea
Seniors enjoying a game of chess & tea
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Newlyweds on a photo shoot
Newlyweds on a photo shoot
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Local traditional costumes
Local traditional costumes

Bukhara was not as large, busy, or crowded as Samarkand, and easy to get around. After a wonderful few days, it was time to leave and head to Khiva.

Our journey so far

Bukhara, Oct 2019, Krygyz travel
Krygyz travel
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Tajikistan travel till Dushanbe
Tajikistan travel till Dushanbe
Bukhara, Oct 2019, Dushanbe to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Dushanbe to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
This entry was posted in Asia, Silk Road Uzbekistan Sept-Oct 2019, Uzbekistan

21 thoughts on “Silk Road 28: Bukhara, Oct 2019

  • Danny HInes May 16, 2021 at 10:55 pm Reply

    Wow what a journey. Hope all is well

    • Ali Karim May 16, 2021 at 10:56 pm Reply

      Thanks Danny; yes it was a memorable journey. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Diana Bakar May 17, 2021 at 8:56 am Reply

    Thank u for continuous sharing of your wonderful journey. I really enjoyed the story and all the photos..
    Definitely will be my reference for my future trip !

    • Ali Karim May 24, 2021 at 12:48 am Reply

      Thank you Diana, for the feedback. So glad you are enjoying the journey with us

  • Sudarshan Singh May 17, 2021 at 11:56 am Reply

    I love your travel adventures in places that are not as common to visit. Beautiful photos of locals. How much pre-planning you had to do before the trip?

    I have been to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan several times in the late 90’s – all for work with ExxonMobil. Except for some off road visits in Azerbaijan (Fire Temple etc.), I stayed mostly in the main parts of the large cities – with very little contacts with the locals (missed that for sure). Turkmenistan was very interesting – with large modern day mosques (mostly funded by Saudi Arabia). People, markets and restaurants were very similar to those in Tadzhikistan and Uzbekistan.

    When and where is your next big adventure trip planned? Need any company?

    • Ali Karim May 24, 2021 at 12:57 am Reply

      Hi Sudharshan, Thanks so much for this feedback; I have been thinking about Georgia/Armenia/Azerbaijan for some time now, but with the recent wars there, decided to wait it out a little. Turkmenistan is also on my bucket list, but it seems very difficult to get a visa there; they dont seem to want too many tourists; I am already salivating at going to Turkmenistan and Iran; both difficult places for Americans right now. I envy you having made it there.
      RE: How much pre-planning we do; it depends on the place; it it is remote/difficult/off the beaten path/3rd worldly; then we do spend time planning it and may get a guide/driver. In most other places, we typically plan the first few days of arrival, then wing it; having researched where we want to go see/do in that area.
      Next big trip: It is actually in action right now; we are in Greece. After Athens, we are currently on the Cycladic islands (Santorini; not exactly off the beaten paths); but since Greece just opened up, there are not may tourists; thank goodness. The adventure will start when we go back to Athens in a few days, rent a car, and drive all over the mainland 🙂 ; that should be interesting 🙂
      Thanks for staying in touch.

  • Fatima Mawji May 24, 2021 at 2:26 pm Reply

    Thanks for sharing. Fascinating trip with lots of history

    • Ali Karim May 24, 2021 at 2:29 pm Reply

      Thanks Fatima, for the feedback. Glad you are enjoying the trip blogs

  • Azeem Asaria May 31, 2021 at 2:28 pm Reply

    Hi Ali,

    You, my friend, lead an adventurous life that many people only dream of.

    Are you currently traveling ?

    • Ali Karim May 31, 2021 at 2:31 pm Reply

      Hi Azeem, so nice to hear from you always.
      Thanks for the nice feedback.
      Indeed we are blessed and thank God every day.
      Yes, we are currently traveling; stay tuned for the blogs to come 🙂

  • Bud Adatia June 6, 2021 at 3:26 pm Reply

    Hi Ali, Enjoyed it very much. Never been to that part of the world. Don’t think I will be able to do it now. But at least I see it through your posted photos. Keep up the good work.
    Kind regards,
    Bud Adatia.

    • Ali Karim June 6, 2021 at 3:32 pm Reply

      Thanks Bud; glad you enjoyed the blog; thanks for the feedback.

  • Barkat Basaria June 6, 2021 at 3:27 pm Reply

    Ali Karim, YAM

    I enjoyed your trip very much to this part of the world, very interesting!
    Keep it up, brother, and thanks for sharing!

    Barkat

    • Ali Karim June 6, 2021 at 3:33 pm Reply

      Hi Barkat; thanks so much for the feedback; glad you are enjoying the journey with us

  • Badru walji June 7, 2021 at 3:12 pm Reply

    Dear Ali.
    Really enjoyed your journey and photos.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Ali Karim June 7, 2021 at 3:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Mr Walji; Appreciate your feedback. Glad you are still with us on our journey and enjoying.

  • Muslim Harji June 12, 2021 at 2:48 pm Reply

    Asante.
    Love, Light & Cheers
    Muslim Harji

  • Mahamud Jinnah June 12, 2021 at 2:48 pm Reply

    What an amazing place. Love the Kalyan mosque and all the domes.
    Really pretty place with so much history. Looks very clean and everything is well preserved.
    Locals are so friendly.

    Thanks for sharing.
    I really enjoyed this blog as the pictorials were great.

    • Ali Karim June 12, 2021 at 3:19 pm Reply

      Thanks Mahamud; so happy that you are enjoying the blogs.

  • Nazneen Adatia June 15, 2021 at 2:36 pm Reply

    Good morning Ali and Dilu, beautiful pictures. I love all the details in the blog. Keep on traveling and spoil us with the beautiful pictures.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Love to Family.
    Naz.

    • Ali Karim June 15, 2021 at 2:44 pm Reply

      Thanks Naz; so glad you are enjoying the journey with us.
      And thanks for your encouragement always 🙂

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