Uzbekistan – Bukhara (Part 1 of 3)

From Khiva to Bukhara the distance is about 500 km. The journey took around 6 hours for us. About 300 km or so of the road, is a newly constructed highway, but remaining road is not so good. Most of the journey is thru Kyzyl Kum Desert. There were some shrubs around and it was not like the desert you see in gulf countries. We did take a coffee break.

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While travelling, my guide mentioned a plant called Ferula, which grows naturally in that desert. He said, Indians value that plant very much. (Later on, I found that even the Asafoetida plant, is from the same family. It also grows around that region.) Though most of the shrubs had dried out, I could see some little waterbodies too. Though bit lengthy, the journey was’t boring for me. A fast speed train, would have been much better though. (It is running from Tashkent to Bukhara. This sector will also have it, very soon, I was told.)

We checked into Hotel Khurjin. It was an ancient building, converted into a hotel, with all modern facilities. The hotel even had a well, in the compound. Before I write further, let me mention one sweetest memory, which I will carry my entire life. For breakfast they served us a sweet relish of certain fruit, which was very tasty. I could not identify the fruit. It looked like miniature apple. I did enquire about it, and my guide told me, that is indeed a wild apple, which grows on certain mountains. And guess what, the hotel manager gifted me, with jar of that relish. Who says, there are no sweet people left on this planet?

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It was late afternoon, when we checked in. After some rest, we set out on stroll. This ancient city has many attractions, but they are spread out over fairly large area. The Chor Minar (Yes, the meaning is same, as our famous Charminar of Hyderabad) is now amidst residential area.

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This construction is UNESCO world heritage site. The four minarets have blue domes, but each one is decorated differently. It is believed that the shapes are representations of various religions like Christianity, Buddhism etc. The construction is very well preserved and can be seen from inside too.

Then we proceeded to the streets of Bukhara. It is like walking thru history. Even though there are modern buildings, they are still constructed in ancient style. There are some coffee houses, restaurants and even hotels, all with historical looks.

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And then there are market domes. You actually walk through them. The construction is amazing. And all those buildings are still being used as bazars. You can buy carpets, silks, hats, brass plates, ceramics etc. here. ( I am going to show you my shopping later, but that is just a small fraction, of what is available there.)

 

Then we proceeded to Ensemble of Khoja-Gaukushon. This complex has a madrassa, a minaret (which is similar to Kalyan Minaret, which we are going to see later) and a well like structure (now dry). This ensemble was constructed in 16th Century.

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Among all these massive structures, there is excavation site also,which is at lover level. Only limited area is dug up, as it is impossible to dig further now. What is excavated, seems like common bath (hamam)

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Then we went to see the Magoki-Attori mosque. This may look strange as it has two entrances at two different levels. It was originally a pre-Islamic era temple. The mosque was built in twelfth century. It is a simple structure, but still very beautiful.

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A carpet museum is nearby. There are some carpets are on display, which are woven a couple of centuries ago. (We are going to see modern carpets also.) There are some copper utensils on display too.

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Outside one young beautiful girl was selling fridge magnets. (This snap is taken, with her consent.) I did buy few from her and then Shokhrukh managed to find to some vegetable samosas for me. They were very delicious. They are similar to our desi samosas, but bigger and crispier, baked not fried.

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The nest morning we started our tour again. We still have to pass all the trade domes.

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We began our tour from a world-famous architectural masterpiece, The Samanids Mausolem.

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This structure may seem too simple (compared to other structures) to you. But, you will be surprised to know, that this masterpiece is standing there from 9th century. This was built in an era, when Islam prohibited any such post mortem structures. Ismail Samani’s father, himself and his son, Hasr, are buried here.

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This entire structure is made with kiln dried bricks. The design is created by different arrangements of these bricks. Even the interiors and the dome are beautifully done. Ceramics tiles are not used, as this technique was not invented till that time.

There is one more wonder here. On the panels on front wall, there is sort of view from space depiction of this structure. There is a pond nearby with boating facilities.

Then we went to see, Chashma Ayub or Saint Joab’s Source. It is said that Prophet Joab (Ayub) created a water source, to provide water to thirsty people. (There is a similar palce in Salalah, Sultanate of Oman, with same legend associated with it.) The water still runs here and it is crystal clear and sweet. It is made available to public. This well has become a place of worship now. This building has a conical cap, instead of round dome.

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There is a water museum also in this structure, where ancient copper vessels are on display.

There are pictures of vanishing Aral sea also. This ancient sea of Uzbekistan, has almost dried up now. (Tours to this place are available.)

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There is another modern museum in front of this building. This museum reminded me of our Jantar-Mantar !

We then went to see Juma Mosque. This mosque is known as 40 pillars mosque also. Count for yourself. Have a closer look too.

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Oh, do you mean to say, you can see only twenty? Then see from a distance !!

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To be continued…

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