Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pictures of Bukhara

2013/14 Departures 

Thanks for dropping by.

And recently, there are five of us who went on a recent trip to Uzbekistan, and Central Asia. Our itinerary covers the ancient Silk Route cities of Tashkent, Bukhara and Samarkand, as well as parts of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are both very mountainous and they are worth a trip on their own for trekking. I plan to go back to Kyrgyzstan for trekking perhaps in three years time.

History of Bukhara

When the Arabs arrived in 709, they discovered a prosperous trading centre here. They succeeded in spreading the Islam religion, though they faced with constant revolts. Then it became the capital of the Samanid state in the 9th and 10th centuries. Bukhoro-i-sharif (Noble Bukhara) , the 'Pillar of Islam' - blossomed as Central Asia's religious and cultural heart, and simultaneously brightened with the Persian love of the arts. It was said that 'while elsewhere light radiates from heaven onto the land, in holy Bukhara t radiates upward to illuminate heaven'.

After two centuries under the smaller Qarakhan and Karakitay Dynasties, Bukhara came under attack by Genghis Khan in 1220, and in 1370, it fell under the shadow of Timur's Samarkand.
Then, it prospered again under the Uzbek Shaybanids, who made it their capital under the Bukhara khanate.
Along with the smaller Shaybanid cousin, the Khiva khanate, it eventually embraced most of present-day Central Asia and parts of Iran and Afghanistan. The old town's present appearance owes most to that period, especially to the greatest of the Shaybanid khans, Abdullah II (ruled 1583-98).

The centre of Shaybanid Bukhara was a vast marketplace with dozens of specialist bazars and caravanserais, over 100 medressas (with 10,000 students) and more thna 300 mosques.

The Silk Road's decline slowly pushed Bukhara out of the mainstream during the Astrakhanid Dynasty. Then in 1753, Muhammad Rahim, the local deputy of the Persian ruler, proclaimed himself emir, and thus founding the Manghit Dynasty, which continued to rule until the Bolsheviks came.\

In 1868, Russian troops under General Kaufman occupied Samarkand (under Emir Muzaffar Khan's domain at that time), and soon Bukhara surrendered, and became a protectorate of the tsar, with the emirs still nominally in charge. The Trans-Caspian Railway arrived in 1888, but at Emir Abdallabad Khan's request the train station was built at 15 km away at Kagan, then called new Bukhara.

Then, on 2nd September 1920, General Mikhail Frunze converged on Bukhara, and stormed the Ark and captured Bukhara. Bukhara won a short 'independence' as the Bukhara People's Republic, but after showing rather too much interest in Pan-Turkism, it was absorbed in 1924 into the newly created Uzbek USSR.

Below, you will find some of the pictures that I had taken while in Bukhara. We flew to Tashkent via Kuala Lumpur from Singapore. Then from Tashkent, we took an evening flight to Bukhara.

The locals were selling local bread early in the morning. As we travelled in the month of June, which is summer, the temperature was really high, and on certain days, reaching a high of 40 degrees. September would be a month with lower temperature. Trekking is great in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with the season starting from May till September.

Kulkedash Medressa

I really love the intricate carvings on the door, and my guide told us that it would normally take about 4 months to complete a great masterpiece.

I woke up early and went for my morning walk by myself, and chanced upon this lovely B&B. The picture is taken in the courtyard, and the owner was very friendly and she allowed me to take the shot.

                                 Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka, located to the west of the Labi-Hauz.

The oldest Mulberry Tree, which is located next to the pond, opposite the famous Labi-Hauz, which we came back for dinner in the evening.

Oh, I hated those scaffolding.. But, what could I do. It is just the timing. This is the Mir-i-Arab Medressa (religious school). Such beautiful domes that we saw over different parts of Uzbekistan.

The Kalyan Mineret, and probably the tallest building in Central Asia after its completion by Arslan Khan, the Qarakhan ruler in 1127. Kalon means 'great' in Tajik. It is 47 metres tall with 10 metres deep foundation. Genghis Khan was so dumbfounded by it, that he ordered it to be spared from destruction when he saw it. It was also used as a beacon and watchtower, and the Manghit emirs threw criminals off it until forbidden to do so by the Russians.

Close up of the Dome. Mir-i-Arab Medressa. This medressa was vnamed after Naqshbandi sheikh from Yemen, who had a strong influence on the Shaybanid ruler - Ubaidullah Khan and financed the original complex.

                                                         Close up of the Kalyan Minaret.

So, five ladies went on this organised trip. And some of them were initially worried about the safety. I heard people saying that it is a dangerous country! But the locals were such friendly people and they often asked us to take pictures together with them. Even when I walked along the street all by myself, I do not feel intimidated in any way.
There were few tourists around, and mainly I met Europeans, from Germany, Slovakia, England, Switzerland, Malaysians. Yes, I heard that in Malaysia , the tours to Uzbekistan is selling well. And I suppose this has to do with the culture and dominant religion.

                                                      Ismail Samani 's Mausoleum

 The entrance to Ismail Samani's Mausoleum, which is located in the Samani Park. This is the town's oldest monument (completed around 905) and one of the most elegant structures in Central Asia. Ismail Samani is the founder of the Samanid Dynasty.

Beautiful souvenir to bring home, and on it you can find the engravings of various attraction and monuments in Bukhara.

 Often, you will find the camel, and the merchants being part of the engraving or other souvenirs. A constant reminder that Bukhara was once a very important Silk Route city in more than 2500 years ago.

 Notice the gold tooth in the lady's mouth. Later, we realised that this is like a fashion statement. Even teenagers have a whole upper row of teeth in gold. I had seen man with the whole lower row of teeth in gold.

The Ark Citadel - the oldest structure in Bukhara. And it was occupied from the 5th century right up to the 1920, when it was bombed by the Red Army. Some of the crumbling walls now are probably less than 300 years old. It is about 75% ruins inside now.

There are only three remaining domed bazars, heavily renovated in Soviet times - Taqi Sarrafon (Moneychangers), Taqi-Telpak Furushon (Cap-Makers) and Taqi-Zargaron (Jewellers) - were among the dozens of specialized bazars in the town.
The above is near the Taqi Sarrafon area.

                                             Watching sunset from the Dolon Restaurant.

                                           Labi-Hauz -  the plaza built around a pool

 Shashlyk - choice of chicken, beef, mutton.
I simply love them, and you could find them all over Central Asia.

I enoyed my two nights stay at Bukhara. We stayed at Asia Bukhara Hotel, and was told that this is the most expensive hotel in the old town area. All the main attractions are within 15 minutes walk from the hotel. And it makes it easy for me to go for my early morning walk, to capture the way of life of the people. As we took the evening flight to Bukhara, so the sightseeing of the city in the old town is for the one whole day. With a lovely sunset, and a most unforgettable meal at the Labi-Hauz, I left Bukhara with so much memories of this Silk Route city, and look forward to be back some time in future.

As we explored the bazars, though the locals try to sell us the various souvenirs, but they are very mild, and very much unlike in other parts of Asia, where the locals kept persuading you to buy. We could easily browse and take our time. Do add Uzbekistan on your wish list, and I hope you get to visit this beautiful place before too many tourists start to pack the Old Town, and the bazars.

Check out the trip that I am organising under EU Holidays -
05-18sep Uzbekistan & Kyrgzystan Discovery

Departures for exotic tours - 2013/14

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