About Me

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
I am married to my loving husband for more than 38 years now. I am a mother to 3 beautiful children, until 11 years ago when I lost my youngest son. Since then my life is forever altered but yet unbroken....

My Travel Journal

"There isn't much I haven't shared with you along the road and through it all there'd always be tomorrow's episode" - Elton John

I started traveling around the world since early 80s when I had the opportunity to combine business trips with vacations. Then later when my rezeki is in abundance, there were numerous other trips along the way for vacations, most of the time with hubby and the kids when the timing is right. I have also started to compile the journal and photo-pages covering almost more than 25 years of world wide travel. Some destinations I visited just once, others many times. Many of those places are the obvious famous places people would like to visit but some, the casual traveler doesn't even think to try. I have placed links to my travel at the side bar of my personal page, My Life Reflections, and will be updating them from time to time.

My wish is to continue my travel and complete circumnavigate the globe, insyaAllah…

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Ancient Silk Road - Uzbekistan

“Jobs fill your pocket, but adventures fill your soul.” – Jamie Lyn Beatty

Image result for nasreddin hodja bukhara
(Nasssreddin Hodja a.k.a Abu Nawas in Bukhara)

Buxoro, Samarkand and Taskent, Uzbekistan
(9 - 16 December 2009)

Uzbekistan is within the South-Central Asian Union and has borders with other member states of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. It is doubly landlocked, but includes the southern shoreline of the Aral Sea.

Uzbekistan is a former Soviet republic. It's known for its mosques, mausoleums and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. For this trip, we joined a few Bank Negara ladies to trace the ancient Silk Route in Uzbekistan and would be visiting the historical cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Tashkent.

The Tour Leader for this trip is Ustaz Sobri of Poto Travel.

The Silk Road - Buxoro, Uzbekistan 2009 - The City of Caravansary...

"If you want something you've never had then you've got to do something you've never done..."

After a seven hour overnight Uzbek Air flight plus a five hour local departure delay, we landed safely in Bukhara and checked in at the Grand Bukhara Hotel.

(Arriving in Uzbekistan International Airport)

The city is locally known as Buxoro. A caravansary city rich in history and dramatic architecture. The city’s most famous landmark, the Kalyan Minaret is the greatest remnant of truly old Bukhara; Genghis Khan destroyed most of the city, but left the minaret standing, supposedly because he was struck by its beauty. Locals take wedding pictures with this minaret as a symbol of their undying love.

(Mir-i-Arab Madrasah)

Part of the Kalyan Ensemble, the Mir-i Arab Madrasah was built across from the Kalyan Mosque in the 1530's, during the reign of Ubaydallah Khan, of the Shaybanid in Bukhara. It is still an active madrasah. Like the Kalyan Mosque, it exhibits traditional four courtyards. Over one hundred spacious student cells are located behind the double-height courtyard arcade. Each of the courtyard façades contains a central area that functions as a summer classroom. The tomb of the madrasah's founder, Mir-i Arab, occupies the largest classroom, located behind the main façade.

(The Ark, Bukhara Fortress)

Bukhara, with its population of a quarter of a million, is a major attraction for travellers following the old Silk Road. Celebrating its 2,500th anniversary Bukhara’s mud-coloured buildings, the city’s subdued desert hues and centuries old buildings exude their own exotic air of ancient culture.

(An old Bukhara painting on goat skin)

The tenth century Ismail Samani Mausoleum is one of Bukhara's oldest monuments. Built for the founder of the Samanid dynasty, its delicate terracotta brickwork disguises 2metre thick walls that have never needed repair in the 1100 years it has stood here. Ancient technology at its best.

(Visiting famous mausoleums in the snow)

Close by is another mausoleum with a conical cupola. It is said that Nabi Ayub struck the ground with his staff and hit upon a life giving spring of water during a drought when crops, animals and people perished. This mausoleum was erected over that spring.

(Carpet hunting around town)

Ancient souks with shops named “Ali Baba and the Forty Robberies” sells traditional carpets, ceramics and modern wares. Age old hamams (turkish baths) can be found all over the city. In winter, the blowing winds relentlessly reminds visitors of the hardship endured by its inhabitants. Fur hats and warm gear are sold everywhere by street vendors to ward off the cold.

(Head gear protects the brain from freezing)

Twenty minutes from Bukhara lies the Sufi shrine complex of Bahauddin Nakshabandi. It’s a large complex with a main mosque. There is a large petrified tree supposedly blessed. Pilgrims walk around it and under its branches and tie knots onto the tree saying silent prayers. People come here from all over Uzbekistan as it is considered by some as an adequate substitution for the Hajj Pilgrimage to Mecca.

(A pilgrimage site to the locals)

We had typical Uzbek food which consists of bread and a variety of salad, a soup/stew followed by the main meat course. Green or oolong tea flowed copiously during each meal. Our search for the well known Nasi Bokhara led to the discovery that there are more than a dozen varieties of Pilaf Rice throughout Uzbekistan. And Pilaf Rice in Bukhara would be Nasi Bukhara, in Samarkand it would be Nasi Samarkand and Nasi Tashkent in Tashkent. Anyone found Mee Bandung in Bandung? All in all, we enjoyed the food varieties.

(A typical meal for dinner)

The Silk Road - Samarqand, Uzbekistan 2009 - City of Legends...

"You can have results or excuses, not both..."

After a five hour drive, during which we saw the snow covered majestic mountain borders of Uzbekistan, we reached Samarkand. This hilly city is the second largest in Uzbekistan and is as old as Rome, Athens and Babylon. Situated on the Silk Road, ancient Arabs called it the “Gem of the East”, Europeans called it the “The Land of Scientists”. Ulugbhek built his observatory here and charted the stars even before astronomy was invented.

(Ulugbhek Observatory)

Samarkand is the city of legends. When Alexander the Great saw Samarkand, he exclaimed “I heard that the city was beautiful but never thought that it could be so beautiful and majestic”. It’s also a city of love akin to Shakespeare’s tragic Romeo and Juliet but with Samar and Qand miraculously brought back to life at the end.

(A love story of Samar and Qand)

One ancient poet wrote:

You can travel through the whole world, have a look at the pyramids and admire the smile of the Sphinx; You can listen to the soft singing of the wind at the Adriatic Sea and kneel down reverently at the ruins of the Acropolis, be dazzled by Rome with its Forum and Coliseum, be charmed by Notre Dame in Paris or by the old domes of Milan; But if you have seen buildings of Samarkanda, you will be enchanted by its magic forever....

(The mausoleum of Nabi Danial)

It is believed that parts of Nabi Danial remains, namely a hand, were conveyed to Samarkand by Timur. A mausoleum was constructed over the burial place of this remains. Quite near to the mausoleum there is a spring with water considered sacred. The locals say that everyone wishing to visit this mausoleum should have a drink of this water and wash the open parts of their body. This is a place of pilgrimage for both local residents and international guests. In 1996, the Patriarch of All Russia Alexey II visited this mausoleum and sanctified it. The locals say, after sanctifying the mausoleum, a pistachio tree in the courtyard thought dead, began to blossom again.

(The Shah-i-Zinda Necropolis)

In this city too, is situated one of the world’s notable architectural ensemble of the Samarkand, the Shah-i-Zinda necropolis. It’s also called the Street Of the Dead. Thirty five steps up leads to the eleven mausoleums. The most ancient is the ensemble of Kusam ibn-Abbas, a cousin of our revered prophet, Nabi Muhammad SAW. This ensemble is a monument of the warriors who charted world history. We ended the day at dusk at this beautiful ensemble to return to our hotel the Regal Palace.

(Memorial Complex of Imam al-Bukhari)

Early next morning, we set off to the most famous attraction in Samarkand is the Imam al-Bukhari Memorial Complex which is located in Kharteng village, 12 kilometers from Samarkand. The complex includes mausoleums, mosques and administrative buildings.

The Imam al-Bukhari mausoleum is located in the center of this complex. This cubical building is crowned with a seventeen-meter dome. The right side door leads downstairs to a do dakhma, a place of worship. On the right side, under the sagana decorated with light blue onyx, there is a grave of Imam Al-Bukhari covered with marble.

(The original grave is underground)

According to local historians, the present four side arched shaped building was constructed on top of the original grave of Imam Al Bukhari by the Uzbekistan government in 1997 while the Iranian government financed the project. Some lucky visitors had the opportunity to visit down to the actual grave. Unfortunately, we were not among those.

Muhammad Ibn Ismail Ibn Ibrahim Ibn al-Mughirah Ibn Bardizbah al-Bukhari popularly known as Imam Al Bukhari is best known for authoring the hadith collection of Sahih Bukhari, a collection which Sunni Muslims regard as the most authentic of all hadith compilations and the most authoritative book after the Qur'an. May God Bless the Imam. We thank God Almighty for giving us the opportunity to be here. Syukur Alhamdulillah.

(The marble tomb on top is only for display)

On the left side of the inner yard there is a mosque that can accommodate 1500 people. The walls are decorated with light-green, blue and white glazed slabs, as well as with marble, onyx and granite; the floor with girikh. There is the Kiswah near the mihrab. This Ka’abah covering was presented to Uzbekistan by the king of Saudi Arabia.

About 1,000 visitors, including non-Muslims, from all over the world visit Imam Al-Bukhari's mausoleum every day.

(The Registan Square with three madrasah)

Another magnificent landmark in this twenty five century old city, the Registan Square, a traditional centre of the city. The square is flanked on three sides by sparkling and turquoise tiled madrasahs, the Ulugbhek Madrasah, the Sherdor and the Tilla Qori. The interior and exterior facades of these buildings are decorated with ornaments of glazed brick, mosaic and carved marble. The Square is considered an architectural gem representing the finest in Islamic Art.

(The Mausoleum of Tamerlane)

The Mausoleum of Tamerlane or Gur Emir is not far from the Registan. This famous blue ribbed cantaloupe dome of the mausoleum rises over the tin rooftops in central Samarkand. A massive slab of green jade, under which Tamerlane was laid is said to be the largest such stone in the world. Normally seen as black, it turns green when illuminated by the sun for lucky visitors. It was in its finest green during our visit.

(Bibi-Khanum Mosque)

There is the fifteen century Bibi-Khanum Mosque, standing next to a noisy and crowded oriental market full of colourful fruits, vegetables and fragrant spices. Amir Timur dedicated this Bibi-Khanum Mosque to his wife and his victorious Indian Delhi campaign. It is said that he used elephants to haul the construction material. We had a short shopping stop here.

(A panting on the wall)

Across the intersection from the market, the Hazrat-Hizr (Nabi Khidzir) Mosque occupies a hill on the fringes of Afrosiab. The eight century mosque that once stood here was burnt to the ground by Genghis Khan in the thirteenth century and was not rebuilt until 1854. In the 1990s it was lovingly restored by a wealthy Bukharan and today is Samarkand's most beautiful mosque, with a fine domed interior.

The Silk Road - Tashkent, Uzbekistan 2009 - The Stone Fortress...

"Sometimes the thing we can't change end up changing us..."

We reached Tashkent, and checked in the Hotel Markaziy after a five hour drive. Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, shows its roots as a Silk Road city even today. The 2,000 year-old-city whose name means “Stone Fortress” has the look of a modern metropolis.

Tashkent became a Muslim city in the 8th century AD, and was an important commercial centre during the middle Ages. Wars and natural calamities have swept most of the buildings dating back to the time of the ancient city.

(Wise old men having tea)

Despite its modern Soviet appearance, Tashkent lacks neither beauty nor culture; this city of three million has beautifully laid out parks and glistening fountains. The weather was wonderful as we strolled through the parks.

It boasts an efficient Soviet era metro with unique breathtaking designs at its stations. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take photos. Soviet phobia... Up above, an electric tram system snakes across the city, complementing its public buses and taxis. The taxis are mostly new twenty five year old Lada models.

(Islamic Institute in Tashkent)

We visited the Tashkent Islamic Institute. During the time when Caliph Uthman was the caliph of the Muslims, dispute arose about the reading of the Quran. To put the discord to an end, the Quran Uthmani was written down on buckskin in six copies and sent to different parts of the world. One of the six copies was brought to Samarkand and for many years caringly kept. After the tsarist Russia took over Samarkand, this Quran to St. Petersburg and placed into the Emperor's library.

Since 1989 the sacred manuscript has been returned and kept, in the Tashkent Islamic Institute. The Muskhaf Khazrati (Quran) of Uthman is the rarest and priceless gem, which is loved and revered by every Muslim. In 2007, Tashkent was named the cultural capital of the Islamic world. Maybe because it has the Telyashayakh Mosque (Khast Imam Mosque) which contains one of the six sacred Quran Uthmani.

We ended the last day of our Uzbek discovery with an authentic Uzbek dance. It is characterized by intricate arm and hand movements, a variety of spins and turns, backbends, shoulder isolations and animated facial expressions. Footwork is relatively simple. The solo dancing was supported by a ghijak, whose round body and sound resembles that of a violin. It is played being placed vertically on the knee and the sound is produced with the help of special bow kamon.

(A bronze statue in town)
(Heavy snow on the last day in Uzbekistan)

On the last day it was snowing heavily. While waiting for the bus and at the airport we walked hand in hand with snowflakes falling from the skies.....