"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.