After my ridiculous taxi trip to Bukhara from the border between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, I took a little time and enjoyed a delicious breakfast at my B&B, Rustam and Zukhra. Afterwards, I felt surprisingly awake–enough to head out and start exploring the city in lieu of collapsing onto my bed.
The sights started almost immediately upon walking outside. Buildings made from dusty brown bricks and intricately carved wood line the carefully preserved streets. Just after the central Lyabi-Hauz square with its beautiful pool and madrasah (Islamic school), I found the first of three trading complexes throughout the shahristan (Old Town). Their bulbous tops make them easy to pick out, just look for a cluster of small stone domes. The design is a practical one, meant to draw in cool air. Inside–as in the past–they teem with merchants and vendors, only now they mainly cater to tourists.
The above mentioned cute girl (Nefisi) and her friends (unnamed) hardly spoke any English, but, after taking a few pictures with me, they decided to show me around the city. We walked for a little while before coming to our first stop: the 16th century Kalon Mosque.
The building was pristine. A huge facade with a large arch greets visitors and worshipers. Intricate tilework and calligraphy decorate most of the visible surfaces, creating intricate geometric patterns; the beauty and complexity of the designs were mesmerizing.
The interior of the mosque is large enough to hold 10,000 people. Thankfully, there were only the tinest fraction of that number present while we were walking through. Save for scattered fragments of overheard conversations, the place was silent.
Exiting the mosque, we found ourselves looking at the Mir-i-Arab Madrasah. More stunning tilework and two azure domes make it another site to spend hours gawking at.
Leaving the mosque and madrasah behind, we headed further towards the edge of town, coming at last to a massive fortress known as the Ark. Built in the 5th century, it is Bukhara’s oldest standing structure. Though mostly in ruins now, some parts have been restored and are open to the public.
Outside, I saw something I haven’t seen since I was in the Gobi desert over a year and a half ago: a camel! Naturally, I hopped on for a quick photo.
Inside the Ark were a number of exhibits showing artifacts and providing information about Bukhara’s storied past. I’ll give you some more details about that in a later post!
After the Ark, Nefisi and her friends had to head for home. Left to my own devices, I decided to aimlessly wander around for the rest of the day, admiring the beautiful architecture ubiquitous throughout Bukhara’s Old Town.
As the daylight faded, I hurried back to the courtyard between Kalon Mosque and Mir-i-Arab Madrasah. The sunset was stunning, glimpsed between the towering Kalon Minaret and the building beside me. Staring up at the 47 meter tall structure sometimes referred to as the Tower of Death, I couldn’t help thinking of the criminals executed by being hurled from its peak. Their appreciation for the tower’s size would doubtlessly have been less than mine.