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.
On sale inside are an assortment of items; anything from carpets, suzanis, weapons, coins, and art to these ridiculous, poofy hats are for sale. I just had to try one on. Because, well, just look.
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.
It had been a wonderful day, spent wandering the enchanting streets of a city frozen in time. Luckily for me, I had another three days to explore Bukhara to my heart’s content.
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Neysha Bauer (@Travelsuras)
Seeing a city through the eyes of a local is definitely the best way to do it (especially when he or she’s cute! hah!). The colors of these buildings are just outstanding… You really make me want to visit these off the beaten path locations I NEVER would have considered before… ugh that makes me sound like a very narrow minded traveler, but I guess I’m still growing.
Haha agreed! Most of my favorite places were awesome because I met some cool people there who made an effort to show me around. That really makes it special 🙂
First thing that came to mind while reading this was Aladdin. (I’m such a Disney fan). The whole place feels so magical to me, like snapshots out of a movie where genies and flying carpets could exist. And the colors! Your photos are amazing! I especially love how the details in your picture of the Tower of Death are so clear—probably just as clear as if I were there myself!
This place is so enchanting but, I agree with Hedgers, where are the people? Your posts have really made me feel like I’ve been traveling to the wrong places, lol
I love your pieces. Looking forward to more! 🙂
Thanks, Jackie! Bukhara definitely gets you feeling those vibes about flying carpets and djinn… it’s so atmospheric!
There were quite a few people around the popular areas, but walking into the side streets or into the buildings themselves was enough to get away from people for a bit. It was a very easy city to relax in 🙂
What an amazing old city! The tile work and architecture looks amazing and the lack of tourists is astonishing. I can’t imagine such a beautiful place with so few people but the images are stunning. You’re on an awesome adventure, keep it coming!
Thanks! I actually had to be very patient for a lot of these pictures. There were quite a few tourists in Bukhara, so it was tricky to get shots without people in them. That said, usually going inside the structures would get you away from the groups.
Even with the tourists, the city had a very relaxed vibe. I loved Bukhara!
Love the photos of the gourgeous buildings! How did you plan your current trip? Do you just wing it or have an itinerary in mind or both? I love following your adventures to such remote places. Look forward to more.
A little bit of both, for this trip. Uzbekistan I planned extensively, since you have to have a schedule before you can apply for the visa and need a stamp from a hotel every night you’re in the country. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan I gave myself a little more freedom, but still did a lot of research beforehand. It was definitely nice to have the flexibility in those countries, though!
I am always in absolute awe of your photographs, specifically the ones in your most recent travels. The architecture is just stunning and I think you capture them in such beautiful light, that gives your photos so much character. I really hope you bought that hat! 😉
Thanks! 🙂 Sadly, I didn’t. I had a lot of things I needed to buy for my family and didn’t have the space for a big, poofy hat. Maybe next time, haha.
Evan and Rachel
Wow, the mosque is sooo beautiful! I love Islamic architecture, and your pictures really do it justice. It seems like this is the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve read about a cute girl leading you around a new place. hahaa 😉 a great way to travel!
Haha agreed! And between Uzbekistan and Iran, I definitely fell in love with Islamic architecture as well. All the amazing tile-work and mathematics present in the designs is so impressive to see.
These are really great photos. i guess these have more than made up for all the inconveniences and stress that you had to go through with your taxi experience:-)
Totally! It was well worth it 🙂
Abdalla Z. Mohamed
Very nice and amazing post
I’m really impressed with these amazing photos
Thank you so much! 🙂
Love your photos of the Kalon Mosque. It looks surreal.
I’m totally going to use your blogs as my starting place if I ever get to go over there!
Beautiful and amazing architecture.