Bukhara! For centuries it had glimmered remote in the Western consciousness: the most secretive and fanatical of the great caravan-cities, shored up in its desert fastness against time and change. ~ Colin Thubron in The Lost Heart of Asia
Bukhara and Samarkand are the most famed cities of ‘The Great Silk Road’. During my school years, there was a phase when I wanted to visit the exotic lands on the silk route, after reading the much maligned NCERT history text books(to this day, it’s the imagination triggered by NCERT history/geography textbooks that’s been fuelling my travels so I don’t know why they are called boring). The towns of Bukhara and Samarkand were on top of my list; I was so fascinated by the narrations of their grandeur and beauty. Years later, I happened to watch a documentary by an Indian Film-maker where he had travelled on the main cities of Silk Road and that increased my wish to visit these cities.
Finally, last year I fulfilled my wish when I went on an all women curated trip to Uzbekistan, visiting the cities of Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara and Samarkand. Come along with me as I take you through a journey into Bukhara with me here.
We travelled to Bukhara from Khiva by a domestic flight on an early morning. We were put up in a pretty boutique hotel (Hotel Minzifa) located in old part of the city, from where the main town square was an easy walking distance. I was fascinated by Bukhara by the moment I landed here; it was a modern medieval city of the Silk Road, everything looked as it was during the golden age of Silk Road, the only difference being the people were dressed in modern clothes and there were cars & bikes on the road.
In fact, UNESCO notes on its web for the city “Bukhara, which is situated on the Silk Route, is more than 2,000 years old. It is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.”
The whole of city is an UNESCO world heritage city and it is easy to understand why; the beautifully preserved monuments, ancient souks (traditional markets) which are running till date and the lovely lanes look like a piece of immortal heritage to the traveler.
Our guide took us to a very touristy experience to start our Bukhara city tour – Traditional Song & Dance program over lunch. We actually liked the experience, having food leisurely while the beautiful autumn warmed us and the dancers & singers entertained us.
We then strolled around the main bazaar area and visited the Poi Kalyan Minaret complex. The stunning tilework on the various monuments in the predominant colors of turquoise and blue was something I could gaze at endlessly. Just as we entered the Kalyan mosque, the melodious sounds of the evening call for prayer (azaan) started and it was such a beautiful moment. There weren’t many people in the courtyard of the mosque and I just stood there looking around the beautiful mosque complex and a lone tree; it was a moment in time that would remain in my memories forever.
We visited many beautiful monuments over a period of two days, which included the famous Ismail Samanai tomb (best surviving example of 10th century architecture in Muslim world), Magoki Attori mosque, Chashma Ayub shrine. The guide explained the details of each monument and I could go on and on about each monument, but it would make for a very long post. Instead, I would say that the real beauty of Bukhara is not that there are these magnificent monuments with stunning tilework, but the wonderfully maintained townscape, which makes these individual monuments and structures a living ancient city. Bukhara is one of th best examples of a Silk road city demonstrating consistent level of urban planning and architecture that began with the Sheibanid dynasty, which continues to this day.
For a traveler fascinated with the Silk Road, Bukhara offers a rare glimpse of life as it was lived during the golden period of Silk Road.
Read my full travel itinerary to Uzbekistan : Travel on Silk Road: Uzbekistan
Read my visit to Khiva (the first UNESCO World Heritage site in Uzbekistan) – Khiva in Uzbekistan