It’s terrible, I have hardly ridden my bike in two weeks, and it will continue. Due to delays in getting out of Kyrgyzstan, waiting for visas in Tashkent, and a change in my Turkmenistan itinerary I am way behind schedule and need to take trains and buses to get to the Turkmenistan border before my Uzbek visa expires. I’m not missing much though; the Uzbek countryside is flat desert or cotton fields.
So I took the train 260 km from Samarkand to Bukhara, another key Silk Road trading town. Here is my current position:
Bukhara has some fine medresses, minarets and mosques. Its first period of greatness was in the 9-10th centuries when the Persians made it a religious and cultural center. Then as usual Genghis Khan spoiled the party in 1220 by leveling the town, except for one giant minaret.
Then in the 16th century the Uzbek Shaybanids made it the capital of what came to be known as the Bukhara khanate. During this period there were more than 100 medresses and 10,000 students in Bukhara.
Here are some photos of what remains of the mosques and medresses.
This one still functions as a medressa so tourists are not allowed inside.
This used to be a mosque.
This is the Kalon minaret. Built in 1127, it was constructed so well that it has survived earthquakes, the Mongols, and even Bolshevik bombs. It is 47 m tall and was the tallest structure in Central Asia when completed. They say Genghis Khan was so impressed by it that he ordered it spared—one of the few structures to survive the Mongol invasion.
Some views from the top of the minaret.
Another fine old building in Bukhara. This was part of a medressa, long since gone.
This is a mausoleum that was built in AD 905. It is the oldest structure in Bukhara. It has withstood the years without any renovation, a testament to its sturdy construction.
In the market I bought some bread from this old woman.
Until a century ago Bukhara was watered by a network of canals and some 200 stone pools where people gathered, gossiped, drank and washed. As the water wasn’t changed often, Bukhara was famous for plagues. It is said the life expectancy in 19th century Bukhara was only 32 years. The Bolsheviks thought this was crazy and drained the pools in the 1920s. There are still a few around, though, like this one.
Finally, another in the weird-product-names department. I saw this in a grocery store. How would you like to wash your clothes with a box of Barf?