‘Nyet billet?!’ (no ticket?)…the taxi driver was flabbergasted when I told him I hadn’t booked the train ticket and was going to check at the station directly. We reached but he didn’t let go. Accompanied me right up to the ticket counter to enquire whether tickets were available, and they were. Heaving a sigh of relief, he shook hands and wished me good luck. I bought the 2nd class ticket for about 5 usd and waited for the Sharq train. Bukhara would be exciting.
The ride was good and i reached bukhara by 3. The usual taxi hunting grind took place and i paid 2 usd. Not knowing the place, he dropped me off about half a kilometre away. Since the hostel didn’t show up on Google maps, i had to walk around a bit in the shade of tall mud walls before some twists and turns finally led me to the hostel. Checked in, changed and headed out for a quick recon. Bukhara is a town that once held the crown of being one of the most important ones in the country by virtue of trade and its artisans. Ageing over 1500 years, it has adapted well to modern times. The restoration and development works seem to have been done keeping in mind the final output of how the town needs to look. Historic. You can spend hours roaming about exploring its labyrinth streets and bazaars with occasional ice cream or cola stops
Top things to do/see in Bukhara
Once the hub of traders, this town has an abundance of bazaars. From carpets to embroidered garments to scissors to miniature paintings, you will be tempted to empty your pockets at every other shop. Check out my detailed blog on what to shop in Uzbekistan.
Yes, Uzbekistan has its very own Char (chor) minor and I used the this as an opportunity to let almost every local know that we have one in India. It did amuse them and they were astonished at the size of the one in Hyderabad. it is a compact little mosque with the minors topped with a fake bird nests and birds. On seeing some old photos of the city, I realized that these stork like birds actually lived atop the minarets at some point in time. One of the souvenir shop owners told me that the birds left some 30 odd years back.
The Ark citadel:
It is a massive fortress once occupied by the Bukharan emirs, it was bombed by the russians in 1920. What remains are the bulging huge walls and large restored parts of the complex inside. Entrance is 15k and you get to see the relics from weapons to paintings to pottery. I ended up having a long chat with one of the souvenir shop owners who left me with a free fridge magnet. The love is endless.
Beer by Lyab house:
the centre of the town has a pond with fountains and ducks surrounded by madrassas and some cafes. The perfect setting for relaxing any time during the day. All the cafes are reasonably priced and serve alcohol. Turn up in the evening and you may get a chance to spot some local event being held.
Chit chat with the Tajik speakers:
Bukhara has an abundance of Tajik speakers and I am not sure how many are natives but the ones I ended up meeting were all such wonderful people. The language is close to Farsi which has a few words common to hindi and this was enough to amuse them when I managed to more or less understand what they spoke. And this egged them…and they spoke and spoke and spoke. So much so that a group of them invited me over to their table and join them for afternoon beer.
there are tons of madrassas in Bukhara and I would say just let yourself loose. Most of them have an entrance fee. These monuments now house only souvenir shops and handicraft workshops inside them, makes for a good photo op.
Sunset at Poi Kalyan:
The highlight of the town is the Poi Kalyan minaret and the mosque next to it facing a madrassah. Legend has it that Genghis Khan spared the minaret because of its magnificence and destroyed everything else around. And it is beautiful. Not a typical structure adorned with ceramics but with bricks of various sizes and terracotta ornamentations around the circumference. I could see there was a way to get in but didn’t bother checking. Come here during sunset and you’ll find the setting with the best colours possible
Tune in to Jalal:
Hit the Taki telpak bazaar and you will find a shop with the most amusing instruments on display and sale. Jalal, the owner is a musician himself and a wonderful. Sensing my interest in music, he went on to demonstrate pretty much every instrument you can see in the photo.
Bolo Hauz mosque:
a functional mosque close to the citadel, it has intricately carved and decorated pillars and ceilings, a kind which I havent seen anywhere.
How long: 2 days would be perfect. 3 days is what I’d recommend
Stay: Payraviy Guest house. Dorms at 8 usd. Amazing hotel, close to the centre and a bit difficult to find.
• Lyab-i-house restaurant: by the pond, a great place to spend the evenings or even noons.
• Musical instruments
The good: people people people
The bad: heat
The ugly: heat
Safety: 10 on 10
Tout level: 0. People don’t care, too nice to cheat
Language: Learn some Russian. Youngsters speak some English
Internal Transport: Walking