Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The beautiful lady without make-up...

Bukhara, which is Uzbekistan's fifth largest city was an important trade center along the Silk Road. The word Bukhara means source of knowledge in Zoroastrian, however, the locals refer to the city as the beautiful lady without make-up. Compared to the cities of Khiva and Samarkand, many monuments in Bukhara are not decorated with turquoise stone and are rather plain. Still, the city is nicely laid out with its fair share of domes, minarets, fortresses and also has a very lively atmosphere.

Our hotel was perfectly located, right in the city centre. The staff told us that we had the best room there as we had a huge terrace with a fantastic view of the Poy Kalon complex. The room was also massive and we enjoyed our stay there.

The Poy Kalan complex is a very beautiful site comprising of the Kalyan Minaret, Kalan Mosque and Mir-i-Arab Madrassah. These monuments were constructed in the 1500s and have a dominating presence over the city. Truly an amazing and peaceful place.

Another beautiful monument in Bukhara is Chor Minor, or four minarets. Chor Minor was built in 1807 by Khalif Niazkul. Khalif had seen the Char Minar in Hyderbad, India, and was so impressed with its structure that he wanted to design a similar monument in Bukhara.

An interesting place in the city centre was the 40 Pillar Mosque. The mosque only has 20 pillars at its main entrance but because it is situated almost above a pond, there is a clear reflection of these pillars. Thus, people refer to it as the 40 Pillar Mosque. The interior decoration was pretty nice as instead of the usual turquoise and royal blue colors, there was a good mix of gold, red and green.

Slightly further from the city centre are the Ismail Samani and Chashma Ayub Mausoleums. Built in the 9th-10th century, the Ismail Samani Mausoleum is a sacred place as it is the resting place of Ismail Samani, the last ruler of the Persian dynasty. The Chashma Ayub Mausoleum was built during Tamerlan's reign and is very close to the Ismail Samani Mausoleum.

A bit further away is the Ark, a large fortress, similar to the Ichan Kala in Khiva. It served as the residence of many rulers in Bukhara and now has a museum, palace, workshops and souvenir shops inside. Looks beautiful from the bird's eye view, eh?

Bukhara has a few Jewish families living there and we were lucky to visit a typical Jewish house. I loved the spaciousness and simple design of the Jewish house.

The liveliest part of Bukhara (and whatever I saw of Uzbekistan) was Lab-i-Hauz. This area is a place where there are many bars, restaurants, cafes and shops situated around a large pond and is frequented by locals. It was fun to see many people just passing their time playing card games with their friends, enjoying drinks and just gossiping. We also stopped there in the evening for drinks. I really enjoyed the whole atmosphere.

In Bukhara, there are many bazaars selling local produce and merchandise from abroad. After all, this city was a major part of the Silk Road, and trading played and still plays an important role in the day-to-day life. I saw many products from India but what really got my attention was the spice section. The aroma just pulled me towards that part of the bazaar and soon enough I was in my own world with the spices.

My favorite part about Bukhara were the cultural dance segment and entertainment provided by young artistes. It was so nice to see the colorful dance costumes and grace of the dancers as they danced about to traditional Uzbek music. I found many of the costumes to be very similar to the Kathak costume and even the moves were similar to Indian dance moves, but slower.

We also enjoyed a very cute performance by puppets and the puppet masters. The theme was a traditional Uzbek wedding and how the bride prepares for this important occasion. It was fun to watch the show and we had a good laugh too.

I'll be back with more about the national dish in Uzbekistan, Plov, and the evolving role of the women in Uzbek society.

In the meantime, hope you enjoy this video of my time in Bukhara!

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David said...

If this is a lady without make up, I cannot wait to see the lady with make up on !!!


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