Is it hot? Well, the car thermometer registered as high as 44 degrees C (112 degrees F) although mostly it stayed around 38 C (100 F). Still, the car had A/C so I couldn’t complain. However, climbing up the three forts that I visited out in the desert was hard work. This one is the Ayez-Qala, where the driver and I stopped for a cup of tea at the Ayaz-Qala Yurt Camp. The camp provides camels if you care to go for a ride. We were content with just having tea and visiting the fort, which had its heyday in the 6th-7th centuries. Still, staying overnight in the yurts would have been fun.
A family walked by, headed for the town. I suggested we could fit them into our car, but my driver didn’t seem to want to.
By and by the car needed gas. We stopped at a sign saying ‘GAZ’ and it turned out to be propane. Most of their cars run on propane! While the driver was paying, the attendant was running the propane into a ‘holder.’ Then he hooked a hose up to a funny place at the back of the car and ‘shot’ it into the car. All done, quick as a wink!
After visiting the three forts, we drove on to Bukhara, arriving at 5:00 PM, a very long day. Here I stayed in the Rustam & Zukhra hostel, opting for a single room rather than the dorm bed I had reserved. Over dinner, which I could buy in the hostel, I had a nice conversation with an American young woman (first American on this trip) and a Dutch young man. Morning’s breakfast was a treat: good roll, triangular meat and onion dumpling, cheese, sausage, barley??, overcooked egg and potato; then yoghurt with raisins in a sweet sauce to put in it; and tea. There was also bread, but their bread here isn’t as good as most countries’ bread.
The next day I did some sightseeing, but only the close-by area. It was again 100 degrees, so no fast moves! A beautiful ninth century mosque, the Maghoki-Attar, had an interesting history, with a 5th C. Zoroastrian
Temple under it; under that was a Buddhist temple, plus until the 16th C. the mosque was used in the evenings by the Bukhara Jews. The excavated courtyard, with wall around it, is about 12 feet lower than the level of the city today. Many of these madrassas have excavated courtyards, as much has filled in with dirt over the centuries, raising the ground level of the city.
The Lyabi-Hauz was a wonderful pool of water around which were three madrassas, and a beautiful restaurant, well shaded by two big trees, where I ate linner. Clearly this pool area is Bukhara’s Living Room, as local people were hanging out here, too.
The restaurant was right on the water, but there were no vacant tables next to the water, so I asked a single woman if I could join her at her table. She quickly assented, and turned out to be an American. In fact she was here with a NYTimes travel group, as an ‘expert,’ who gives lectures on Uzbekistan. Today the travel group was going into Turkmenistan, and journalists are not permitted to go there so she was waiting for her group to return. So we had a wonderful lunch of plov (their most popular national dish) together, and talked our heads off! She also turned out to be a best-selling author, named Laura Shaine Cunningham. What fun!
More and more madrassas here in Bukhara—-here’s one from a long time ago—-note the street level is several feet above where it was when it was in use. You can just see the top of the door. Many of them have beautiful entrances. At first I tried to identify each one, but there are simply too many for that! So I just enjoyed each one, with their similarities, but small differences, too.
The beautiful Kalon Minaret along with the blue-domed Mir-i-Arab Medrassa, built in the 16th century, make a beautiful sight. The minaret was built in 1127, and at that time at 47 meters (about 150 feet), was the tallest building in all of Central Asia.
With this 100 degree weather, I could only sightsee for a limited time before going back to my hostel, which is very near all the madrassas, to rehydrate and cool off with the A/C.
Then I visited the Art Museum, which was stifling, but had good paintings—-here are a couple: “Mirboboev Said” by Kurzin and “Holiday” by Mirzaev. Kurzin was one of the Russian artists that was actually sent to Siberia for being ‘politically incorrect’ and whose many paintings Savitsky rescued and put in his museum in Nukus.
I again ate my linner next to the pool, but in a different restaurant. I noticed that this restaurant had almost all locals and no tourists. I had a helpful waiter that pointed out a lamb dish, which I was hungry for, and I had a nice salad to go with it. It was fun to watch the families with the little ones jumping around. Several seemed to be with their grandparents—-maybe the parents were working and the grandparents babysitting?
I had been looking for barberries to bring home for my new friend/partner, who is a gourmet cook. He had been researching the cuisine and asked me to look for them. I had searched quite a few shops/markets but to no avail. Well, here in Bukhara I found them, and bought a small sample. By the way, those metal design things at the bottom of the picture are stampers with which to make patterns in the bread. There are so many items that one would like to bring home as souvenirs from Uzbekistan, but they would be pretty hard to fit into my backpack, and into my condo too, for that matter—-it’s getting pretty full!
Tuesday morning I had breakfast with a couple who were leaving for Samarkand by train. I got some good information from them about where to buy a ticket and went to pursue that after breakfast. It was quite a long walk, which I’m beginning to mind because of the heat. Even at 8:00 AM, it’s 90 degrees! They didn’t have any thing but ‘business class’ (I wonder what that will be?) which still only cost $14 for a three hour train trip.
I did more sight seeing—-more madrassas, more mosques, and then the ARK. This is a mighty pile that was originally built in the 5th century for Bukhara kings to be crowned in and live in. They used it up until 1920! Inside there is a mosque, living quarters, stables, etc., with many rooms made into little museums. They were busy redoing the Registan in front of the Ark, which is the big medieval main square where they held the executions.
I had plov (their national dish) for linner again. It has lots of lamb fat on/in it and there’s lamb meat under there, too. The little raisin things are barberries.
I had a nice visit with Sharon and her son, Richard from USA. When they came in the restaurant they couldn’t find a table on the water as I couldn’t the other day, so I invited them to sit with me. They have a husband and sister who don’t like to travel so the mother and son go by themselves.
Today I made my final sojourn into this ‘city museum’ of Bukhara. There were more madrassas, mosques, and mausoleums. Additionally I saw this “Crying Mother Monument,” in Samani Park. I gather she is crying
over loosing her son/husband in war.
I met a musician in Samani Park, who had played cello in an orchestra that presented a concert in Santa Fe, NM. He teaches music in an Art and Music school. He invited me over to a nearby building to hear some music, and I bought a CD.
In one of the mausoleums, there was a display of the Aral Sea tragedy. It’s amazing how much of it has now dried up, since 1960.
I did peruse the local market, for which I either was too early, or too late, as there wasn’t much going on. I did find someone selling barberries so I bought some more, thinking that what I had bought earlier is not enough to make very much plov.
And somebody was firing up the bread oven. The ovens all seem to be on carts so they are portable.
Then being pretty tired and hot, I decided to take a taxi back to my hotel. It’s hard to tell who is going to be a taxi; lots of the time they are just ordinary people being a taxi. So I just hollered “Taxi” a couple of times, and two men responded. No English, but I understood that they were just going to give me a ride to be nice, for no charge! When I said the “Lyabi-Hauz,” (that’s the pool with the three madrassas where people hang out) they took me someplace else—-obviously bad pronunciation. I showed them the name on the map, and then they got it. How nice of them.
Tomorrow I shall take the train to Samarkand. I had always wanted to see that city since reading about it in Mitchner’s “Caravans,” which I read in the ‘50s. I think it will be as exotic as I think it is, having seen some pictures.