Bukhara

It is a long drive from Samarkand to Bukhara ( we had been to Bukhara in 2012) . We saw a bizarre group of cyclists who were doing a Tashkent to Bukhara marathon of 1200 kms in 90 hours, which seemed to mean that they got little sleep and few food stops over that period. The roadside cafe where we came across them was truely disgusting, I only hope they got some more salubrious stops on their route.

We passed an an old caravanserai further along the way, one of the few signs that the Silk Road had ever passed this way. In truth, there is not a lot left of the Caravanserai, just the reconstructed entrance, and the water source under a dome.

There were cotton fields along the way. We had been in cotton country every since entering Kyrgyzstan, and, where ever there was flat arable land, then there was cotton.

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The history of Bukhara stretches back millennia. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. During the golden age of the Samanids, Bukhara became a major intellectual center of the Islamic world, second only to Baghdad. The historic center of Bukhara, which contains numerous mosques and madrassas, has been listed by UNESCO as one of the World Heritage Sites.

Bukhara has been one of the main centres of world civilisation from its early days in 6th century BC. From the 6th century AD, Turkic speakers gradually moved in. Its architecture and archaeological sites form one of the pillars of Central Asian history and art. The region of Bukhara was a part of the Persian Empire for a long time. The origin of many of its current inhabitants goes back to the period of Aryan immigration into the region.

The UNESCO citation says 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. Monuments of particular interest include the famous tomb of Ismail Samani, a masterpiece of 10th-century Muslim architecture, and a large number of 17th-century madrasas...

We stopped in to see Sabina, who recognised us, probably because of the bears, from 2012 (or it might have been because I bought a double sided silk carpet from her). We watched her impressive sales pitch to a group of tourists, and she very kindly gave Chris a silk suzani. I looked at the silk rugs she was selling, and told her we would return the next day ...little did I know what was about to happen.

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Me and a bicycle

Well, one minute I was walking along the pavement with Chris, next moment a teenager on a bicycle smashes into the back of me, causing me to somersault forewards, and on hitting the ground, I was aware that I was bleeding badly. Strangely, or perhaps understandably, I thought that I had been mugged, but I was carrying neither camera nor money, as we had left them in the hotel. I learnt afterwards that Uzbek bicycles do not have brakes and rely on the rider back-pedaling using the fixed wheel of the bike. Rodney (who was in the area and saw the accident) and Chris got me back to the hotel which was only about 100 metres away. The teenager approached during this time to say "Sorry" in English. Having disappeared from the scence after she hit me, I assume someone else had told her to do so.

The world and his friends looked at my wounds, and the consensus was to get me to Bukhara Hospital. So the Hotel Manager (not sure why he came), our Uzbek guide, the taxi driver, Chris and I packed into a Fiat 500 sized taxi for the 10 minute drive to the hospital. In the hospital, they were very efficient, saw me immediately, cleaned the wound, checked me for broken bones, decided against stitches, dressed the wounds and sent me on my way - and there was no charge.

We returned by taxi to the restaurant where the group were having dinner. There a local policeman arrived to ask for a statement and to know whether I wanted to press charges against the errant teenager. I suggested to the interpreter that this would be a pointless exercise, as nobody could ever find the cyclist. The chilling answer was the "yes they will". Anyway, I had already decided not to make a formal complaint.

Philosophically it is difficult to imagine how much damage a cycle can cause when it hits you on a pavement. The central photo below of bruising was taken some 10 days later at Esfahan, and this was the first time I had actually seen the damages.

 

The next morning we walked round more of the old town. Movement was a bit difficult after my encounter with the bicycle, and the fact that I had a runny tummy did not help either.

We went to see Sabina in the afternoon, but I was in no condition to buy, much to her disappointment. She managed to track us down to our hotel room in the evening and offered to come round with some home made food and some carpets for me to browse, but I really found it difficult enough to get to the phone, let alone try to negotiate a carpet purchase.

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Sasha & Sons Guesthouse

This is a small privately owned hotel offering just B&B. Constructed in the national style, it was a Jewish merchant’s house of the 16 century and it was renovated in 1996 . The family run hotel-boutique “Sasha & Son” provides its guests with comfortable 18 double and 2 single rooms . All rooms are traditional Bukhara style, made by hand by craftsmen and painters from Uzbekistan .

The big plus is that it is within 200 or 300 metres of the trading domes and all the tourist hot spots in the town. It is a safe city to walk in- usually!-, and the hotel is ideally situated down a small alley . The rooms are "traditionally" decorated, basically white with multi coloured stencils added. It certainly gives you the feel of being in Uzbekistan. Ours was very spacious, but I think they do vary in size, so do ask for a large room.

The rooms mainly look inwards onto the various courtyards that make up the hotel. The courtyards are a good place to relax and enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of beer. Again they have the traditional seating of a raised dais, covered with a carpet, on which you sit cross legged. Wifi is,a bit patchy, but with perseverance you can pick it up in the courtyards.

Breakfast is at the upper end of ones expectations in Uzbeckistan, but is certainly not gourmet. All in all this is a good choice for a base in Bukhara, this is the second time I have stayed here, and would stay here again if I come back again

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The next day we head for the Turkmen border and Merv, another important Silk Road city.

On to next town - Mary

Back to Overall Itinerary for Silk Road Trip 2016