My job keeps me on my feet. It takes me to far away places and lesser known countries in Central Asia: For example to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. When I started my current assignment, I did not know much of these countries. The whole region has been a bit of a black box in my world knowledge. I was very cautious in my expectations, but now that I am a bit acquainted, I just can’t seem to get enough. One of the most fascinating things I have discovered is the ancient Silk Road, that has left its marks along the plains and desserts. So on my last trip, I took the opportunity to spend one day in Bukhara, a historical city in Uzbekistan, and one of the major stops along the ancient commercial route.
Bukhara is a city-museum, with about 140 architectural monuments. Its Uzbekistan’s fifth-largest city, with a population of approximately 300 000 inhabitants. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. Getting around is easy, as the city is small. Most attractions are walking distance of each other. The historic center of Bukhara is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The best way to get to Bukhara is by flight from Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital city. The flight time is only 45 minutes. The second best option is by train, however that takes significantly longer, from four up to twelve hours. Depending on which type of train you choose. We flew in an out the same day, however, one should be ready to stay over night, as flights are seldom as frequent as on this particular day. There are a lot of lovely small hotels, BnB’s that add to experiencing life on the Silk Road.
There are so many temples and mosques in Bukhara, that it will take you more than a day to see all. But, surprisingly I did not get the temple fatigue, as all of the sights are very different. The most impressive of them all is Po-i-Kaylan, the mosque at the Kaylan minaret. Its pure majestic, with its turquoise cupolas and endless halls of white and beige pillars. However, my favorite of all was the Chor-Bakr necropolis. Its out of the way and we were the only tourists around. I really felt very privileged to visit such a place and to be able to just listen to the quiet. The only noise around was my camera clicking.
What I severely lack in this post is pictures of food and drink. Uzbek food is very tasty, an interesting mix of Mediterranean and Chinese. The starters are vegetable heavy: fresh tomatoes, radishes and cucumbers, nuts and dates and a type of fluffy nan-bread with hummus and other sauces. Before the main course, there is a soup, and/or dumplings. The main course can be grilled meat and vegetables, noodles or Pilaff (a fatty rice dish). Dessert is fresh fruit: apricots, cherries and plums. The food is served for the whole table, to share.
My recommendation is to go for lunch or dinner at one of the caravanserais. They are buildings with a round-ish courtyard, occupied by small hotels, tea houses and restaurants on several floors. These historical buildings used to belong to the state of Uzbekistan, but the president in power “rented” them free of charge to the local people of Bukhara, who renovated them and opened businesses.
Bukhara was a wonderful place to visit. It took some effort though, and I had a local guide. Other historical cities in Uzbekistan include Khiva and Samarkand. Samarkand is actually only a two hour train ride away from Tashkent. Never thought of going to Uzbekistan before? Check out the pictures and you might change your mind..