The Ancient City of Bukhara
There are 6 cities in the world bequeathed with Islam’s holiest title, -i-sharif. Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Jerusalem, Mazar-i-Sharif, and the city of scholarship, Bukhara. Rising from sprawling sand dunes, the colourful city was a haven for religious pilgrims and travellers alike in the early Middle East. Uzbekistan’s most religious city, Bukhara is home to the characteristic twinkling turquoise domes and towering minarets one becomes accustomed to in Uzbekistan. In fact, Genghis Khan considered the minaret in Bukhara so impressive that he refrained from destroying it, which is a pretty big deal if you know how much old Genghis loved to destroy stuff.
A happy medium between the big, metropolitan cities and the calm oasis towns like Khiva, Bukhara maintains calm, leafy spaces in the midst of the crazed hustle of a well lived in city.
What’s there to do there?
The Po-I Kalyan complex is the most iconic site in the city. Home to the aforementioned spared Kalyan minaret, the complex includes a mosque and a madrasa which provide a relief from the outer city. Tranquil spaces, immune to interruption, these sites are still an active mosque and school and their pious calm are reflective of this.
The Ark of Bukhara, the city’s white washed fortress, was home to Bukhara’s ancient royals. With carved wooden pillars and an intricately designed ceiling, the site has varies in architecture for the Uzbek fail-safes. It has protected Bukhara since the 5th century, with uniquely designed, undulating walls.
Lyab-i Hauz, a cool and leafy complex, offers a great spot to relax, to watch the lives of the locals go by. The pool in the centre of the complex is a popular meeting place for locals, surrounded by quaint cafes brimming with life.
Browse the colourful, covered bazaars of Bukhara, under the traditional trading domes that shielded silk road traders from the brutal desert heat. Though it’s now mostly filled with stands that are little more than tourist traps, the market was home to traders from every corner of the silk road- Indians trading spices with Chinese merchants, Georgian wine makers interacting with Venetian glass workers. The commercial history of the city is incredibly interesting, and I would strongly recommend reading up on the silk roads before setting off to Uzbekistan (if you have any interest in book recommendations drop me a line!)
Chor Minor might be smaller and less imposing than some of Bukhara’s other mosques, but it is very unique. Only built in the early 19th century it isn’t home to the same history as many of the local sites, but it has 4 minarets. Those of you familiar with travel in the Islamic world will know that this is pretty peculiar, and fun to stop by for the novelty.
Chor-Bakr Necropolis is said, by locals, to be resting place of Abu Bakr al-Siddiq, one of the most well known and most important figures in all of Islamic history. It is mandatory for Uzbek Muslims going on pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina to visit here before heading on to Saudi Arabia. Must be a shock when they get to Al-Masjid al-Nabawi and realise Abu Bakr is actually buried there, alongside the Prophet Muhammad, and not in a site a short distance out of Bukhara. Still an interesting site founded in the early 900s AD.
The Samanid Mausoleum is a small and unimposing structure, but interestingly is the only standing relic of the Samanid dynasty, who used to rule Central Asia.
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