Bukhara’s amazing historical center

Arriving in Bukhara

After a rainy train ride through never ending wasteland we arrive in Bukhara. It’s pretty fresh, but at least the rain has stopped. Our hostel surprises us with having a decent espresso maker – a welcome change from the Uzbek standard tea and instant coffee. Due to our days of caffeine abstinence we start highly energized on our exploration of the city center. Yet again, we find ourselves back in One Thousand And One Nights!

Taking a walk in the historic city center

Bukhara gives the context which missed in Samarqand. There are not only single sights to visit here, but a fully connected, in many places restored historic city center. Where Samarqand felt like a museum, Bukhara feels like history coming to live. The historic center is crowded with sandstone domes, bazaars, medressas, mosques and small alleys.

Throughout the city you find several water basins which have once been used as public baths and thus literally melting pots of ideas, news – and diseases. There was a time Bukhara has been called the „plague capital“ due to those infected standing waters. Today, most of the ponds are empty, and taking a swim is forbidden in the ones that still hold water.

Tip: At night we dine in a good restaurant that serves nice authentic food for a reasonable price. As it has recently opened it is not overflown by tourists and our favorite choice where you don’t have much. It’s located here.

„Welcome to Junkistan“

The town is quite touristic. Besides a carpet and jewelry bazaar, which are surprisingly well frequented by locals (and not one tourist is found here), all the touristic handicrafts Uzbekistan has to offer are sold in the streets of Bukhara. Christian comments: „Welcome to Junkistan“. Still, the city center is so vast that we enjoy the walk through the streets.

The blue tiled backyards of basically all buildings are filled with souvenir shops, too. The mosques with their overload of ceramic floral decoration (one with a very beautiful and impressing sand stone tower) and the numerous small domes in the bazaar halls make us wonder anyways.

The historic Bukhara fort: The Arc

Just outside the historic center (5-10 min walk) „the Arc“, an ancient fortress, rises from the ground. The Arc now contains several museums with a wide range of exhibits, all of medium to low interest. The fortress has been a „city in a city“ but the greater part has been destroyed and only parts have been restored. Although we find all the small exhibitions very dull, it is a worthy joyful walk discovering the architectural structure of the many connected and nested backyards.

While Samarqand can be visited in a single day, plan at least 2-3 days for Bukhara… it’s totally worth it.

The Lonely Planet Cover Picture (Central Asia): Chor Minor

Have you ever wondered where this peculiar building with the four minarets (looking like over sized matches) stands? It is just another 10 mins walk east from the Bukhara historic center. The walk to the ancient madrassah called Chor Minor (which means “four minarets”)leads us through some normal life areas which makes some nice daily-life watching. The madrassah itself surprisingly small compared to the other historical sights in Bukhara. But that makes it even more charming. It is surrounded by souvenir shops, and even its tiny interior is so fully stuffed with key chains, bags, scarves and carpets that, once inside, you can barely move. We talk to the saleswoman in the shop, errr, madrassah, and after some bargaining (I think in the end we paid her a Dollar or so) she lets us go upstairs. You can even climb up to the roof and inspect the four minarets from very close.

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