The next morning we started our walking tour of Bukhara at the Lyabi-Hauz pool just a short walk from the hotel. "Hauz" or "khauz" means "pool." Lyabi-Hauz means "around the pool."



Nodir Devon Begi Madrassa

This is the entrance to the 17th century Nodir Devon Begi Madrassah, which is located near the pool. It was originally built as a caravanserai, but at its dedication it was mistakenly proclaimed a madrassa. That required its builder to abandon his original plans.

The portal contains these wonderful phoenix birds.

Mulla Nasrudin

The courtyard around the pool contains this whimsical sculpture. It is a portrait of Mulla Nasrudin (among other names), a folk character who may (or may not) have been based on a real character of long ago. He was said to have roamed the Silk Road dispensing wit and wisdom.

Many tales may be found at the link.


We saw this sight several times in Bukhara. A woman was wandering around with a smoking censer burning (to me) foul smelling herbs. The smoke is popularly believed to bring protection from the Evil Eye.

Jama said that the specific combination of herbs has actually been shown to be anti-microbial.

For a fee such women would fumigate your shop.


The actual pool is surrounded by ancient mulberry trees and these sculptures of Bactrian camels. The dead tree shown here had a plaque stating that it was planted in 1477. It is still protected. Some other younger trees had been planted in spots. (The stork in the tree is a scupture.)

The building in the background is a khanaka, or gathering place for itinerant Sufis.

The pool is one of a few remaining in the city. There were once many others as water supply for people and animals, but water-borne infections including a particularly nasty one (guinea-worm disease) were common. Under the Soviets most of the pools were filled in and the diseases were eventually eradicated in the area. Guinea-worm disease is now on the verge of being wiped out world-wide.

We will see a few of the other other remaining pools.

Jama and Danish Sufi

At one point we were all gathered around Jama (on left) as he told us about the Sufi variant of Islam that was common in Bukhara. A couple of men joined us and began asking questions. Later on one of them introduced himself. He was a Sufi from Denmark who was on a pilgrimage to some of the Sufi holy sites including one in Bukhara. He wanted very much to travel to Turkmenistan, but Jama had to disappoint him by explaining how hard it is to enter that country without an official invitation. Road Scholar had arranged such an invitation for us as part of obtaining our visas.

Shopping Centers

Continuing our walking tour we visited the first of several domed 16th century "shopping malls" or trading domes scattered throughout the downtown. This one was called Toqi Sarrafon (or Toki Zargaron) and included an adjacent haman or bathhouse.

Each of these domes included several shops, often grouped around a theme, e.g, carpets or hats.

Antique Carpets

On the other side of the above dome was this shop selling antique carpets, camel trappings, bags and other tribal weavings.

Jama warned us that, if we wanted to purchase anything, we needed to be careful to get appropriate documentation that would allow its export. Otherwise there was a chance it would be confiscated at the border. Not everything, especially antiques, was allowed to be exported.

As for ourselves we're at the point in life where we want to get rid of stuff rather than get more stuff.

Ancient mosque

A little further down the road was the Magoki-Attori mosque. The link has the history of the site, which has been used at various times by the Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Jews and Muslims.

The building is many feet below the current street surface and indicates the 12th century level of the city.

Bukhara Bath Site

Adjacent to the mosque is this site of an ancient bath complex believed to be 1000 years old. We were told there were separate sections identified for Jews and Christians as well as Muslims.

The site is only partially excavated at present.

Carpet Show

Our next stop was a carpet shop where Jim and Kathy Massie from our group were decked in traditional wedding regalia.

Kathy, on the left is beginning to get dressed. Jim hasn't started yet. Typical guy!

Some of our number returned to this shop later to purchase carpets – with appropriate paperwork, of course.

Uzbek Wedding Regalia

After the final robing is done, the happy couple are ready to renew their vows. The bride complained vociferously about the weight and stuffiness of her garb.

Kalyan Minaret

Although much of what we saw claimed to be from this or that century, almost all of it has been reconstructed. The Kalyan Minaret, however, is original. It was built in the 12th century and has survived earthquakes and the conquering armies of the Mongols and the Russians, among others.

The lighting was all wrong for me to get a better picture, unfortunately, and I wasn't sure I could find my way back during one of our few free times later in the visit. Check the link above to see the beautiful details.

In the 18th and 19th century the minaret was used for executions. Convicted criminals would be thrown down from the top.


The Mir-i-Arab madrassa stands opposite the Kalyan mosque.

Our local newspaper, the Lexington News-Gazette asks subscribers to take a copy with them on vacation. They will then publish pictures. Jim and I are standing in front of the madrassa holding something. Trust me, it's the paper.

Kalyan Mosque

This mosque is almost as large as the Bibi Khanym mosque that we visited in Samarkand, but it is still in use as a place of worship.

The "sanctuary" is under the large domed structure.

Kalyan Mosque

This is the view looking toward the main entrance gate of the mosque with the minaret and the madrassa dome.

Lunch at Lyabi-Hauz

After visiting the mosque we headed back to the Lyabi-Hauz plaza for lunch overlooking the pool.

This was not our favorite eatery either for the food or the service, but the ambiance was great. At least until they turned on the fountains, which were right beside our tables. There was just enough of a breeze to make it a trifle damp!

Canal Pool inlet

The pool is fed from this canal running along the adjacent street. The weir shown here can raise or lower the water level in the canal as needed. There are then sluices that allow water into (or out of) the pool: