After lunch we had a full afternoon of touring. Looking back on this trip, I now realize why I was exhausted much of the time. We were on the go almost from dawn to well after dusk! But we agree that there is little we would have skipped.


Before our afternoon travels, however, we walked back to the hotel for a short break. Almost all of us had turned in laundry since this was our longest hotel stay. Imagine our surprise when we found that our socks, gotchies, and other clothes were hanging in the courtyard to dry along with the hotel's towels and sheets!

The next morning they were clean and fresh from the open-air treatment.

Bukhara Ark Citadel After lunch we visited the Ark Citadel, the original fortress of Bukhara. A fortress has existed in this location since the 3rd century although it has been enlarged and reconstructed many times.

The complex is located just outside the city center.

Ark fortification

The walls of the citadel are restored in some places and crumbling in others. Active restoration was in progress while we were there.

The fortifications enclose an artificial hill reinforced first with mud brick and later with more durable fired brick.

The Ark has an evil history as part of the Great Game. Two British officers were brutally imprisoned and later executed as spies here in the mid-19th century. They are said to be buried somewhere in the plaza. Bukhara has these and other instances of arbitrary and harsh injustice.

Uzbek Tourists

There were numerous tourists at the Ark including this newly-wed couple with friends. I loved the contrast between the hip young women and the bride, who may have been dressed traditionally, but very stylishly as well.

I wondered if she dressed like her friends before her marriage.

After our visit to the museums located within the fortress, we crossed the street to the Bolo-Khauz Mosque.

Bolo-Khauz Mosque

As I said earlier, "registan" is not a specific place limited to Samarkand. Bokhara had a registan as well with one of the city's pools in it. This mosque, built in the early 18th century, is the only remaining structure.

The name of the mosque derives from the adjacent pool. Bolo-khauz means "children's pond."

Decoration detail

Unlike so many of the structures we saw, this decoration was painted rather than mosaic or majolica tile. It was just as beautiful and even more intricate.

Some of the decoration is papier-mache.

I was actually pleased to get away from blue domes for a while (but only for a while).

It was back on the bus to see some outlying areas.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum This mausoleum, built in the 10th century, was perhaps the oldest structure that we saw. It is the resting place of Ismail Samani, his father, and his grandson, the founders of the first local ruling dynasty. (We saw his statue in Tajikistan.) It adjoins yet another pond.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum detail

After the colorful decoration, not to mention the blue domes, the monochrome patterning of the buff brickwork was soothing.

Mausoleum interior

The interior was as beautiful as the exterior.

Almost everywhere we visited asked for a small payment, typically 3000 cym (pronounced SOOM), to take pictures. This is about $1.50 at the official exchange rate. At this location I had asked Jim to pick up my photography permit while I wandered around the pond. I'm glad he got a receipt because when I began to take some pictures inside the guard challenged me. I was able to show the permit and click away.

Old Bukhara City Wall

The mausoleum was on the outskirts of the old city center. Decaying remnants of the old city walls were nearby.

As a study in contrasts, this quiet lake and the serene mausoleum are reached by walking through an amusement park with many children's rides!

Rice Plov

That evening we had a lesson in making the national dish, Rice Plov (spelled pilaf or pilau elsewhere). Our dinner was at a local home within walking distance of the hotel.

Whenever we went out at night we took flashlights since street lighting is sparse and the pavements treacherous. Ours came in very handy. We passed one pothole that was large enough to have a small tree growing in it!

The plov is prepared in this wok-like cooker. First onions, carrots and whole heads of garlic are simmered until soft.

Adding rice

Chickpeas and raisins have been added to the above mixture and now the well-rinsed rice is being mixed in.

After everything is stirred together, water is added and the plov will simmer without stirring until done. This made enough for our entire group of 24. (Along with the obligatory appetizers, soup, bread and dessert.)

We were always whining to Jama that there was too much food, but he explained that when they had allowed people to order either soup or an entree, it was chaos with folks forgetting what they ordered or changing their minds. "So," he said, "if you don't want it, don't eat it."

We generally ignored that sage advice and stuffed ourselves.

We've tried to reproduce this dish at home with limited success.

Jamshid helps with cooking

Jama helped with the cooking as well, by monitoring the fire, which was was made using cotton twigs.

Some years back when relations between our countries were better, Jama traveled to the US as part of an Uzbekistan - US exchange program. He studied the hospitality industry in New Orleans, Memphis & Jackson, Mississippi, about 45 miles from my home town.

It's truly a small world.

Dining room

Most of the houses we visited looked scruffy on the street and were elegant, even palatial, inside. This one was no exception. To be sure, the places we visited were set up to cater to tourists. This particular family had another smaller group eating there on the same night.

The custom-made niches used to display ceramics and other decorative items are common in Bukhara. Our hotel room had a similar, if simpler, display.

Our group was 24 people and I can't recommend any larger number. Jama said he had a group of 40 one time and it was very unsatisfactory.

Bukharan plov

The finished dish arrives! It was well worth the wait. Delicious! (Especially the garlic.)

Chor-Minor Mosque

The 17th century Chor-Minor Mosque (or madrassa) wasn't on our original tour plan, but some of the group had read about it so Jama took us there the next morning. The name means ... wait for it ... four towers!

This unusual building is thought to be the only remaining portion of a vanished madrassa.

The minarets are each decorated differently. At the foot of the structure is another of the Bukhara pools. Given the fact that "only a few" of the original pools remain there must have been very many indeed and we must have seen all of the remaining ones.

Sitora-i Mohi Khosa

Our next stop was the summer palace of the last emir of Bukhara. It is also known as the Palace of Moon and Stars. When the Russians took over the government of the area in the mid-19th century, they "encouraged" the titular emir to retire to his country dwelling well away from the city and the center of power.

In the early 20th century the Russians built this elaborate palace complex to further isolate the last emir. It is now a museum of decorative arts.

Lion Close-up of one of the carved lions

Grand reception hall

The grand reception hall shows the Russian influence.


The emir had a small private zoo at the palace and peacocks are still wandering the grounds. They shed their long tails at the end of the summer so these guys are a mere fraction of their gorgeous selves. I don't think you could convince them, however.

Miniature Painter

One of the craftsmen who had set up shop at the palace was this miniature painter. Most of his work on display was focused on the Silk Road and intended for the tourist trade, but it was well done and decorative. We now have one hanging in a guest bedroom.

Natural dyes

We returned to the city for a visit to the Bukhara Artisan Development Center. I wish I could remember the name of this lady who demonstrated the use of natural dyes.

Check out the beautiful suzani textiles behind her.

We also had demonstrations by a woman who did embroidery with golden thread (a craft once restricted to men) and a gentleman who worked in papier mâchè.

Of course, there was time to shop afterwards. I found a beautiful ikat scarf.

For the first time we had the opportunity to have dinner on our own. Jim and I were so full that we just wandered down to the local stop & shop for some crackers.

Wine Tasting

We saw a flyer advertising a wine tasting. It was a holiday and the tasting wasn't scheduled, but Jama knew the people who ran it and arranged for a special session for several of us.

This lovely couple was very knowledgeable about the local wines and in that regard it was an excellent tasting. Unfortunately we don't care for the local wines! To be fair, Uzbekistan doesn't have a terrific climate for grapes – the weather is too extreme.

Jim says the beer, on the other hand, was uniformly good. I stuck mostly to bottled water and tea on this trip. It helped to offset the calories from the irresistible food.

Uzbek Wines

Here were the wines that we tasted. There was a mix of whites & reds, dry and sweet.

The best one was a fortified dessert wine similar to Port.

Bactrian Camel

The next morning we were up bright and early to start our long drive to Khiva. As we were leaving the city we saw two camels tethered by the roadside. Jama stopped the bus to allow us to take pictures. This was the only Bactrian camel we saw on the entire trip.

Jama said the camels were mostly kept for their wool nowadays. It is used to make carpets. At one of the carpet shops we received a tutorial on the characteristics of the various camel wools (the neck hair from juvenile camels is the finest).


Not far from the Bactrian camel was this Dromedary.

Jama explained that Uzbeks take a long time to build houses. Islam forbids borrowing at interest so each family saves money and then builds a bit more when they have enough. Many families do a lot of their own construction work, so the process is seasonal – once the growing season is over they will get to work on the new house.