Central Asia’s Holiest City, Bukhara, Uzbekistan, has buildings spanning a thousand years of history. It has a thoroughly lived in old center that probably hasn’t changed much in a few centuries. It is the best place in Central Asia for a glimpse of pre-Russian Turkestan and it’s just a really nice and interesting place to hang out, eat good food and walk around.
My driver, Andrei, was born here in Bukhara and has just finished giving me the royal tour in addition to a fabulous lunch and what he called the best place in town. The restaurant was called Ismoil and it was really awesome Persian food set in a shaded iconic garden overlooking a fish pond. The only problem was it specialized in meat which I love but our table was right in front of the butcher station. I sat deliberately facing away from it but all I kept hearing the entire meal was the loud thud a meat cleaver makes as it is slammed through a dead carcass that I am about to eat…yummy! But aside from that the meal was top notch-I really mean that.
We then walked around and he showed me all around the old city. The old buildings are very impressive and even better kept perhaps than Samarkand. My favorite spot in town was by far the Kalon Minaret and the surrounding Medressas and Mosque. I was able to climb to the top with a little bribing of $3 to the local man tending the ticket table and I mean tending by sleeping at the table, but at 46 meters high you could see the whole city. It was beautiful and a true sight to behold. It was completed in 1127AD and it was so dumbfounding to Jenghiz Khan when he conquered the city that he ordered it not to be destroyed-that’s pretty high praise.
The rest of the old city is a lot of fun to walk around and kind of get lost in. There are pools in the concrete throughout the old city that the local kids go swimming in. They have been around for centuries and were once the cause of the most plague outbreaks in Asia because they didn’t realize they should change the water from time to time-they were never accused of being great thinkers. However, when the Bolsheviks took control here, they figured it out. The water however, is brown and not exactly appetizing so you won’t see me hopping in there even though it is 125 degrees today.
So as a result of this country being mainly Muslim and there being absolutely nothing to do at night I am heading a local folklore and dance show that they do for the tourists that should be highly hokey but who knows-sometimes these things are actually OK, and they throw in a nice dinner as well or so they say…I will find out.
I did see a Japoanese tour bus or two today so maybe they will bring some of them up on stage and make them do funny things for my entertainment. That would certainly be fun-or perhaps they will ask them to take their facemasks off their mouths and noses. I’m not sure if they think they are Michael Jackson or what but the air is pretty good here-much better than Tokyo I can assure you of that.
Tomorrow morning I leave Bukhara very early to head into Turkmenistan for the next two nights. It should be even hotter there but I’ve heard there is a little more to do once the sun goes down. I have already finished all my books that I brought to read and if I have to watch CNN International anymore on satellite TV, I may throw up-but it is still better than local Uzbek TV-trust me!