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The Great Bukhara Bazaar

sunny 26 °C

The ancient Central Asian cities that lie along the route of the Silk Road were trading posts and rest stops for the great camel and mule trains from the Far East. Traders with silk, spices, carpets and other goods would stop at caravansarais: lodging and trading complexes where they could rest their pack animals and themselves before continuing across the desert. The caravansarais were where goods could be bought, sold or bartered. The city of Bukhara in southern Uzbekistan was a major trading place on the Silk Road and every historic monument in the city is still a venue for merchants to sell their wares to passing travellers...

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Today's travellers arrive on planes, high speed trains and luxury coaches, but they are still anxious to buy silk, spices and carpets. And so the local Uzbek traders have continued their historic businesses in some cases in the very trading houses where their ancestors worked hundreds of years ago. Bukhara has four such trading domes – one on each side of the ancient city – each of which housed craftsmen and markets of a certain kind. There was one for gold, silver and jewellery, another was a money exchange, one specialised in elaborate hats, and one was for carpets...

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We watched the nimble fingered young women making the carpets by hand and learned that for a hundred thousand US dollars we could buy this very fine double-sided silk one that took two women two years to make. Simpler camel hair carpets start at about $700.
Every merchant here claims that everything is handmade – but when we see several hundred absolutely identical items on many different stalls we wonder!!

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However, there is no faking food and Bukhara has a huge central market where we were enthralled by the sheer quantity and quality of produce on offer. There were, of course, spices of every kind...

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and heaps of bread from 15 cents a loaf...

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Perhaps the most surprising thing about the market was that there was nothing unfamiliar to us. In China, Japan and India we often have no idea what certain foods are, or even if they are edible at all. Not so in Uzbekistan, both in the markets and restaurants, everything has been familiar. Tonight's dinner: aubergine salad and coleslaw, a whole grilled chicken, vegetable shish kebab, fries, bread and sparkling water for 3. Price per person $4 U.S.

Bukhara is now a very modern city with wide roads and stylish buildings that would not be out of place anywhere in Europe or North America. Fancy hotels along with soaring shopping centres and office towers rise above the historic buildings and surround the two thousand year old citadel known as the Ark...

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This fortress was badly damaged during the Soviet period but has been partially rebuilt. It has a British connection. Colonel Charles Stoddart arrived alone on December 17, 1838, to arrange an alliance between the Emir Khan and the British against the Russians who were threatening Britain's hold on India. Stoddart offended the Emir and was thrown into a bug infested dungeon under the Ark. He avoided execution by converting to Islam. Two years later cavalry captain Arthur Conolly arrived with plans to rescue Stoddart; unite Central Asia under British rule; Christianize the region; and abolish the slave trade. His lofty goals foundered on June 17, 1842 when Afghan militants massacred the British garrison in Kabul during the First Anglo-Afghan War and the Emir ordered the execution of both men. They were made to dig their own graves and were then beheaded in front of the Ark.

Bukhara is bursting with historic sights many of which have been completely restored since the neglect and devastation caused by nearly a century of Soviet rule. However, this 9th century brick mausoleum of Ismail Samani survived as it was buried for centuries and only recently excavated...

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Blue tiled mosques and madrassas are common here but when Sheila joined a group of local ladies for a photo in front of the bronze statue of Nasiruddin Khoja, a semi-mythical ‘wise fool’ who appears in Central Asian folklore, it made this one very special.

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There are far too many madrassas, mosques, mausoleums and minarets to visit in Bukhara but we have done our best. Now we are taking the high speed train to Samarkand – the last stop on our journey along this part of the Silk Road.

Posted by Hawkson 19:16 Archived in Uzbekistan

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Comments

26 degrees and sunny yet people wearing heavy sweaters and one down jacket. Odd. Same dress here but it's only 6 to 10 degrees.
Wonderful statue of the fool on the reinless donkey.

by R and B

It's very cold in the desert at night but daytime highs are often above 47 degrees in summer. The women all wear multiple layers but most often silk which is very light. Winter is approaching and temperatures are set to drop to just 14 degrees next week. Our timing has been perfect.

by Hawkson

Does this mean no new carpets to grace your home?
Enjoying this journey.

by Sue Fitzwilson

The Silk Road looks very peaceful under those blue skies and the people healthy and friendly. Lovely!
My mother's maiden name was Stoddart - could it be that some great, great ancestor lost his head? Ouch!

by Shelley Tillemans

Lovely sunny views there. Sunny and cold here.

by Janet

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