Welcome to 'World Journeys' (the blog)! Formerly known as 'The Greater World', World Journeys is written by Andrew Boland, a traveller approaching 40 who has visited 69 countries, and counting!
This blog features any travel I am doing, and thoughts, memories and the like from my past trips, not to mention photos. Please come back regularly to read about some of the interesting, and different places I have visited!
Sunday, April 20, 2014
Sunday Spotlight: Bukhara
Hello! And welcome to the Sunday Spotlight. Each Sunday I
aim to provide a post about somewhere in the world I’ve visited that is pretty
darned awesome, in my opinion at least. I hope this Easter everyone is safe and
enjoying a relaxing weekend with their families and friends. As for me, well, I
am off to Mount Fuji today, finally getting up close and personal with this
iconic landmark of Japan.
Main Square in Bukhara with lake.
But it’s too Uzbekistan I’m taking the blog to, and the Silk
Road city of Bukhara, an ancient place with a middle eastern feel. It’s really
the perfect place to appreciate Islamic Architecture and feel a part of history
that many tourists worldwide have never considered and have never heard of. And
Uzbekistan has loads of this sort of stuff, but the old quarter in Bukhara is
quite self contained, great to roam the streets and alleyways, and is somewhat
away from the bustle of the larger, more modern part of the city.
Getting there? Well the train from Tashkent, when I visited
a couple of years back now, took around 7 hours, but they have since bought
Talgo trains so the journey should be somewhat faster.
Sleep where? I slept at a great little guesthouse called
Sarafon Bed and Breakfast. Uzbekistan has a great collection of Bed and
Breakfasts, and this is no exception. Rooms are $25-30, comfortable, have
bathroom and air conditioner, and the owners are friendly and eager to help.
Good location in the old town.
Eating – Plenty of restaurants around, try the one in the
main square Lyabi Hauz, I had a good meal with a couple of drinks for around
Some of the things to see in the town include (from my ebook
‘Short Journeys: Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan’ –
Kalon Mosque and Minaret from outside.
Wandering the streets is, on its own, a real highlight of
visiting Bukhara. Dusty streets, high walls, many of them were pretty much
deserted as I wandered around and then suddenly – Bang! A tour group. But I
also passed Medressas and mosques in the amazing streets of Bukhara. The Kalon
Mosque has a striking minaret which you see above the houses and walls in the
area north east of Lyabi-Hauz. It’s kind of nestled between houses and such and
it springs up on your out of nowhere.
Inside, the Kalon Mosque continues to impress with its great
beauty. It features wondrous high arches and a blue dome, and isn’t quite as
popular with the tourist as some of the other attractions in Bukhara. It’s big
and mosaic work is exquisite. There are lots of corridors with arches in what
are sort of cloisters, it’s also really peaceful. A real highlight of Bukhara.
‘The Ark’ – with a name like that, I expected a big boat!
Except of course that I’d researched already and knew it wasn’t. It’s actually
a big citadel, reputedly the oldest part of Bukhara that was bombed by the
Soviets in 1920. So what you see today is mostly rebuilt. But nevertheless,
it’s very impressive.
From Lyabi-Hauz you walk past the Kalon Mosque and Minaret,
through to the Registan area. The Registan is the square outside the Ark.
You’ll see the Ark rising above the buildings as you close in. Then past a
whole stretch of tourist shops selling artefacts and carpets and if you’re
lucky postcards (postcards in Central Asia are rarer than hen’s teeth. Well,
Then there she is, rising out of the sand with huge turrets,
a huge entrance, it’s almost a sand castle that got bigger than the kids had
intended and will now stand forever. What’s inside? Well it starts with an
impressive passageway past the opening gate opening up at the top with various
buildings and so forth to explore.
Central inside the citadel is the Juma (means ‘Friday’)
Mosque. It’s not massive, but it is interesting. It dates back to the 17th
century and inside are many different Korans. There are a couple of courtyards
you’ll find once you start exploring. Everything may have basically been
rebuilt, but it’s still quite striking and impressive. Be aware if you are
there in summer as I was it will be very hot, and as in all of Bukhara there is
very little shade.
If you explore the buildings and courtyards you will come
across a couple of different museums. I always find the history of the last
century or so more interesting than that of ancient times with broken pottery
and the like, both are on show here. Perhaps what is best though is the view
across Bukhara. Definitely worth the admission price (double if you have a
camera) to get up there and look out across this amazing city that was once
part of the Silk Road.
Pretty much opposite the Ark, you’ll find the Bolo-Hauz
Mosque. It’s a really nice place inside, and worth a peak. If you’re lucky you
won’t have too much company, although the tour groups kept coming in and out of
there whilst I was there sadly. Its façade features thin wooden columns and a
sort of lattice-worked wooden roof, then you enter and look up to a beautiful
white dome. There are many arches, and the floor is covered with interesting
carpets. It dates back to the early 18th century and was specially
built for the Emir of the time.
Outside there is something of a pond and a water tower
between the mosque and the Ark. Apparently you can climb the water tower for
great views. I didn’t, I hate heights and no-one else was climbing whilst I was
there so decided it probably wouldn’t be a good idea.