Monday, 12 February 2018

Bukhara - an ancient city in Central Asia's Uzbekistan

Kalon Mosque and Minaret

BY GEMMA CAGNACCI
One of my favourite Silk Road cities is the town of Bukhara, located a few hours west of Samarkand. Like Samarkand, Bukhara is also home to significant and stunning architectural sites (like the Ark, Po-i-Kalyan and Char Minar), however while they may not be as grand in size and scale, it is the city as a whole that makes Bukhara a truly special destination. The Old Town in particular has an atmosphere and feel that in moments will make you feel as if you have travelled back in time. You will see people living their day-to-day lives, in their beautiful courtyard houses, whilst also being surrounded by historic architecture and significant monuments.

The heart of the Old Town is Lab-i-Hauz, a beautiful pool and courtyard-like area, surrounded by old Madrassas (buildings for Islamic education). It makes for a great place to rest under the shade and take time out when exploring the city - especially in the scorching hot summer. In fact, you’ll notice the town has a few ponds dotted throughout, another unique feature. These were much more common and were once Bukhara’s main source of water, however most were filled in during the 1920s to stop the spread of disease. However, on my visit they were being used by local kids as spot for swimming.

Your Uzbekistan trip should include another highlight is the Taqi-Zargaron market, also known as the Trading Domes, and is the spot for picking up a gorgeous souvenir. There are carpet sellers, antique dealers and jewellers all under the one roof, which happens to be a collection of beautiful (and quite minimal) domes. You will find the usual mass produced items here, but you will also find some truly unique Silk Road treasures, especially of the textile variety. Suzanis (embroidered blankets which were used as part of a dowry), ikat fabrics (dyed fibres that are woven, creating beautiful patterns) and traditional clothing items are all here in various shapes and sizes.  

After travelling throughout Central Asia you may start  to feel a bit fatigued with the Blue Domes and Madrassas, however the Old Town of Bukhara and it’s inhabitants are what make this city a really special experience and a standout on your Silk Road journey.
Tour Uzbekistan and the rest of ‘the Stans’ with Blue Dot Travel! Click here.
Map of Uzbekistan

One of the many characterful faces of Bukhara
The Ark of Bukhara

Traditional ceramics

Kalon Mosque

Lab-i Hauz

Some of the local wild life

Colourful Ikat fabrics
Bukhara Old Town

Black tea

A traditional Bukhara mansion

Overlooking Bukhara

Samarkand, Uzbekistan on the Silk Road - the ancient trade route linking China to the Mediterranean

Exploring Samarkand

BY GEMMA CAGNACCI


Samarkand. It conjures up so much when you say the name. One of the oldest inhabited cities of Central Asia, Samarkand was a legendary stop along the Silk Road, being strategically situated between China and Europe, in modern day Uzbekistan.

During the 14th century, Samarkand came under the rule of the conqueror Tamerlane who had a passion and commitment for the arts. In fact, it is said that while being ruthless with his enemies, he would spare the lives of skilled artisans and craftspeople and bring them to Samarkand to improve the city - and the result of such compassion is clearly seen through the city’s ornate architecture. With an impressive skyline of domes and minarets you can easily see why Samarkand is the star destination of Uzbekistan. Looking more closely at each of these sights reveals an incredible amount of intricate detail with the use of ornate tile work in an array of blues and turquoises.

No trip to Uzbekistan would be complete without visiting these notable architectural marvels:
The Registan - a public square surround by three madrasas, Ulugh Beg, Tilya Kori and Sher-Doh.
Babi-Khanym - one of the most important buildings in Samarkand - it was once the largest and grandest mosques in the world.
Gur-e Amir - a mausoleum which contains the tombs of Tamerlane and his sons.
Shah-i-Zinda - a necropolis that contains a cluster of mausoleums and areas for religious rituals.

Not only is Samarkand an architecturally significant city, it still is home to many craftspeople and artisans, and thus you will see an abundance of hand made textile and ceramic pieces including embroidered suzanis and hand painted dinnerware, which make for a special Silk Road souvenir for your home.

After exploring each of the amazing sights in Samarkand, sit back, have some tea and enjoy the incredible city skyline that sits before your eyes.   The best time to visit Uzbekistan is Spring (April to May) & Autumn (September to early November).



Book your trip to Uzbekistan and the rest of ‘the Stans’ with Blue Dot! Click here.


Map of Uzbekistan


Tile details at the Registan

Sher-Dor Madrasah

Handcrafts for sale at local markets

Blue Dot on tour
The entrance to Gur-e Amir
Inside Gur-e Amir

Dried fruits and nuts at a local market

The ornate and stunning Shah-i-Zinda

Beautiful tile details at Shah-i-Zinda


Walking through Shah-i-Zinda


Bibi-Khanym Mosque

Enjoying the peace and quiet

The Samarkand skyline