A walk through time

Bukhara Travel Blog

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Char Minar

People i met here, who contributed to and improved my trip: Julia (Russia), Louique, Vincent and Charlotte (France), Joss (Scotland), Deepak (England), Katie (New Zealand), Toby (England)

The Shark Express Train only took two and three quarters to reach Bukhara from Samarkand and as we were at the station, we decided to queue for onward tickets to Tashkent for the following nights train. Unfortunately all the tickets were already sold out, so we settled on tickets for the evening after that. Once we had got this out of the way, we hopped in a marshrutka, which took us on a 25 minute ride into town for only 400 Sum ($0.

Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka
30).

Looking in the Lousy Planet, it became apparent that Bukhara was badly lacking in backpacker accommodation, so our only option appeared to be Mubinjon's Guest House. When we arrived, we met Louique, Vincent and Charlotte, three French travellers that we knew from Samarkand. They didn't look too impressed and told us that Mubinjon had been pretty rude to them. Having been in his company for a few seconds, it was apparent that the guy had a huge attitude problem. He was an aging scruffy man, who took no time to tell us that he disliked backpackers, especially Japanese and Koreans. He showed us around his grotty house and told us how backpackers had broken the shower and toilet, which obviously he couldn't be bothered to fix. He continued to moan about how tight Western backpackers were, as they grumbled about paying $10 a night without breakfast.
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
It wasn't surprising that people moaned as it wasn't even worth $5! In the end we decided that with his terrible attitude and poorly maintained house, we'd rather go somewhere else. When Julia told him we would look elsewhere, his mood became even fouler and he told us that we would come crawling back to him later, but he wouldn't let us stay even for $50. What an idiot.

Walking away with the three French people, we began to ask in a few different hotels what deals they could do for us. Having five people who wanted to stay a combined total of 16 nights puts you in a much stronger bargaining position! In the end we chose Grand Noribek Hotel, where $10 per person got us a new, clean, en-suite room with breakfast included. Compared to Mubinjon's, this place should have cost at least three times the price and the French guys even had A/C in their room.
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa


Having dropped our bags off, Julia and I went for a walk, to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine. Char Minar was the first place that we headed to, which is a gatehouse to an 1807 medressa, which has since been destroyed. The walk through narrow alleys to reach the site was enjoyable and i was surprised to see that we were the only people there. In the evening we went for a meal at Lyabi-Hauz Square and pond. The menu was very fairly priced, but we settled for salads, as we weren't too hungry, promising ourselves the King sized shashliks the following evening.

On Monday we ate a very good breakfast with Louique, Vincent and Charlotte, before heading out to see the sites of Central Asia's holiest City. Passing through Taqi-Sarrafon Bazaar we first came to Maghoki-Attar Mosque, which is the oldest surviving Mosque in Central Asia.
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon Minaret (centre), Kalon Mosque (right)
Religious worship had taken place here dating back to the 5th Century and had been used by Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims.

The next covered bazaar that we passed through was the Taqi-Telpak Furushon Bazaar, which led down to the Ulugbek Medressa. This Medressa is Central Asia's oldest, dating back to 1417 and looks fantastic in its unrestored state. Just over the road from this sits Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa, which was constructed in the 16th Century. This was another beautiful building, although sadly the Uzbek government have begun work on restoring it, when it looks fine just the way it is.

Walking East we entered the airy Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar, and exited at the majestic Mir-i-Arab Medressa, which i would argue is possibly the finest building in all of Central Asia.
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Two towering blue domes sit atop a structure that is covered with radiant mosaic patterns. As this is still a working Medressa, we couldn't enter, but we did hear prayers ringing out from within. The incredible 47 metre high Kalon Minaret stands beside the Medressa, and has occupied the spot since 1127. Unlike most other buildings of this period, it was spared by the rampaging Jenghiz Khan, as he was so dumbfounded by its beauty. The Kalon Mosque completes the stunning trio of buildings in the area, big enough to hold 10,000 worshippers at any one time.

The sun was incredibly hot and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, so after a quick visit to the Hoja Zayniddin Mosque, we found a restaurant opposite The Ark to sit and have lunch in. Having ordered and waited for 15 minutes with a drink, the waiter came out to tell us that they were out of food, with the exception of shashlik.
Kalon Minaret
As we wanted to eat this for Dinner, we decided to finish our drinks and not bother with any food.

Bolo-Hauz Mosque, which was built in 1718 was nearby, so we took a look at this before i climbed a Russian built water tower that offered 360 degree views. Down below was The Ark, Bukhara's oldest building, dating from the 5th Century. From what i could see, there didn't appear to be too much of interest within The Ark, so after nervously descending from the rusty tower, we decided to skip going inside.

A few hundred metres down the road we came to a contrast of old and new, as we walked around the 12th Century Chasma Ayub 'mausoleum', which has had some of its thunder stolen from it, by the swanky new memorial to Imam Ismail-al-Bukhari. Just to the West of this was the Ismail Samani Mausoleum, dating from the 9th Century.
Kalon Mosque
A small pond reflected the building beautifully, although tour groups never made it to this side of the structure, which i found surprising.

Both of us were feeling thoroughly shattered by this point, but we decided to visit two last sites before calling it a day. The great thing about Bukhara is that everything is so close to each other, so it was only a five minute walk to Abdullah Khan and Modari Khan Medressa's, located over the road from each other. Wearily we trudged back to Lyabi-Hauz Square, where we sat and ate some shorpa by the pond. On the way back to the hotel, we bumped into Joss and arranged to go out for a drink in the evening.

At 19.30 we congregated around the pond with Joss, Louique, Vincent, Charlotte, Deepak, Katie and Toby, the latter three been friends of Joss'.
The Ark
Having drunk a fair few beers, we decided to ask for a menu so as we could order Dinner. The waiter lied and said they didn't have a menu, but we insisted that we had seen it the previous day. Finally he admitted they did have one, but now used the excuse they were raising the prices today, so the menu was no good. We told him to bring it over anyway and he could tell us the new prices. He ran away and came back five minutes with an 'updated' menu. The beer we had been drinking had doubled in price from 1500 Sum to 3000 Sum, whilst all other drinks had stayed the same. Also the shashlik had risen from 3000 Sum to 4000 Sum, which was the only thing we had so far mentioned that we were looking to order. Negotiations followed and in the end they settled for 1800 Sum per beer plus 10% service.
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon Minaret (centre), Kalon Mosque (right)
I hadn't originally understood why people had said this restaurant was expensive, as their menu had been cheap, but seeing their underhanded business tactics, i now realised how people had clocked up massive bills.

A hundred metres down the road, we went into another cafe where shashlik was only 1000 Sum ($0.75), their awesome samosas were 700 Sum ($0.50) and beer was a reasonable 1500 Sum ($1.10). The nine of us sat there eating, drinking and talking until it closed at midnight. The final bill was only $8 a head, which was good value for us and a profitable night for the owner. I was glad that the thieves by the pond had missed out on our business, but I'm sure they cleaned up from other unsuspecting suckers. Not wanting to call it a night, we bought another beer and sat in the street drinking and chatting away, before finally staggering home and falling fast asleep.
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum


On Tuesday we didn't wake up until 11.00, so checked out straight away and went and ate a couple of samosas at the restaurant that we had been in the previous night. It was a sweltering day with temperatures above 40 degrees, so we decided to sit in an air conditioned internet cafe and then restaurant. We caught a minivan out to the train station at Kagan and took the 19.10 sleeper train back to Tashkent. On board, a group of Uzbek miners chatted away to us for some time, before i went to sleep at 23.30.

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Char Minar
Char Minar
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon …
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon…
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Mosque
Kalon Mosque
The Ark
The Ark
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon …
Mir-i-Arab Medressa (left), Kalon…
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
Char Minar
Char Minar
Char Minar
Char Minar
Taqi-Sarrafon Bazaar
Taqi-Sarrafon Bazaar
Taqi-Sarrafon Bazaar
Taqi-Sarrafon Bazaar
Kukeldash Medressa
Kukeldash Medressa
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka and Lyabi-…
Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka and Lyabi…
Bukhara street looking down to Taq…
Bukhara street looking down to Ta…
Maghoki-Attar Mosque
Maghoki-Attar Mosque
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Taqi-Zargaron Bazaar
Ulugbek Medressa
Ulugbek Medressa
Ulugbek Medressa
Ulugbek Medressa
Bukhara Street
Bukhara Street
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa
Corner of Mir-i-Arab Medressa, see…
Corner of Mir-i-Arab Medressa, se…
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Kalon Minaret and Kalon Mosque
Kalon Minaret and Kalon Mosque
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret
Kalon Minaret
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
Mir-i-Arab Medressa
The Ark
The Ark
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Minaret
Bolo-Hauz Minaret
Julia at Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Julia at Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
A view of the Ark from the water t…
A view of the Ark from the water …
A view of the Ark from the water t…
A view of the Ark from the water …
Bolo-Hauz Mosque seen from the wat…
Bolo-Hauz Mosque seen from the wa…
The Ark
The Ark
Memorial to Imam Ismail al-Bukhari
Memorial to Imam Ismail al-Bukhari
Memorial to Imam Ismail al-Bukhari
Memorial to Imam Ismail al-Bukhari
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
Modari Khan Medressa
Modari Khan Medressa
Abdullah Khan Medressa
Abdullah Khan Medressa
Bukhara
photo by: Vlindeke