Interior of the Emir's Palace (Bukhara; Uzbekistan)
In the wake of the successful 2014 trip to 2 'stans, namely Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, another 'stan was on the cards, this time in the shape of Uzbekistan. A flight from Tashkent's domestic terminal to Bukhara's (only) terminal kicked off the first leg of the journey, and the first glimpse of the city made it pretty clear that this was the essence of the Silk Road of traditional times, which has barely been altered by the onslaught of modernization. Lunch at a local chaikhana (canteen) was quickly followed up by a flash tour of three attractions on the city's outskirts which typify the traditional and grand nature of Uzbek architecture and style. Throw in a local market with bargain-basement prices for good measure, and it all served to make the already-evident charms of the Emir's palace come alive with a touch more splendour.
Typical views at an outlying mosque (Bukhara; Uzbekistan)
The bonus factor involved with a city as compact as Bukhara is that, once the environs have been covered separately, the attractions contained within the city centre can be covered on foot within the context of one sole day, so in this case, the city tour started off at Samanid mausoleum, where a couple of other diversions such as a museum of water were also stop-off points en route. From there, it was onto the ark, which is perhaps the city's most prominent landmark, due to its size and shape, and within are museum exhibits and souvenir stalls designed to wow and entice as long as your concept of history and Uzbek styles have enough depth and scope for appreciation. History will serve to point out though that the Ark was completely destroyed by the Red Army and presently, around 80 per cent of the building is in ruins.
Close-up of an Uzbek dome (Bukhara; Uzbekistan)
Moving further on, the Kalon Minaret, constructed in 1127 by Arslan Khan, the Karakhanid King, once held the distinction of being the tallest structure in the entire Central Asia. Legend has it that Genghis Khan was so impressed with this beautiful, 47 m tall building that he decided not to destroy it, so luckily, mercy was spared in a realm in which can be appreciated today. Travellers in search of peace and tranquillity may find precisely that in the form of Lyabi-Hauz, constructed around a pool during 1620. This plaza is widely considered as the calmest place in Bukhara and it is worth noting that the adjacent mulberry trees here are as old as the pool itself. Elsewhere in the town centre, a short visit to the Silk Road tea room will provide an insight into an age-old town institution, as well as a delightful flavour of herbed or spiced tea with accompanying sweet Uzbek titbits.
Central Bukhara and one of the many city squares (Bukhara; Uzbekistan)
Somewhat apart from the main cluster of Bukhara landmarks is the photogenic building known as the Chor Minor, a gem of a place with four blue-domed minarets, leading some lesser-charitable visitors to liken the place to an upturned chair. Views from the top of the Chor Minor may not tower above, but in a city which is mostly low-rise, any vantage point could end up giving you an impression of the type of building styles which characterize this place of historic and cultural depth. It is worth pointing out at this stage that this Uzbekistan trip omitted a stay in further-afield Khiva, so whether or not a stay in Bukhara compensated for that, there was enough evidence to suggest that the omission of both of those cities from an Uzbek itinerary would diminish the overall trip's authentic factor quite considerably!