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Destination: Uzbekistan
Last updated: 17 Jun 2017

Designing a tour in Bukhara, Uzbekistan: what to see and where to go, sights, and local landmarks

Bukhara is the magnet that has been attracting curious minds of millions of people. A major part of the human history is linked to this name. For centuries camel caravans from China to Europe and Arabian world along the Great Silk Road were carrying goods and, more importantly, the message about different civilizations and cultures. This message was absorbed and whimsically mirrored in Bukhara's architectural monuments and cultural identity of its inhabitants on the crossroads of ancient routes.

Bukhara is as old as its rival city, Samarkand, though its actual age is still in question. Now it is known that as long back as 2500 years ago an urban settlement thrived in the area. The city flourished in 9-10 centuries under the Samanid Dynasty. Overshadowed by Samarkand in Tamerlaine's time, it became more important as the capital of the Bukhara Khanate during the reign of the Sheybanid Dynasty.

Though considered as the Pillar of Islam and the religious capital of Central Asia, where some of the Prophet's kin and Islamic saints were buried, Bukhara was home for other religions, for example, a synagogue still operates here.

At all times it was a city of poetry and fair tales. Its famed scholars and writers such as Avicenna and Rudaki, made Bukhara's name known worldwide. Bukhara's people are hospitable and dignified, they are proud of their city and welcome guests.

Ark Citadel
The residence of last Emirs of Bukhara, Ark Citadel, dates back to the 5th century. First it was mentioned in Abubakir Narshakhi's History of Bukhara, covering the period from 899 to 960.

This stupendous fortress was once the home for scientists and people of arts. Its unique library was a source of wisdom for Avicenna, Rudaki, Farabi and Omar Khayam. Gloomy cells for prisoners and the throne yard of the Emirs to this day smell absolute power and royal vanity.

Ismail Samani's Mausoleum
This is the town's oldest building (about 905AD) accommodating the shrine of Ismail Samani, the founder of the glorious Samanid Dynasty. He built it for his father.

Some say it is the most beautiful and elegant though rather simple edifice in Central Asia. Delicate baked terracotta brickwork still bears holy signs and symbols of the pre-Islamic Zoroastrian religion. Its magnificent appearance and actual antiquity make it one of the greatest Bukhara's attractions.

Chashma Ayub Mausoleum
In Central Asia there are numerous places which were supposedly attended by Saints centuries ago. One of such is the Chashma Ayub well. The legend says that it was an arid land and its inhabitants suffered from lack of water. Iowa, the Biblical prophet, visited the area and decided to help the people. He stroke the ground with his staff and a crystal clear water source sprang there. Till present local people believe that water in the source has curative powers. Later on, a cemetery emerged around the well.

Poyi Kalyan Minaret and Mosque
For more than eight centuries the view of Bukhara was shaped by the miraculous tower of the Kalyan Minaret. It was the tallest building in Central Asia, serving the town's inhabitants as a beacon and watchtower. The legend says that the great Genghis Khan had entered the square near the tower after defeating the city's defenders and razing half of the city, and his helmet fell off his head when he looked up at the minaret. He had to bend and pick it up from the ground.

"I never bent to anyone in the world," the mighty warrior said. "But this structure is so great that it deserves to be spared." This is how the splendid tower survived and now tourists work their way up its steep 105 inner stairs to enjoy the gorgeous view of today's Bukhara.

In 1514 the Kalyan congregational mosque emerged near the tower, where up to 12,000 people used to gather for their prayers.

Ulugbek Madrassah
Ulugbek Madrassah is the only survived building in Bukhara that belongs to the period of Ulugbek, the great astronomer and scientist. Bukhara reached a peak of cultural and economic prosperity under Ulugbek's rule, quite opposite to its secondary role in the Timur's Empire.

The clergy of Bukhara, a city called Islamic Capital of Central Asia, at all times was hostile to Ulugbek. A man of knowledge and enlightenment, he chose conservative and strict Bukhara to build his first educational institution, and wrote on the doors of the madrassah that aspiration for knowledge must be a duty for each man and women of Islam.

In the madrassah's 80 cells students studied the Arabic language, geometry, astronomy and religious subjects from dawn till dusk. The study took from 15 to 20 years and for decades its knowledgeable graduates were replenishing the cohort of oriental scholars and poets.

Sitorai Mohi Hasa - Summer Residence
Four kilometers north of Bukhara, a large and lavish residence of Emir Akhadkhan was established. Its construction began in the late 19th century when the Emir, amazed by the achievements of the Western world, sent best Bukhara architects and builders to Saint-Petersburg, Russia, to learn from Russians new construction methods.

According to some sources, Amir Akhadkhan, while in Russia, fell in love with Russian princess Olga. He cordially invited her to Bukhara. Upon return he initiated ambitious construction works near the old Palace, willing to surprise Olga with his wealth and skills of Bukhara artisans. Unfortunately, she never came. Bolsheviks overthrew the Tsar in Russia and captured the royal family. Olga, like other members of the Romanovs family, was executed in 1918.

The halls of the Palace represent a fanciful blend of Western-style architectural trends with local traditions. 30 artisans worked for more than two years to decorate the famous White Hall with dazzling volutes of carved plaster ornaments on the mirror background. Emir's Harem in the back of the orchard, Reception Halls, the quiet and cooling atmosphere of the place offer a nice opportunity to walk away from day-to-day troubles and immersed in the spirit of the old times when life was generous and unhurried and days were passing by slowly.

Lyabi Hauz
The busiest place in old Bukhara is the area around the pool (Lyabi Hauz). Here local people and numerous tourists enjoy the evening cool after tiring heat of summer days, sitting in the shade of gigantic ancient mulberry trees and listening to the sound of fountains and quacks of swans in the artificial lake.

Nadir Divan Beghi, a powerful minister of Imam Kuli Khan owes the fame for the construction of the complex. It contains the minister's Khanaka, Kukeldash Madrassah, and Nadir Divan Beghi Madrassah.

In the shady park next to the Madrassah, there is a monument to Khodja Nasriddin, a folk hero of Central Asia, known also as Afandi. He was the character of numerous tales about the everlasting conflict between stupid but rich aristocracy and witty but poor peasants.

Kulbaba Kukeldash
Kulbaba Kukeldash Madrassah, with its 160 cells was the biggest Islamic school in Bukhara. The adjoining Nadir Divan Beghi Madrassah bears images of fabulous animals and birds on its portal. This is the place where tourists can see folk shows performed by professional girl dancers, who are as pretty as skillful. Also, here young and tall Asian beauties proudly demonstrate high fashion dresses, made by local designers. An elaborate blend of Western shapes and traditional decor, along with the undeniable charm of the models, make male tourists' cameras click really hard.
View of Old Bukhara, Uzbekistan
View of Old Bukhara
Ark Fortress in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Ark Citadel
Ismail Samani's Mausoleum, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Ismail Samani's Mausoleum
Minaret Kalyan, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Poyi Kalyan Minaret and Mosque
Ulugbek Madrassah, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Ulugbek Madrassah
Sitorai Mohi Hasa - Summer Residence, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Sitoran Mokhi-Khosa Palace
Handcraftsmen and Street Traders in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Artisan in Bukhara
Lyabi Hovuz Ensemble, Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Lyabi Hauz
Other tourist attractions in Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Ancient Bukhara
Ark Fortress
Art gallery, sale exhibition of the Bukhara Gold Embroidery Factory
Baha Ad-Din Naqshband Necropolis
Bolo-Hauz Mosque
Bukhara city
Chashma-Ayub
Chor Bakr Complex
Chor Minor
Fayzabad and Zainuddin
Gijduvani Memorial Complex
Kalyan Minaret
Kalyan Mosque
Khanaka and Madrasah of Nadir Divan-Beghi
Kosh-Madrasah
Kukeldash Madrasah
Lyabi-Hauz Complex
Madrasah of Abdulaziz Khan
Magoki-Attari Mosque
Mausoleum of Sheikh Boharzi
Mausoleum of the Samanids
Miri-Arab Madrasah
Namazga Mosque
Sitorai-Mohi-Hosa
Trading Domes
Ulugbek Madrasah
Vabkent Minaret
Zindan (Prison)

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