Those who want to get to the largest ceramics market in Uzbekistan should head to Boston – this is not a mistake, and this is not a city of Massachusetts in the United States. Due to peculiarities of modern Uzbek Latin transcription Fergana Buston, or Bustan bears the same name in writing as an American city, but Fergana’s Buston is just a village famed only for its pottery bazaar and Hizir Buva Mazar (shrine).
The place might be tricky to find for the new comers as there are a dozen of Bustons in the region with at least five only in Uzbekistan. So not to be confused here are the main landmarks - the Big Fergana Canal between the town of potters Rishtan and Kokand. There are frequent buses going through Bustan between Kokand and Rishtan. If you plan to come from Ferghana then you’d rather take a shared taxi or firstly go by bus from Fergana to Rishtan (around 2$) and then catch a minibus-Damas from Rishtan to Bustan (15 cents).
Bustan with its ceramics bazaar on the way to Kokand. You can find here all type of ceramics produced in Uzbekistan. Famed Rishtan pottery made of red clay, handmade Gijduvan pottery, porcelain pialas and kettles from Namangan. If you are coming here without a fixed idea of what you need exactly you will get stuck here for sure for many hours for not being able to choose among so many lucrative options. The prices are damned cheap and you can still bargain. This is the East in the end.
The dish in the style of "Rishtan psychedelic" is only a thousandth part of the Bustan bazaar.
Factory porcelain with traditional ‘pahta’ (cotton) ornament. These type of teapots are spread in Uzbekistan literally everywhere, in every house and every cafe. A truly traditional Uzbek souvenir.
As with ceramics, china is also sold here, from Andijan or Namangan. In the Kyrgyz part of the Fergana Valley everything is different: pialas in the markets of Osh and Uzgen are almost all from China. They are very similar in style but even an amateur will spot the difference.
Streets of Bustan on the approach to the Khizir Buva Mazar. That’s how it looks in the early morning, when there are no pilgrims, no traders.
There is not a lot of information about the local saint. Local people say that Khoja Khizir Buva was a Sufi, he lived here "very long time ago" and was buried here. There are some local legends and stories where the Sufi is described as an old man with a white beard, coming to help in the tragic moments.
The famous ceramics master from Rishtan Alisher Nazirov has another story: Khizir Buva was so generous that now he fulfills the wishes of those who pray at his grave.
There is also the belief that the saint did not die and still, like the Chechen sheik Kunta-Haji, is coming to people. There can be seven such meetings in a lifetime of each person. People say: if you meet a white-bearded old man and shake his hand, you need to feel his thumb – Hizir’s thumb is soft and has no bones. One needs to grab this finger and make a wish - it will certainly come true. "But whether this true or not, I do not know", - Alisher-aka immediately makes reservations.
The Tomb of Khizir Buva is also called Baraka mazar - a sacred place where they pray for prosperity and fertility. They come here to pray mostly before sowing. The main pilgrimage takes place on Safar, the second month of the Muslim calendar. For the ziyarat they come from all Ferghana valley and from other regions of Uzbekistan.
This is how the mazar looks from the street. Strangely enough, from the outside it is seen much better than from the courtyard.
From inside the mazar is surrounded by private houses with typical Ferghana courtyards with an area of half a football field. It is hard to determine where the yard ends and the place of pilgrimage begins – even locals find it tricky to explain.(On the left - one of the two entrances to the territory of the mazar)
This is the yard closest to the Mazar. It's still morning. It is much more interesting to come here during the day when the mazar is full of people.
Residents of neighboring houses are not only accustomed to pilgrims, but also make some business on them - they cook pilaf and sell rosaries and other near-religious trifles.
Prayer by the tomb. Who knows what kind of help these women ask?
Here you also witness another interesting tradition - female fortune-telling on molten lead. The required attribute of the rite is lead planks, which are a bit larger than the 1 pound coin. In Uzbek they are called "kurgashin" ("lead"). These pieces are melted from car batteries and sold at the Mazar for couple of cents apiece.
"Kurgashin" is melted on the fire of a gas burner, after which a fortune teller pours the metal into the bowl with water and predicts the fate by the resulting clot. Fortune telling here is ‘only for women’ procedure, very ancient (practiced even before the advent of Islam) and is held once a year.