About Uzbekistan

Bukhara Part IX: New City
05 May 2018
Bukhara Part IX: New City

After inspecting the Jewish quarter let's leave Bukhara's Old Town. Everything outside Old Town will fit into a couple of posts: it is difficult to find another big city in which the medieval part would occupy such a place. But still, Bukhara would not be a regional center if it was limited by Old City only and would not be one of the centers of ancient civilization, even if its outskirts were not dotted with antiquities. Namazgoh Mosque, from which Genghis Khan spoke to local residents; Russian church, transformed from a closed railway station; interesting Soviet architecture and mostly non-Soviet general view, and khan's summer palace of Mohy-Khosa outside Bukhara - there are still a lot of places to explore.

Bukhara is one of the cities that have one main street, here this street bears the name of the Sufi saint Baha'uddin Nakshabandi. From the map it can be understood that the street begins opposite the Samanid Park to the south of the Ark, passes through the mahallas of the Old Town slightly away from Poy-Kalyan, dive under the arch of Sarrafon, the first of the Trading Domes, and finally passing through Lyabi-hauz takes the shape of the main entrance to the Old Town, turning into a wide avenue in the New City leading to the airport (straight), the railway station in the town of Kagan (right) and the grave of the Baha'uddin Nakshbandi himself. The last building on the side of the Old Town is rather interesting late Soviet registrar office with majolica in the style of the Tashkent Metro:

Nearby is a hotel with blue domes and some local cafe imitating McDonald's:

Cornerways is another college:

I can’t remember whether it was cafe's backyard, but to the south-east of this crossroads it is worth going deeper into the yards:

To see the Russian Church of Michael the Archangel - one of the most unusual Orthodox churches. The fact is that previously it was a train station:

I wrote about Bukhara's churches and railway stations in the context of Kagan, a former New Bukhara, a once-Russian satellite city that grew around the station: the Transcaspian Railway Krasnovodsk-Samarkand crossed the land of the Bukhara emirate in 1888 with the consent of the ruler, just 12 kilometers from its capital city. There are various versions why it was built so remotely from the city centre - according to the most popular legend, emir Abdul-Ahad was pressed by very influential clergymen not to allow the Shaitan Arba (Devil's cart) into a sacred city. But most likely the railway was built far from Emir's capital in the event of a rebellion, so that the Bukhara residents did not have time to cut it by a sudden attack, and so that the garrison could hold on until reinforcements arrive. In any case, in 1907 the emir ordered to build a light narrow-gauge railroad from Kagan to the center of Bukhara that he used himself to travel into outer world. In general, such a system was not uncommon - one can recall Alma-Ata (where it works to this day), or even Omsk, where there is nothing left from the second station. In 1922 the narrow gauge replaced with the standard gauge, and the stations were renamed: Kagan became Bukhara-1, and actually Bukhara became Bukhara-2. In 1960's the end of the line was disassembled - now it leads only to the industrial zone on the outskirts, but they preserved the high platform at the station, from where boarded an open car behind a "fiery cart":

As I understand, there was no Orthodox church in Bukhara itself, the Russians who lived here used the temple of New Bukhara at the embassy. A small Russian community was formed in an ancient city under the Soviets, and in 1992 someone came up with a really beautiful idea to open a church at an abandoned railway station - so the local Russians even received a temple of pre-revolutionary construction. And there are indeed very few Russians in Bukhara - actually, except than here, I did not see them at all in the city (not counting, of course, tourists).

Nearby - some buildings of the former station Bukhara-2:

And at the place of the disassembled railway, running parallel to the street of Bahauddin is water tower:

There is also a couple of Russian houses at this street. Alas, I do not know their origin - maybe representative office of banks or commercial companies, or maybe public services such as hospitals or post office

On the whole, all types of architecture of the 20th-century is unobtrusively represented in Bukhara. Mysterious semi-constructivist houses in the center, possibly designed for authorities of Bukhara People's Soviet Republic, I showed in a post about the Samanid Park. Here are few typical Stalin projects in Bukhara:

Late Soviet multi-storey buildings on Bakhaddin Avenue:

New era buildings

Although the typical landscape of the main Bukhara streets (the secondary ones are simple mahallas) looks more like this, and is impressive with its non-Russian nature. Running ahead of the story I will say that the landscape and atmosphere of Bukhara are in principle most alien: Samarkand, Gulistan, Jizzakh, Termez have a little more "Russian" touch, Nukus, Urgench, Navoi and Karshi - much more "Soviet", but Bukhara is neither one nor another. It is more like a city in a secular Muslim country like Turkey:

Probably, because from the very first days of independence the city was favored by Middle Eastern sheikhs - I have written more than once that for a number of reasons Bukhara is very famous in the Islamic world, and for many it was a source of enthusiasm that it finally was freed from the authority of the atheists. However, the Arab Sheikhs do not come here only to visit shrines, but for quite secular entertainment, such as hunting (including falconry), and all sorts of indecent pastimes. I heard that the Bukhara airport was renovated for their money, becoming the best in Uzbekistan:

Somewhat more familiar looks huge and for some reason the nameless main square to the south of the Old Town - it's in its backyard, to the left of the phot below, there is the Jewish cemetery, where we finished the previous part. Everything here is as it should be, from the left to the right of the city is registry office, two buildings of the "Bukhara" hotel and regional Khokimiyat in the distance:

Impressive examples of the architecture of the 1980s ... in general, I would say, that among the Uzbek cities that I know, in terms of the late Soviet architecture, Bukhara shares the third place with Samarkand after Tashkent and Navoi.

At least here, Khokimiyat is definitely the most memorable in the Uzbek province:

Near the regional khokimiyat is much more modest city's khokimiyat. In fact, the region plays a more important role in Uzbekistan's life than its center - there are gas fields and huge cotton farms of the Bukhara oasis, and the border with Turkmenistan. In the city, there is a clear division between the inhabitants of the Old City by the indigenous Persian-speaking residents, which make something like their own nation, and "people from microdistricts", where there are many more ordinary Uzbeks, not to mention those who came from all over the former Soviet Union. 

There is a short distance from the square to both Jewish cemetery and to one of the oldest buildings in Bukhara, the Namazgokh Mosque, a kind of temple-tribune for the especially crowded outdoor services. Travelers who did not manage to enter the city before the closing of the city gate also prayed here, they say that the order to close city gates at night was observed so strictly that it would be impossible to break the rule unless it was Khan or the emir himself. The mosque has been continuously existed here since the 9th century, possibly since the transfer of the Samanid capital  to Bukhara, and its 38-meter-long back wall was built in 1119-20 years: now it is one of the four pre-Mongolian buildings of Bukhara (along with shown in the past parts Kalyan minaret, the Mosque of Magoki-Atari and the Samanid mausoleum) and several dozen throughout Central Asia.

The facade with aivan and high mihrab is much younger - either the 15th, or the 17th century, and for some reason almost without decor:

But deeper, on the old wall, the decoration of the Karakhanid era with its brick ornaments was preserved:

Bukhara survived the Mongol invasion relatively easily - only Ark resisted the "Stunner of the Universe", but the merchant city preferred to buy off. Residents of Bukhara in principle could always avoid bad outcomes: Arabs made Bukhara the centre of oasis, and with Russian they basically exchanged Samarkand for Hyssar valley that was not subject to emir's rule until the Russian invasion. Under Mongols didn't gain anything, but it was not destroyed at least and importance of that one can understand looking at huge and uninhabited for 800 years settlement in pre-Mongol Samarkand. According to legend, after Buhara's surrender in 1220 Namazgoh mosque became a tribune for Genghis Khan, who was speaking to the people standing on the knees in front of him. 

The most impressive and lasting phrase in that speech was the rhetorical question: "Should not you have hardened in sin - would the Sky send you such a misfortune as I?", And there is something in it. The wolf, who was a totem of the steppes from time immemorial, was not for nothing nicknamed by the Soviet naturalists as "forest cleaners": nomads destroyed rotten and weakened powers, and then dispersed themselves in humanity, giving way to young states. However, I would not say that this applies to the Mongols: Genghis Khan and the two generations of the first Chingizids trampled the Asian Renaissance into the mud, and the pillage of Baghdad, the burning of its libraries and the "world's first scientific research institute" of the House of Wisdom, the destruction of the Sumerian irrigation canals and the turning of the blossoming Messapotamia into the dying desert of Iraq can not compensate anything.

But in general, there are plenty of antiquities and shrines in the Soviet areas of Bukhara ... as well as in the mahallas along the edges of the Old City and in the surrounding villages. It's just Bukhara oasis is the very ancient and rich in antiquity land, and the ancient settlements and mazars are distributed here evenly. They are well preserved in Bukhara - here, for example, a clearly modern mausoleum or khanaka near the center, but most likely built on an ancient grave:

Or, for example, khanaka (1598-99) in the former suburb of Faizabad:

But the most famous landmark of the Bukhara suburbs is Emir's summer palace Sitorai-Mohi-Khos on the northern outskirts, almost outside the city at the exit to Gijduvan. On the road there is a long-distance bus station and a huge Karvon Bazaar, with the Ulugbek Park between them built several years ago with a megalistic monument of independence:

And the grandiose building (2010) of the Bukhara Musical Theater named after Sadriddin Aini, whose old building of the 1930s I showed in the post about the Samanid Park. The current theater is perhaps the largest in Uzbekistan, at least all theaters in Tashkent and Samarkand seem to be much smaller "by eye".

Aryk on the edge of the park:

In general, Bukhara seems to be a small city, it is objectively small (with population of 273,000 it shares 5-6 places in Uzbekistan with Nukus), but "by eye" I would say there is 100-150,000 at most, and rather just a little bit more than in Khiva. Another sketch from the outskirts - a guest from the village goes to the bazaar:

Old exit from the city:

A bit further there is a new exit, and between them is Sitorai-Mohi-Khosa, the summer palace of Bukhara emir, which we will cover in the next part, the last one about Bukhara itself.

More news about Uzbekistan

Qarshi is a very ancient city, which for more than two thousand years has survived several reincarnations. Nowadays it is a large city byt the standards of Uzbekistan with just a few tourist attractions. Though not a major tourist destination the city has a very interesting history and might worth a short visit.

07 February 2018
Samarkand: a walk through Registan

Take a walk through the most famous sight of Samarkand - Registan square. Learn interesting facts about how it was created, the history behind each of the buildings in this architectural ensemble. Informative and educational.  

08 January 2018
Bukhara. Part VIII: From madrasah to madrassas by back streets

This part will show you one very interesting and almost unknown area to tourists, a western "sector" of the round Old City with numerous and little-known madrassas, mausoleums and mosques in typical Bukhara alleys of gray clay. In essence, this is a real Old Bukhara, not destroyed by Frunze artillery and mass tourism, and in contrast to the well-preserved Jewish quarter, these Mahallas have always been purely Muslim.

03 May 2018
Did you know?

Uzbekistan is one of only two countries in the world to be ‘double landlocked’ (landlocked and totally surrounded by other landlocked countries). Liechtenstein is double landlocked by 2 countries whilst Uzbekistan is surrounded by 5!

Did you know that Uzbekistan lies in the very heart of Eurasia, the coordinates for Uzbekistan are 41.0000° N, 69.0000°

Uzbekistan is home to the Muruntan gold mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world! The country has 4th largest reserves of gold in the world after South Africa, USA and Russia

Uzbekistan is the world capital of melons. They have in excess of 150 different varieties, which form a staple part of the local diet, served fresh in the summer and eaten dried through the winter.

It is Uzbek tradition that the most respected guest be seated farthest from the house’s entrance.

Tashkent’s metro features chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough plov to serve a thousand men.

When you are a host to someone, it is your duty to fill their cups with for the whole time they are with you.  What you must not do, however, is to fill their cup more than half-full.  If you do that as a mistake, say it is a mistake immediately.  Doing it means you want them to leave.  Wow!  Amazing, right?

To Uzbeks, respect means a whole lot.  For this reason they love it if, even as foreigners, you endeavour to add the respectful suffix opa after a woman's name; and aka after a man's.  Example: Linda-opa and David-aka.  You could also use hon and jon respectively.

Having been an historic crossroads for centuries as part of various ancient empires, Uzbekistan’s food is very eclectic. It has its roots in Iranian, Arab, Indian, Russian and Chinese cuisine.

Though identified with the Persia, the Zoroastrism probably originated in Bactria or Sogdiana. Many distinguished scholars share an opinion that Zoroastrianism had originated in the ancient Khorezm. Indeed, today in the world there were found 63 Zoroastrian monuments, including those in Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirty-eight of them are in Uzbekistan, whereas 17 of these monuments are located in Khorezm.

One of Islam's most sacred relics - the world's oldest Koran that was compiled in Medina by Othman, the third caliph or Muslim leader, is kept in Tashkent. It was completed in the year 651, only 19 years after Muhammad's death. 

Tashkent is the only megapolis in the world where public transport is totally comprised of Mercedes buses. And due to low urban air polution it is one of the few cities where one can still see the stars in the sky.

You would be surprised to know that modern TV was born in Tashkent. No joke! The picture of moving objects was transmitted by radio first time in the world in Tashkent on 26 of July 1928 by inventors B.P. Grabovsky and I.F. Belansky.

Uzbekistan is the only country in the world all of whose neighbours have their names ending in STAN. This is also the only country in Central Asia that borders all of the countries of this region

Uzbeks are the third populous Turkik ethnicity in the world after Turks and Azeris (leaving both in Azerbaijan and Iran)

Did you know that there was silk money in Khiva? Super interesting right? Of course, but the best part of having silk money was that it could be sewn into your clothing.

Famous Islamic physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the Latin world) who was born near Bukhara was the one of the first people to advocate using women’s hair as suture material – about 1400 years ago.

Uzbekistan has a long and bloody history. The most notorious leader of Uzbekistan was Timur (or Tamerlane) who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. His military campaigns have been credited for wiping out some 5% of the world’s population at the time.

If you have thought that some of the Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan resembles that from Northern India, then that is because Timur’s great great great Grandson, Babur Beg, was the founder of the Moghul Empire that ruled much of India for almost four centuries! Babur’s great great Grandson was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.

Uzbekistan was once a rum producig country. There is still a real arboretum in Denau (city near Termez on the border with Afghanistan), grown from a selection station that studied the prospects of plant growing in the unusual for the Soviet Union subtropical climate of Surkhandarya region: only here in the whole of the USSR sugar cane was grown and even rum was produced!

Uzbekistan has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world, according to a new global poll. The annual Gallup Global Law and Order asked if people felt safe walking at night and whether they had been victims of crime. The survey placed Uzbekistan 5th out of 135 countries, while the UK was 21st and the US 35th. Top five safest countries:

  • Singapore
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Uzbekistan
Exchange rates
100 RUR
14449.76 UZS
100 USD
1262518.91 UZS
100 EUR
1359374.21 UZS
100 GBP
1594055.66 UZS
Weather in cities