Bukhara is a great destination: compared to the other Uzbek sites it is more lively than Samarkand and less museum-like than Khiva. It has a lot on offer from different periods and merits a visit of at least 3 days. In the evenings you can relax, eat and drink on one of the terraces around the Lab-i Hauz pond. This area especially has become touristy, as have the bazaars. Although Uzbekistan cannot be considered a major tourist destination, enough of them come here to provide a living for the many restaurants, hotels and souvenir sellers in town.
Part of the WHS is also the 16th century women's hammam. It was my first visit to a hammam ever and a memorable experience. Imagine sweating away in a 500 year monument that has been used by many many women in this period. At first I was still in my "visiting a monument"-mode, just admiring the heated cells covered all over with large dark gray stones. The image then was completed by the arrival of several very fat naked Uzbek women, scrubbing each other or lying on the cold floors pouring buckets of water on themselves. It is rare that one still can see life as it was centuries ago. And become a part of it, as I was washed from top till toe by a small Uzbek grannie.
Jorge Sanchez (Spain):
The train from Chardzhou (today Turkmenabat) arrived very late in the night to Bukhara. Besides, it was raining.
In the railway station there were people sleeping around, and the Policemen asking documents.
I had not been checked at the border. I did not have Uzbekistan visa, only a double entry Russian visa. It was the year 1996.
Then, just in front of the railway station I saw lights. It was a kind of caravanserai. I asked a man in the station for that place and he advised me:
- No! Don’t go there, it is not a good place, it is a caravanserai for speculators, bad people. Better stay here in the train station, safe, until tomorrow, when the sun rises, and then go by taxi to Bukhara which is only 2 kilometers away.
But I feared the Police control for not having an Uzbekistan visa. Better was to try to sleep in that caravanserai for businessmen, I thought.
And I crossed the rails and entered the caravanserai.
As soon as I entered I was offered a chai (tea) and showed a room where I could spend the night over a mattress. The first room I did not like; there were seven men, all with enormous bags with oranges and other fruits, but I felt the smell of marihuana or something of the kind.
The second room was much better and with fewer people; some of the businessmen were from Karakalpakstan. I paid 25 somas (or fifty cents of US Dollar) for the mattress.
I slept in that room without any problem, and the next day, at dawn, I walked to Bukhara downtown. My first visit was Liabi Jauz, in the center. It was a square surrounded by a Madrasa and a very nice statue devoted to Mullah Nasrudin riding his inseparable donkey.
For breakfast I had chai and some sweets. Then I entered the Fortress Ark, where I wanted to see the well where the British spies Stoddart and Conolly were confined, and eventually killed, during the Great Game period.
It was not my first time in Bukhara. I had been there during the Soviet times at least five more times. That journey across all the five Central Asia countries obeyed to my goal to visit all the fifteen ex Soviet Union Republics in a single journey, so I just revisited superficially the places that I knew from previous trips.
During the second half of my first day in Bukhara I managed to enter several other Madrasas, then the Samanid Mausoleum, the minaret Kalian, the Summer Palace plus the observatory of Ulug Bek, a wise man who was descendant at the same time of Tamerlane plus Genghis Khan.
Date posted: September 2013 Frederik Dawson (Netherlands):
Located in the middle of Kyzyl-Kum Desert, Bukhara, a historic city on the great ancient Silk Road, is liked a mirage from the Arabian nights fairly tales with many outstanding monuments that easily take your breath away. Seeing monuments of Bukhara is quite straightforward as all important sights are located in single tourist routes from the amazing brick mausoleum of Ismail Samani to great Kalon Minaret complex with inspired Kalon Mosque and end at the photogenic four towers of Char Minar.
Other monuments are also worth mentioned, the wooden carving columns of Bolo-Hauz Mosque near the Ark Fortress are just gorgeous, the newly restored façade of Abdul Aziz Khan Medressa is so unbelievably colorful that you may think that you are in India’s Rajasthan and truly one of my favorite, and the relaxing area of recently renovated Lyabi-Hauz with the nearby beautiful mosaic of Nadir Divanbegi Medressa. The well preserved bazaar buildings are exceptional with the sophisticated roof. However, similar to other places in Uzbekistan, almost all Bukhara’s religious monuments had been turned to souvenir complexes and restaurants which sometime really destroyed the atmosphere of the place.
As mentioned the Lyabi-Hauz area had been renovated as well as many areas in the old city, those areas are very clean and so well organized liked the museum city of Khiva, which totally contrast to un-renovated of Bukhara. In my opinion, Bukhara has potential to become second Khiva, which I don’t think a good example as the city will become lifeless. By the way in terms of WHS, Bukhara is a great world heritage city with world class monuments and should be on everyone itinerary.
Date posted: June 2011 Paul Tanner (UK):
We have visited Bukhara twice, once in Soviet days (1983) and again in Oct 2004 – and what a difference! Free enterprise has turned a dour dusty “museum city” into a lively “Persian (or rather “Uzbek”!) Market”.
In Soviet times all tourists stayed at the Intourist run Bukhara Hotel in the new town. We went to visit it for “auld lang syne” and found it now very down market (although even in Soviet days it had become infamous as the seat of a cholera epidemic which attacked western tourists!) and seemingly only used by locals. Its restaurant, where we had waited for so many hours to be served unappetising food by surly waitresses, was closed and empty of tables. The deserted foyer still exuded its tacky Soviet persona with its cheap wood veneers and decorations. The Intourist Souvenir stand which sold little, apart from those Russian dolls which fit inside each other, had a film of dust on it and its glass fronted shelves were even emptier than they used to be. A real “time warp”!
Instead a number of new private hotels have been built or converted from old city buildings but, as yet no “chain hotels”. Restaurants had appeared, catering for a range of levels and tastes (even including an Italian!). The old domed covered markets were full of shops selling carpets, carved woodwork, embroidery, metal-ware, pottery, Astrakhan hats etc etc. One wonders where the craftsmen had been hiding during those long Soviet years –the quality of the work often seemed very good. Entire madrassa buildings had been turned into markets while others were active in Islamic studies. The buildings were as fine if not finer than we remembered them (restoration has been going on but had not sanitised the place as much as Khiva). On the whole we felt that the changes had given the city the “life” it had lacked in Soviet times.
In the evening we watched a few students from a madrassa playing football in their robes in the otherwise peaceful main square next to the “Tower of Death” as the sun cast a superb light on the blue tiles and red stone of the buildings. The sunset view from the top of the tower (closed on our previous visit) was magnificent. The people everywhere were friendly. We hope that Uzbekistan will emerge from its current troubles and that Bukhara will remain available for visits – it is undoubtedly “world class”.
Have you been to Historic Centre of Bukhara ? Share your experiences!