Samarkand 38

So off to the Market we go and spot a coffee house we will stop at on the way back, the route from the Registan down past the Bibi Khanym to the market (see already I am a local) is abour 2/3 of a mile and used to be a crowded Market road lined on each side with hundreds of merchants selling everything you could want. See the picture I found taken 110+ years ago. 

 Photo Poul Nadar 1890

Unfortunately of course progress has meant that this road is now a sort of Strip Mall with shops selling tourist souvenirs which takes something away form it but to be fair they are living a better lifestyle now and this is reflected in their buildings just as it is back home, we have indoor plumbing and central heating there are things we have developed and it would be wrong for tourists visiting England to expect us to be living in wattle and daub houses just to fit their ideal.

Anyway I did not take a picture of the whole street but did manage to snap a few kids on it


So at the Market now and legend has it the Alexander when he conquered this place was quite taken by the bread and tried (unsuccessfully) to bake it back in

Now I have to say it is ok but only ok and not much variety  so not sure I would want to eat it all the time but there again I do live in France so our bread is already ok.


Anyway I digress Mike and I need to buy supplies so some fruit, nuts and what ever else takes our fancy, and to start with we encounter the Nougat section of the market.

I say section as the place which is huge seems to be divided into lots and everyone in that area sells pretty much the same thing. 


Now of course they are all vying with its neighbor for business so as you pass everyone is offering samples and trying to get your attention.

A bag of Nougat later we move on to the Nuts section which is something which in particular has amazed me everywhere we have been there has been an abundance of nuts. Not just available but literally sacks full everywhere.

It is just something I have not considered before but of course it is high protein and 100 gram of Almonds has 500 calories in them (I just love google don’’t you) so a good source of food and not as perishable as many things.


*Note top left of the first picture they are dried Apricots with Walnuts in which was inviting enough for us to buy some, a decision I would regret very much in a day or two.


As we wander around taking in the sights and filling our day bags with goodies we are mostly ignored by the locals as this place is where they do their daily / weekly shop.

There are sections for various things and a few shops one of which we drop into as I think biscuits might be nice for our travels.

As we purchase some one of the staff is explaining to us the next year he is going to the LSE in London to study finance and did we want to change some money whilst we were here. (Everyone is a potential money changer as long as your $’s are clean and crisp) As the rate was better than any we had been offered we changes $40 to keep us going. Next we go into the next shop and are browsing and talking to the staff when one of the guys starts to tell us that next year he is off to the LSE in London to study Finance. We say we have just heard that story and thing it is a tall tale but turn around to find the chap from the other shop standing there where it becomes obvious they are brothers and are both very excited about spending time in England (We did not explain about the cold and rain as it would only have dampened their enthusiasm). 



Samarkand 37

Next is a somewhat special place as it is the tomb on Timur (and I promise in a few days I will explain all about him&nbsp to site is called “Gur-Emir”, in English “Tomb of the Commander”, it is the mausoleum of the 14th-century Mongol conqueror Timur, or Tamerlane. Though it has suffered from time and earthquakes, the monument is still sumptuous. Completed in 1404, it was originally intended to be the tomb of Timur’s grandson Muhammad Shah, but after Timur’s death in 1405 whilst on a campaign to China he was brought back and interred there as well, along with other members of his family.


The extant structures in the complex consist of a chapel crowned with a ribbed blue-tiled dome, enclosed by a wall, and fronted by an archway. The mausoleum plays an important place in the history of Islamic Architecture as the precursor and model for the great Mughal tombs of Humayun in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by Tamerlane’s / Timur’s descendants, the ruling dynasty of North India (now I bet that was a bit of a surprise to you well it was to me as well)



I sometime have to remind myself that we are not the only people interested in these places as there are many many locals who are visiting the sights as of course it is there country and it is there history as well.

I suppose the Tower of London has lots of English visitors as well


Quite a place and well worth an hour or so. We are going to finish our tour tomorrow morning and we get a couple of hours off to be tourists and get some supplies for some long road trips we have planned so we are off to yet another market (well tomorrow on the blog, what do you think of it so far ??) 


Samarkand 36

So lots and lots of sights to see, we are off to an observatory which we are told was the most important one in history although it did manage to get lost for 450 years.

Called the Observatory of Ulughbek (try saying that after a beer or two) it is the site where Uleg Bek (that’s easier) grandson of Tamerlane made some of the greatest achievements of the pre-telescope era of astronomy.


Beg determined the length of the tropical year as 365d 5h 49m 15s, which has an error of +25s, which when he calculated it in 1430 was quite a feat and something which is actually difficult to comprehend.

In fact most of this is well above my head (literally and figuratively) but I do recognize it is really really important

Uleg Bek, also built one of Samarkand’s greatest Islamic ‘University’ the Ulughbek medressa in 1420.

He was an exceptional man of culture. His own son had him decapitated, and his incredible astolab (he discovered 200 previously unknown stars) was leveled after his death in 1449 and not rediscovered in 1908,


No you can not ask me how it works. Google it like everyone else.


there are always weddings and people taking pictures of them at all historic monuments where ever we go (in a few days we get very close to one ourselves)


Samarkand 35

So we walk on towards a very large complex standing proud on a hilltop a kilometer away it is the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble includes mausoleums and other ritual buildings. 

The name Shah-i-Zinda (meaning “The living king”) is connected with the legend that Kusam ibn Abbas, the cousin of the prophet Muhammad was buried there.

Popular legends speak that he was beheaded for his faith but finished his prayers then he took his head and went into the deep well (Garden of Paradise), where he’s still living now.


As usual once someone famous is buried then everyone else wants to be near to them just in case it helps on judgment day. So what we have is a series of very ornate mausoleums of rich of semi famous people.

They were building this for around 900 years so we get to see the different styles and processes. The entrance belies the grandeur of what we are about to see.

The place is very busy both tourists and locals, it seems it is some sort of pilgrimage and if you want you can walk up the stairs on your needs (we as you would expect decline the opportunity)





Samarkand 34

So here we are touring Samarkand. Staring at the huge Bibi Khanym Mosque 167 metres in length and 109 metres in width. The cupolaface of the main chamber reaches a height of 40 metres, and the entranceway is 35 metres high.

I tell you this only to try and impress upon you the size of this thing. built as you would expect my Timur after his Indian campaign in 1399 he decided to undertake the construction of a gigantic mosque in his new capital, Samarkand. The mosque was built using precious stones captured during his conquest of India. (So this is around the time Richard the II died in England just for reference)

It is quite a place





We seem to be just as interesting to the locals as they are to us, and one and all seem happy to see us and not at all bothered by our incessant snapping.


We have lots to see so no time to linger at the market next door and we take a raincheck for later.


Samarkand 32 (almost)

So today we have a visit to a local pottery lined up where we will stop for lunch. In the way se see these guys selling melons by the road side.


Unfortunately we don’t stop to purchase.

The Pottery it would seem is quite famous (around here anyway) and some work has been done to accommodate coach parties by putting tarmac down and this is the machine they used


Now I bet you have never seen something like that before.

The pottery was still using the original processes and machinery to make the plates and pots no electric motors the potters wheels powered by the guys foot.


the end results were as you can see quite good although a little pricy for us.


Lunch was taken in a large room and I have to say it looked very good and even though we probably had breakfast only a couple of hours ago we tried out best to demolish all of it.

As ever there is always soup and it is always a “Special soup”


There is nice picture of the owners family on the wall they look happy (well most of them)

Now we really are on our way to Samarkand which is around 200km away and with one stop for an old caravanserais (a place where the caravans stopped overnight) we should be there late afternoon.


Bukhara 31 (its the last one on this place I promise)

So off we set after the four minarets place and onward to Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa the summer residence of the last Emir of Bukhara Said Alimkhan (1911 -1920)and quite a place it is to. Described as a charming and nauseating collection of dwellings and state rooms was built by the Russians in 1911 for the last Emir Alim Khan, as an inducement to get him out of the Ark fortress and safely ensconced in a strategic and cultural no-man’s-land on the edge of town.

The name of the palace means “stars meet the moon”.Firstly, the group of local architects headed by Usto Hodja Hafiz had built a magnificent object which combined local Bukhara and European traditions.

The main structure of this palace is granted to the throne hall. Under its arks the public meetings of the elite authorities used to be held.

By the entrance to the portal there are two marble lions made by nuratin masters.


Also the architects had created marble reservoirs in the shape of fictional dragon. So even in those days just because you had money did not mean you had style. The main building of the palace which includes several rooms and personal premises of emir had been constructed mainly under the supervision of Russian engineers and only “The White Hall” and its corridor built in 1912-1914, belong to the art style of Bukhara architects. These halls are the masterpieces of ornamental decoration. “The White Hall” had received its name from the shiny-white construction materials used during the creation) process to cover the walls and the ceiling.

By the end of the 19th century the ruler of Central Asia’s most fanatical bastion of Islam paid annual visits in his private train to the banquets and balls of St Petersburg’s Winter Palace or to his fashionable dacha on the Crimean coast, as his son read Dostoevsky and tried to reconcile a four-year military education in St Petersburg with the medieval theology taught in Bukharan madrassah.




I it sounds like he was as confused as this place,
it was not dreadful by any means but is slightly out of place.

Bukhara 30

Well towards the end of the day we get a little time to wander and Mike and I decide to go and find a place out book says should be on everyone’s list of thinks to see but not it appears on ours. it is called Chor Minor Madrassah

Mike as always has a map and a compass so all is well (sort of) between us we sometimes have difficulty agreeing exactly which corner to turn on but as always Mike is right (as always) although even he has some doubts and we stop to ask a local who is just hanging around and he takes us this way and that down the warren of back streets and along suddenly we turn a corner an there it is


The name of this Monument is translated as “four minarets”, but it will be mistake to consider it the mosque as the minarets do not perform their intended functions, and are just the architectural experiment.

There are no more similar buildings in Asia. Built in 1807, the building was just the entrance into the more grand construction, which supposedly was the Madrassa, although some guides will say that it might have been a huge library.


It is quite picturesque and as the sun is going down we take a couple of quick shots and head back to the hotel feeling quite pleased with ourselves.


Finding our way back was almost as difficult but we did see some interesting sites as we wandered around


The following morning we are told that as we are leaving the hotel we will be making one more stop at a place called Chor Minor Madrassah DOH!!!!!!!! so into the coach and 3 minutes later we are there a side entry gives us almost instant access and no need for all the back alleys we used last night Double Doh !!!!



Everything exactly as we had left it apart from the sun being on the other

Bukhara 29

This Post is a little indulgent of me but hopefully you will stay with it as I found all of this incredibly fascinating.


One of our group made a casual remark about Jews in Bukhara and the local guide said there was a synagogue and a cemetery close by.

Just to make sure my companion was safe and not wandering around alone we decide we will go and try and find both sites.


The synagogue was actually very easy  as it was only a couple of streets away. It was in fact really an old house on the outside as originally it was not allowed to build a synagogue here.

Inside there were a couple of enthusiastic guardians who were only too happy to show us around and explain more about the place. We saw a normal courtyard and to one side was what resembled a classroom



Rather old and a little on the damp side. Our hosts were trying in very broken English to explain how old the place was and how often services were held and something about there used to be 30,000 Jews here but now only 300 but they were very keen to explain they still held lessons for the children.

They were happy to show us a Tora  which they said was 500 years old. They also said they had one which is 100 years old but was only brought out at services.

Now not one to contradict a good story my understanding was the oldest confirmed Tora was around 800 years old and in Bologna but so what.


I have to say the place was fascinating and  I regret not taking more pictures. As we left we got directions which were more “go that way and when you reach the end of the Jewish quarter its there” so that’s what we did although it was a kilometer or so away and we were concerned at several points that we had missed it. eventually we found the place with a brand spanking new gatehouse and a very large striking cemetery behind it.


Given how big this place was I decided to do some research on the place and
these are some links

On this trip I wanted to find something which might give me a sense of time and history, this place has done both.


Some Bukharan Jews claim they are the descendents of the ten lost tribes of Israel who were exiled by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. Whether or not this is the case, the Bukharians can trace their ancestry back to the conquest of Babylonia by Cyrus, the King of Persia, in 539 B.C.E. Cyrus decreed that all Jews in exile were free to return to Jerusalem, though many remained in Persia. The Jews lived peacefully in Persia until 331 B.C.E., when Alexander the Great defeated the Sogdian King Spitamenes and conquered the region. At Alexander’s sudden death in 323 B.C.E., the Seleucids gained control, followed by the Parthians, who reestablished the Persian Empire. The Parthians gave the Jews citizenship and allowed them to practice Judaism freely. Under Parthian rule, the Bukharian communities flourished. In 224 A.D., however, the Sassinids conquered the region. They made Zoroastrianism the official religion and persecuted the Jews for their unwillingness to convert. Some Bukharan Jews moved to the northern and eastern parts of the region due to anti-Jewish

There seems to have been around 20,000 Jews here in Bukhara at their peak but most have emigrated to either Israel or the US predominantly New York. here is a snip I found looking at a NY site. With such a concentration of Bukharan Jews along 108th Street in Forest Hills, the street has been dubbed “Bukharan Broadway,” and neighboring Rego Park has been dubbed “Regostan,” both, of course, part of “Queensistan.” The Bukharan Jews are so concen-trated in the borough that Queens College actually started a Bukharan Jewish history and culture class in 2010.
While only a few hundred are left in Central Asia today, an estimated 50 thousand now call Metro New York home, making it the largest concentration of Bukharan Jews in the world and home to one fourth of the world‟s Bukharan Jewish population.

There appears to be around 300,000 Bukharan Jews in Israel so this is a big slice of history.

I have to say all this I found fascinating and like one of those threads which crosses many paths at many times. I think I have to find out a little more and see if I can piece the bits together a little more coherently.


Bukhara 28

Bear with me this place has so much history it seems to be taking me two weeks to get through the two and a half days we were there (but it was worth it)
The Abdulazizkhan madrasah, which is located opposite to the Ulughbek Madrassah in Buhara was built in 1652. Facing one another, these two madrasahs compose a single architectural ensemble called Kosh Madrassah (it means double), which is common in Bukhara.

These two madrassahs, Madrassah of Ulughbek and Madrassah of Abdul Aziz Khan, stand facing each other for many centuries and represent two dinastieds once ruled Bukhara – Timurid and Ashtarkhanids.Ulughbek Madrassah was built by the Great Temur’s (Tamerlane) grandson Ulughbek, whereas the Madrassah of Abdulazizkhan bears the name of the Bukharian Emir, Abdulaziz khan.