Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Adventure Travel Ideas Asia Cultural Travel Ideas Uzbekistan

Poetry and prose in Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Approaching Bukhara by train through the dry countryside the landscape is lumpy earth and sand with scrubby sage-green vegetation. After the green mountains of Kyrgyzstan the deserts of Uzbekistan seemed hard to bear.

But the Oases, oh the oases! I was amazed to suddenly see roses and great clumps of pink and red hollyhocks, as well as long lines of mulberry trees.  The oases and desert fortresses here preserved the remnants of a great flowering of Islamic architecture, art and culture. This is a land truly rich with historical ambience.

Where is Bukhara on a map? The main cities of Uzbekistan, including the capital Tashkent, are in the east of the country. Bukhara is about 160 miles west of Samarkand.

The people of Uzbekistan and the Tajiks have more Aryan features than the Kyrgyz, almost a Mediterranean look, and some aspects of the culture remind me of how I imagine ancient Persia: red rose bushes blowing everywhere and dishes piled with yellow plums and luscious cherries – some so sweet they almost taste like jam.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

The Ark is the old royal citadel, with magnificently bulging ramparts casting crenellated shadows on the gold brick stone. This is the fortress into which early players in the ‘Great Game’ – Connolly and Stoddart – rode to their doom.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

With thoughts of verminous dungeons and torture we wandered the grand coronation court and played dress ups in courtiers robes. Bukhara is so peaceful and beautiful, in some ways it is difficult to imagine as the setting of such acts of barbaric cruelty as were used to frighten the small children of Victorian Britain.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

The buildings rest in soft golden splendour around serene tanks of green water. Ancient mulberry trees surround the Lyabi Hauz, making purple splotches on the paving stones. Sitting beneath their shade sipping a cold beer is one of the true rewards of Bukhara travel. This area is where you will find the best Bukhara food options.

The art of Bukhara is astounding. Brilliant majolica tiles make pictures of swooping birds and a golden phoenix (it is unusual to see animals depicted in Islamic art).

The tiny exquisite Char Minar, a mere gatehouse of a long gone Medressah. We visited in the early morning and I surreptitiously watched a man sitting outside drinking tea and wearing the typical bulbous cap of Uzbekistan.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

In the main complex of Medressahs students gather, children loiter and a lone skateboarder cruises past. A group of students emerges from a school and want to have their picture taken with us. From the top of the Kalon Tower we could see the whole set, from the majolica-tiled facades to the domed roofs of the covered bazaars.

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

In the late afternoon the rabbit warren of high brick and mud-walled streets in the old town are silent, apart from a few playing children and a strolling white-capped gentleman. Occasionally a door is left slightly ajar, allowing a glimpse of grapevine-shaded domestic courtyards, as cool and calm in the middle of the day as it has been for hundreds of years in Uzbekistan.

Bukhara is so incredible, definitely one of the highlights of Central Asia, and quite unique from the glories of Samarkand!

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you visited Bukhara?

Bukhara Uzbekistan

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  1. Love the reflection in the first couple of photos and that tile is so pretty! I’ve always been attracted to detailed tile pieces like that one.

  2. Amazing architecture. I’ve never seen that citadel before and it’s very cool!

  3. Great article 🙂

  4. You have done some very interesting travel. Love the series of photos but especially the second one with the soft light.
    I like the sound of those cherries.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Central Asia was my best travel experience ever, it’s a very evocative place and the people were very hospitable.

  5. Well, who knew that such a remote and exotic-sounding place would hold so much beauty. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Wow I loved everything about this post – the pictures and narrative. This definitely makes me want to visit! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Nice shots. The second and the last are my favorites.

  8. Beautiful photos and narrative. Bukhara does look like an incredible place to visit.

  9. You truly make me want to do the silk route on train from Europe to Asia (via all the “stan” countries) instead of the Trans Siberian route. Its becoming more and more interesting with each of your posts. Who knew Uzbekistan was so interesting?

    • Natasha von Geldern

      I met a number of people travelling from Europe through to China, which would surely be amazing (though not sure I’m up for Iran at the moment). Instead we did a 3-month circuit in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Best travel I’ve ever done!

  10. How exciting! I’m fascinated by Central Asia and thinking of planning a “child-friendly” trip to this area (sadly, that probably can’t involve very long train journeys). The names of Uzbekistan’s cities are so mysterious and appealing, aren’t they… Bukhara, Samarkand, even Tashkent… pure fairy tale.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Wait ’til you see Khiva! Yes incredibly evocative with all that history and all that gorgeous majolica tilework. I’d not hesitate to take children to Uzbekistan, it’s surprisingly well set up for tourism with nice little B&Bs and good transportation between the main cities. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan a bit tougher travel but… yes I’d still do it with kids.

  11. Love the lighting on the second shot. Great work.

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Thanks that’s a compliment from you! I vividly remember waiting out in the square for the evening light to get golden.

  12. such a beautiful country and so few visit. Thank you for showing us a corner of the world not many bloggers have covered

    • Natasha von Geldern

      You’re welcome, I do want to spread the word that central asia is somewhere people must see. See you in April 🙂

  13. There are some fascinating places in this part of the world. I love the photos in this post.

  14. I always think of how much effort went into building these old fortresses. It amazes me that they managed it without modern machinery. It would be a nightmare to build now!

    • Natasha von Geldern

      Yes imagine the cost of labour and the health and safety issues! Lot simpler if you’re just a tyrant with no respect for the lives of lowlier mortals 😉

  15. Alaskan Cruise Advisor

    The architecture here is amazing, what was its main influence?

  16. Christy Acton

    Kyrgyzstan, next door, is an amazing country to visit if you like big open spaces and adventure. The people are pretty special t00 – very warm and will welcome you into their lives.

  17. Wow, great photos of they Holly Bukhara. One of my favorite cities on the Silk Road.

  18. Wow, never, ever, thought of going to Uzbekistan before – looks amazing!

  19. Andrew Graeme Gould

    What fantastic architecture and design! A very enjoyable post, indeed.

  20. Dear Natasha
    My name is Rufat and I live in Tashkent. Thanks for your amazing photos and nice words about our country and region. You are always welcome to Uzbekistan.
    Thanks a lot!

    • Hi Rufat, many thanks for your kind comment! I loved travelling in Uzbekistan, including Tashkent – a sophisticated city, especially the impressive Metro and the ballet at the Navoi theatre. I hope to return one day.

  21. Great pictures. Never even though of traveling to Uzbekistan. Looks well worth the visit, just to see those structures.

  22. said khalil

    What a gorgeous world God has made 🙂

  23. Wow, this post is absolutely amazing. I’ve never been to any of the stans, but I really want to go. I can’t believe how incredible some of the buildings are…

  24. We are going to Uzbekistan next year! Can’t wait, it looks absolutely stunning!

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