Uzbekistan: Poetry and prose in Bukhara

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! 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.

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.

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

Bukhara, Uzbekistan

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?

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43 Replies to “Uzbekistan: Poetry and prose in Bukhara”

    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

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

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      Thanks Debbie! Uzbekistan certainly has some hugely attractive architecture and history.

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      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!

      Reply
  1. Sophie

    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.
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    Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      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.

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

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

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

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

      Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      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 😉

      Reply
  2. 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.

    Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      I agree entirely Christy, Kyrgyzstan is one of the most welcoming countries I’ve ever been to!

      Reply
  3. Rufat

    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!

    Reply
    • Natasha von Geldern Post author

      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.

      Reply
  4. Izy Berry

    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…

    Reply

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