The Historic Centre of Bukhara in Uzbekistan was once one of the most important stops along the Silk Roads. Today is it one of the best examples of well preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained mostly intact.
But the history of Bukhara goes back much longer; the city has a history going back to more than two thousand years old.
Bukhara was long an important economic and cultural centre in Central Asia. The ancient Persian city served as a major centre of Islamic culture for many centuries and became a major cultural centre of the Caliphate in the 8th century.
Once upon a time, was Bukhara one of the most important cities in the world.
But you heard of Bukhara? Located in today’s Uzbekistan, Bukhara used to be one of the key stops of ancient travellers and believers ever since the 6th century BC.
But today the people visiting are mostly foreigners wanting to explore this must-see place not only of Uzbekistan but in the whole of Central Asia.
WHY BUKHARA MATTERS.
Bukhara became well known for at least two reasons. Silk Road and long-lasting culture. Bukhara was also one of the main cities on the ancient path of the Silk Road. It was connecting the Far East with the Far West, enabling trade, connectivity and cultural exchange. At the same time, it was a city of knowledge, languages, art and architecture. The proofs are everywhere even today.
Eye-catching sights of Bukhara will help you believe this fact easily, as the constructions you will find here, can hardly be found anywhere else in the world.
Bukhara was an oasis on the Silk Road. Its many channels used to help quench the thirst of travellers and their horses. Today most of the channels are gone, due to Russians who sealed them off during the Soviet time. Still, a couple remains, remembering the visitors of the former purpose.
Bukhara was the centre for protecting and expanding the knowledge of the world. Scientists, artists, theologists, master craftsman and merchants they all were gathering in the safety of the city. This was a city where great minds were welcomed and incentivised to further explore. From medicine to art, it seemed that all branches of the city were developing. It is also thought that thanks to Bukhara, the essence of the Persian language was protected.
Bukhara was a multicultural city where every religion had space to flourish. Islam, Christianity, Judaism. Buddhism and others they all had their places in this city.
The world praised Bukhara, while the conquers despised it. The same as Samarkand (Uzbekistan) or Persepolis (Iran), the city of Bukhara was on the target of great army man such as Genghis Khan. But even this ruthless ruler had bits of mercy for parts of the city’s architecture.
Top Things To See In Bukhara.
HISTORIC CENTER OF BUKHARA.
The heart of Bukhara will take the show. The skyline of Bukhara is outlined with lower buildings where nothing much stands out, apart from the mighty towers and minarets set mostly in the centre of the old town.
The Historic Center of Bukhara is listed as the UNESCO world heritage site.
The title was earned due to exquisite architecture, well-preserved structures and unique style depicting an era that finished a long time ago. Once you are here, time will suddenly stop, and you will find yourself in the middle of the tangible memory of golden days of Bukhara’s glory. Innumerable mosques, minarets, madrassas and others take all the attention and make it clear why the world owes a great debt to this city.
Furthermore, its thought that the very city centre didn’t change for the past 200 years so it will be reasonable why once you end up here, you might genuinely feel as if you travelled through time.
The core of the historic city is Po – i – Kalan, a monumental square surrounding the famous sights of Kalan minaret and Kalan Mosque.
KALAN MINARET – THE TOWER OF DEATH.
The skyline of Bukhara is dominated by the Tower of Death. It sounds almost a bit scary, but it’s true. Kalyan minaret is its official name. It is a tall tower made of special yellow brick, rising up to about 45 meters. The minaret dates back to the 12th century. The height was praised as proof that at its time it was the tallest tower in Central Asia.
However, this place was once feared as much as praised by the locals. The tower was once used as a death sentence to all who weren’t following the rules. People were simply taken to the top of the tower and thrown away as a sentence and a warning to others.
Even though it was and is one of the key sights of Bukhara, during the siege imposed by Genghis Khan, the minaret was intact as this powerful conqueror decided it was worth preserving. Not like the Kalan Mosque nearby.
Kalan Mosque was built on the place of another mosque which was trashed to pieces in the time of the ruthless Khan. Later, Kalan mosque was built in all its glory of the finest Islamic Architecture. However, it didn’t have an easy history. In the time of Russian occupation of Uzbekistan, it was shut down and turned into a warehouse.
Today, Kalan mosque is finally free to be what it was meant for. A centre of religious activities and admiration for its splendid architecture.
The mosque is ‘protected’ by vast rectangular courtyard stretching in front of the entrance. The courtyard is a beautiful sight. Archaic and elegant. Its surrounded by the constructions filled with ornaments and delicate decorations. Straight in front is the entrance to the worship place which once could take in several thousands of believers.
MIR – I ARAB MADRASSA.
A couple of steps away is another pleasure for the eye and mind of a traveller — a glorious building with two tall domes decorated in blue tiles. Mir I Arab Madrassa is one of the main sites in Bukhara. Madrassas were and remained to be a kind of universities in the Islamic World. Mir I Arab Madrassa is still active but visitors who cannot get inside the madrassa.
However, you can still admire the beauty of the dominant construction and the blue domes from a suitable distance. Mosaics, façades and decorations, typical for the Islamic architecture can be seen in abundance and must not be missed.
THE ARK CITADEL.
Ark is a landmark of Bukhara carrying the stories of royals who once ruled the area. It’s massive, built with precision and amazing attention to detail. The outside of the Ark calls for admiration as much as the inside. Numerous buildings, museums, remainings of the rooms and spaces once taken by the rulers will take your attention easily.
The origins of the Ark go back to as far as the 5th century and kept being restored and protected as a memory of overarching power of Bukhara. Make sure you spend at least a couple of hours here, enjoying not only the complex but also the view of the magnificent city.
Char Minor is another madrassah you must visit in Bukhara. It is located a bit further away from the historic centre of the city, but it worth the effort. With its four tall minarets, tiled in blue, it stands out on the outline of the city asking for attention.
It is of unusual architecture and seems like it comes from another world. It was built back in the 19th century with the aim of reaching the glory of Taj Mahal in India.
It was also supposed to be a stopping point for people travelling along the Silk Road, and a place where all different parts of the world were to be represented no matter of nation or religion. Bukhara was since always reminding the world that we all are one.
BAZARS – BUKHARA AS A CENTER OF TRADE.
Bukhara was a centre for trade since forever. Being a merchant here is almost a sacred legacy of the past. And bazaars are the real place for the trade of Bukhara to show off. Carpets, textile, spices, art and craftsmanship at its best, can be found in many of them.
Especially pay attention to carpets made in Bukhara, as they are another proof of wisdom and creativity of Uzbek nation. The carpets have a special place in the hearts of the nation. Its long tradition, specific ways of knitting and colouring the silk, and the extensive beauty of details knitted with precision can easily amaze you. As much as the prices! But once you learn that about 85% of the price for a carpet is paying off workers who had to put an exquisite amount of patience and skill into the work, the prices almost become understandable.
How To Get To BUKHARA.
Reaching Bukhara is easy when inside Uzbekistan, but it can also be reached with direct flights from Russia. Flying domestically inside Uzbekistan is very cheap and the railway system in Uzbekistan is world-class. But if you want to travel to or from Bukhara to smaller places are shared taxis the best options.
Bukhara International airport has daily flights to all the larger cities in Uzbekistan, a one-way ticket inside the country is normally priced around 50usd for one way.
Bukhara airport has a direct flight to Moscow with Aeroflot (Sky team) and Novosibirsk S7 (One World)
A big Suprise for most first time visitors to Uzbekistan, but the railway network between the big cities are world-class. Tashkent to Bukhara, a distance of 600 km, will now take 3 hours and 20 minutes with the Afrosiyob high-speed train.
And the travel time between Samarkand and Uzbekistan only takes about one and a half-hour.
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