Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bukhara. More of the Old City.

Toki Zargaron.

Leaving the Po-i-Kalyan Complex behind, we continued with our visit to the old part of Bukhara.  Most of the area is pedestrian only which is really nice, especially for someone like me who is paying more attention to the sights around here than cars driving by.

I didn't realize how small the old city was until the end of our walk, when we ended back up at a very familiar place - Lyab-i-Hauz.  Of course, if you asked me to retrace my steps from Lyab-i-Hauz back to  Po-i-Kalyan, I'm not sure I could do it in a straight shot.


Here are some the sights we saw and places we visited on our walk back to Lyab-i-Hauz.

We came upon Toki Zargaron which is another one of Bukhara's famed trading domes.  Toki Zargaron was where the jewelers conducted business.







All around Toki Zargaron were shops, selling mainly souvenirs to tourists.  I had pretty much seen it all by now and I did have my eyes on a few things but I wanted to think more before buying.  If I had a larger suitcase, so many more things would have come home with me.  I really love the handicrafts they have here!


I love pottery.  The only thing holding me back is that it's so difficult to bring back. Also, we'll be visiting the workshop of a famed Uzbek potter when we go to Rishtan later on in our trip so I think I buy, I will buy there.


Of course, Bukhara is known for its rugs.  Although the rugs are named Bukharan rugs, I read that they have always been made by Turkmen people.  Back in the Silk Road days, both current Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were part of the same Khiva Khanate and later Turkestan republic. The rugs made by Turkmen tribes were sold in Bukhara.  That is how the rugs got their name. Sukhrob took us to a large rug shop.  In a back room, there were a few girls weaving rugs.




It was interesting watching them work.  They basically use a crochet needle to wrap the strand of wool around the weft thread.


It obviously takes years of experience before you would be able to weave as quickly as this young girl does in the video.


Like many things in life, it never hurts to start young.  Today was a school day and this youngster was getting trained by an older girl.  I figure she must have been no more than 5 or six years old.  Even at her tender age, she was pretty deft with using the crochet hook.


The last step in the process is to trim the threads.  Again, a very skilled hand is needed to do this because you have to cut all the threads off at the same, even height.



After seeing the girls weave, we headed into the showroom.  I had no intention of buying a rug but I have such a great weakness for them.  I just could not help myself.  My eyes landed on a runner and that was it.  I am now the proud owner of a camel wool rug made in Bukhara.  I probably should have waited to get a Turkmen rug but my weakness is so great, I see, I want, I buy.  Now, I have to lug this thing all around Central Asia - luckily, it's not a big piece and it doesn't weight much.  They managed to fold it down and into a collapsible bag for me.

Update:  April 30, 2015.  Here's my beautiful Bukharan runner, sitting in the hallway, where it was obviously always meant to be :-)


We also popped inside the store and workshop of a painter specializing in miniatures. His work was good but I already had my eye on one by another painter so I just *window shopped* here.


The tools of a painter.  I loved this little device he uses as his palette. 

Somewhere on our walk, we passed by a lot of skullcaps.  For some reason, Uzbek skullcaps really captivated me.  I don't even wear hats but if I did, I would have a few of these in my collection.  I love their bright colors and designs.  Except for the traditional charcoal gray and white caps worn by the men, I've not seen anyone wearing the colorful embroidered ones. Perhaps these are worn by women on special occasions or else they are  produced solely for tourists. 


We also passed by a few historic landmarks.

First, it was two madrasahs facing each other, composing a single architectural ensemble called *kosh madrasah*, which is common in Bukhara. The two madrasahs represent the two dynasties that once ruled Bukhara - Timurid and Ashtarkhanid. 

Representing the Timurid Dynasty is Ulugbek Madrasah, built by Ulugbek in 1417.   We briefly stepped inside the madrasah which was blocked except for the entry hall which now houses a store selling embroidered wall hangings.

Ulugbek Madrasah.


Representing the Ashtarkhanid Dynasty is the madrasah named after its founder, Abdullazziz Khan.   As we looked at the building from afar, Sukhrob asked if we noticed anything different.  I didn't catch it but eagle eyed Pat had noticed that on the right side of the building was painted but it was plain on the left side.  Sukhrob explained that in the Islamic world, if someone dies before they are able to complete their work, it is left unfinished.  In this case, it was the architect who passed away before construction of the mosque was completed.

Abdullazziz Khan Madrasah.

This also explains the rods protruding from the side of the portal - they were inserted during construction and never removed.



This traditional madrassah also has two floors of rooms around a courtyard and a mosque but what stood out for me were the pastel colors used in the decoration of the portal.  I had not seen such colors in any of the other madrasahs.



Today, Abdulaziz Khan Madrasah houses the Museum of Wood Carving Art.  The door was open but we didn't go in - a visit was on our itinerary.

We had two more landmarks to go.  The first were the ruins of a caravanserai and bath house that was built from the 8th to 10th centuries, AD. 

To our untrained eyes, we couldn't differentiate between a caravanserai versus an inn for people.


Lucky for us, Sukhrob had actually participated in the excavation of this site - he knew like the back of his hand.  He explained that the artifacts uncovered at the site indicated that animals, as well as humans, were housed here.  They could also tell from the size and location of the rooms that some were dedicated to animals.



As we walked towards the ruins of the caravanserai, I noticed a familiar sight - it was Toki Sarrafon.  Of course, it would make sense for the caravanserai to be located near the market!  At this point, I knew exactly where we were and how to get back to our hotel.  I'll have to look at the map when I get back to the room to see where all the landmarks are located relative to where our hotel is.

The turquoise cupola of Toki Sarrafon.

Located stone's throw from both Toki Sarrafon and the ruins of the caravanserai is Magoki-Attori Mosque which dates back to the 12th century and is the oldest mosque in Central Asia.

The site originally occupied by a Buddhist temple, then later a Zoroastrian temple that was built in the 5th century. The Zoroastrian temple was destroyed by the Arabs and replaced with a mosque in the 12th century, which was named Maghoki-Attar ("Pit of the Herbalists") because of the nearby spice bazaar.

The Magoki-Attori Mosque is said to have been used by Bukharan Jews as a synagogue in the evenings until it was rebuilt in the 16th century. An earthquake destroyed the mosque in 1860. It was excavated and restored in the 1930s, during which the earlier structures were found.

Magoki-Attori Mosque.

The architecture and design of the mosque is a mishmash of the original 12th-century building (mainly in the southern façade and doorways) and the 16th-century reconstruction.

Today, the mosque houses a carpet museum.  The door was open but again, we didn't go inside.


On our way back to the hotel, we darted inside a restaurant that had advertised that they had traditional dance performances.  I think it was a dinner dance show sort of thing.  Anyway, Pat mentioned to Sukhrob that we were interested in seeing a dance performance and he remembered the restaurant. He kindly offered to find out more information for us.


As he and Pat talked to a woman, working at the restaurant, I took photos of the place which used to be a caravanserai.


The good news is that the restaurant does offer dance shows but the bad news is that it was too early in the tourist season for the shows.  Oh well.  We'll keep trying.

At this point, Sukhrob bid us good bye as Pat and I knew the way *home*.  We'll meet back up with him tomorrow to wrap up our time in Bukhara.

Another view of my favorite statue of Hodja Nasruddin, in Old Bukhara :-)

For dinner, we decided to try out another place - a small eatery called Cafe Siyavush, located across the street from Chinar, where we ate last night.  The place was really small - just a couple of tables inside and a handful outside.  It had three pluses going for it - beer for Pat, an English menu for both of us, and a waitress who could understand some English!

Her first beer!


Local Uzbek beer.  Pat enjoyed it!

We were both still full from lunch so we ordered some samsas and pelmeni (in soup) to share.  It was a really pleasant evening for dining al fresco.  We chatted, ate and lingered. 


After dinner, it was still light outside.  We decided to just stroll along Lyab-i-Hauz.  By now, the sights were really very familiar to us.



We made our way back to the shop of the miniaturist that we had met last night.  Of course, he remembered me and he told me that he had finished the painting.  He showed it to me and yes, it was beautiful.  He then told me he had a variation of the painting and asked me if I wanted to see it or not.  Of course I did :-)

I thumbed through the small piles of paintings and then.....saw one that I really loved.  The color scheme fits the decor of my house perfectly.  I thought the overall composition was unique.  It was painted on very old silk paper - some of the calligraphy had faintly blend through to the side that the painting was on.  I loved the effect that it gave to the new work.

Forget the painting from last night, I now had the painting that I would call mine.  We negotiated a bit of a discount and I bought it.  Before we left, I asked him for his card so I could frame it along with the painting.

Update:  May 16, 2015.  Here's my painting.  I bought the frame at a local crafts store and I think it works well enough.


By the time we had sealed the deal on the painting, it was dark outside.  We decided to call it a day and walked back to the hotel.


We did make one last stop though - at the corner *mini mart* and bought some wafer cookies, which both Pat and I love to eat.  We got a mixture to try.

I brought a small travel kettle with me so a cup of tea, before bed, has become a bit of a nightly ritual for us. Tonight, we got to enjoy a bit of sweet with the tea :-)

Tomorrow, we have a half day of sightseeing with Suhkrob and then the afternoon free to ourselves.  It has been a very relaxing visit to Bukhara and I'm enjoying every minute of it!

Goodnight from Bukhara!