Wednesday, April 8, 2015

On Our Way to Bukhara.

Pat standing at the entry portal to Rabat-i -Malik Caravansarai.

We had one last place to visit before we said goodbye to Samarkand and I'm glad we left it to the end.  We had a quick visit to the Afrasiab Museum, a small museum dedicated to the history of Samarkand.

The museum is located on the site of ancient settlement called Afrosiab. As the capital of Sogdiana, Aafrosiab was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. In the early 8th century AD, it was conquered by the Arabs and soon became an important center of Muslim culture. In 1220 the city was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan.

The museum was designed by an Armenian architect, Bagdasar Arzumanyan and was built in 1970 with funding from Korea.

We arrived at the Afrasiab Museum from the Mausoleum of Daniel - it was just a short ride.  I was hoping it would be a short visit.  Truthfully, I wasn't really in the mood to be visiting a museum but it's on our itinerary so we went.


Shavkat dropped us off at the side of the road.  At the far end of the walkway was the museum.  I was pleasantly surprised!  Even from a distance, it looked like a nice place.  Of course, that wasn't saying anything about what was inside.



The museum contains findings discovered during archaeological excavations at Afrasiab, each of which belongs to a different period of the settlement history are one of the most valuable artifacts of the museum. These include ossuaries, fragments of ancient swords, knives, arrows, coins, and pottery dating back to the 7th-8th centuries AD.  The most valuable artifact in the museum pieces of a Sogdian wall mural that dates back to the 7th century AD.  We started with the mural which is housed in a room directly off the lobby.  To protect the colors from fading the room was dimly lit so it was difficult to take photos.

The Afrasiab painting, also called the Painting of the Ambassadors, is a rare example of Sogdian art. It was discovered in 1965 when the local authorities were preparing to build a road that was to cut through the mound that the museum is situated atop.

The painting dates back to the middle of the 7th century AD  It is believed that the mural was painted on four walls of a rooms of a private house.  The mural depicts scenes from three or four different countries neighboring Central Asia.

A Chinese festival, with the Empress on a boat and the Emperor hunting, is depicted on the north wall.



I didn't get photos of either the Eastern or Southern walls - the lighting was not in my favor.

The western wall is the main wall.  It depicts Turkish soldiers escorting escorting ambassadors coming from China, India and Iran.





Overall, the painting is badly in need of restoration and in 2014, France declared that it would finance the restoration effort.

Next, Valentina took us to see one of the ossuaries in museum's collection before setting us off to see the place on our own.


The museum is very small - just one main exhibition hall.  I don't think it took Pat and more than 5 minutes to make our way around.


Meeting back up with Valentina, our visit was over.  We made our way back to Shavkat and our car.  A short drive later and we dropped off Valentina.  I was sad to see her go.  She really was good guide.  We thanked her and gave her a nice tip.

Now....we can finally say goodbye to Samarkand.  It's been a great visit but now it's time for Bukhara.  We had a long, five hour drive ahead of us.

Road scenery was the same old, same old by now.  Pretty boring.  About an hour in to the drive and we stopped for lunch.  I liked eating with Shavkat.  He takes us to simple roadside eateries where the food is good (by Uzbek standards) and cheap (by US standards).   Today's dining restaurant was a teahouse.


The place was huge.  There were tables inside two separate rooms as well as tables under the covered patio area which was where we sat.  Uzbeks prefer to sit on the platforms with the low tables.   They're not comfortable for Pat so we do a table and chair instead.


Today was shashlyk day for Pat and I.  We also had salads and shared a loaf of non and pot of green tea with Shavkat.  On the salad thing, I am tired of the typical Uzbek *tomato/cucumber with or without onion* salad - I need some other veggies.....please.



It was a quick lunch.  Back on the road.  Our drive took us further into the desert.  The landscape was flat and arid.  Even more boring.  I quickly got lost in my own thoughts and so did Shavkat and Pat....the car was deathly quiet.  Bukhara is home to Shavkat so I am sure he was already thinking of all the things he would be doing once he got home.  I know I would.

Yep, it's a daydreaming inducing view.

About an hour or so after we resumed driving, Shavkat pulled the car over on to the side of the road.  Looking around, we saw nothing.  We were in the middle of nowhere.  Shavkat pointed to the right.  In the distance, we could see a portal.  We had arrived at ruins of Rabat-i-Malik, a caravanserai.  Recorded history has it that the caravanserai was per the orders of Karakhanid Shams-al-Mulk Nasr, son of Tamgachkhan Ibragim, who ruled in Samarkand from 1068 until 1080.



Pat and I got out of the car, leaving Shavkat behind.  We walked towards the portal. There didn't seem to be much else. 

The portal, which is one of the oldest in all of Central Asia, is decorated with carved eight pointed stars.


We passed through the portal and we did see remains.  With no plaques or anything other sort of a descriptive marker, we had no clue what we were looking at.  So, we took a few photos and then turned around and headed back to the car.  We drove barely 100 feet before Shavkat stopped the car again.  On the left side of the road was a small building - some sort of a water well.   He asked if we were interested in seeing it and we both shook our heads.  Onward we continued to Bukhara.



We finally arrived into Bukhara around 5p.  I was eager to get to the hotel and settle in.  As we drove along the streets of Bukhara, Shavkat told us that our hotel was in the new city.  Soon enough, we arrived.  He pulled the car over as close as he could to our hotel which is located in a part of the old city that is pedestrian only.  He helped us get our luggage our.  He pointed down and alleyway and about 30 feet away was our hotel - Sasha and Sons.  We thanked him and told him to enjoy his evening.  He most certainly deserves a break!

All there was to the front of the hotel was the wooden door and the hotel sign hanging above.  If we hadn't noticed the sign, we would have missed the place!















Inside, it looked and felt very much like a Moroccan riad - there's a lot of charm here.  I am guessing that most Uzbek homes are laid out like this - all the windows and doors face the courtyard.

Our room was located in a quiet section, off one of the smaller courtyards, on the first floor.Inside, it was decorated in traditional Uzbek design.  It was a nice change to all the other places we've stayed at so far - those all looked and felt like any other modern hotel.

The beds were firm, the bathroom a good size,  the small fridge was working, good Wifi and we had plenty of space to spread out.  We're going to be here for three nights so it's good that we have what we need to be comfortable!

Pat and I took a few minutes to settle in before heading out to explore a bit of the old city.  I'm really looking forward to seeing more of this historic city tomorrow!