A long-standing dream of wanting to travel to Uzbekistan, sustained over 4 decades, was finally realised in September 2015. The decision happened just like that one morning in November 2014. Instead of wistfully saying or whining that “I want to go to Uzbekistan”, I just told myself firmly, “I’m going to Uzbekistan”.
And just like that the planning began for #MyDreamTripUzbekistan. 10 months later I was boarding a flight to Tashkent and was back home in India 12 days later after THE trip of a lifetime. In those 12 days in Uzbekistan, I travelled through the country by air, road and train covering 1,292 km, according to Google Maps, in addition to the 800 km I travelled from Tashkent to Nukus by air.
10 months after my return, here I am writing the last post in the Uzbekistan series. I must admit that while I enjoyed writing about and sharing details from the trip, I enjoyed your comments, mails, and messages even more. The response was overwhelming and I loved getting queries and questions about the trip. Thank you all for liking, commenting, re-tweeting, and sharing my posts.
For all those who have been asking for details on how I planned the trip and how it worked out, here’s my ultimate Uzbekistan trip planner. It is based on the queries I received and presented in a Q&A format.
There I was walking down one of the many streets in the historical centre of Bukhara, idly looking at stuff being sold at the many pavement stalls lining the street. As I passed the stalls, I made a mental note of the interesting stuff that I could come back and have a closer look at later and perhaps pick up something to take back home with me. There were carpets, paintings, booklets, terracotta figurines, ceramic tiles, silk scarves, embroidered material, ikat products, hats…
I suddenly stopped at a stall selling hats. There were many hats, but one of them had caught my attention. And I stopped and stared with disbelieving eyes. I actually rubbed my eyes and tentatively reached out to touch the hat with ‘legs’ dangling from it.
Every place has its share of the funny, quirky and the bizarre and this hat with legs was definitely my pick for Bukhara and Uzbekistan. I saw similar ones in Samarkand too ! It was a real hat in the sense that the fur was real as were the legs and the feet and the nails… of what I think was once a fox. Continue reading “Travel Shot: The hat with legs !”→
On the very first day of my Uzbekistan trip last September, I stumbled across something that was to add a new perspective to my trip, and give me lots to think about. There I was wandering around the Saviksty Museum in Nukus and looking at the various works of art when I came across this painting of a “Bukharan Jew”, by Y.U. Razumovskaya (Charcoal on Paper, 1927).
It was the caption that caught my attention for I was not aware of the presence of Jews in Bukhara or in Central Asia. Since I was curious to know more about the painting and the community the man in the painting represented, I asked my guide at the museum for more information. While the guide could not give me more information on the painting or its painter, she did mention that Bukhara was once home to the largest number of Jews in Central Asia. She said that though there were Jews still living in Bukhara, the numbers had come down drastically.
The legend of the origin of Bukhara appears in the Shahnameh (or the Epic of the Persian Kings) by Firdausi.
When King Siyavush of the Pishdak dynasty wed Farangis, the daughter of King Afrosiab of Samarqand, he was gifted a vassal kingdom in the Bukhara region by his father-in-law. Siyavush, who had always liked this region for its many rivers and its location on the ancient trade route, built a new city there — Bukhara. The first structure that he built was the Ark or Arg (the Persian word for ‘citadel).
Today, Siyavush’s Ark is long gone and another one stands in its place. Also known as the Ark, it is no coincidence that this 16th century Ark too continues to be at the heart of Bukhara, both historical and modern. And that’s why I begin this post with the Ark, for both the legend and the history of Bukhara is inextricably linked to it or the people who governed from there.
I fell in love in Bukhara. I wasn’t expecting to, but then love is always unexpected, isn’t it?
In fact, I wasn’t expecting anything from Bukhara when I visited Uzbekistan in September 2015. I was too busy dreaming about the Savitsky Museum at Nukus, the blue domes of Samarqand, and the minarets of Khiva. Bukhara was part of my itinerary, but it was more like a pit stop in the 700+ km road distance between Khiva and Samarkand — a place to rest and relax before moving on to the city that had inspired my Uzbekistan trip in the first place — Samarqand. Therefore, my online research for Bukhara only comprised a cursory reading of its history and finalising a B&B to stay.
I arrived in Bukhara after a 7-hour drive through the gorgeous Kyzyl Kum Desert from Khiva. The journey wasn’t particularly tiring as the roads were good for most of the distance, but after seven hours in the car, I just wanted to reach Bukhara. My first impressions of Bukhara were of a clean city with wide tree-lined avenues, multi-storied and traditional buildings existing side by side, and a very different vibe from the cities I had visited in Uzbekistan thus far.
Many, many years ago there was once a quiet, little girl who was happiest among books, especially picture books. She hadn’t yet learned to read, and would always be asking her family members to explain what she was ‘reading’.
One day, her father came home with a stack of magazines. The little girl went through them all, one by one. She was particularly mesmerised by the cover of one of them. It had a picture of a blue dome against an even bluer sky, and she liked it so much that she wanted to see the dome for real.
She went up to her father and told him of her intention. Her father looked at the magazine cover and said, “This is in a place called Samarqand. You want to go to there?”
The girl nodded.
“It’s quite far from here. Why don’t you wait till you are grown up?”
“Okay,” said the little girl. “I will go to Samarqand when I grow up.”
The years went by. The little girl grew up, the magazine got misplaced, her father passed away, but the blue dome of Samarqand and her dream of seeing it was not forgotten. Friends and family, who knew of this dream of hers, would often ask when she was visiting Samarqand. Her answer always was, “I don’t know when. All I know is that one day I will.”
That day came four decades after she had first declared her intention to visit Samarqand. Last month, the now not-so-little girl made that trip to Samarqand and other places in Uzbekistan. There was a touch of the unreal when her plane landed in Tashkent and she couldn’t help but wonder if she was part of a dream. The fresh, cold air that hit her when she exited the aircraft convinced her that this was no dream, but the real thing ! 🙂