Sunday, January 4, 2015

Uzbekistan Part 2

Samarkand and Bukhara, Uzbekistan:  

Uzbekistan was a really fascinating place to visit, and I'm sorry it took so long for me to write the second installment of this blog.  Not writing about Uzbekibekibeki is  due to me being a total slacker, plus I did not want to steal the limelight from Islam Karimov's daughter, Gulnara.  Gulnara Karimova got headlines in August again for being a jailed princess being held captive by her dictator dad, who seems jealous of her.  Despite being 77 years old, Islam Karimov wants to run again to be president, which works out well when all parties allowed support your policies were 'elected' to parliament.  What Gulnara fails to say is she was equally repressive toward Uzbek citizens, but only saying something now that she is under 'house arrest'.  Ah, such minor details.  

Since the year 2015 looks likes there will not be any surprising headlines coming out from one of the top 10 corrupt countries in the world, I'm cool to publish this blog.   
Gulnara is probably not looking as fabulous as she is in this picture, or in her music videos, such as this one with Julio Iglesias below, which is great background music for reading this blog issue.  

Bukhara and Samarkand are two places I probably never would have gotten to visit if it were not for Matt.  Because of the location and how reclusive Uzbekistan can be, Samarkand and Buhkara are not the easist to visit, but I think they're worth getting to at some point in your lifetime.  Samarkand has made top 50 places you have to visit, but both cities are former Silk Road cities that have been restored to what they used to look like.  Despite the July heat, I was honored to have two great Russian tour guides who led Matt and I around both towns and discovered some of the history.  


A city of about 500,000 settled somewhere in the 7th century B.C., it is the second largest city in Uzbekistan, and about a two hour high speed train ride from Tashkent, and very near the Tajikistan border.  A UNESCO heritage site, it is one of Uzbekistan's most glorious cities, and was at it's glory during the 14th-15th centuries during the Timurid era, who based their capital in Samarkand.    

Gur Emir Mausoleum:  The final resting place of Timur, also known as Tamalane.  He was the founder of the Timurid dynasty, which ruled all of Central Asia, Persia, and parts of India and Saudi Arabia in the 14th and 15th centuries.  This was built after his death in 1404.  

Gur Emir Mausoleum

Gur Emir Mausoleum

Gur Emir Mausoleum Tomb

Gur Emir Mausoleum

Gur Emir Mausoleum

In front of the Samarkand Registan.  This was the heart of ancient Samarkand during the Timurid era.  There was a public square, where people gathered to hear proclamations from the emir, and to witness executions.  It is surrounded by three madrasahs.  

Sher-dor Madrasah, Lion's Gate, Samarkand Registan.  

Close up view of the Lions

Courtyard of the Madrasah where people sell souvenirs in the shade. 

Courtyard of the Madrasah

Sher-dor Madrasah

Ulug Beg Madrasah

Tilya Kori Madrasah

Babalicious Uzbek Style:  Yes, it's a fuzzy picture to protect innocent Uzbek babas.  :)

Ceiling inside of of the rooms of the madrasah

Ulug Beg Madrasah

Uzbek tourists who wanted a picture with Matt and I.  In Uzbekistan, I got the five star treatment, and was treated really well.  Note how Coca Cola gets everywhere, but in Uzbekistan there are only certain sizes of Coke and Pepsi.  

Bibi Khayim Mosque:  Built between 1399 and 1404, this was one of the Islamic world's biggest mosques which crumbled for centuries before collapsing in an 1897 earthquake

Bibi Khayim Mosque

Ulug Beg Observatory:  Ulug Beg was the grandson of Amir Timur, king and renowned astronomer in the 15th century was way ahead of his contemporaries in his astronomical studies.  This was his observatory where he made observatory, where he made his scientific observations.  He spent more time studying science than being a king.  The sexton was placed underground to protect it from earthquakes, and Ulug Beg's calculations were fantastic.  

Outside of the Ulug Beg Observatory restored:   it was destroyed by religious fanatics in 1449, who thought their king was not being virtuous by studying the astronomy and practicing Islam. It was rediscovered in 1908.  

Rug Making:  One of the places where silk rugs are made in Samarkand.  Depending on the rug, it can take 3-18 months to make a rug, and it is all hand stitched.  Girls work by hand and are paid a decent salary at this facility.  It has been visited by many dignitaries, including Hillary Clinton.  

Shah-i-Zinda:  The tombs of Timur and his family.  Built between the 11th and 19th centuries, this place has mausoleums and some of the best tile work I've ever seen.  




Babalicious at Shah-i-Zinda


This is the fifth largest city in Uzbekistan, settled in the 5th century B. C., and also a UNESCO World Heritage site for being one of the cities on the Silk Road.  To get there, Matt got us a private car, which drove us the 180 kilometers between the two cities.  The road between the two cities would make one proud to drive on any main road in Bulgaria, and easily beats how badly Goodrich Road had to get before they did any repairs at all.  Enjoy the pictures and the commentary.

Caravan pitstop along the road between Bukhara and Samarkand from the 11th century.  

The remains of the caravan stop along the road.  

While this was one billboard along the road, there are tons of propaganda slogans like this one throughout Uzbekistan, just like the communist days, but better.  They all state something like how working for the state can make Uzbekistan great.  Pretty much, this is same similar nonsense Fox News presents as news.  

One of the canals in Bukhara.  

The Lyab-i Hauz pond compound.  Built in the 16th and 17th Centuries, this is one of the few pond areas the Soviets did not destroy from Bukhara during their reign.  The two phoenixes are an important symbol to the Lyab-i Huaz, which is where commerce happened in this Silk Road city.  
Up close view of the phoenixes.  

The Mullah Nasreddin on his donkey.  From the 13th century, he is known in tales for being wise, funny, or foolish, but there is always an anecdote with his tales.  

The old markets of Bukhara, selling mostly touristic stuff, and not Silk Road materials.  

Magoki Attori Mosque:  The oldest mosque in Central Asia dating from the 12th century, and the name means mosque in the pit.  Before the mosque was built, this site had the remains of Buddhist Temple, and a Zoroastrian temple.  It was used by Jews as a synagogue in the evenings until the 16th century.  It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1860 and it remains were dug up in 1930.  

Magoki Attori Mosque

Magoki Attori Mosque

Mir-i Arab Madrasah

Mir-i Arab Madrasah

Mir-i Arab Madrasah, which was built in 1535-1536 and still operates for boys and girls.  Also a rare oddity, since Islam Karimov isn't exactly the most religious guy, yet sees the importance of Islam in keeping his job.  

Tokis of Bukhara:  These are the marketplaces where money, jewels, and silk were exchanged.

Kalon Minaret.  Built in the 1127, over 45 meters tall, and surrounded by 208 columns and 288 domes.  A very impressive site that I was lucky to be at by myself, Matt, and the tour guide for the most part.

The only other tourists in the square, who disappeared quickly due to the heat.  

Matt and I got the Owen Davis treatment and the kid wanted his picture taken with us.

Kalon Mosque, rebuilt to its former glory.  

At the Kalyan Minaret from the 12th century, which because of the heat meant Matt and I were the only ones there in July.  The minaret was the only thing not destroyed by Genghis Khan as he razed the rest of the city in his conquests of Central Asia and many other places.  

Because of the heat, I had the courtyard ALL to myself.

Really, there was NO ONE else there.  

One of the insides of the columns surrounding the Kalon Mosque

Walls of the Bukhara Ark Fortress

Ark Fortress of Bukhara:  Built in the 5th century, this is where the Emir lived with his family, and most of the city resided in the old times.  The Emir resided there and it was used as a fortress until the Soviets burned down the wooden sections of it in 1920.  

Gate to the Ark Fortress

Inside the Ark Fortress

Local street with a Spiderman costume near the Ark Fortress

View of the of Bukhara from the fortress entrance.  It was also a great place with shade.  

Matt's hotel room at Hotel Amelie.  It seems someone at the hotel had a sense of humor when they gave the straight man this room for the night, hehehehe.  

Yes, there is an Uzbek dish called Jiz, which made me act like Beavis and Butthead and giggle hysterically for 30 minutes.  

Sunset from the cool restaurant serving Jiz. 

Here is what Jiz looks like. It was really delicious.

The warning on Matt's gate to his house.  God bless the U.S.A. for put such warnings in a place where a moving gate is the least of your worries.  
Amelie's first love of the Afghan wool hand stitched rug with silk embroidery stitched in by hand I bought in Bukhara.  While it may be the centerpiece of our living room, NO ONE is allowed to be on the rug besides the cat of she gets really upset.   In Bukhara, I paid $300 USD for this rug, but George and I saw something similar in Vienna sell for $1800 Euros