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More Samarkand and Then Off to Bukhara

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May 19

Today we will continue our tour of Samarkand before catching an evening train to Bukhara.

So much for my hope of getting some sleep. I woke up coughing and ended up sleeping sitting up. This is now officially a bad cold. But I will be a trooper and visit all the sites even if they have to drag me along.

At breakfast I enjoyed my now daily crepes with honey. I had two cappuccinos from the machine. Begaim left to go to the pharmacy to buy something for us folks with coughs. She came back with a jar of what the pharmacist had recommended. Begaim called it candy. They are a bit sweet, but not bad and do help a bit.

Our first stop of the day was back at Registan Square. Sasha wanted us to see it on a Sunday morning. The sky was a beautiful clear blue. It seemed like there were few tourists, but the place was quite busy with local people, many posing for photographs or taking selfies.


We moved on to the Konigil Paper Mill for a demonstration of 8th century paper making. It was interesting but was something that I could easily have skipped.


Our next stop was the Ulugh Beg Observatory. Timur’s grandson, Ulugh Bek, was a scholar and astronomer. He built the Ulugh Beg Observatory between 1424 and 1429. It was the largest observatory in Central Asia.

He ruled Samarkand as governor during which time Samarkand became a great city of learning. He brought in scholars from all over the Muslim world. Many of Samarkand’s great buildings date from his time. Ulugh Beg ruled the entire empire for a short time but that ended badly when he was defeated and put to death by his son. He was better off studying the stars.


Sasha promised plov (the local name, also called rice pilaf) for lunch. I had understood that plov is a very popular dish in Central Asia and that we would likely eat it on a regular basis during our travels. But this is the first time that we are having it as the main course. Sasha has been talking it up as a special treat.

The location for our meal was a private home. This turned out to be the best part. The home was originally owned by a prominent Jewish family. The decorations in the dining area are beautiful. Other rooms are set up like a museum with some of the old furnishings. The house was totally unremarkable from the outside but was quite amazing inside.

The dining table was full of the typical salads and breads that we are getting at all our meals. These were quite elaborate. Then the plov arrived. It looked good, but I had to admit that I found it a bit bland. Since we have been eating so much and it was lunchtime, most of us only ate a small portion. Sasha loved it and ate a lot more.

After lunch we drove a short distance to the Afrasiyab Museum which is located at the site of the ancient city that was destroyed by the Mongols in the 13th century. The museum has some frescoes that were in the palace during the period of the Ikhshid Dynasty in the 7th and 8th centuries.

From there we made a quick stop at the Jewish Cemetery. There were several men working there. Sasha said that the money for the upkeep comes from overseas, the United States and Israel. I was fascinated by all the photographs on the headstones. I asked Sasha about it and was told that it was from Soviet times. At the time all graves were to look the same.

Our afternoon highlight was the Shahi Zinda, a complex of mausoleums built in the 14th and 15th centuries. Various royals are buried there, but the most notable mausoleum is purported to be the grave of Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, Kusam ibn Abbas, which has made the complex a place of pilgrimage. There were lots of people, some tourists and many locals. Sasha worked hard to put information into our heads, stopping here and there to give his lectures, which was difficult considering the number of people. He eventually sent us off on our own.


The Mausoleums are surrounded by gravesites. After the visit to the Jewish cemetery, I wanted to see what a Samarkand Muslim cemetery looked like. I did not know how long I was going to have to walk, but I wanted to try. I passed Sasha at the bottom of the complex and told him I was headed to the cemetery. He informed me that I only had 15 minutes. I thought at first that it might be too far but was pleased to find a gate just around the corner. I expected people, but it was just me and the gravestones, gravestones with people. There was a great view back towards the complex.


We went back to Registan Square where Evonne was to be picked up and taken to the train for her trip back to Kyrgyzstan. We all said our goodbyes and were on our own for coffee and to walk around. I found a football match.

We were then driven to the chosen restaurant for this evening. I was wondering about my pizza, since nothing had been said since last night. Then Begaim announced that she and I would be going for pizza, while the rest ate in the restaurant. Lynley then said that she wanted pizza. Since the restaurant food had been pre-ordered, a quick decision was made that instead of me with Begaim, it would be me with Lynley for pizza. There went my date with Begaim. But I was happy to have my pizza and quite okay with the change of company.

The pizza place was just across the street. The problem was that the street had six lanes of very fast traffic. The driver took us there and came into the restaurant with us. He stayed while we ordered and finally decided that we were okay and left. Not long after that, Sasha came to check on us. We thought this was a bit much, since we both were experienced travellers. Sasha was surprised at how little we were spending of the money that he had given Lynley to cover our meal.

I had ordered a very basic pizza which we shared. I wanted something quite simple. I also had to admit that I was looking for a quiet meal. I liked my fellow tour group members, but we had been together for all our meals now for two weeks. I am not used to being with a group every night.

Rather than trusting us to walk across the street on our own, Begaim came to get us. We made it quickly to the centre and when we went to cross the other side, a vehicle stopped for us. That is always dangerous because the other cars are not expecting to stop. There was a big screech as a car slammed on its brakes. Knowing that it was in my lane I hurried, moving pretty fast for an old guy. At least it felt that way. Probably I would have been in trouble if the car had not stopped in time. Sasha was not impressed. After all his warnings about the traffic we had almost been run over.

We met the rest of the group and Sasha announced that we would take the tram to the station where we were catching our train to Bukhara. There was one waiting, so we hurried to get on. Most of the passengers (maybe all) stood up to offer us their seats.

It was a short trip to the station. Sasha took us out to the platform shortly before the train was to arrive. He wanted us to be ready to jump on. I have a feeling that Sasha never loses any tourists.

On the train I slept a bit and listened to music. I declined a cappuccino. This train moved faster than the one from Tashkent to Samarkand. On arrival we found that the station was located in another town outside of Bukhara so that we had a twenty minute drive to our hotel.

The lobby of the Hotel Asia was full of people. I thought that was a lot of people to be checking in. But they were there to use their electronic devices. It is the only place where the Wi-Fi worked.

I was the only one of our group assigned a room on the ground floor. This was not one of the really fancy hotels of our trip.
I was surprised by a knock on the door. It was Lynley. She had brought me an antihistamine, which was very kind of her. That is another good mark for group tours. You have people to look out for you.

I went out to the lobby to phone Po. It was a bit awkward trying to make a call while I was surrounded by people but saw that the group on the other side of the lobby had left. I hurried over to the empty side and phoned. We had a chance to talk for a few minutes before more people arrived.

I went back to my room hoping that I might get some sleep.

Posted by Bob Brink 17:09 Archived in Uzbekistan Tagged uzbekistan samarkand central_asia kalpak_travel

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Looks like a great day! I love reading about what you eat and the group dynamics. I was really interested in the graveyards as I love to visit them in other countries to see how they look. Great photo;s too, looks like a very interesting part of the world.

by katieshevlin62

The Shahi Zinda was a highlight of our whole trip to Uzbekistan for me, although as a city I preferred Bukhara to Samarkand overall I think. The Afrasiyab Museum looks interesting - we didn't get to that

by ToonSarah

Amazing pictures!!!

by ToddP

Katie, Thanks. Sometimes I wonder about putting those things into the blog, but it is all part of the experience. It is funny about how something will interest you. First it was Chevys, this time it was graveyards.

by Bob Brink

Sarah, It was nice to be able to walk in Bukhara.

by Bob Brink

Thanks, Todd.

by Bob Brink

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