A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Jimpat

Uzbekistan

Off to beautiful Bukhara

Today after breakfast at our yurt camp we headed off on our 4 hour drive to the ancient city of Bukhara. Bukhara was a prominent stop on the Silk Road trade route between the East and the West.
After getting settled in our hotel our group walked to a popular square called Lyabi-Hauz for a traditional Uzbek lunch. Lyabi-Hauz is a delightful park area with cafes and a large water fountain all surrounded by ancient mulberry trees. This is very popular spot with the locals. After lunch we had free time to wander the streets on our own before meeting our group for dinner in the evening.
On our walk back into the old city for dinner we stopped and visited the Kalan Minaret at the Poi Kalan Islamic Complex. The beautiful 12th century minaret is 46 meters high and made out of baked bricks. It is fortunate that Genghis Khan spared this minaret when he destroyed most of the rest of the city in the 13th century.
After dinner at a rooftop restaurant a group of us stopped at a rooftop bar for a drink and enjoyed the view of Kalan Minaret lit up at night.

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Lyabi-Hauz Square
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Uzbek dolls
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Kalan Minaret
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Poi Kalan Islamic Complex
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Sunset at Poi Kalan
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Sunset at Poi Kalan
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Evening shot of Kalan Minaret

Posted by Jimpat 04:34 Comments (0)

Uzbekistan

Tonight we stay in a yurt

Today we left Samarkand and headed into the desert. As we get further from the capital, the roads get worse, so the travel becomes slower. Also, the distances between our destinations are becoming greater.
Our first stop was the town of Nurata. Here we visited the location of a fortress built by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. It is the location of a natural spring which has been preserved and continues to provide water. The spring is believed to have special healing qualities and it is also the home to some sacred fish called marinka. We had lunch at the home of a local woman, which she has opened up to serve meals to travellers. One interesting feature of many of our meals here has been the widely-available “artichoke salad”. It consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and spices, but not a shred of artichoke!
We continued into the desert and eventually reached the shores of a man made lake. Lake Aydar was formed in the 1960s by the diversion of flood waters. It continues to grow, despite being wholly surrounded by desert. One of our group went in for a swim, and some of the rest of us waded in to our knees.
We continued our journey into the desert until we reached our yurt camp, where we spent the night. We enjoyed some afternoon leisure, and a desert sunset before dinner. Then we were entertained around the campfire by a singer with an Uzbek stringed instrument. For reasons that were not clear to us, the two of us shared a large “honeymoon yurt” while all the rest of our party shared the male and female yurts.

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Ruins of fortress built by Alexander the Great
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View of Chashma Complex in Nurata
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Small mosque at the Chashma Complex
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Lake Aydar
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Our yurt camp
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Inside our honeymoon yurt.
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Horseman near our yurt camp.

Posted by Jimpat 04:13 Comments (0)

Uzbekistan

Exploring Samarkand

Today we started our day with a walking tour through Samarkand old city. Samarkand is considered to be one of the oldest cities in Central Asia dating back to the 4th century B.C. Our first stop was the Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum which we viewed last night. It was just as stunning in the daylight as it was last night. Today we entered the mausoleum with its gold leaf and blue tiled walls and exquisite domed ceiling. Truly breathtaking!
From the mausoleum we continue on to Registan Square which is considered the heart of ancient Samarkand. It is a huge square with three majestic madrasah monuments of eastern medieval architecture. ‘Madrasah’ is the Arabic word for any type of educational institution. When you enter each madrasah monument they open into their own inner courtyard, which once housed students. There is usually a mosque in each madrasah. We were in total awe as we wandered through this beautiful Square.
From there walked to Bibi-Khanym’s Mosque which was built between 1399-1404 by the order of Amir Timor for his wife. Parts of this complex have yet to be refurbished.
After our tour, a group of us caught taxis to go out to have ‘plov’ for lunch. Plov is a national dish here, typically served at lunchtime. It consists of rice, yellow and orange carrots, onions, spices, and meat (and sometimes quail’s eggs). The place we went to was sold out for the day. Fortunately for us, a kind passerby directed us to another small, local restaurant where it was still available. We were a bit of a spectacle, as this was not the type of place that would typically get tourists. The plov was good and, like all our meals here, incredibly cheap.
After lunch we caught taxis to Shahi-Zinda Necropolis complex which consists of eleven medieval mausoleums. It was an amazing feeling to wander through this ancient complex and view the beautiful mausoleums.
From there we stopped for a refreshing beer and another short visit at Registan Square before returning to our hotel. In the evening we went out for dinner as a group.

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Gur-e Amir Mausoleum
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Jim in the courtyard of the Mausoleum
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Inside the Mausoleum
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Inside the mausoleum
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Ceiling in the mausoleum
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Arriving at Registan Square
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One of the three Madrasah Monuments
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Entrance to another Madrasah
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Stunningly beautiful!
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Us
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The breathtaking ceiling in the mosque

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Another view of the ceiling
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Another stunning madrasah
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Courtyard at a madrasah
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Part of the Bibi-Khanym Mosque
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One more madrasah!

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Jim eating the national dish called Plov
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Us and a few of our group members trying Plov, the national dish
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A view at Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis
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Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis
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Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis
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Walking thru Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis
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Enjoying Shakhi-Zinda Necropolis
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Pretty Mosque ceiling

Posted by Jimpat 10:34 Comments (1)

Uzbekistan

Samarkand

Today we headed for Samarkand. There are 13 guests in our party, and we travel in a spacious and modern bus. Our guide is a lovely young Russian/Korean woman named Diana, who has lived her whole life in Uzbekistan.

Distances here are long, and the roads rather rough, so it takes a long time to get from place to place. En route to Samarkand we travel through lushly cultivated farm lands, rich with fruit trees and crops. We stop for lunch at a kind of oasis, and enjoy our meal outdoors. We like the heavy, fresh bread that is served at every meal here, together with kebabs, fresh salads, and somsas, a kind of samosa.

We arrived in Samarkand, and checked into our hotel. We were free for the afternoon, so a group of us grabbed taxis to take us across the city to the Urug Beg Observatory. The taxi cost us about $.60 per person. Urug Beg was a son of Amir Temur, and built an astronomical observatory. His calculations as to the length of a day and a year were found to be precise centuries later.

In the evening we walked past Registan Square to see the setting sun in the beautiful buildings, before continuing on to dinner. After dinner we went to see Guri Amir Mausoleum lit up for the night. Beautiful!

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View from our hotel balcony in Tashkent
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A conference facility in Tashkent
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Statue of Amir Temur in Tashkent
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Registan Square at sunset
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Registan Square
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Gur-e Amir Mausoleum

Posted by Jimpat 20:35 Comments (1)

Uzbekistan

Tashkent!

We arrived in Uzbekistan at about 7:00 am. Immigration was a breeze. We had to figure out how to get some local currency in the very small Tashkent airport, but once that was sorted we were able to go out and negotiate with the usual horde of taxi drivers for transport to our hotel.

On the drive to the hotel we discovered that Tashkent is a beautiful city, with wide, clean boulevards, and modern architecture. Despite the fact that we have flown for hours over expansive deserts, the city is very green. En route, traffic was suddenly stopped in all directions, and remained immobile for about 10 minutes. The driver, who doesn’t speak English, indicated that the President was coming. Eventually, a convoy of black vehicles traveling at very high speed raced past us. Soon after, traffic resumed, and we proceeded to our hotel.

We had breakfast at the hotel, and spent some time getting some more local money. We took a walk around the streets near the hotel, including a large park with a statue of Amir Timur, a 15th-century emperor of Central Asia.

Eventually we were able to check into our hotel room. At 6:00 pm, we had our first meeting with the group with whom we would be traveling, and we all went for dinner together. We went to a lovely restaurant that served very good Uzbek food, for a very reasonable price.

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Posted by Jimpat 18:08 Comments (0)

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