Bukhara, Oct 2019

Uzbekistan

Once being a pearl of the Silk Road and a center of culture and education in the region, it's such a relief that the city still preserves its charm today.

Po-i Kalyan Complex

After all, smiling and crying would never be better than doing it under the shadow of Po-i Kalyan Complex at twilight.


The First Taste of Uzbekistan

Stepped into the Afrosiyob train car from Tashkent, with the heart filled with eagerness and the eyes full of curiosity, I expected to witness the desert that harboured the dream of Silk Road caravans, and that splendid scenic journey would also fend off my sleepiness after a long flight. The train started at 7:28, and crossing the dust to arrive at Bukhara (Buxoro/Бухоро) at 11:19.

Golden Desert
Golden Desert

Perhaps the American passengers in front of me did question why a typical Eastern Asian kept shooting into the blank desert. Simply because we hardly have a chance to enjoy something yellow, something gold, something… dry.

Promised to you, Afrosiyob train was an effortless experience, compared to the older night train from Bukhara to Khiva.

And there I was, Bukhara 1 Vozkal in Kogon, then I needed to take a taxi to the historical city center.

At Bukhara Vozkal
At Bukhara Vozkal
Taxi Window
Taxi Window

A Chilling Afternoon

The same routine of every trip: settle down with the hotel, lay down the luggage, and find somewhere to fill the stomach. Travelling is not travelling if you are deprived of proper sleep and good food.

Chilling under the shade of trees and enjoying some breezy autumn sunshine would be a luxury, like an oasis of joy surrounded by those harsh sandstorms outside waiting to gulp you down.

Afternoon Gathering Afternoon Gathering
Afternoon Gathering
Waiting to Be Served
Waiting to Be Served

Such a comforting time to take a lazy stroll, without any busy traffic honking in sight.

Bathing in Sunshine

Bazaar Bazaar Bazaar

From my hotel it takes around 20 minutes to reach Kalyan Mosque, but along the journey there encounters a few bazaars such as Toqi Sarrofon and Toqi Zargaron where you can buy original exotic souvenirs such as jewellery or textile. They are gate-like domes hosting different vendors which used to be important caravanserais (caravan inns or shelters) in the history.

Towards Toqi Sarrofon
Towards Toqi Sarrofon

The interior ambience is remarkably cool and refreshing, yet calm and untouristy. An ideal place to taking silhouette photos indeed.

A Merchant at Bazaar
A Merchant at Bazaar
The Domed Roof

Sun and Sand

It’s time to showcase the best takeaways from a trip in autumn: sandy yellow on top of clear sky backdrop.

Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasa
Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasa
Magoki Attor Mosque
Magoki Attor Mosque

In the early afternoon, the buildings are shiningly awe-inspiring; while approaching sunset time, they are casted with diagonal sunbeams, bearing an irresistible charm mesmerizing the lone traveller.

Grandeur
Grandeur
Charm
Charm

The street leading to Kalyan Mosque, namely Khakikat Street, introduces you a basket of feelings: the noise of bargaining, the tinkling of kids’ bikes after school hours.

Wedding Preparation A Fashion Workshop
Kid's Carefree Time

Crying under the Minaret

Finally I reached here, respecting the feat of architecture and craftsmanship, the Po-i Kalyan Complex, “The Foot of the Great”. Combined of Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque and Mir-i Arab Madrasa, they showcase the first impression of Uzbekistan flag: the turquoise domes and the intricate tile-work on exterior walls.

Po-i Kalyan Complex
Po-i Kalyan Complex
Ultimate Intricacy Ultimate Intricacy
Ultimate Intricacy

The Kalyan Minaret, a masterpiece of brickwork, was built in 1127 and until now it’s still there overlooking the city. An observation lighthouse, a religious artifact, and even the tower of death where men were executed by being thrown down from its top. History is merciless.

Kalyan Minaret Kalyan Minaret
Kalyan Minaret

Courtyard

Observing the sun proceeding towards its 8am or 4pm position from the mosque courtyard (sahn) gave me a genuine excitement. Inside there’s one single mulberry tree that stands out adorably in a dry day of this climate.

Inside the Courtyard
Inside the Courtyard
The Lone Tree
The Lone Tree

Hidden Corners

Once stepping inside the courtyard, almost every corner is a perfect spot for some mischievous photographer to grab his shot, especially when pointing the camera from the long corridors inside out.

Hidden Corners Hidden Corners
Under the Arch
Under the Arch
Beneath the Symmetry

Dancing Shadows

Oh you may never know (if I don’t tell) what I recall the most is I broke into tears while sitting at the steps in front of the great Mir-i Arab Madrasa waiting for the sun to complete its duty of the day. Perhaps the site was too majestic to enjoy it alone. Perhaps we might feel infinitesimal in this universe. Or perhaps simply, because of an unrequited love.

Sunset over Kalyan
Sunset over Kalyan

When the minaret, standing tall, is illuminated, it resembles a glorious candle in the sea of darkness.

A Candle in the Sea of Darkness A Candle in the Sea of Darkness

Or it’s just the best place for chit-chat between the young friends on a Saturday night, no more no less.

Night Chatting

As Clear as Crystal

I wouldn’t miss a chance to get up early to say a proper “Assalomu aleykum” to that morning. I would stroll around the central piece where Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasa, Kukaldosh Madrasa, Nadir Divan-Begi Khanaka and Magoki Attor Mosque were located, where people biking up- and down-hill in sight seemed so relaxed, so serene.

Nadir Divan-Begi Khanaka
Nadir Divan-Begi Khanaka

Photos taken in the morning have inherently pristine ambience with cool temperature and calm vibes. There’s no need to pack your schedule with pinned locations on the map, just take a seat, breathe and feel.

Bukhara Morning Vibes Bukhara Morning Vibes Bukhara Morning Vibes Bukhara Morning Vibes
Bukhara Morning Vibes
Bukhara Morning Vibes

Befriending someone and joining in some random gathering on the street can’t be easier, that’s what a wandering backpacker spends his lifetime on - to find genuine interaction with earthlings.

Bursting Liveliness Bursting Liveliness
Bursting Liveliness
Bursting Liveliness

The morning also presents you with different perspectives from which other ways of observing things derive. Try dawn instead of dusk. Try 10am instead of 4pm. Try wide angle instead of focused angle.

A Different Perspective
A Different Perspective
Khoja-Gaukushan Madrasa
Khoja-Gaukushan Madrasa

…and famous places, again.

Ark of Bukhara Ark of Bukhara
Ark of Bukhara
Symmetry of Po-i Kalyan
Symmetry of Po-i Kalyan
Biking Uphill

Alone, Waiting for You

It became windier when my second day in Bukhara was approaching its end. Sunset, as usual, was best served for diners seated at high vantage point. I recommend you visit Water Tower Shukhova, a Soviet-built steel tower in 1927-1929, which looks a bit unimpressive today but used to be an engineering marvel in the early 20th century. The price to visit (taking elevator) is 40000 UZS only.

M.Karimov Street
M.Karimov Street
Bukhara Overview
Bukhara Overview

I, in a moment, wondered why the sun was unusually round in Uzbekistan, why bird silhouettes were the perfect companion of sundown. Silly questions indeed. The answers are all about clearly defined shapes that make better imprints in our reminiscence.

These are the pictures when aiming your wide open eyes towards Bukhara’s west, a ferris wheel is situated right there which superbly fits into the composition.