When it comes to the Silk Road, deciding on a single city can be hard. Still, if you’re looking for a beating heart of Central Asia, look no further, Bukhara is the one. With the history dating back thousands of years, this city qualifies for the cradle of humanity. This hidden gem in Uzbekistan is certainly a must-see location for all those who appreciate the ancient and are looking to gain wisdom. Translated from Sogdian, Bukhara literally means “Place of Good Fortune”. During your time in Uzbekistan, you will see at least one Central Asian Shephard, meet the humble Uzbekistan people, and learn about the ancient cities. Here is all you need to know about Bukhara, the ancient city.
History of Bukhara
Since the 6th century BC, Bukhara was known as a trade center. In its early days, Bukhara was considered a vital part of the Persian Empire, which drew people in, populating the area around. Not only that it was the state of art, with buildings that outshined the capitols in that time, but was also a clash of cultures and knowledge. The fact Bukhara wasn’t the capital gave the city space to develop while keeping up the reputation of a safe haven. Archeologically, Bukhara is not only one of the last preserved cites where you can witness ancient history, but also an impressive collection of Eastern knowledge and architecture.
The influence of the Samanid Empire also helped Bukhara become the living reminder of the past. However, with the arrival of Islam, this city also witnessed the birth of a new era, which combined with the old created culture like no other. Since it was a trade center, Bukhara was home to different nations and the place where you could always find what you need, no matter the origin.
As for recent history, it was the last to fall under Soviet rule, but luckily, the city was preserved due to locals who maintained their way of life despite the major changes. Whoever visited it during that time, witnessed a sense of unity like no other as the Uzbek people knew how important their home is. Now, Bukhara is one of the cities modern Uzbekistan shows off proudly, and for a good reason, for it is just as important and just as historical as Florence or Rome. As more people around the world learn about the Silk Road Uzbekistan, travels to Bukhara and Bukhara tourism jobs are steadily increasing.
Bukhara’s stunning historic center was added to UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1993. It is one of the best examples of well-preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia from the 10th century through the 16th century.
Things To Do In Bukhara
Probably as impressive as it gets when it comes to local culture. The Trading Domes of Bukhara let you see the way of life. The local monument helps you understand how commoners once earned a living. Full of shops, you can definitely find some local souvenirs here. Additionally, it is a work of art, which is why it’s a must-see spot in Bukhara. The trading domes are located near the famous Poi Kalyan and Toki Sarrafon Bazaar.
Chor Bakr Necropolis
Even though Chor Bakr is not within the borders of nowadays Bukhara, the architectural complex should be on your list of places to visit. It represents an important part of Islamic history. The collection of graves include the family of four brothers, that are said to be the descendants of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which is why it is so important for the locals. The memorial complex is the burial place for the Abu Bakr family. It is also a unique work of art that you’ll want to see. Tours of the museum are also available.
Great Minaret of Kalon
The Kalon minaret of the Poi Kalon Mosque complex (also known as Kalyan Mosque) is the tallest building in Bukhara with a single accent of glazed blue tiles near the top. The place where you’ll witness the beauty of architecture that managed to impress even Genghis Khan, the destroyer of culture. The simplicity of detail that captures the eye of the visitor is not the only thing that is interesting about it. The Great Minaret of Kalon also is a story of survival and rebirth, which locals will gladly share with you.
Definitely, a place that anyone who loves mystery will enjoy. Zindan is a small prison located behind the ark fortress and is one of Bukhara’s historic sites. The place where rulers of Bukhara imprisoned people based on their own assumptions. You’ll be surprised to learn this “prison” can only fit 40 people which means that if nothing the crime rate was low.
When it comes to fortresses in Bukhara, the truth is Ark Citadel is only one of them, but definitely the most impressive one. Carefully structured by the ruler at the time, the Ark Citadel was meant to protect but was mostly used to host the court which is why eventually became a cultural place. It is also known as Ark of Bukhara.
The four minarets are probably the structure that will baffle you for they serve the purpose until this very day. As a crown to the mosque built by one of the rulers of the Janid dynasty, this monument is a reminder that unusual was not only accepted but also cherished in Bukhara. The towers were the symbol of grandiosity. The different architecture is just yet another reminder that you’re in Bukhara, and there nothing is as simple as you think.
Trips And Travel From Bukhara
While the city will take most of your energy with its monuments, there are a few interesting spots outside of Bukhara that also deserve your attention. One of them is certainly the Palace of Moon-like Stars which is definitely worth a visit.
If you want to see a lot more and you are willing to go further there are several other options. Consider heading to Tashkent (the Uzbekistan Capital city), Khiva, the Fergana Valley, Samarkand, or Andijan.
How To Get To Bukhara
Bukhara Airport is definitely an option if you’re looking to travel by plane as it has regular flights to Uzbekistan from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan with Uzbekistan Airways.
Uzbekistan railways are a great way to travel from city to city and view the beautiful countryside. Train travel is inexpensive however, some trains sell out so you should buy your tickets as early as possible.
Another way of accessing Bukhara is also an M37 highway, but this is not a popular option, especially for international tourists. When I went, we took a taxi from Dushanbe, Tajikistan to the border. After walking across the border, we took another taxi to Bukhara. The taxi drive from the border to Bukhara was 8 hours and cost $50 USD. The drive was beautiful but very long and the road was not smooth.
There are very few four-star hotels in Bukhara and only a couple in the old town historic center.
I stayed at the 3-star Orom Hotel in the historic center. It was the perfect location and included breakfast with the stay.
Other options for 4-star hotels are:
Hotel Malika Bukhara
Boutique Hotel Minzifa
Omar Khayyam Hotel
Uzbekistan Travel Tips
Bukhara hosts a number of different cultures, with Uzbeks being the majority. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore each culture while you’re there.
Most of the Bukhara food consists of rice, potatoes, and lamb or horse meat. Trying out different food from different cultures in one place is certainly something to do in Bukhara.
Depending on what country you are from you may need to get an Uzbekistan Visa.
Uzbekistan language is officially Turkic. However, Russian is common as well. Very few people speak English.
The Uzbekistan population is just over 32.3 million people. Just under 250,000 people live in Bukhara.
The Uzbekistan flag consists of three horizontal blue, white, and green bands separated by two thin red fimbriations, with a crescent moon and twelve stars at the canton.
The Uzbekistan currency is the Uzbekistani soʻm or Uzbekistan som. As currency rates fluctuate daily it is best to use a currency exchange app so you know you are getting a fair Uzbekistan exchange rate.
Uzbekistan nightlife varies from city to city. However, the Uzbekistan religion is mostly Islam, so drinking and the Bukhara nightlife are not very big.
To read more about my trip through Central Asia click on the links below. They are listed in the order I traveled and will be updated with links as the articles are published.
Dushanbe Tajikistan – read more here.
Andijan Uzbekistan – read more here.