TRANSPORT IN BUKHARA CITY

bukhara cityMost Bukhara Hotels and B&Bs offer help with ticket booking, while the BICC keeps bus, train and air timetables. One or two flights a day leave for Tashkent, plus weekly departures to Andijan and Moscow. Tickets are sold at the Uzbekistan Airways office, 15 Navoi St, tel. 2235060, or at Bukhara’s renovated airport (international department, tel. 2256121), a ten minute taxi ride from the centre, bus route No. 10, or marshrutka minibus No. 100.

The state-run central bus station (“Centralnee Avtovokzal”), three kilometres north of the city centre on Gijduvani St (tel. 2245021), serves Tashkent, Samarkand and Urgench. Faster, more expensive share-taxis and minibuses (“buhanka”, breadvans) also compete for custom here. Marshrutka Nos. 70 and 77 serve this bus station—hail one from Lyab-i-Hauz by walking east from the ‘pojarka’ stop (beside Three Jars Cafe behind Divanbegi madrassah), and turning up Nyzami St to No. 4 school. The Karvon Bozor further up the road to Sitorai Mokhi Khosa has private, cheaper departures to Urgench. Karshi, Shakhrisabz, other towns to the east, and even Moscow, are served by the private shark (east) station (“avtostantsia Sharq”) (tel. 2253416), plus quicker morning departures to Tashkent.

All trains depart and arrive at Kagan railway station (tel. 5246593), 10 kilometres east of Bukhara. For Tashkent, choose the daily 661, departing at 6.40pm, arriving at 8am. You can buy train tickets at an office on Nyzami, 50 metres south of Bakhauddin Nkshbandi Ensemble. Catch an Urgench connection, avoiding Turkmenistan, from Navoi, not Bukhara. By far the easiest way to get around, outside the old town, is by taxi.

ACCOMMODATION IN BUKHARA CITY

A world of choice now lies in the wake of the Bukharan ’boutique’ makeover. Reasonably priced, well-serviced and charming private homes turned hotels are spread throughout the winding alleys of old Bukhara. Many can prove hard to find on first acquaintance, so phone ahead. Most offer city tours, transport and other travel services.

HAKKIM MULLO MIR KHANAGHA

Hidden deep in the village of Chilangu, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the nearest tourist, lies the unassuming grave of Sheikh al-Islam Emir Hussein Mullo Mir (died 1587) and the enormous khanagha built a century later in the shadow of his name. The dervish house has a complicated layout and its imposing four storey portal makes it seem larger than it actually is. Five staircases lead to a series of hujra cells arranged around the central mosque and a further two staircases lead to a series of hujra cells arranged around the central mosque and a further two staircases lead up corner pylons to access the third- storey roof and chimneys of the cells below. The whole building is as solid as a rock and is set afloat on a sea of grasses and graves.

An excellent time for individuals to visit is Friday lunchtime, when local aksakals emerge from the surrounding fields like iron filings to a magnet to celebrate Friday namaz with feasting and communal prayer. A trainee imam usually sounds the call to prayer with hands cupped around his ears to catch the words of Allah. After individual prayer the imam ascends the imam minbar pulpit and addresses the congregation, after which he leads them in communal prayer. Then a donations book is read out and the tightfisted are grilled in silent shame. A small foreign donation will normally be rewarded with an entry into the book. Chilangu is the best reached by taxi rom Bukhara or Romitan. Follow the P-68 turnoff at Galasia from the main M-37.

VARAKHSHA IN BUKHARA CITY

Bunyat Bukhar was drinking wine in his palace at Varakhsha, secure in the knowledge that he was the ruler of the richest city in Mavarranawahr, when two horsemen bearing the Caliph’s standard appeared as two clouds of dust on the horizon. They rode up into the fortress, dismounted and, without saying a word, drew their swords and cut off his head. They accused him of aiding and abetting the heretic Mokanna, proclaimed the end of the Bukhar Khudat line and departed.

With the death of Bunyat in 782 came the slow decline of the city of Varakhsha, a city older and bigger than Bukhara, home to Hephalite kings and Sogdian princes and staging post on the eight-day caravan trail to Khorezm. Today “Uzbektourism” and DOLORES TRAVEL SERVICES offer tours into the Kyzyl Kum to see its southern citadel, but its most famous find, a series of pre-Islamic wall paintings depicting hunters on elephants fighting off leopards and griffins and a state reception scene complete with crouching, winged camels supporting a royal throne, are held in Tashkent museums.

AFSHONA IN BUKHARA CITY

The languid kishlah of Afshona slumbers in a bed of white-dusted cotton fields and gurgling irrigation canals and were it not for its one world-famous son would enjoy its torpor like any other neglected Uzbek hamlet. But in 980 Ali ibn-Sina, or Avicenna (980-1037), was born here and the city was thrust into the limelight of international attention. The Avicenna Museum was unveiled on the 1,000th anniversary of his birth and contains some interesting items, such as fearsome-looking turn of the century Uzbek surgical hooks and pliers, but with few captions in English it is perhaps best appreciated by those with a focused interest.

PAIKEND IN BUKHARA CITY

The Copper City of Paikend was once the greatest trading city in Transoxiana, equipped with the 1,000 fortified, representative rabads set up by every self-respecting city in the region and the finest mosque this side of the Oxus. The Arabs destroyed the city after pilfering a pearl ‘the size of a pigeon’s egg’ during 50 days of plunder and it never truly recovered, even after repeated resuscitation by the Karakhanid Arslan Khan. Today4 Komil (see page 281), Uzbektourism and others can take specialists to its faint remains, 60 kilometres (40 miles) southwest of Bukhara on a daytrip that includes fishing. The site is currently being excavated and welcomes visitors; a museum is planned.

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