From the discordant designs and alien red majolica of the front gate, go swiftly past the emir’s wine cellar (now a book shop) and servants’ quarters of the fiault birun, or outer courtyard, and into the main reception halls of the inner damn courtyard, site of the First Congress of the Bukharan Soviet on 6 October 1920 and present-day Museum of Applied Arts in Bukhara.
The bed chambers of the emir lie in the northwest corner of the courtyard, next to the lime-green ganch iwan, and still contain the emir’s bed, while the wedding-cake-white ganch and mirrored glass of the next door reception room give it the name White Hall. From here a small corridor decked with Persian and Turkomen prayer carpets leads to the emir’s games room, banquet hall, secretary’s office and tea room.
Quirky cross-cultural items to look out for include a mechanical calendar, statue of Peter the Great, early Russian fridge, a mirror that multiplies 40 times, a 16th century Chinese sugar bowl and photographs of the last two emirs. Nearby is a recent statue of local craftsman Shirin Muradov, who decorated much of the palace.
Further into the complex, to the left, stands the Octagonal Palace and Bukhara Museum of National Costume. Starting from the southern entrance and walking clockwise, room one has a display of thin yaktab summer robes with Russian influenced collars, a horsehair paranja and a 1928 photograph of the emir’s unveiled concubines, room three holds examples of gulduzi gold embroidery, including one robe entirely covered in two years’ worth of work, an