Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Never Ending Festival of Bukhara

As often happens to me in the end of summer, I feel the urge to go somewhere. Even though I have had my three weeks of vacation in the mountains, that clearly was not enough to provide me with new impressions. Unfortunately this year was not very successful for us financially, and it is unlikely that we could afford going abroad.

However here within our country we always have a wonderful option - we can go to a place I am never tired of. We can go to Bukhara. To me, this is not an alternative, not a cheaper substitute for a more exciting trip, but a journey as fascinating as any other. 

My heart fills with joy as we are entering the city. The bells in a small shop at the entrance to the Jewellers' Dome are just like they were 12 years ago, when I saw them for the first time. Old and new, covered with patina or shiny, I smile at them as if they were old friends of mine.

The city is traditionally called 'the Golden Bukhara', for its wealth and beauty.  To me it is not golden, though. It is all shades of brown and red. Old weathered bricks and wood are softened and brightened by carpets of wool and silk, giving the ever-festive look to the city and making it so alive. Colorful silk scarves move with the wind, like flags of some unknown country.

The carpets in the picture below are hanging near the entrance to the Money Exchangers' Dome.

And the carpets and rugs in the next photo are just lying nearby, thrown carelessly on the pavement.

These ladies' hats - dupi - demonstrate bright handmade embroidery with tassels. Traditional embroidery uses lots of symbols believed to protect the wearer, ensure prosperity, bring good luck and health. The origins (and sometimes the meaning) of many of those is now lost, but the women still teach their trainees to use those patterns in their work, passing the craft and half-forgotten old-knowledge to the new generations.

This is the entrance to one of the converted mosques. Inside, there are plenty of small rooms which are used as craft workshops now. People make embroidery, sew, weave, carve wood, make dolls and engrave brass plates right there and sell their work on the spot.

The lady in the picture below was giving a dance lesson at Nodir Divan Begi madrassah. Tourists, including ourselves, were enchanted. In the background you can see a display with miniatures and colorful suzani bags.

In Bukhara, people are very industrious and crafty.  Everyone is doing something - even an elderly lady in the drugstore is embroidering a piece of fabric when there are no customers around. They keep producing things to sell to tourists, and teach their children, too.

Kids help their parents in shops, learn crafts and can speak several foreign languages - at least the key words necessary to trade, but sometimes they speak English or other languages quite fluently. They are very proud of their contribution to the family budget.

The little lady in picture below on the right was drawing diligently, seated close to her parent's shop and paying no attention to the loud music and tourists around.

It was late October, and the weather was blissful. The sun was warm and tender, and the nights were chilly, with bright stars and black silhouettes of domes and trees against the dark blue sky. And these are the last October roses from the inner yard of our hotel.

And what a lovely hotel it was! a very old converted house, full of small rooms and complicated corridors. The walls and floor in our room were decorated with rugs and suzani, and it was very quiet and cozy. The hotel was very inexpensive, too, despite its location in the very heart of the old city.

This was in 2009, and I have not been to Bukhara since then. In 2010 I bought a dog and was very busy with him, but now he is grown up and I think we could go. Actually I have been thinking of taking him with me - it would be nice to show the place to the former citizen of the Netherlands - but then I decided against it. Although he is very social and well trained, I could not take him inside all the madrassah and mosques (even thought they are converted), and it is better for him to stay at home.

I would love to go there again this autumn; I miss Bukhara very much. If I go, I will certainly bring back a lot of pictures and something to offer in our Etsy shop. And I would bring back some presents for my dog, too - a beautiful ceramic bowl or an embroidered collar (if they started producing those - I would not be surprised, for Bukhara craftsmen are very creative).

It might be a bit early to write about autumn now, but maybe you would like to come and see the city? You would still have time to make the reservations to spend the most beautiful autumn days in one of the most fascinating places of Central Asia.


  1. Oh my! I can see why you want to go back. I would too as often as possible. You did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of Bukhara. So colorful, creative, inspiring, and peaceful.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more photos.

  2. Dear Sandy, thank you so much! you are always welcome, and I will certainly share more photos. I am not good at taking photos of architecture, so I have to limit myself to smaller things.

    And I am very happy that I found your blogs today due to this comment of yours. Your pictures and stories are awesome. I was lost, wondering by the sea... Thank you.

  3. Eugenie....What a beautiful post! Between the wonderful photos and your lovely, descriptive writing, I felt as if you were taking me with you to this beautiful place! : )

  4. Rinnovato, I am so pleased to hear that! I did by best to share my love and admiration: I am glad if I succeeded, at least to some extent.


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