the spectacular treasures of samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known,
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

~ James Elroy Flecker

One cannot claim to be a traveller, and not have made the journey to Samarkand. Or at least have thought of it, fantasised about it. It would be blasphemy.

Samarkand is everything the traveller searches for, within and outside of oneself. It reveals secrets about life held gently amidst its spectacular edifices in blue and gold. The romantic exotic tile-clad mosques, madrasahs, tombs, bazaars and squares transpose one back 500 years in time to a grand fairy-tale city, deep in arid windswept Central Asia. On a philosophical note, Samarkand is the semi-mythological place of “justice, fairness, and righteousness” in Islamic Classical literature.

Much like Flecker’s reference to it, a lust for knowing more about ourselves and these ideals, makes the passage to Samarkand one of those non-negotiable, mandatory journeys one just has to take. 🙂 Continue reading

why tashkent needs to be in your travel bucket list

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I bet you never thought of Tashkent as a candidate for your travel bucket list. Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand in Uzbekistan—of course. But Tashkent? It’s the administrative centre. Aren’t capital cities of historically rich countries drab and dry in comparison? Well, at least that is the assumption we most often live with. A fair enough one, for they often are so, serving as entry and exit points for air travel, or are confined to business and politics.

But some are a bit more. Tashkent is one of them. Now I am not saying it is steeped in history or burgeoning with attractions like the rest of the country or you will definitely be disappointed. You may even get cross with me for my recommendation. 🙂

Known as Tashkent or Toshkent, meaning ‘Stone City’ since the 11th Century, it is a showcase of ‘modern Uzbekistan’, a sparsely populated country proud of both its rich heritage and recent independence (1991). Continue reading

shakhrisabz, tamerlane’s home town

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The grandeur of the Ak-Saray Palace and the simplicity of his own intended tomb, both in Shakhrisabz, perhaps best describe Amir Temur (1336-1405), better known as Tamerlane [Temur, the lame], the person. Complex, multi-faceted, termed history’s most callous butcher, conqueror of southern, western and central Asia, he was the founder of the Timurid dynasty, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. Continue reading

top 15 memorable things to do in bukhara

Yes, you read right. The blog post headline is a listicle. The first I am ever writing on travel. It is a style much in variance with what I have been writing to-date. I have been reading listicles everywhere for a while now—across all media, and genre, by varying levels of writers—from influencers, to those just recently having discovered a love for the written word.

A part of me sees it as the easy way to writing. But, yet I also often catch myself choosing to read a listicle over a feature. So this morning I woke up and told myself, let’s join what everyone is doing [almost] right. 😛

What better place to start than to use this format to write about Bukhara, the third stop on my journey to Samarkand in Uzbekistan; a blog post still sitting on my desktop because every time I look at it I get all nostalgic. Plus, I don’t know where to start. There is way too much to it.

Whilst Khiva is a compact fairy-tale town enclosed in medieval walls, Bukhara is scattered, both geographically and thematically, as well as bigger: there is the marketplace, learning and spiritual hub, royal grounds, and necropolis. If one is not aware of its various facets, it is easy to give some of them a slip. And hey, Bukhara does not come into our lives every day. So here are my top 15 things to do in Bukhara, a World Heritage Site, on World Heritage Day, and why I chose to put them in this list. If you have any that you feel merit a place, please do share. 🙂

1. Get up close and personal with Nasreddin Hodja, the Islamic world and Bukhara’s most loved trickster

bukhara_nasreddinhodja Continue reading

khiva: pearl of the great silk road and khanate of khiva

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The very word conjures up a vision of towering minarets and ancient mosques clustered together in a small medieval walled town in the midst of golden desert sands. Khiva. Don’t you agree? The reality, even after centuries, is no different.

I arrived at Khiva—tired, dusty, hungry—after a long day driving through Khorezm, the Zoroastrian viloyet of Uzbekistan. As I opened my hotel bedroom window, distracted with memories of forts and dakhmas, a dusk-dappled Khodja minaret a mere stone’s throw away from my room, welcomed me to its home. It was one of those “Aah-ah” moments which I guess I will keep with me all my life. 🙂 The reason I had travelled miles to cover this journey washed over me. I smiled back at the minaret, and whispered “Rahmat.” Continue reading

zoroastrian khorezm: the ancient viloyat of uzbekistan

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A journey to Samarkand is about medieval mythical cities and ancient forts going as far back as 500 years before Christ. First Zoroastrian, followed by Islamic, the sites still stand in all their glory today—many restored, others in ruins. But in spite of this, the journey is not just about geographies, edifices or time. It is to the grandeur within us. But that, I hope, will become clearer as my blog post series on Uzbekistan unfolds. 🙂

I started in Nukus. You may well ask why Nukus for it is not the usual starting point. Well, my answer is: It is the western most city, has the finest collection of historical and cultural artefacts at its State Art Museum Savitsky Collection thereby offering a splendid introduction to the country, and is the most low key in the circuit. Everything only gets more fantastical from here onwards.

Nukus also lies on the outskirts of Khorezm [or Khwarezm or Chorasmia (Persian)]—an oasis, the site of an ancient civilization by the same name, and now a province. Continue reading