On the Silk Road-- Birthday in Bukhara
When I was assigned to Tajikistan back in October 2003, I had visions of frequent road trips to some of the ancient Silk Road cities in neighboring Uzbekistan-- Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva. Unfortunately, our relationship with Uzbekistan went sour quickly after an incident in Andijon in May 2005-- they kicked out our military base, started closing down U.S. funded NGOs and made it hard for Americans, particularly diplomats, to get visas. My boyfriend Evan happened to get a three-year visa in early 2005, but I had to use my personal passport and pay for a letter of invitation for a single-entry one month visa.
We left on Saturday, October 21-- my birthday-- and crossed the border about 30 miles east of Dushanbe. On the other side, we found a taxi to drive us 6 hours across the desert to Bukhara. It was hard to imagine camel caravans going back and forth across the bleak terrain -- or why Bukhara became the spot in the middle of nowhere that sprang up as a center of Islamic study.
Bukhara felt like a living museum-- gorgeous architecture, tiny alleys, beautiful booths selling handicrafts, but very few people out and about. The very few restaurants served typical central asian fare (kebobs, rice, flat bread) and seemed geared entirely to the busses filled with Europeans, and we were often the only table not part of a group. Despite the chill between our governments, the Uzbeks we talked too seemed surprised and pleased we were Americans, and noted that before the base clsoed, many soliders had come to Bukhara on the weekends.
Here are a few shots of the many islamic schools and covered bazaars.
On Monday, we took another cab three hours to Samarkand. Samarkand is a bigger city, with more of the same architecture.