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Inside Uzbekistan: Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara

  • whl.travel
  • 3 March 2009

Exploring Uzbekistan is like leafing through the pages of an Eastern fairytale. During your journey you come across ancient fortresses, emirs’ palaces, tall minarets, noisy bazaars, fragrant cuisine and myriads of legends. The ancient cities of Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara are popular must-see destinations for travellers coming to Uzbekistan, however, beyond some of the more better-known highlights there are distinctive aspects of each place that should not be overlooked.

According to legend, when a Bukharin emir tasted Samarkand non, he ordered the best baker to make the same non in Bukhara. The baker made the bread, but the taste was different. The angry emir demanded an explanation. The baker reported that the air in Samarkand makes the bread so delicious!

According to legend, when a Bukharin emir tasted Samarkand non, he ordered the best baker to make the same non in Bukhara. The baker made the bread, but the taste was different. The angry emir demanded an explanation. The baker reported that the air in Samarkand makes the bread so delicious!

Legendary Samarkand Non

An inseparable part of Uzbek culture is non, the traditional bread made in special earthen ovens. There are over 20 kinds of non, yet the most famous comes from the village of Gala-Osiyo near Samarkand. The secret recipe has made Samarkand the home of the best non in the region.

Although it’s sold everywhere in the city, there are three main places where you can buy genuine Samarkand non. First is the main bazaar of Samarkand – the Siyob Bazaar – which has a special section of seemingly endless bread stalls. Less well known is the area near Registan Square, behind the Museum of History and Culture of Uzbekistan, where Registan Street turns into Pendjikent Street. Lastly, delicious non is available in the area of Ulugbek’s Observatory.

Keep in mind that local sellers may be quite pushy, but don’t panic. Take your time and always bargain a little. Expect to pay 2000 Uzbekistan Som (approximately US$1.50).

* Non Etiquette: Samarkand non should be divided into pieces with your hands (not with a knife) and also should not be placed bottom-side up when served. Don’t forget to drink hot tea after traditional meals, as the local food is rather greasy.

A view of the Ichan-Kala, the old walled city of Khiva and its Madrasah of Muhammad Rakhim-khan II. Construction of the surrounding walls began in the 6th century BC. Today the 2.25km of walls stand 10m high!

A view of the Ichan-Kala, the old walled city of Khiva and its Madrasah of Muhammad Rakhim-khan II. Construction of the surrounding walls began in the 6th century BC. Today the 2.25km of walls stand 10m high!

Ichan-Kala of Khiva

Ichan-Kala, the inner city of Khiva, is an open-air museum of unparalleled examples of ancient Oriental architecture. It comprises a collection of minarets, mausoleums and 10th-century mosques. In the summer the best time to visit is from 9-11am and in the evenings from 4-7pm. The hot afternoons should be spent in a chaihona (local teahouse) or in your hotel.

For a truly authentic overnight experience, travellers can stay at the Hotel Orient Star, situated in the Muhammad Amin-Khan Madrasah, a 19th-century theological school boasting remarkable architecture. Guests can say stay in actual hujras, or student rooms, which have retained the detail of its original interior.

Plan to spend no fewer than two days at Ichan-Kala and make sure that you wander around Khiva at night, when the moonlight creates magical silhouettes of the ancient city.

*Mosque Etiquette: Always take off your shoes and make sure not to interrupt a prayer. Women should visit the area conservatively dressed and with their heads covered. Avoid raising your voice in the visiting area and smoking is never permitted.

The crooked branch of the mulberry tree located on the grounds of the Bahouddin Naqshbandee complex is believed to bring blessing if walked around three times. If it hits your head or back, it means that you are granted forgiveness for your sins.

The crooked branch of the mulberry tree located on the grounds of the Bahouddin Naqshbandee complex is believed to bring blessing if walked around three times. If it hits your head or back, it means that you are granted forgiveness for your sins.

Mysteries of Naqshandee

One of the main trading centres of the Great Silk Road is legend-laden city of Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage site. However, one of the most mysterious and sacred places in Uzbekistan is situated 12km northwest of Bukhara, at the mausoleum of Bahouddin Naqshbandee (1318–1389) in the village of Qasri Orifon.

The founder of Sufism and the Naqshbandiya order, Bahouddin is said to still be alive in the complex surrounding his tomb. Some claim to have seen him appear. The tomb of the Sufi is a popular pilgrimage destination and it is believed that walking around the tomb anticlockwise three times will bring you good blessing.

To get to the mausoleum of Bahouddin Naqshbandee from Bukhara, travellers should arrange with a local operator.

For more information about Uzbekistan, including accommodations, tours, activities, all your travel needs, and lots of insider tips, contact your local whl.travel connection: Shoista Saydaminova and the team from Afsona Travel at www.samarkand-bukhara-travel.com.

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architecture & landmarks, Asia, food & drink, holy sites, local knowledge, museums, South-Central Asia, Uzbekistan, whl.travel,

9 Responses to “Inside Uzbekistan: Samarkand, Khiva and Bukhara”

  1. Shaun says:

    I think this is great, not an advertisement as such… a chance to actually speak direct to a local in Uzbekistan (which was in response to Margaret’s question). I will certainly get there one day 🙂

  2. Lyudmila says:

    Dear Oleg,

    We truly appreciate your comment, however, we must say that the tour product, which we put on offer, is designed to provide a true sense of Uzbek culture beyond mere sightseeing and cannot be regarded overpriced considering the programs included. Moreover, as a local partner of whl.travel, we share a common philosophy of doing business and place much emphasis on caring for our destination, providing opportunities to locally owned accommodations and restaurants as well as supporting local artisans and masters. Accommodation featured on http://www.samarkand-bukhara-travel.com is provided at competitive prices, offering the best deals for most of the local hotels, which may be proven by a Google search.
    Hope you change your mind after making a relevant search))

  3. Oleg says:

    C’mon, folks, it should be TRAVEL article and NOT ADVERTISEMENT article.

    Stop promoting the travel services that would cost an arm and a leg for any foreigner wishing to go to Uzbekistan. There are A LOT of alternatives to Afsona Travel that cost MUCH cheaper and provide the same services. I don’t want to say anything bad about Afsona Travel. It is up to you if you want to spend additional money for… ehhh… I don’t know what for… But, just to be fair and professional, the article should mention other alternatives.

    Just do your search on Google and you sure can come up with a better deal.

  4. Lyudmila says:

    Dear Margaret,

    The Discover Uzbekistan tour on Samarkand portal will take you to all these remarkable cities in 7 days, during which you will be able to acquire a true sense of local culture and see these and many other wonders of Uzbekistan!

  5. editor says:

    Hi Margaret,

    Just go to http://www.samarkand-bukhara-travel.com and click on the Tours & Activities tab for a look at the kinds of tours on offer from the whl.travel local partner in Uzbekistan. They can help you reach all these wonders and more!

  6. Margaret Smalbil says:

    Please recommend a tour to see all these wonders.

  7. Greg Hiemenz says:

    What a great article on non. Makes me want to go and taste it now. Thanks.

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