September 11, 2012, Day 32 – Khiva, Uzbekistan to Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Our schedule was to leave Khiva and drive to Bukhara today. We left shortly after 9 a.m. and it was another beautiful day, 24 degrees Celsius and climbing. Along the streets people were selling apples, grapes and different fruits. Lots of villagers waiting for buses to take them cotton picking and donkeys pulling carts loaded up with different products.
The roads to Bukhara were pretty rough, dirt in sections with big ruts in other sections. We had to weave in and out around the potholes so driving was slow. At one point the cars were all stopped to get on a bridge that allowed us to drive over the Amu Darya River, we had no idea why we were stopped and it turned out to be a train crossing.
While we were stopped we noticed cute little birds about the size of a finch with crowns on top of their heads much like our woodpeckers. Their colors were brown and grey, which allowed them to blend in with the desert sand. If we hadn’t stopped we wouldn’t have noticed them. Watching these cute little birds flying around and eating at the side of the road occupied us for quite a while.
We were driving along on a new road (which was a nice change from their old road with very little pavement) and the next thing we noticed was a car stopping to wave us over back over to the old road (right beside the new road). Being good tourists we did what he said while grumbling the whole way. Why did we have to do such a thing as to leave a very good road for this very bad road? Grumble, grumble but the next thing we noticed were cars trying to get off the new highway! This was not an easy task because there was no off road like we had and the new highway was built up higher than the old highway. There were dirt piles placed in the middle of the highway and they could not drive forward, they had no choice but to cross over to the old highway or drive back the wrong way on the highway until they came to a road. These cars chose to drive over to the old highway but the drop off was grounding their cars caused in the different heights of the highways. Lucky for us at the point we crossed over there was a little roadway and lucky for us we met up with a nice person who warned us there was a problem ahead! No more grumbling from us. One truck had tried driving through a pile of dirt and had crashed in the front of his truck. There were cement barriers on the other side of the dirt piles placed in the middle of the highway.
It turned out that the company who had made the new highway was not paid for their work. Why I do not know? But they were angry and had blocked the new highway every couple of miles with dirt piles and cement blocks. Very dangerous for us drivers!!
We were still driving at 4:30 p.m. and it was 28 degrees Celsius. The desert surrounding us was flat, dry and hot. Qizilcum, Qizil stands for red and cum stands for sand. The desert surrounding us in this area of Bukhara was named Qizilcum, a red sand desert. That was a very accurate description.
When we finally entered Bukhara we had been driving for 8 hours. The first thing we noticed was lots of new construction and that many of the private homes were two storied and appeared much larger than in Khiva.
For dinner we walked to an Italian restaurant and ate spaghetti. It was a nice change from all the kebobs and rice. Though I do love the salads and watermelons here in Central Asia and will never get tired of them!
The head of the ram was very important to the Uzbek people to have and to eat. They made a stew, which was presented to the father first and after he finished eating, he would then share the stew with his family. We decided to pass on this delicacy. The skull of the ram was hung up above the entrance to the home to keep evil spirits from entering the house. They also used horseshoes placed on the floor inside the entrance and it was good luck to step on the horseshoes, which could be placed in any direction up or down. Also some homes had red peppers hung up for good luck as well as the evil eyes, which came in all sizes. All of these customs have been intermingled with the Muslim religion today. Originally they would have come from Zoroastrian or other Pagan religions.
Uzbek people had fairytales that they told to their children much like other countries around the world. One was the story of storks bringing babies to the families. My parents used this same story with our family!
Another story was about an old man with a long white beard. He was the man who brought good luck and good fortune to families he visited. Every family wanted him to visit their house to be blessed with his good luck. To avoid missing this man your door should be always open to accept all visitors because this man came in different appearances to fool people. He may look very poor or very old or very young. Families would never know when he would come to visit; therefore, all visitors were to be given the most respect and kindness possible because when you least expected it, your visitor may be the old man who could bestow good fortune upon you and your family. This is a great tradition and we did feel very welcomed in all the Uzbek’s homes we visited.