September 14th, Day 35 – Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Today we visited the bazaar. This was always my favourite stop, shopping at local bazaars! We started off in taxis and then looked out the window to notice Brad walking down the street so we stopped and picked up another taxi! The girls had decided to have traditional Bukhara outfits made and a little girl (around 12 years of age) was taking us to the bazaar with her father and mother to pick out our fabric. How great was that? These strangers were helping us buy fabric and took us to a seamstress to get our outfits made. They were selling nothing; they were just helping us get the job done. They had a little car and somehow six people fit into that car. The rest of us took taxis following them.


The bazaar was really busy with the local shoppers and fabric was sold everywhere. We all selected our fabric, Bea, Terry, Barbie and myself. Then we needed zippers, elastic and trim.  It was a blast picking all this out with every other shopper wanting the same stuff as us. We managed with the little girl’s mother’s help. She somehow kept us organized and away from all the bargain items we wanted to purchase. The father drove us back with all the taxis driving our men behind us. We stopped at the tailor’s house.  She worked in her bedroom with one little light and her sewing machine beside the window. She sewed all four outfits with matching pants and trim in one day and night.  I think she must have stayed up all night to finish these outfits because they were all very different from each other.


Prior to dinner we had a lecture by a historian by the name of Mahsuma who was educated during Soviet times in Tashkent. She studied archeology and had to learn how to excavate the mud bricks used in Central Asia, which was different than other places in the world because they had fired bricks when excavating. According to her it was much more difficult to excavate with mud bricks. Historically, Uzbekistan and Central Asia had two types of people living there, settled people and nomadic people. The Tajik people were the Persian and settled people whereas, the Uzbek people were the Turkic, nomadic warrior people. Today 80% of the residents in Bukhara spoke Tajik because that was the language of trade along the Silk Road.


There are many myths; folk stories and legends from historical times and the archeologists used their expertise to determine through their findings what stories were true and what were myths. Many foreign archeologists worked with the Uzbek archeologists and by combining their knowledge and skills they had a synergy, which helped to determine the world’s history.


As mentioned previously, in 6th Century BCE, Bukhara and part of Uzbekistan was settled by the Achaemenid Persian Empire (550–330 BCE). In 4th Century BCE, Alexander the Great went through this area (336 – 323 BCE). After Alexander the Great, the Bactrian Empire (Greek) reigned the area. (Interesting note, this Bactrian Empire was called the same as the two humped camel).


The Silk Road along the Central Asian sections of the trade routes were expanded around 114 BC by the Han dynasty, largely through the missions and explorations of Zhang Qian, but earlier trade routes across the continents had already existed. In the first Century, in the year 751 AD, China fought with the Arabs for power in Central Asia. Christians lived in Central Asia since the Bactrian Empire and from the south; Buddhism was introduced from India and spread across Central Asia via the Silk Road. Zoroastrian, Shamanism and other pagan religions also thrived during these times.


During the 2nd to the 10th Centuries AD trading between Central Asia and China via the Silk Road was frequent and dominated by the Sogdian people. There were different colonies of the Sogdians throughout Central Asia during this time period. In addition to the Sogdians, the Turkic nomadic people occupied the Central Asia as well. The Göktürks became the new leading element amongst the disparate steppe peoples in Central Asia, after they rebelled against the Rouran Khaganate. Under their leadership, the Turkic Khaganate rapidly expanded to rule huge territories in Central Asia. From 552 to 745 AD, Göktürk leadership bound together the nomadic Turkic tribes into an empire, which eventually collapsed due to a series of dynastic conflicts.


Then Arabs conquered and invaded Central Asia in the 8th Century AD. The Arabs spread their Islamic Religion, pushing out all of the other religions by taxing them higher, threatening or even killing the non-Muslim people. There was a large revolt by the Zoroastrians dressed in white clothing. It was called the White Revolution. Avesta was the book written for Zoroastrians from the 6th Century BC. An author by the name of Mary Boyce wrote a famous book on the Zoroastrian Religion from the Khorezm region of Uzbekistan. We were told the Zoroastrian Religion started here in Uzbekistan and after the Arab invasion when everyone was being forced to convert to the Islamic Religion the Zoroastrians migrated to India. Previously we were told the opposite that the Zoroastrians migrated from India. I will leave it up to you to investigate what was the true history.


The Arabs ruled by appointing governors to rule over the conquered people. Because the people were basically forced to become Muslim by the Arabs, today’s Islamic religion in Central Asia had many of the other religious traditions incorporated into their Islamic religion. For example the fire traditions of the Zoroastrians were continued during today’s wedding celebrations.


The 9th and 10th Centuries AD were considered the best times for Central Asia and the Samanid Empire in Uzbekistan ruled this area of Bukhara. Even though Samarkand was the capital city of Uzbekistan, Bukhara was always the capital city for the soul! Bukhara was always considered a very intellectual and religious city.


During the 11th and 12th Centuries AD, the Seljuk Turks followed by the Khwarizmi Empire governed here. Then in the 13th Century the Mongols invaded and in the late 13th and early 14th Centuries Timur (half Mongol and half Turkic) conquered the Mongols and started the Timurid Dynasty all of whom were Muslims. Interesting, there was a law stating that all leaders had to be related to Genghis Khan or they could not be a leader.  There were many rumors of how Timur was related to Genghis Khan; one being that he married one of Genghis Khan’s daughters. In the 15th Century AD, Ulug Bek, Timur’s grandson ruled the area of Uzbekistan.


In the 16th Century the ruling family was the Shaibanids. This was also the time when there was a split between the Sunni and Shiite Muslims. There was a famous fight with Babur during this time period. Babur was the great, great, great grandson of Timur (Tamerlane). Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur was the conqueror from Central Asia who, following a series of setbacks, finally succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal dynasty in the Indian Subcontinent and became the first Mughal emperor. The 16th Century was also the time period that Uzbeks were recognized as a race inhabiting a territory called Uzbekistan (land of Uzbeks) within Central Asia, under the leader of Uzbek Khan.


In the 17th Century there were 3 main Empires in Uzbekistan. One in Khiva, one in Bukhara and the third I believe was Samarkand. The Ashtarhanid Dynasty ruled these Empires. Then in the 18th Century the Manjits invaded and ruled the area. Central Asia was actually a mish-mash of tribes. Some settled and others nomadic. The Uzbek and Turkic tribes had fierce clashes over territories. As well as clashes with the Persian rulers. The borders of the now known Central Asian countries were non-existent and local Khans controlled areas. The Koquand Khanate fought the Chinese and took them as slaves, cutting off their traditional pigtail, called queues, worn by the worn by the Manchus from central Manchuria and later imposed on the Han Chinese during the Qing dynasty. The trading using the Silk Road eventually stopped and Russia became the trading partner with the unsettled Central Asian people.  These conditions of fighting and economic unrest between the Tribal Khans made Central Asia easy pickings for the Czar of Russia to invade and be the protector of the area in the late 19th Century. The Soviets followed shortly after in 1920 and occupied Central Asia for 70 years during the 20th Century. In the 1800’s when Russia first invaded, there were 97 tribes around the Bukhara area of Central Asia.


Many of the people living in Central Asia today, still had the Turkic/Asian look of their Chinese and Mongolian invaders. Most had brown skin, dark hair with round faces and dark coloured Asian eyes, others looked more Persian or Tajik with their dark coloured round eyes and fine features. Some Uzbeks were blonde and blue eyed inherited from the Russian and Soviet invaders that were added to the mix during the 19th and 20th Centuries. It was very interesting to see the results of all of these wars and occupations.


For dinner we went to a new restaurant in Bukhara. The owner had actually gone to London and worked for five years to save and come back home to open this restaurant.  It was very nice, upstairs and had ganch plaster decorating the walls. During dinner, Yuri our previous MIR manager came and joined us.  He lived in Bukhara and he was also the first person to suggest we come to Uzbekistan and Central Asia on one of our trips. We were surprised and very happy to see him.


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