September 16, 2012, Day 37 – Bukhara, Uzbekistan to Samarkand, Uzbekistan
Today we left Bukhara and headed off to Samarkand with a glow from last night’s wedding. It was an experience we will treasure forever. How generous were they to invite complete strangers to their wedding? We Canadians should take a lesson from the hospitality of the Central Asian people and the next time we notice tourists in Canada we should try to make them feel welcomed in our Country.
In the early morning, as we left the 2,000 (plus) year old section of Bukhara we saw the usual scene of women outside their homes or businesses sweeping their dirt streets clean from debris. We also noticed the burning of plants from the desert used to kill bacteria in the air and to keep evil spirits away from their homes and shops. Everyone was getting ready for a new day of action.
Just as we were leaving the city, Russ noticed that his spot was missing. The boys went back but it was gone, never to return again. Luckily for us Mitch was soon joining us and he brought another spot with him. The spot was used as a GPS device to track our adventure over the Internet.
The weather had dropped to 26 degrees C. versus the 36 degrees C. we had been getting. Everyone welcomed the new temperature because it was very comfortable. The skies were still blue and we still could wear our sleeveless tops.
The Korean Daewoo vans were very popular in Uzbekistan and many were used as taxis for the local people. These vans were workhorses just jammed packed with riders as they drove up and down their highways. I was thinking they would work pretty good in our neck of the woods as well because many times I had noticed an empty large bus going from White Rock to Vancouver. The smaller vans could work out cheaper in low usage times??
After driving a couple of hours outside of Bukhara we started to notice camels again. We had missed seeing camels since Khiva but the terrain had turned back into desert and the camels thrived in the desert. We also saw lots of cows and donkeys but in irrigated areas. Tomatoes were sold roadside by the vendors as we drove along. The further we drove, the more we noticed trees and less desert area. In Bukhara and its surrounding area, other than the irrigated areas, there were no trees just sagebrush and sand.
We had lunch at a spot owned and operated by a family in Shakrisabze. It was a private restaurant off the highway that catered to tour groups. Situated at their house in the village away from businesses it felt awkward when we stopped but we soon found out their courtyard was very large and allowed them to cater to the bus tours. Plus their kitchen was equipped to feed many people all at once. The menu was set and very good. We met our new guide at this stop; her name was Larisa, which translated into seagull. She was an Ukrainian/Russian living in Uzbekistan.
According to Larisa, the Silk Road started 1, 000 years ago, around 1,000 AD and it lasted until the 16th Century. In Uzbekistan, Timur, or Tamerlane as we called him, was a hero and there were several monuments dedicated to him.
When the Mongols attacked Central Asia during the 13th Century, they raped, pillaged and took slaves for 150 years in Uzbekistan. They didn’t occupy the areas they attacked; they destroyed and stole everything they could. When the Uzbeks collected themselves and started to rebuild after a Mongol invasion, the Mongols would attack them again. It wasn’t until Timur (Tamerlane or Tamerlane) came and united the different tribes of Uzbekistan that they conquered the Mongols and began to prosper in the late 14th and early 15th Centuries. Timur was said to be half Mongol and half Turkish. He spoke the Turkic language.
From the Internet “Timur was regarded as a military genius and a tactician whose prowess made him one of the world’s great conquerors. Timur’s armies were ferocious, feared throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe. Independent scholars estimated that his military campaigns caused the deaths of 17 million people, amounting to about 5% of the world population. The historian of Islamic Asia John Joseph Saunders summarized that “Till the advent of Hitler, Timur stood forth in history as the supreme example of soulless and unproductive militarism””.
Here in Uzbekistan Timur was a hero and there were statues of him everywhere. He defeated the Mongols and united the tribes of Central Asia, reigning from 1370 until 1405. Timur, was also known as Tamerlane. He injured his hip in a battle, which left him lame and he walked with a limp. Tamerlane morphed into Tamerlane. Born in 1336, he died at age 68. Emir Timur founded the Timurid Dynasty and was the grandfather of Ulug Bek, the astronomer and ruler of Central Asia from 1411 – 1449.
Timur was also the great-great-great grandfather of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire of South Asia, who ruled from 1526 – 1530. Interesting facts about Babur were that his father’s lineage was from Timur and his mother’s lineage was from Genghis Khan. And his great-great-great grandson, Shah Jahan was the 5th Emperor of the Mughal Dynasty who built the infamous Taj Mahal in India.
Emir Timur’s first wife was the wife of a good friend of his. When his friend betrayed him, Timur ordered his death and married his wife. Shakhrisabs (or Shakrisabze) meant green city and it was the birthplace of Timur. We stopped to visit a huge monument of Timur and behind the monument stood two sides of a huge gate constructed in the 14th Century by Timur. At one time these gates were entrances to a palace, called the White Palace, which was destroyed by Abdullah Khan who belonged to the Shaybani Dynasty. He ordered the palace to be destroyed because Timur had inscribed over the gates “If you doubt our power look upon our buildings”. The Khan did not like the inscription and ordered that Timur’s Palace be destroyed. Too bad, because these gates were beautiful, decorated with mosaic tiles and stood over 131 feet high. Originally the gates were more than 50 meters high and only 38 meters remained standing today.
Next we visited the Dorut Siadat (Dorut Tilavot) burial complex. Inside were the Kok Gumbaz Mosque and the Mosque of Hazrati Imam. I must say that to research all of this ancient history got to be really confusing. I would read the guidebooks and they would say one thing and then go to the Internet and that would say a different thing. What the heck? One said that Timur buried his favorite son here and the other would say his grandson Ulug Bek buried his favourite son here. I give up, you chose. Somebody’s son who apparently fell off a horse and died at age 22 was buried here.
Many people living in Central Asia were superstitious. This area of Uzbekistan was no different. Inside the Mausoleum at this complex were 7 stones marking graves. I believe one was Timur’s father but I am too confused to be sure. One of the stones had an indentation where families would pour water into and an Imam would bless the water. The ill person would then drink the water and hope to be cured.
Included at the complex was a blue domed mosque called the Kok Gumbaz, meaning Blue Dome. Ulug Bek (Timur’s grandson) built this Friday mosque in 1437 to honor his father, Shah Rukh. Located immediately behind the Kok Gumbaz Mosque was the so-called “House of Meditation”, a mausoleum built by Ulug Bek in 1438 but apparently never used for burials.
After we left Shakrisabze and got closer to Samarkand we were into the mountainous area of Uzbekistan. Russ and I took our Range Rovers over a mountain pass to get to Samarkand; whereas, our guide and bus driver took a longer route around the mountains to get to our destination. We arrived at our hotel a couple hours ahead of the bus so we were very happy to have taken the short cut. We were just finishing our dinner when the guides and driver caught up to us.