Showing posts with label Tashkent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tashkent. Show all posts

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Uzbekistan | Tashkent | Bukhara

I had pretty much wrapped up My Spice Buying Expedition in Istanbul, but while I was in the neighborhood I thought I better wander by Bukhara, in Uzbekistan. There is a red-eye special leaving from Istanbul for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, at 11:55. pm. I arrived in Tashkent at 7:30 the next morning amidst a major snowstorm. The plane for Bukhara was not scheduled to leave until 3:35 pm, so I spent the rest of the day sitting in the domestic terminal rereading Barthold’s Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, the absolute bible for the history of Inner Asia up until the time of the Mongol irruption. I had rather unwisely left Mongolia without a copy—I have copies of three different editions in my Scriptorium—but having decided I was coming to Bukhara I had fedex a copy to my hotel room in Istanbul. It left Amazon’s warehouse in the U.S. at 4:57 pm on a Tuesday and I signed off for it at my hotel at 12.51 pm on Friday, just in time for my Uzbekistan trip. The domestic terminal in Tashkent is unheated—it was 5 degrees Fº outside and not much warmer inside—and there is no restaurant or even a place to get a cup of tea or coffee. I would have given my left nut for a Starbucks. Anyhow, besides Barthold I had my Kindle with 138 books downloaded on it and another 684 in the Cloud, so I did not lack for reading material. Amazingly the domestic airport did have free internet in the departure area—albeit very slow, but still internet—so I could have downloaded from the Cloud or bought some new titles if I needed a quick book fix. 

By 2:00 pm at least six inches of snow had fallen in Tashkent. Several domestic flights, including one to Termez, were canceled because of the weather, but finally the flight to Bukhara as announced. But then they had to spent an hour and a half de-icing the plane, so we did not get off until five. You would think Uzbekistan Air would use a small plane for the one-hour flight to Bukhara, but no, they use a wide-body Boeing 767 and it was just about full. 

It was 8 degrees above zero Fº in Bukhara when we arrived. Although this is definitely not the tourist season in Bukhara I was not the only tourist on the plane. There  was a group of at least 12 people from China who were met by the agent of a tourist company in Bukhara. They had come prepared: some of them had on expedition-grade down parkas and pants. They looked like they were ready to start out on a trek to the North Pole. 

It was 6:30 by the time I got my bag and exited the terminal. Waiting for me was my old pal from Komil’s Guesthouse
My pal from Komil’s Guesthouse (click on photo for enlargement) 
He does not speak English, but we caught up on the news in Russian while driving to the guesthouse. I am of course the only guest here. These old mansions which have been converted to guesthouses do not have central heating, but there was an electric space heater in my room and it was quite toasty. I had sent an email to Komil’s earlier ordering plov for dinner and it was ready soon after I arrived. I realized that I had not eaten for thirty-six hours—I had fallen asleep on the Istanbul-Tashkent flight before the meal was served—so the plov—classic Bukhara plov by the way—carrots only, no onions—was quite welcome. 

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Uzbekistan | Tashkent | Zengi Ata Complex

I alway pay close attention to the first thought that springs into my mind when I return from the kingdom of Morpheus each morning. Recently the very first conscious thought I had was about Ala ad-Din Muhammad II (علاءالدين محمد), the Khwarezm Shah, the ruler of the Khwarezm Empire from 1200 to 1220. You will recall that the Khwarezm Shah was the titular head of Khwarezm, the empire centered on the lower Amu Darya River in what is now Uzbekistan, when Chingis Khan invaded the area in 1219. His empire, which included the famous Silk Road cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, Otrār, and Tashkent, was devastated by the Mongols and the Shah himself died an ignominious death. Having been alerted by my subconscious to the importance of these events I decided I should see for myself where they took place.

Thus I decided to interrupt my trip in Istanbul and make a sojourn to Uzbekistan. After the usual rigamarole and the expenditure of considerable coin of the realm I was able to get a much coveted Uzbekistan visa at the Uzbek Consulate in Istanbul and soon found myself winging eastward on a four and a half hour Turkish Airline flight from Istanbul to Tashkent. We landed at 1:30 in the morning and I checked into the Grand Wazoo Hotel, located about a ten minute drive from the airport.

While primarily interested in whatever traces I could find of the Mongol invasion in 1219–20, I thought that while I was in the neighborhood I better wander by a few of the other well known sights in the area. Thus after a few cups of instant coffee in the hotel dining room—the tea wasn’t fit to slop down hogs—I headed for the Zengi Ata Mosque and Mausoleum on the outskirts of town. This complex of buildings and park land is dedicated to sheik Aj-Hodzha, nicknamed Zengi-Ata, (zengi means “black”), who lived from the end of 12th to the mid-13th century. He was the fifth student of Sufi Hodzha Ahmad Jassavi, the spiritual head of the Turkic tribes of Inner Asia at the end of the 12th century.  According to legend, Amir Temur, aka Tamurlane, initiated the construction of the complex, including the tomb of Zengi-Ata’s wife, Ambar-Bibi. 
Entrance to the complex
Detail of entrance to the comples
Entrance to the Inner Courtyard
Minaret and Mosque in the Inner Courtyard
Entrance to the Mosque
Detail of entrance to the Mosque
Rooms for students at the Madressa (school) on the inner side of the courtyard
Entrance to a student’s room
When I visited this tomb I thought it was the burial site of Zengi Ata, although I did no see any signs actually indicating this. Later I read a guidebook which seems to indicate that this is in fact the mausoleum of Ambar-bibi, the wife of the Zengi Ata. If this is the case then it is unclear where Zengi Ata’s tomb is. Next time you are in Tashkent swing by the complex and see if you can clear up this matter, then leave a comment here. Whoever is buried in the tomb shown here it is today a popular pilgrimage site.
 Tombs behind the Mosque
 The Garden between the inner and outer walls