Bukhara is an ancient oasis city along the fabled
Silk Road and it is said that the sun shines up from the city for it
is so noble. For centuries it was a centre of trade and Islam, earning
the title Bukhoro-i-Sharif, or "Noble Bukhara" among Muslims
(one of the seven holy cities of Islam). The city itself boasts impressive
architecture and history. It is one of the few places in Central Asia
where one can feel the heartbeat of ancient Central Asia. Most of the
city remains intact and most of the 250,000 inhabitants are members
of families who have lived there for generations upon generations.
The city was founded in the 1st century AD. By the
time of its capture by Arabs in the early 8th century, Bukhara had become
an important trade and cultural center. It was a leading center of Islamic
learning under the Arabs and the Persian Samanid dynasty, which held
the city in the 9th and 10th centuries. It later was captured successively
by the Qarakhanids and Tatars, and in 1555 it became the capital of
an Uzbek emirate. The emirate was conquered in 1866 by Russia, which
held it as a protectorate from 1868 to 1920; then the emir was removed,
and the city was made the capital of the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic.
From 1924 to 1991 the city was incorporated into the Uzbek Soviet Socialist
Republic (UzSSR). Uzbekistan became an independent republic in 1991.
The Bukharan region produces natural gas, cotton,
fruit and silk. There is also a textile industry producing karakul pelts,
and clothing. At the end of the Zarafshan river, Bukhara is also on
the edge of Uzbekistan's agricultural belt and the large Kyzyl Kum and
Kara Kum deserts (Red Sand and Black Sand deserts).
Most impressive to the foreigner are the buildings
which date to the 9th-10th centuries, and the overall atmosphere. Unfortunately
Ghenghis Khan destroyed most of the city during his sojourn in the 13th
century. The two buildings he didn't destroy are the Kalyan Minaret
(12th century) and the Ismail Samani mausoleum (9th-10th century). Perhaps
the most famous event form a western point of view that occurred in
Bukhara was the beheading of two British government agents in 1842 after
two years of captivity, much of which was endured in an insect and rat
infested pit at the city jail, today known as the "Bug Pit".
The famous prison is known by its Tajik name Zindon and
is located behind the Ark. The British agents were executed when the
news of the famous defeat of the British garrison in Kabul reached Bukhara.
Buddhism, Zoroastroism and Nestorian Christianity
had been the prevailing religions before conversion to Islam under Arab
conquest. There is also a fascinating history of the Bukharan
Jews who have lived in the city and region since being exiled
during the Babylonian conquest of Israel. Bukhara to this day contains
a Jewish quarter and school although most of the Jews have emigrated
since 1991 to either Israel or the USA.
For the visitor, Bukhara is a place to enjoy
authentic Central Asia. Carpets, hats, hand woven silk fabric, and clear
blue sky framed by sandy domes and minarets are what greet the visitor