We woke up, for the first time in awhile, to an alarm, right at 8am. Crystal had a sore throat, and was worried she was getting sick. The room, for all its faults, did have a bed that we'd slept well on, so at least there was that. It was totally empty, and kind of sad, at breakfast. It was dark, nothing really to eat, just a bummer vibe all around. It was gray outside, and that didn't help either. In the lobby we met Irina, who'd be our guide today. We got in the car and drove east to Chor Minor. It was cold outside, a little warmer than the day before, but not by much.

Chor Minor has a very unusual design for central Asia, and actually anywhere. The name "Chor Minor" means "four minarets," and they are very noticeable. What is different is how close the minarets are to one another, and how relatively thick and squat they are to other minarets. No one seems to know for sure why the designer chose four minarets, or why he chose the specific design. Some speculate about being influenced by the Taj Mahal, some speculate about north south east west. We each thought there didn't have to be a meaning, he could have just liked the way it looked. We're remodeling our home now, and lots of the things we chose aren't for some grand reason, just because we like the way something looks.

We got back in the car, headed a little out of town to the palace for last ruler of Bukhara, known as the Palace of Moon-like stars. As we were driving, we noticed the clouds were dissapating in one direction, hopefully the direction coming towards us. The sun was not visible, so we weren't sure which direction was which, other than blue sky direction was not east (otherwise we would've seen the sun). At the Emir's Palace, we were surprised to see a large group of peacocks wandering around. We walked around the rooms inside the palace, which is now a museum. Everything was gaudy (overly gaudy in our mind), so our favorite rooms were the ones with the heaters.

The ornate designs were not really our style, but we could appreciate the craftsmanship. The needlework on some of the works was amazing. As was the ceramic and porcelain pottery from China and Japan. There was a harem area, where the Emir would - as the story goes - throw apples to his desired wife for the evening. On a brisk day like today, we couldn't envision anyone hanging out by the pool. The Emir built a guest house for Czar Nicholas' daughter, but she never visited. If she had, who knows how history would have turned out, as the Emir escaped to Afghanistan after Bolshevik revolution - perhaps Nicholas' daughter would have made it out as well. There was a tiny amount of rain, but weren't sure how since there were no clouds above us. We figured it must be very windy up in the sky, and hoped the clouds would blow away in short order.

We headed back into town, and were dropped off by Firdacz to walk the rest of way. Oddly, the drop-off point was at a kid's amusement park (with yet another ferris wheel). The amusement park didn't really have any fences per se, and we walked through it to a small lake where we could see remnants of the city wall. Unlike Khiva, Bukhara is not self-contained, and historical sites are interspersed amongst the modern city. It was another short stroll over to the Samani Mausoleum. It is from the 10th century, and is supposedly the first building with a dome over a square building- we'd heard the same in Isfahan. [Comparing dates, it does look like the one in Bukhara was first.] Ismail Samani was an Emir of the Samanid dynasty, one of the last native Persian dynasties (before Genghis Khan, Timur, and others from Central Asia took control). It is very unusual in Islam to have a mausoleum like this, and it was a sign that this area was departing from orthodox Islam. The building has survived this long because it was buried by mud long ago, and thus left untouched by Genghis Khan. It was re-discovered in the 1930s by the Soviets.

A short walk from the Samani Mausoleum was a memorial complex for Imam Bukhari. He was a Persian scholar from the 9th century, and born in Bukhara. He is famous in the Muslim world for his work on the "hadiths" (collections of reports of what the prophet Muhammad said on various matters), and specifically determining which hadiths were accurate and which were not, and combining them in a single place. Imam Bukhari traveled from Bukhara to Mecca when he was 16, and then started traveling all over the Islamic world to talk to scholars. After 16 years on the road, he returned to Bukhara and drafted his al-Jami' as-Sahih, a collection of 7275 tested traditions. This book is revered in the Muslim world, perhaps second only to the Quran. We had heard on the Amateur Traveler podcast about he and his mosque in the outskirts of Samarkand, so we at least knew a little about him before seeing his memorial complex today.

We didn't actually stop in to the memorial complex, but instead a mosque and museum across from it, for Chashma Ayub. That had a lot of historical information and also an old well for a famous spring. There were also some old pictures showing how Bukhara looked before being restored during Soviet times. The next stop, to the east, was another 40 column mosque that was only 20 columns, again like Isfahan. We could not go inside, because Friday prayer was just starting as we got there. Irina indicated we should try to come back tomorrow morning. The mosque had a tiny minaret, which was actually hidden pretty well by a tree.

We walked across the street to the Ark/Fortress. This massive complex (with a perimeter basically a half-mile around) dates back to the 5th century AD. It was first built for being a military structure and housing the royals. There outer walls are 50-65 feet tall. Given this, and given that at the time it was built, people were using horses, the walk up into the fortress is an inclined ramp with a giant front door and a corridor immediately following the door. Inside the corridor is a prison (no longer used), and eventually the corridor opens up into an outdoor courtyard and various other buildings. The first building we visited was a small mosque, now a museum full of writings, old books, crafts, etc. We also visited the coronation area, where the Emir would hold court, so to speak. Near the entrance at the rear, there was a wall, and only behind that wall could you have your back to the Emir. Everywhere else in the area you had to face him, and that included backing out to the wall where you could turn around. We also saw the old stable area, some other prison areas, and a couple areas that were now museums.

Irina took us through history throughout different stages, going all the way back to Achaemenid and Greek times and up to just before Soviet times. There have been a litany of different empires and rulers, some from the east, some from the west, and everything in between. Some leaders liked to just destroy things (Genghis Khan) while others were focused on building or re-building. We had no idea how inter-related so much of the history was, because "World" history in school was so focused on Western Europe. The weather was now blue skies, but still chilly. The next stop was Zindan Prison, which is famous for its role in the so-called "Great Game" between Russia and England for control of Central Asia and access to India. Alleged British spies Connolly and Stoddart were held for 3 years by the Emir of Bukhara, including time in the "bug pit" that looked a lot like the pit where Jame Gumm held the girl in The Silence of the Lambs. Looking at the pit, we just kept whispering "put the lotion in the basket." Hopefully Irina didn't hear us. After 3 years, both of the spies were executed in front of the Ark. The one that had converted to Islam was beheaded, rather than hanged.

On that happy note, we walked on to the Kalyan complex, the highlight of Bukhara. We meandered through some narrow streets and corridors, and when we came out it was right in front of us. The complex included a large mosque, a madrasah across the courtyard, and a large minaret that looks like a chess piece. The mosque not yet open, since lunchtime prayer was still ongoing. So we decided to grab lunch, then come back. Irina took us to lunch at Dolon, and then to our surprise headed off to eat somewhere on her own. Justin's soup got lost, Crystal's red wine was white, but overall everything tasted fine. We initially were worried we wouldn't be done by 3, but we did manage to get everything on time, and like everything else it was quite inexpensive.

The Kalyan complex has existed in various forms for over a century. There was one built in 713 and another built in 1121. The one built in 1121 was burned down by Genghis Khan, except for the minaret that was allowed to stay. The minaret actually served a dual purpose back in the day - people used to get executed by being thrown off the top of the minaret. The Kalyan mosque was completed in 1514, and the facing Mir-i Arab Madrasah was completed a little over 20 years later. Around this time, there was a rivalry between Samarkand (the capital) and Bukhara, and the building of such a grand complex in Bukhara indicated to the folks in Samarkand that the Bukhara rulers believed themselves to be on the same level, a sort of declaration of independence. It was not as busy as in Iran, but there was still a good amount of people, mostly German and Spanish tourists. In the inner courtyard of the mosque, there were these covered galleries along the periphery of the open courtyard. The galleries were supported by dozens of domes resting on pillars, and they were bright white. The mihrab area in the mosque was busy, so we had to wait a while for some photos, but after that we were on our way.

We took a short walk east to two matching Madrassahs, directly across the street from one another, representing two different dynasties. The first was the Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah, a newer madrasah (built in 1652) that was very unique, in having "hidden" birds, normally forbidden in Islam. Madrasahs are now used for selling arts and crafts, but we did get to see some of the old Madrasah rooms, which were pretty roomy for the 17th century. The madrasah across the street, the Ulugbek madrasah (built in 1417), was named for Timur's grandson Ulugbek. It was more "vanilla" so to speak, with less vibrant colors and designs. From these madrasahs we walked east through a couple of bazaars, and ended up in the Lyab-i Hauz area, right near our hotel.

Lyab-i Hauz is the oldest pool (reservoir) in Bukhara. There used to be many more, but the Soviets shut almost all of them down once determining that the pools were spreading disease left and right. The Lyab-i Hauz pool is about 150 x 110 feet, with a large madrasah at its east end. There are very old trees surrounding the pool, including some Mulberry trees dating back to the 1400s. There were several weddings taking place (we'd actually seen a wedding party pretty much every day this trip, somewhere along the line). There was also a group of women doing traditional song and dance; we couldn't tell if it was related to the weddings or not. Irina gave us some information on the wedding process, some history about the Mulberry trees, and then she departed and we were on our own for the evening.

Before going back to the hotel, we did some shopping, and Justin got one of the carved wooden pen holders, which Justin planned to use for holding cufflinks. Then we took a short walk back to the hotel to drop off some stuff and use the facilities. From there we headed back towards Kalyan complex. We went the terrace coffeehouse, which we'd walked past between the prison and the Kalyan complex earlier. We secured a nice corner location. But then a group of about 30 Chinese tourists swarmed our location, standing and taking photos all around us, literally inches away. We tried to just laugh it off, and enjoy our beer (Justin) and tea (Crystal). After they left, it was just us and one other couple, at the complete other end of restaurant. The temperature dropped a lot as soon as the sun went down, so we paid the bill and were on our way.

We walked back toward Lyab-i Hauz, but couldn't replicate the path we took earlier. Somehow we ended up a little north of where we wanted to be, but just followed roads that were wide enough for cars, figuring we'd get back, which we did. We tried to find "The Pub," which had an appetizing looking sign on the street, but we couldn't find the actual restaurant. The name on the street sign was not on any of the restaurants down the alley. We saw another sign saying it was 30m to one restaurant, and we found that, but The Pub - which was supposedly 50m away - was nowhere to be seen. After giving up, we tried to find a restaurant with a bar, but couldn't find one. Finally one of the people was nice enough to tell us that while his restaurant didn't have a bar, the Lyab-i Hauz restaurant did. This restaurant, right next to the large pool, had both vodka and wine. We split a giant Greek salad and a half order of the mixed meat plate, which was enormous. About halfway through our meal, a German group sat down at the same table (we were at a table for 8, so there was plenty of room), but then they left before their drinks were gone. We figured they were late for dinner or something and that's why they left before finishing their beverages. After dinner, we just headed back to room and went to sleep, hoping Crystal would feel better in the morning.

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