While Samarkand may have been the center of Uzbekistan's legendary Timurid dynasty, the nearby city of Bukhara (Buxoro in Uzbek) is a great place to get a taste of Uzbekistan's Persian legacy. In fact, in the southern region of Uzbekistan, a large minority of the population is speaks Tajik as their native language (Tajik being a derivative of the Persian language). Only a short three hour drive away from Samarkand, Bukhara was an all-too short day trip for us; however, a more extended stay is highly recommended.
Like Samarkand and Khiva, Bukhara was a major stopping destination on the ancient silk route, and has been a cultural hearth of Central Asia, and the Islamic world. Originally founded by Persian Sogdians, Bukhara became the capital of the Persian Muslim Samanid Empire. The Samanids turned Bukhara into the Islamic intellectual center of the world in the 9th century and the city spawned some of the most notably scholars in Islam, notably Imam Al-Bukhari, the blind author who penned large sections of the Koran. Although the Mongols leveled most of the city in the 13th century, the city was rebuilt and flourished under the Uzbek Shaybanid Dynasty in the 16th century. Many of the splendid architectural monuments on display in the city are inherited from this time.
Bukhara's most renowned sites include the massive walled-city of the Ark Fortress - which served as the fortified residence to many of Bukhara's various rulers. Just across from the Ark is the Po-i Kalyan Complex, Bukhara's Registan. The Po-i Kalyan boasts the Mir-i Arab Madrassah, and the Kalyan Mosque. The adjoining markets of Taki-Sarrafon, Taki-Telpak Furushon, and Taki-Zargaron are legacies of Bukhara's role of the silk route. The multi-domed rooftops of both the markets and the Kaylon mosque make for some 400 domes. The best place to see these dome-roofed patterns is from atop of the Kaylon Minaret. This historic tower is perhaps the first ever earthquake-proof structure built in the world. Built in the 12th century, the tower has never fallen in 800 years - despite standing at the center of one of the world's most volatile fault zones!
To see the complete photo set from the trip, click here: