Despite being called a hotel, the guest house we were staying in was more like someone's house, with an extra room or two upstairs. It was fine, the couple running things/living there was nice, but alas, we arrived at 7am and check in wasn't until noon. We sat in the front room for a while, while the guy watched his stories on his TV, as we just tried to decompress from the horrible night and horrible cab ride. Luckily, a tiny little baby cat lived there, and despite being allergic, I played with him because omg, tiny little baby cat. He was sooo cute and he just wanted to sleep on us.
After we finally checked in and showered, I want to say we napped, but I don't remember (probably because I was sleeping whaaat) and it doesn't really matter what we did on which day (we were there for several, and too many) so let's just get to the sights. We started (or not! who cares!) with the Ark of Bukhara, or the Bukhara Fortress, mostly because it's the most important site to actually go into, but also because it was closest to the guest house by being situated kind of halfway to the old town center and not in it like everything else was. Side note, probably best to stay in the actual old town so you don't have to walk the creepy streets at night. And so you're near stuff. We were not near stuff.
After we saw everything in the Ark, we made our way fully into the old town, to see all the mosques and stuff because Mohammed knows we haven't seen enough mosques lately. The most important, I want to say so I'm saying it, is the Kalan Mosque, from 1500s. It can hold 12,000 PEOPLE. That is a lot. Not even a drop in the bucket compared to the Penn State football stadium, but still, a lot for a mosque built so long ago. Unfortunately, we were not two of those 12,000 because when we went to enter, a rando sauntered up and said the entrance fee was 6 (SIX) times what it said in our guidebook and on the internet, clearly a scammy sammy, so we skipped it. Fortunately, this was one where the outside was impressive so we weren't upset. We went in so many mosques lately and the rest of our time in Uzbekistan would be mainly seeing more mosques so no tears. The mosque sits across the main square from the Mir-i Arab Madrassah, so it makes for a really impressive, historically important square, though hard to remember which witch is which. At the risk of being even more disrespectful to the Uzbek people, I'm going to admit that I'm not hundo p about these pictures actually being what I'm saying they are, but I'ma do my best.
One I was excited about was the Kalyan Minaret, or the Grand Minaret, or the Tower of Death. No I didn't know that last name when I was excited about visiting it; I just wanted to climb a tower. We like climbing things. The Tower of Death apparently got its name because criminals would be executed by being thrown from the top. So economical? Minarets' usual function is for the muezzin to climb up in order to call err'one to prayer, so it had to big a bit taller than the mosque everyone's going to. But the Kalyan Minaret passed the mosque and then was like you know what, I'm gonna keep on trucking, and it kept going up and up so now it's the second tallest in all of Central Asia. We read quite a few things about how the architects of this or that monument were killed (never be an architect) because the rulers who commissioned the buildings didn't want the architect to ever make anything more impressive. People cray. Anyway I have a vague memory of the minaret's architect being thrown off because the wife of something important got him in trouble.
We made our way to the base of the minaret to climb it but alas, the door was padlocked shut. On to the next!
My second favorite place in Bukhara was the old synagogue! It's a tiny little place, not only smaller than all the synagogues I've seen in my life but smaller than all my past studio apartments too. But apparently one of the Torahs it holds is 1000 years old! Mostly it's nice just to know that there are still jews trying to maintain a presence here and because there are so few they are sooo happy to have guests. Naturally being old religious men, the guys there were more excited for my husband's arrival than mine because men > women in 99% of the world, even though he's not jewish, but alas, it was still very nice. It's free to visit but they ask for donations and you should donate. The best part was the picture they had framed on the wall of their most important visitor before us - Hillary Clinton. Oh man I actually started to cry right there, thinking about a) how I was standing in spot where Hillary and like NOBODY else in the world had stood, this tiny little hole in the wall synagogue in a tiny old town in Uzbekistan I mean come on we're basically bff Hillz, and b) I was just so sad that she wasn't president.
There was a lack of gas too! Like, the entire town, old and 'new' parts, had a gas outage while we were there so the restaurants could only grill food for us! And there was little hot water because of it. Such a weird sad thing to add on top of all the other weirdness. Luckily some of the places could make me salads, which I always liked. And Bukhara seemed to have beans on hand, which is nice. I can recommend finding salads at Minzifa - which was playing the X-FILES THEME SONG when we were there, and Saroy, both right along the Lobby House. Most of the other central restaurants will happily offer you grilled eggplant and red peppers, which you KNOW I LOVE. eye roll. I also got a heap of white rice with a happy face, see below.