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Discovery Uzbekistan Travel Guide #14/2010
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Bukhara

It seems unfortunate that the last emir of Bukhara, Alim Khan, was not able to enjoy his Summer Palace for longer. Sitora I Mokhi Khoza and its surroundings are delightful and make an interesting contrast to the 16th century old town. Take your time exploring the splendidly decorated reception rooms, the harem, the textile museum in one of the pavilions, and wander down to the lake along shady avenues where peacocks strut.

The Bukharian Jewish community today comprises over 50 families. Their ancestors' contribution to the arts, music, crafts, and textiles which made Bukhara at one time the mysterious and coveted destination of many a tradesman and adventurer cannot be over-estimated. A visit to the synagogue, the Jewish school and the soon-to-be-opened Jewish Museum will allow you a glimpse into the life of these modern and well-integrated citizens.

One of the most widespread crafts of contemporary Bukhara is gold embroidery. Once only men practiced the art of stitching these delicate threads to velvet, but today gold embroidery is done exclusively by women. No wedding, no celebration, no Sunday stroll with the family, no interior design would be imaginable without these distinctive patterns. Choose from a wide range of clothing and accessories to take home as a souvenir.

Bukhara through the lens of local master photographers, some of whom have studied in the USA. A visit to the newly opened Centre for the Development of Creative Photography will open up whole new perspectives. Travelling exhibitions and varying monthly themes give interesting new angles on Central Asia. Located in the small gem of a madressa opposite the Art Gallery.

Bukhara with kids, why not? Some private hotels offer babysitting service and there is plenty of interest for young visitors around the central hauz or pool and in the colourful trading domes. In the evenings visit the Puppet Theatre, where short sequences from Bukharian legends and funny stories by Nasriddin Effendi are enacted in English. Summer stage right by Lyabi Hauz, daily in season.

String instruments originated in Central Asia. No European bard from the middle ages would have stood a chance under the window of his Dulcinea had it not been for the legacy of the Silk Road, which brought the out to the West. Bukharian masters hand carve a variety of instruments, and will always be happy to demonstrate or let you try them out and tell you all about the history and their love for their craft and for music.

Keep your eyes open for "The Keeper". This Italy-Hollywood production may come to a screen near you some time later this year. Shot mainly in and around Bukhara, "The Keeper" recounts episodes of the life of Omar Khayyam, who for a while worked in the magic city. It gives a fascinating glimpse of what the Ark may have looked like some 800 years ago.

The archaeological site and the museum of Paykent are a 45 minute drive from Lyabi Hauz and a must for those with time on their hand or on a repeat visit. You will invariably run into visiting scholars on archaeological expeditions, who will tell you more about this Sogdian city dating back to the 6th century.

There are two places in the world where carpets based on patterns in Timurid miniatures are being woven; one is Bukhara, the other Khiva, both thanks to a UNESCO initiative. The Bukhara workshop is located in the Eshoni Pir medresse. You can watch every stage, from the original design to the finished article.

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