In Sanskrit the word Bukhara means "abbey". Bukhara, "The city of museums", contains more than 140 architectural monuments of the Middle Ages. Such buildings as Poi - Kalan, Kosh Madras, mausoleum of Ismail Samoni, minaret of Kalyan and others were built 2,300 years ago, and today are popular with tourists. The famous poets Narshahi, Rudaki Dakiki and others have played an important role in the development of Bukhara.
Legend of Siavash
According to the legend Bukhara was founded by King Siavash, a legendary Persian prince from the beginnings of the Persian Empire. After the treason of his stepmother Sudabeh, who accused him that he wanted to seduce her and betray his father, Siavash went into exile to Turan. Afrasiab, the King of Samarkand, married his daughter Ferganiza(Farangis) to him and granted him a vassal kingdom in the oasis of Bukhara. Later, Siavash was accused that he wanted to overthrow King Afrasiab and was executed in front of his wife. Siavash's father sent Rostam, the legendary Persian hero to Turan and Rostam brought Ferganiza (Farangis) and their son Kai Khosrow back to Persia.
The history of Bukhara can be traced back to the 4th or 5th cent. AD, the date of the first coins with Sogdian writing in an alphabet derived from Aramaic. There are no reports of a city in the area of Bukhara at the time of Alexander the Great.
From the Arab invasions to the Mongols
At the time of the Arab conquests, Bukhara was ruled by the Sogdian dynasty of the Bokar-kodats. Arab armies first appeared before Bukhara in the caliphate of Moawia, after Obayd-Allāh b. Zīād b. Abīhe crossed the Oxus (53-54/673-74). Bukhara was ruled by a woman, Katun, as regent for her infant son. She had to submit and to pay a tribute of a million dirhams and 4,000 slaves. Permanent Arab control in the city was established by Qotayba b. Moslem Baheli, who after arduous campaigns in Sogdia (87-90/706-09) overcame the resistance of the Bukharans and their Turkish allies and placed an Arab garrison in the city, forcing every home owner to share his residence with Arabs. In 94/712-13 he erected the first mosque in Bukhara within the citadel, on the site of a former Buddhist or Zoroastrian temple. In 166/782, the governor of Khorasan Fażl b. Solayman Ṭusi built walls to protect Bukhara against Turkish attacks.
In the 3rd/9th century, the notables of Bukhara asked the Samanid ruler of Samarqand and Farḡāna Nasr b.Ahmad for help, who in 260/874 sent his younger brother Ismail to the city. Bukhara enjoyed a period of prosperity lasting for 150 years and under the patronage of the Samanid amirs served as a cultural centre for Arabic learning and Persian literature. A passage by Taalebi, the famous scholar of Nisapur, praises Bukhara in the era of the Samanids as “the focus of splendour, the Kaba of the empire, the meeting-place of the unique figures of the age, the rising-place of the stars of the literary men of the world, and the forum for the outstanding personages of the time”. Geographers from the Samanid period mention the division of the city in a citadel (kohandez), the town proper (sahrestan) and a suburb (rabat). The citadel contained the palace and the original mosque of Qotayba b. Moslem. To its east, dividing it from the sahrestan, was the Registan, an open, sandy space where Amir Naṣr b. Aḥmad (301-33/914-43) built a palace and where the dīvāns of the administration were situated. In this century, an outer wall with eleven gates was built. The city had expanded, although geographers still criticize it as an unsanitary and crowded place.
In 389/999 Bukhara was occupied by the Ilak (Ilig) Nasr b. Ali. For the next 150 years it was part of the western Qarakhanid khanate, ruled by descendants of the Ilak Nasr. Under the loose, decentralized rule of the Turkish tribesmen, Bukhara lost its political importance. The reign of Arslan Khan Moḥammad b. Solayman (495-524/1102-30) brought peace to the city. He also rebuilt the citadel and city walls, and erected a new Friday mosque and two new palaces.
After the Mongol invasion
Bukhara was conquered by Gengiz Khan in 616/1220. All inhabitants were driven out and the city was burned., but in the time of Ögedey Qaan (626-39/1229-41) the city was prosperous again. Ögedey placed the administration of all the settled regions of Central Asia in the hands of a Muslim merchant trusted by the Mongols, who resided in Ḵojand and reported directly to the supreme khan. The revival of prosperity of Bukhara may have been due to his efforts. He was succeeded at Bukhara by his son Masud Beg, who remained in authority until his death in 688/1289, despite feuds among the Mongol successor states and repeated shifts in their borders within Central Asia. Masud Beg was buried in the madrasa that he had built at Bukhara. The skilled craftsmen inhabiting Bukhara were apportioned among the four divisions of the Mongol empire, each belonging to one of Genghis Khan’s sons and his descendants; each division was entitled to revenues from the portion of the population where they were assigned.
The Khanate of Bukhara
The Khanate of Bukhara came into existence after the conquest of Samarkand and Bukhara by Muhammad Shaybani. The Shaybanid Dynasty ruled the khanate from 1506 until 1598. Under their rule Bukhara became a center of arts and literature. Bukhara attracted skilled craftsmen of calligraphy and miniature painting, poets and theologians. Abd al-Aziz Jhan (1533-1550) established a library "having no equal". The khanate of Bukhara reached its greatest influence under Abdullah Khan II, who reigned from 1577 to 1598.
The Khanate of Bukhara was governed by the Janid Dynasty (Astrakhanids) in the 17th and 18th cent. It was conquered by Nadir Shah of Iran in 1740. After his death the khanate was controlled by descendants of the Uzbek emir Khudayar Bi through the position of "ataliq" (prime minister). The khanate became the Emirate of Bukhara in 1785.
In the early 19th century the Scottish soldier, explorer, diplomat and spy Alexander Burnes reached Bukhara from India, travelling in native grab via Afghanistan. His book Travels into Bokhara, was a bestseller when it was published in 1835. Today it is available at Project Gutenberg.
- 1 Bukhara International Airport (BHK IATA). It has daily flights from Tashkent (~US$50) with Uzbekistan Airways. Other destinations are Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Istanbul. Domestic tickets can be bought at the airport in US dollars or at the Uzbekistan Airways website.
- 2 Bukhara Railway Station (Бухара 1) (9 km southeast of the city in Kagan).
Marshrutkas 268 and 378 go to the city centre at 3 Lyabi-Haus stop. for 2000 som. The final stop of the marshrutka 378 is Kolkhoz (Defucon) bazaar (Markaziy Bozor) near the Ark citadel, so if you want to go to the old city directly, you'd better ask the driver to drop you off at the old city (Russian: staryy gorod). There are two daily trains, and an overnight train, connecting Bukhara with Tashkent via Samarkand. For departure times see the Uzbekistan#Get around section.
By bus or taxi
Buses and taxis to Tashkent and Samarkand leave from the 4 Northern Bus Station (about 3 km north of the city centre near the Karvon Bazaar). A seat in a bus to Tashkent costs about 20,000 som and the journey takes about 11 hours. A seat in a bus to Samarkand costs about 15,000 som and the journey takes about 5 hours. A seat in a shared taxi to Samarkand costs about 25000 som and the journey takes about 3 hours. A seat in a shared taxi to Tashkent costs about 30,000 som and the journey takes about 7 hours.
Buses and taxis to Urgench and Khiva leave from 5 Karvon Bazaar. A seat in a shared taxi to Urgench costs about 70,000 som and the journey takes about 4½ hours. The buses have irregular schedule and they come from Tashkent so you might be standing. Bus 2 or 21 will bring you from the train station to the North Bus Station and Karvon Bazaar. [Aug 2012].
Shared taxis to Karshi, Shakhrisabz, Termiz and Denau on the Tajik border leave from the 6 Sharq Bus Station (east of the center). A seat to Karshi (1.5 hr) costs 6,000 som, to Shakhrizabz (4 hr) 12,000 som, to Termiz (6 hr) 20,000 som and Denau (6 hr) 25,000 som.
To Turkmenistan border you have to take a shared taxi or marshrutka from the 7 Kolkhozny Bazaar. to Qarakol or Olot. A seat in a shared taxi costs about 2,000 som and the trip takes about 40 minutes. You will have to hire a taxi from here to the border for about 2,000 som. Olot is 7 km from the Uzbek-Turkmenistan border. A taxi from the border to Turkmenabat will cost about US$0.50 and the trip will take 40 minutes.
Bukhara is 560 km from Tashkent, 270 km from Samarkand, 470 km form Khiva, 920 km from Andizhan, 900 km from Fergana, 160 km from Karshi, 800 km from Kokand, 560 km from Nukus, 280 km from Shahrisabz, 380 km from Termez and 440 km from Urgench.
To Khiva, you can take a collective taxi at 50,000 som per person in downtown or hire a private taxi for US$70–80 per car. To Samarkand, you can hire a private taxi for US$60. Alternatively, a 2-day excursion including Aydar Kul Yurt costs US$120 per car. Some of the recommended private drivers include Fahkredine (based in Bukhara, owns Nexia) on+998 93 472 5060 or Shukhrat (based in Samarkand, owns Lacetti) on +998 66 265 5522. Both speak basic English.
The Old Town is beautiful, and due to its small size there is no need for transport. Also, many of the streets are far too narrow for cars.
The main language of Bukhara is the Tajik dialect of Persian. Russian is the second language and Uzbek is used but to a lesser extent. Bukhara, along with Samarqand and other cities in Central and Southern Uzbekistan, has been historically populated by ethnic Tajiks and Bukharian Jews who spoke Tajik along with their own dialects which today include some Uzbek and a lot of Russian loan words.
- 1 Kalon Minaret (Po-i-Kalyan). Built by the Karakhanid ruler Arslan Khan in 1127. According to the legend Arslan Khan killed an imam. The imam asked the khan in a dream to lay the imam's head on a spot where nobody can tread on it. Thus the tower was built over the imam's grave. With a height of 47 m it is Bukhara's landmark. In its ornamental bands the glazed blue tiles were used for the first time in Central Asia. It gets its nickname as the "Tower of Death" because they once executed criminals by taking them to the top and pushing them out to fall to their death. This practice stopped in the early 1900s.
- 2 Chor Minor (four column mosque). A beautiful building tucked away in one of the lanes behind the Lyabi Hauz complex is the Chor Minor. This building is now surrounded mainly by small houses and shops on its perimeter. One may find an artisan or two selling a fine piece of hand drawn paintings.
- 3 Ark citadel, Registan Square. 09:00-18:00. From the most ancient times, the Ark was the fortified residence of the rulers of Bukhara. Everything could be found there - palaces, temples, barracks, offices, the mint, warehouses, workshops, stables, an arsenal, and even a prison. Nowadays there are a few museums inside. It was a fortress even before the Arab conquest, and received its present form under the Shibbhanid dynasty (from 1500). 40,000 som without guide.
- 4 Labi-havz complex (Lyabi-Khauz). Considered to be the center of the Old City. Plaza Labi-havz is derived from Persian and means “ensemble near the pool”. The main feature is the pool. The building has three monumental structures. Kukeldash madrassah (16th century) was built by Abdullah II was, at the time, the biggest Islamic School in Central Asia. Nadir Devanbegi Madrassah (16th century) was intended to be a caravan saray, but according to the order of the ruler Imam Kulimkhan, was reconstructed into a Madrassah. Nadir Devanbegi Khanaka (winter mosque) was built at the same time as the Labi-havz (16th century).
- 5 Ismail Samani Mausoleum. The mausoleum was built during the reign of Ismail Samani, one of the most outstanding members of the Samanids dynasty, who ruled Bukhara from 892 until 907. Originally, the mausoleum was intended for the grave of Ismail Samani’s father, Akhmad, but later became the burial vault of the Samanids. It was completed in 905 and is the oldest Muslim monument in Bukhara. It is considered a masterpiece of early Islamic architecture.
- 6 Chashma-Ayub mausoleum. Located near the Samani mausoleum. Its name in Persian means Job's spring, due to the legend according to which Job (Ayub) visited here and brought forth a spring of water by striking the ground with his staff. The water of this well is still pure and is considered healing. The current building was constructed during the reign of Timur and features a Khwarazm-style conical dome uncommon in Bukhara.
- 7 Faizullah Khojaev House, 70 A Tukaeva, ☏ . M-Sa 09:00-17:00. Khojaev, who belonged to a wealthy Bukharan family, was an anti-Czarist reformer who then supported the Bolsheviks, and became leader of Uzbekistan in 1925. However, he opposed Stalin's excesses, and was purged in 1937 and killed in 1938. 30,000 som.
- 8 Mausoleum of Sayfiddin Bukharzi and Bayan Quli.
- 9 Gaukushon complex.
- 10 Hanaka of Zaynutdin Hodji.
- 11 Hanaka of Fayzabad.
- 1 Synagogue. The main place of worship for the Bukharian Jewish community.
- 12 Bola-Hauz mosque complex. The mosque was built in 1712 opposite the Ark fortress. Other structures at the site date to the 19th and early 20th century. The colourful mosque vestibule is supported by twenty 12-metre-high wooden pillars.
- 13 Magok-i-Attari Mosque, Nagshband Street. The oldest surviving mosque in Central Asia, dating back to the 800s, reconstructed in the 1500s. "Magoki" means pit or hole, and the mosque is now almost 6 metres below ground level, while the mosque's 12 domes barely exceed street level. The mosque's main facade, dating to the 12th century, is very impressive.
- 14 Namazgoh Mosque. Built in 1119, with modifications through the 16th century. Inside the mosque are murals from the 12th century.
- 15 Baland (High) Mosque. Built in the 16th century in the south of the city. The interior decorations and ceiling are particularly beautiful.
- 16 Kukeldash Medressa, Mekhtar Anbar st.. built by Abdullah II, and at the time was the largest Islamic school in Central Asia
- 17 Ulugbek Madrassah.
- 18 Kosh Madrasah complex.
- Abdulla-han Madrasah.
- Madari-han Madrasah.
- 19 Abdulaziz Han Madrasah.
- 20 Taqi Sarrafon. bazaar of the moneychangers
- 21 Taqi-Telpak Furushon. bazaar of the cap makers
- 22 Taqi-Zaragon. bazaar of the jewellers
- 23 Sitorai Mohi Hosa (Star and Moon Garden, Summer Palace) (6 km north of Bukhara). W-M 09:00-17:00, Tu 09:00-14:00. Summer palace of the last emir of Bukhara. Built from 1911-1920. To get there, take marshrutka 37 from Vokzal bus stop, northbound. (Updated Oct 2018) 40,000 som.
- 24 Baha ud deen Naqshband Mausoleum (2 km east of Bukhara). 08:00-19:00. Tomb of Bakhautdin Naqshband (14th century), the founder of the most influential Sufi order in Central Asia. One of the most important Sufi shrines. free.
- 25 Chor-Bakr (6 km west of Bukhara). 09:00-20:00. Necropolis from the 16th century; heavily restored. The burial place of Shih Jubaeri family.
- 1 Hammam Borzi Kord, Taqi-Telpak Furushon. Open for local men until 14:00 then for tourists of mixed gender until midnight. one of Bukhara's most famous hamomi (baths) 50,000 som including scrub and massage.
- 2 Hammom Kunjak, Ibidov 4. 07:00-18:00. The women's bathhose, near Kalon Minaret. 3000 som.
- Folklore and Fashion Show, Nadir Divanbegi Medressa. Apr May 18:30, Jul Aug 19:00, Sep Oct 19:30. A show with traditional music and dancing. 10,500 som for show only.
Bukhara is famous for rugs. Historically, rugs woven by nomadic or village Turkomans were called "Bokhara carpets" because the city was a centre for trading them. Today the city itself also produces many rugs.
- Tim Abdulla Khan, Hagigat (near Taqi-Telpaq Furushon Bazaar). 09:00-18:00. silk and carpets
- Unesco Carpet Weaving Shop, Eshoni Pir 57. M-Sa 09:00-17:00.
- Bukhara Artisan Development Centre, Bakhautdin Naqshband.
- Original Bukhara Scissors, Touristville (Lyobi Khauz).
Beware of scams! Some visitors report unfair behaviour and inflated bills at Shaxriston restaurant (same street as Hammam Bozori Kord) and Asia Cafe (next to Lyabi Hauz).
- BoloXauz Teahouse. Decent restaurant not far from the Boloxauz mosque.
- Caravan, 12 Mukhamad Ikbol Str. (500 m from Hotel Semurg), ☏ . European and Uighur dishes US$4 to 12.
- Doston House, 5 K. Kalon Str. Uzbek guesthouse in the old part of Bukhara, built by a Bukharian Jew in the end of the 19th century. In the courtyard, lepeshka (bread) and samsas are prepared on a tandoor oven. lunch, dinner US$8, folklore show $35.
- Guest House of Rustam Saidjanov (100 metres from Lyabi Hauz). Built at the second half of the 19th century by a merchant-moneychanger (sarrof) belonging to the middle class, this guest house is now run by the grandson of the archaeologist Musa Saidjanov. Guests might sit upon kurpacha, a thin mattress, with velvet cushions at the dastarhan (low table).
- 1 Lyabi-Khauz. 09:00–21:00. Decent cafe on the central square. Mains: 5000–8000 som (2011).
- Minzifa. 11:00–23:00. Terrace restaurant near Lyabi Hauz in the Old Town. Great food and service by English speaking staff. Live music and nice view. Prices are a bit higher than average. Mains: 7000–8000 som (2011).
- Siyavush. 08:00–21:00. Mains: 5000 som (2011).
- Central Market. If you want to mingle with locals, go to the central market and try one of the small eateries in a huge building located across the street from the main entrance. Serves just shashlyk
- Food Market, in front of Lyabi-Hauz square. This mini-market with the big sign "Food Market" sometimes overcharges 30-60%.
- 1 Silk Road Spices Tea House, 5 Halim Ibodov St, ☏ . Serving spice and herbal tea, saffron and ginger tea, coffee with cardamom, green and black tea as well as sweets including halva, qandalat and nabat. 50000 som.
- Nughay Caravanserai Wine Tasting, Bakhautdin Naqshband 78. 11:00-21:00. A wine shop and tasting rooms in an 18th-century caravanserai.
There are numerous bed and breakfast places around the Lyabi Hauze complex. These are excellent for independent travellers. Rooms can be had quite cheap, less than US$20 per person but standards and prices vary place to place, but make sure you look at a few before you make your choice. Some of them are amazing houses set round courtyards and provide an unforgettable experience much better than any hotel. You can also expect some top quality breakfasts with fruit, bread, cheese, yoghurt, and an unlimited supply of tea.
For an unconventional accommodation choice, Caravannsaroy Olimjon is an original Silk Road caravanserai and has become the centre of a respectable Couchsurfing community; they don't have much of an online presence but ask around and a local will point you there. Stay is completely free but no showers or WiFi and only one basic toilet to share between whoever happens to be there.
- Amelia Boutique Hotel, 1 Bozor Hodja Street (in the old centre, close to the ensemble Lyabi Hauz), ☏ , . All rooms have air-con, satellite TV, great bathroom facilities, fridge, hairdryer, phone with international access and Wi-Fi. The Hotel was Jewish merchant’s house built in 19th century near the "Synagogue" (Jewish temple) in the city center (perfect location). single US$35, double US$60.
- Hotel Grand Nodirbek, 10 Sarafon Street (25 meters from the Lyub-i-hauz ensemble), ☏ . Nice Interior Courtyard, friendly receptionist named Fahreddin, satellite television (great if you understand Uzbek, Russian, or Turkmen), air-con. Bathrooms are extremely clean and modern. US$20-30 with breakfast.
- Hotel Malika, 25 Shaumyana Street, ☏ , email@example.com. Air conditioning and satellite TV, single US$35, double US$65 with breakfast.
- Madina & Ilyos B&B, Mehtar Anbar St. 18, ☏ . Located in the centre. From US$10 with breakfast.
- 1 Hotel Amulet, 74 Nakshbandi St, ☏ , , fax: , firstname.lastname@example.org. Located in the old city of Bukhara, next to the ancient Lyabi Khauz ensemble (16th-17th century). It was built in the early 19th century by a famous merchant, Said Kamol, as a madrasah where students lived and studied everything from philosophy to religion. Today it remains a national monument that has been reconstructed to allow others the chance to experience the traditional life of years ago. Room facilities: bath room with the shower; air conditioning; heating; satellite TV; hair-drier. US$40-60.
- Komil Bukhara Boutique Hotel, 40 Barakyon Street. located in the old city of Bukhara, about 5 minutes walking distance from Lyabi Khauz, 8 richly decorated double rooms with private bath, air conditionning, satellite TV and minibar, windows facing to an inner terrace, small restaurant with local and European cuisine.
- Zargaron Plaza Hotel, 256m Nakshbandi Str, ☏ . A 4-star hotel 2 km from the city centre, with 40 rooms, restaurant, bar and swimming pool
- Zargaron Hotel, 8, Chakikat Str., ☏ . A 3-star hotel in the old town in the style of the 19th century.
- Hotel Mekhtar Ambar, 91, B.Nakshbandi St (between Chor Minor and Labi Khauz), ☏ , email@example.com. In a medrese from the 19th century, ten rooms decorated with antique suzanes and carpets, satellit.
- 2 Rustam-Zuxro B&B, 116 B. Nakshband (on the main street, around 100 m. from Lyabi-Hauz), ☏ . Centrally located with very polite and friendly staff, the woman in charge will make sure you have everything you need. Most rooms are air conditioned. Big breakfast included, free WiFi, spacious courtyard where you can secure your bicycle or motorcycle. There are also family rooms with big baths. Registration provided. dorms for US$15, rooms from $45.
- 3 Mosque Baland Hotel, Machiti Baland Street 18. Very charming family owned hotel on a residential street. Clean rooms, beautiful inner courtyard and very good breakfast. It's a bit outside the old town, about a 10-min walk. The family are very helpful and offer free wi-fi. $30.
- Railways Station, Kagan, Shevchenko Str 2 (8 km south of city center), ☏ .
- Airport, Naqshbandi Str, ☏ .
- 2 OVIR (Office for Visas and Registration), Murtazaev 10/3, ☏ .
You can get to Termez (6 hr by shared taxi, usually more). 150,000 som. You have to get first to Karchi (2 hr), then wait for passengers to Termez (4 hr). You might end up paying up more as the taxi is not sure to get full.