Players of the Great Game?
By midday we are ready for a break from mosques, mausoleums and citadels. We have seen the tomb of Ismael the 10th century Samanid ruler under whom Bukhara had its golden age. Our guide has taken us to Job’s Well, where the prophet is reputed to have struck the ground and caused water to flow, healing him of his rather nasty skin complaint. There is a tomb next to it, but we have already seen another tomb in Yemen which is supposed to be Job’s. Our guide admits that Job certainly got around. We have also entered the Ark (not Noah’s), the ancient citadel of Bukhara with its massive brick walls beneath which Charles Stoddart and Arthur Connolly, British soldiers of the Indian army, were executed by the infamous Emir Nasrullah in 1842. Two victims of the Great Game who played and lost. So now we are ready for lunch.
Our guide, Ms Shahodat, takes us to the Bolo Hauz restaurant just across the (wide and not very busy) road from the 16th century mosque of the same name. We eat somsas (the Central Asian prototype of the samosa) and plov (the local pilau), washed down with green tea. The food is tasty and the restaurant is popular with locals. We feel duly refreshed and ready for more sightseeing.
In the jewellery market, the stalls are mostly staffed by women. There is no security and one can try on pieces worth hundreds of dollars. It’s a relaxed sort of place.
We enter the cool airy space of one of the great Silk Road trading domes, where the caravans delivered and acquired their goods. A maker of traditional Uzbek stringed instruments, Jalol Avliakulov, gives an impromptu and very professional demonstration of his wares (http://youtu.be/mD3yWMu9oxE).
We see carpets being made and feel the lightness of locally made silk. Tourists are keeping the trade and the skills alive. And they have had foreign visitors here since time immemorial. The Silk Road continues to evolve.