Bukhara: People

First, the weather report.

At two in the afternoon it’s 113 in the shade.

I rolled out at 5AM this morning to see the city at the verge of dawn and to escape the heat.

No surprise, it was still and cool with only the sounds of doves cooing.

People were walking or biking to work, down the narrow streets of the Old City.

When visiting the fortress of the Emir, not a nice fellow by any measure, we saw a young boy at work, already schooled in the art of metal engraving, using a sharp awl and a small hammer.

The kid was an obvious draw, bringing potential customers over for dad to close the sale; very shrewd, indeed.

Many of these cultural places afford areas for the selling of memorabilia, too.

The universal greeting is “salam aleikum” or “peace on you” with a hand over the heart as you say it.

It may or may not come with a handshake but almost always with a smile.

Young folks are eager to practice or show you their English proficiency, last night our waiter at a 10PM dinner, who was all of 18, wanted to know the low-down on the Illuminati and the Masons.

David and I were at a loss for words since you’d be quite unlikely to get such a question from a teenager in the U.S.

My view, generally speaking, is that if it has to do with organized religion, it’s probably not real good.

Such are the many surprising moments of travel in a different place.

Another fellow working on the train had excellent English skills which he had picked up via Youtube; that’s not the first time I’ve heard that.

He wants to study in either Australia or Canada; I said I doubted he had much of a chance getting into Australia and that Canada is much more welcoming.

We visited a fabulous Sufi Mosque today and a delightfully assertive woman, dressed beautifully, who it turned out was from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, insisted that she must have a photo with Dave and me.

Sufi Complex, Bukhara

Then others in her group also wanted to join and it was a very fun and open moment.

The only place we had a bad reception, and it was pretty bad, was, of all places, at the fire station in Bukhara.

A firefighter let us in to look around and then we were abruptly and summarily ordered out when the boss-officer found out there were visitors in quarters.

(I’ll share the quick pics later.)

It turns out that the Uzbek fire service is run by the military which helps to explain the “chapped-ass” behavior and boot out the door.

The oddest moment, though,  occurred at lunch yesterday sitting in the shade as the much-needed overhead misters did their work.

We had taken our seats when one of us noticed that folks nearby were just being served what looked like a delicious pizza.

David remarked on the universal availability of pizza.

Several minutes later, a young 20-something American woman appeared at my side saying, without prior greeting, “Just to clarify, we have been traveling in Central Asia for four weeks and felt the need for some U.S. food.”

I was caught off guard as I had no idea why she was bringing me up-to-date on the rationale for her lunch decision.

She then traipsed off, probably in search of a yoga or meditation class.

<insert sarcasm>

It was, I guess, our U.S. millennial moment, delivered internationally, when a very special person assumes that those nearby in a busy restaurant actually care what or why they eat what they do.

One very welcome absence is people walking down the sidewalk, smartphone deployed for texting or reading.

I’ve seen but one person and I will bet you they were from the U.S.

Escape the country, but not the people.






  • John says:

    Very cool and enlightening. Thanks Eric. Wonderful descriptions.

  • Paul Roxenberg says:

    Please keep the stories coming. Very interesting.

  • Victoria Huckenpahler says:

    Alas,I have to agree about organized religion, at least as practiced these days. In just the last 18 months or so there have been 3 major Buddhist masters accused of abusing their students. These accusations have been well backed up by people whose veracity I trust. And then, on the Catholic side of things, we had the shock of learning that Cardinal McKerrick, who was a big noise in this city, has been accused by several men of abusing them for years in their youth. Extremely disheartening, and a reminder that we can only look to ourselves for a moral compass, it seems. Continue to keep giving us the local color!

  • Hans-Georg Hugel says:

    Will you also visit the city of Samarkand?

  • Ruth says:

    Thanks for including me among your blog recipients. It’s so enjoyable to read about your trip and the people you are meeting. Doesn’t sound like your route is overwhelmed with other tourists, which is a problem in a lot of other places, so you can really get the flavor of what life is like there. Keep up the blogging!

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