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Trip Report

Post by Admin on 24.07.16 8:13

We loved most of the places we saw in Bukhara. Ismael Samanid mausoleum (beautiful 9th/ 10th century with Zorastrian architectural style and dome), Bolo Khauz, Lyabi Khauz, Ark Fortress/ citadel with all its museums inside, Magoki Attori mosque (beautiful but are guide skipped it but we walked to it on a day when we were on our own), Abdul Aziz madrassah (beautiful, again something the guide skipped but which my husband explored on his own - it has beautiful muqarnas and wall paintings including ones thought to be hidden images of the architect’s face), trade domes, Kalon mosque, Kalon minaret (stunning), Chashme Ayub (skippable), Fine Arts Museum (contemporary arts – paintings of Benkov and some others are seriously worth seeing). Outside Bukhara, we visited the Nakshbandhi mausoleum (lovely and peaceful, the Nakshbandhis were the first Sufi order to come to India so we were very interested); Sitorai Mokhikhosa summer palace of the last Emir; Chor Bakr; Gijdoven for pottery. Our trip to Gijdoven was a waste because we went to the wrong craftsmans place. Please don’t go to Abdullo Narzullaev’s pottery place unless you wish to waste time. We found he was selling cracked plates with glaze over them and was actually just pushing embroidered suzanis made by his wife etc. (those were actually good and made with silk skeins dyed with natural, pastel colours). Instead you will be better served going to his brother Alisher Narzullaev’s ceramics workshop also in Gijdoven, which I heard later, is the authentic deal. Unfortunately, our polite but lazy driver was good friends with Abdullo so we got taken there and our guide who seemed extra friendly with our driver claimed there were no other pottery workshops in Gijdoven (we saw one on the opposite side of the highway but at that point we were jaded by what we had seen in Abdullo’s workshop.) The one unique place our guide took us on the first day, which we absolutely loved was the Hodja Zainiddin mosque, which had the most gorgeous painted ceiling and dome with just blues and goldens and crazy beautiful muqarnas.

B) Impromptu master class with the young master craftsman Abdulvahid Bukhoriy (look his number on facebook since LP doesn't allow it to be listed, he lives by Hodja Zainiddin mosque; or write to me privately so I can provide it to you): With the help of Norgis of Minzifa, we were finally able to locate a 38-year old craftsman who apparently has played a big role in reviving and documenting potash (the turquoise or firoza blue) glaze for ceramics. They say most of the ceramics available in the markets contain lead glaze and are sold to unsuspecting customers without any information (because the sellers are simply traders rather than craftsmen themselves), whereas the potash glaze is absolutely safe to use for food and had been used for centuries until the last 50 years when the craft was lost. Abdulvohid helped revive the craft and we found him to be a really warm guy who welcomed us to his home when he heard we were looking to buy his ceramics. He had some beautiful old Bukhari designs on his pieces, a lot of it in calligraphy, which he took special lessons to learn. He also uses a dark brown lead glaze, red glaze and a purple one (I think it may be potassium permanganate because he said it contained manganese). He fires at exceptionally high temperatures to ensure the lead glazes are also safe and uses the plates himself for food. That’s the reason one sees the colour running effect on his ceramics. This was probably one of our best experiences because when Abdulvohid figured out I was an artist too, he invited us to create a plate together the next day, which we did (and even invited us for a plov dinner with his friends Murat and Guljamal that night, which we unfortunately had to decline because of a prior reservation at Rustom's house). It was at Abdulvohid’s place that we met Murat Sarsenov (find his contact details on Facebook and his company Charming Orient's details on Facebook since LP doesnt allow such a posting - or write to me privately), who organizes a large ceramics exhibition in Tashkent each year with master craftsmen from all over Uzbekistan. Murat, who speaks perfect English, explained to me he also runs a travel company (I found it on Facebook – it’s called Charming Orient) which connects people wanting masterclasses from master craftsmen and learn museum science all over Uzbekistan. Murat had brought in a filming crew to film Abdulvohid at work.

We found that together with the Advantour folks (Gulsanam and Sultan), some of the people we met in Bukhara - Minzifa folks, Abdulvohid and Murat and his wife - were probably the most genuine people we met in Uzbekistan and truly made us feel at home. We wish we could have spent more time interacting with them. Additionally, we wish we had much more time peacefully exploring the old monuments in Bukhara. There is so much history to soak in!

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