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The Tower of Death

We woke up plenty early the next day and wandered into the dining room area of the Hotel Malika in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. We had thought that the breakfast at the Caravan Sarai was luxurious… well this one took it to a whole new level, with multiple kinds of pastry, two eggs each, black (Russian) and white (Uzbek) breads, 4 different jams, all kinds of sausages, blini with sour cream, a fruit plate, a selection of deep fried shapes,  and a personal waiter! It was in all honesty just too much. It made me slightly uncomfortable, resulting in me rushing a bit through my meal.

Regardless, it was with bellies plenty full that we struck out into the bright sunshine to do some more in depth explorations of this most fascinating city called Bukhara, where the post boxes look like this.

We took a right turn, delving straight from our hotel into the twisted alleyways that make up Bukhara’s old city. The best we could hope for was that we would get hopelessly lost therein.

This we achieved with little effort. As we rode, we were continually stumbling upon giant compounds of Uzbek structures, the purpose of which we had no idea, but who’s facades told of long forgotten grandeur and years of neglect.

We rode along until we noticed this interestingly ornate plaque, which we would be more than grateful is someone more fluent in Russian than I could shed some light on in the comments.

We continued to ride on, getting deeper and more lost in the city. We noticed a bakery selling butter cookies, and stopped to but a few, riding on from there, munching as we wheeled.

We continued on, through mostly deserted streets, past giant structures which these days served lord knows what purpose.

This city felt ancient, frozen in time, remote in a way that no other place we’ve been to has felt.

Suddenly, we came upon a giant fortress, which we wheeled up to investigate more closely. It was huge, with very high walls, and bulbous turrets. When we arrived at the central gate to the monster, it seemed to have been turned into some sort of a giant tourist shopping mall…. So, rather than destroy the mystery with some mundane tourist garbage, we just wheeled on, leaving the wonder intact.

We continued to skirt around the great fortress, riding along the base of its walls and moving towards the back of the beast. Many places along the wall, the structure seemed to be dependent on long wooden poles which were plunged directly into the mortar, making them an integral part of the wall. I guess, this being the desert and all, wood does not decompose so quickly as it might in, say, Cambodia.

From the base of the fortress, we proceeded to loop through a system of back alleys which spilled us out into a central courtyard, over which towered the Kalyan Minaret.

The Kalyan Minaret, or “tower of death”.   It was built in 1127 and, according to the legend its builder killed a prominent Imam. The Imam appeared to the great Khan (the Mongolian ruler a the time) in a dream and asked that he lay the imam’s head on a spot where nobody can tread upon it. Thus the tower was built over the murdered Imam’s grave. It gets the name “Tower of Death” because rulers of Bukhara once executed criminals by taking them to the top, sowing them into a black bag and pushing them out, letting gravity do the rest.

Nowadays, one can find an amazing assortment of Uzbek pottery for sale at it’s base. And, remembering that we had a project K9 order in for a platter, we decided to purchase one then and there.

So we counted out a wad of сум, and bough the thing, but we were not free to go yet, for we were in a gaint market of pottery sellers and having shown now our willingness to fork over сум, we had to fend off the entire rest of the crowd, who had become increasingly interested in us.

One way to do that was to distract them with the majesty and glory of the Speed TRs. Unfortunately that leads to requests to take the thing for a spin. And, being the trusting chaps that we are, we agreed. The pottery seller on Scott’s bike came back after only 5 minutes of riding. The fabric merchant who had gotten on mine, however, disappeared without a trace.

So I sat down in her chair, where she had been selling colorful swatches, and began to wait her out. It was a long wait, and I had made very good friends with the rest of the merchants in the market by the time she arrived back, wearing a new outfit and with her kid sister riding on the rear rack. I thanked her for giving my cycle back, and we wheeled off.

Some people these days…

Feeling very satisfied with our day’s work, we packed up the platter and headed back to the Malika, where we spent the rest of the afternoon working furiously on correspondence for you, dear reader.


  1. laura | November 30th, 2010 | 9:14 pm

    oh! i would have loooooooooved one of those platters!!! next trip! 😉

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