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November 6, 2002

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Central Asia's holiest city, Bukhara, holds more medressas, mosques, and mausoleums than any other city of Central Asia. It preserves its old character much better than Samarqand, probably because Bukhara grew into prominence later and served as the seat of a khanate until 1920, the most powerful Central Asian city at that time. The Russians conquered Bukhara to subdue the region but left many buildings intact. Elements of old grandeur stand in many quarters, connected by cobblestone alleyways, amidst covered bazaars, old bathhouses, wells, shaded pools, and canals.
In 1842, the independent Khan of Bukhara beheaded two British officers, Stoddart and Conolly, on this spot while a band played from the walls of the fortress. The first officer, Stoddart, had come here three years before to assure the Khan about Britain's intentions in Afghanistan. He was thrown in the 'bug pit' for being too arrogant. Conolly, the second officer, received the same fate for coming two years later in an attempt to negotiate Stoddart's release. Those were days of adventure tourism.
In Bukhara the buildings span a thousand years of history, so expect leaky plumbing in your hotel room.
They thought I was an Uzbek so they let us in for free. Smile, nod, and say "Rakhmat" or "Kha" to any question ("Thank you" or "yes"). The tower looking like it's wearing a conical hat is the Kalon minaret. Experts say this is the most impressive minaret of Central Asia, 48 meters high, that Ghengis Khan spared out of admiration. Built in 1127 it was the first to use glazed blue tiles and an early form of earthquake-proofing, a 10 meter bed of reeds within the foundations.
Last view of the condemned from atop the Kalon minaret; emirs threw enemies and criminals to the streets below up until the twentieth century.
Char Minar, looking like an upturned end table, features a minaret style found nowhere else.