Movie in Bukhara, Curtains in Khiva!

In addition to Tashkent and Samarkand, which were the focus of my previous blog post (Uzbekistan: silk, bazaars and architecture), two other ancient cities of Uzbekistan have strong links to the Silk Road: stunning Bukhara and charming Khiva.

A brief visit to the historic center of Bukhara quickly reveals the magnitude of the architectural heritage of the city. Its numerous mosques and madrassas are a testament to Bukhara once being a major intellectual center of the Islamic world.   Its well-preserved architecture and covered bazaars make it very easy to imagine what Bukhara was like during its heyday.   And this bit of imagining was made even easier by the fact that when we visited the old town, I walked into the middle of a movie set with people dressed in traditional costumes. (I am embarrassed to say that this is literally true as I initially ran to photograph one of the actors not realizing that they were filming, forcing them to abort the take, oops!). The movie being filmed happened to be a remake of a 1958 Uzbek musical comedy called “Delighted by You” (Maftuningman) which is considered to be one of the greatest Uzbek films of all time. In between “takes”, we hung out with few of the beautiful dancers featured in the movie.

The skyline of Bukhara is quite stunning as it is dominated by the impressive Kalon minaret. At 155 feet (47m), it was certainly the tallest structure in Central Asia when it was built early 12th century. It is said that Ghinggis Khan was so impressed by the Kalon minaret that when he invaded the city, he ordered it spared. Two other quite distinctive structures are the Chor Minor Madrassah with its four blue-topped towers and the Bolo-House Mosque or Mosque of forty columns, which is particularly beautiful at night.

But of course, every city has neighborhood bazaars and Bukhara is no exception. I visited a few including a small one with a very busy and welcoming bread-maker as well as a few larger ones buzzing with activities.

Khiva is a treat as well and, because of its smaller size, much easier to navigate. Though historically associated with slavery (for a long period of time, Khiva was one of the most important markets of slaves in Central Asia), the older section of Khiva, the Ichon-Qala (or within the walls), now feels quiet and peaceful particularly at dawn and dusk when only the local residents are around. Here too, the numerous mosques and minarets are nothing less than splendid. Among them, the Jamid mosque with its 218 wooden columns and the Islom-Hoja madrassa and minaret, a relative new structure built in 1910. A rather unique site is the Kalta Minor minaret. Often referred to as the “fat” minaret, (the story is that the local khan started the Kalta Minor in 1851 wanting to build a minaret so high he would see all to way to Bukhara about 300 miles (500km) away. Alas, he died soon after construction began, leaving the structure unfinished and somewhat stumpy looking.) The tile work on it is absolutely exquisite.

Another perk of roaming the city at dawn, in addition to the beautiful light, was meeting Katarina, a friendly camel who seems to have a strong bond with her owner. Every morning, he grooms her and gets her ready for tourists to use as a prop for their selfies. Chatting with the owner, we asked if Katarina ever had babies to which he answered no and then clarified that she had never been married. Obviously out-of-wedlock babies are not the done thing for camels, at least in Khiva.

Early morning was also my favorite time to explore the modern district of Khiva, outside the walls. Seeing people starting their day, cleaning their surroundings, or leaving their home inspired me to photograph the curtains many of the locals have in front of their door.


So long Uzbekistan,


This entry was posted in Central Asia, Photography, Travel, Uzbekistan and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .


  1. Lisa October 15, 2017 at 15:15 #

    Lovely images, France.

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 15:55 #

      Thank you Lisa. Glad you like them. Hope Ireland is (was?) a blast! France

  2. Peter Sheppard October 15, 2017 at 15:21 #

    Superb again !

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 15:56 #

      Thank you Peter. I am glad you enjoyed the post. Best, France

  3. Emilie October 15, 2017 at 15:41 #

    One can well visualise the diversity and familiarity of the Silk Road when viewing these charming pictures .
    Of course I was compelled to google how far the human eye can actually see upon reading of the local khan’s aspiration.
    How Far Can the Human Eye See? | Human Visual Acuity
    😂 😂

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:01 #

      Of course you were 😉 It is probably not a bad thing then that the khan passed away before the completion of his minaret. He would have been rather disappointed and who knows who he would have blamed for it. Thanks for stopping by, Emilie. always nice (and stimulating) hearing from you. France

  4. Jeremy Woodhouse October 15, 2017 at 23:25 #

    Super France—well-written. I feel like I was there!

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:02 #

      Umm, could it be because you were 😉 Thanks Jeremy.

  5. harrie October 16, 2017 at 02:23 #

    Excellent! Thanks.

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:03 #

      Many thanks to you, Harrie.

  6. michele October 16, 2017 at 08:28 #

    Beautiful as usual.

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:04 #

      Thank you Michele. Hope all is well. France

  7. Sally Bucko October 16, 2017 at 08:48 #

    France…Excellent blog and documentary photographs! It’s on my schedule for the fall of 2018 and your post makes the area even more enticing. Thank you!

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:05 #

      Thanks Sally. The ancient cities of Uzbekistan are pretty charming. I am sure you’ll enjoy them. France

  8. Rose Clarke October 16, 2017 at 15:33 #

    France, your images are wonderful, tell such a story – love them!

    • franceleclerc October 16, 2017 at 16:09 #

      Thank you Rose. Always nice hearing from you. Glad you like the images. Hope all is well in your part of the world. XX France