Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Details, Khiva

Arabic inscriptions on a wooden pillar, Juma Mosque, 10th century.
Wall tiles embedded in brick, Tosh-Hovli Palace.  
Engraved wooden column, Harem, Tosh-Hovli Palace.
Blue tile work, Harem, Tosh-Hovli Palace.

Non (bread), Khiva

Non, Uzbek bread is served with every meal. It is round and flat and baked in a tandyr oven. At Meros' we helped make the weekly stash.

The neighbor bakes our bread in her tandyr oven. Before baking, the dough is stamped with a pattern.

Meros Guesthouse, Khiva

Dodge the touristy hotels of Khiva and relax in this quiet family run guesthouse facing the inner side of the old city walls. It is filled with charm and ornamentation. Some rooms come complete with a balcony, and the dining room is fit for a king.

View of the walls and Meros.

The grandaughter.

What They Ate... Lachman

A good Lachman is always best enjoyed sitting on a tapchan with family and friends. Eat it like a spaghetti in a soup, and take large mouthfuls.

Textiles in Khiva

You can find many beautiful fabrics and textiles all around Uzbekistan. In Khiva we visited the Silk Carpet Workshop launched by UNESCO. It employs female apprentice carpet makers who hand dye silk with natural colors, and then weave on looms. It takes one apprentice 6 months to make one carpet.

The dyeing process.

Silk thread.

A shop in Khiva.

Khiva, Up Close

Khiva, The Old Town

A long 6 hour shared taxi ride through the scorching desert (and some unfriendly police stops along the way) brought us to the ancient oasis town of Khiva, where nothing has changed for hundreds of years. Magical. The Soviets were very successful in turning it into a museum-city and most of the inhabitants now live outside the old walls.

Salom Inn, Bukhara

Our pick from the many renovated B&Bs in Bukhara is the Salom Inn, just off the Lyab-i-Hauz. This former merchant's house in the heart of the old Jewish Quarter, is set around a central courtyard where you can have green tea and sweets on a hot afternoon. The rooms are clean with large and comfortable beds, and the staff is friendly and professional.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

What They Ate... Central Asian Staples

In Greek the word poluv means a variety of ingredients. Plov is the national Uzbek dish and is eaten at every occasion. This Bukharan version is a simple one consisting of rice, carrots currants and mutton. An additional piece mutton fat is the cherry on top of this festive creation.

Manty is small dumplings filled with chopped mutton and onion. This version also had some corriander seed in the mix.

Unesco Carpet Weaving Workshop, Bukhara

Beautiful silk carpets are hand woven in this former Madrassah.

Old Jewish Houses, Bukhara

We took some time to explore the Old Jewish Quarter. There, many of the houses have been recently revamped into boutique hotels. They come complete with original detailing including Jewish symbols and texts. Breakfast is often served in the inner courtyard, surrounded by decorated wooden columns.

Akbar Hotel.

The Lyabi-House.


Door detail from the Akbar Hotel.

Bukharan Folk

Melon Fair, Bukhara

We happened upon a Melon Fair in full swing. Melons are the pride of Uzbek farmers and are eaten with every meal and at all times of day. Expert buyers check for fragrance, size to weight ratio and listen for the correct tapping sound.

Sights Around Bukhara

Walls of the Ark Fortress.

Ismail Samani Mausoleum. Completely made from inter-woven mud bricks.

Bolo Hauz Mosque. These tall 12 meter wooden pillars vary in size, carving and decoration.

Colorful ceiling details from the restored Bolo Hauz Mosque.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Street Food, Bukhara

Uzbek food is limited in options, but not as bad as the guidebooks say. It mainly consists of white round bread, a variety of grilled meat, the notorious plov and our favorite: LACHMAN.
A slippery noodle soup served in large bowls with boiled vegetables, small pieces of mutton and topped with fresh herbs. The less touristy the venue, the less oily the soup.

One great place to try it is the Bolo Huaz Chaikhana in the garden just opposite the Bolo Hauz mosque in Bukhara.

Bukharan Women