A blacksmith at work in Bukhara
In all other parts of the globe light descends upon the earth, from holy Bukhara it ascendsTraditional saying
In the ancient streets of Bukhara history weaves itself effortlessly around the present-day lives of its people. Here you get a real sense of continuity. The world of the Silk Road caravans isn’t preserved in the aspic of Khiva; nor tucked into islands among the modern-day bustle of Samarkand; it is an ever-present backdrop to daily life. To walk these streets, duck through the low arches of the caravanserai and trading domes, sit for a while over green tea by the pool of Lyab-i-Huaz; this is what people of this city have done for centuries.
Just outside Bukhara’s Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon (the Cap-Makers’ Trading Dome) we came across a blacksmith sitting at his anvil. Metal work is one of several crafts for which the city is famous; there’s even a museum devoted to it. Most of the blacksmiths still work in this very traditional way.
Inside the dome we found several blacksmiths’ stalls, selling the traditional Bukharan scissors in the shape of storks and other birds. These are popular as souvenirs and of course we bought one.
At the height of its powers as a centre of trade, Bukhara had five great bazaars or toks. These vaulted stone buildings straddled the intersections of the various trading routes that converged on the city. Their great arched entrances were high enough to allow a laden pack camel to enter, and each was devoted to a particular trade.
The Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon
Three remain to this day, looking much as they would have done centuries ago. The Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon is the middle of the three and has the most complex construction, as it straddles not a simple crossroads but a meeting of five routes. Its irregular corners and arches once sheltered the stalls displaying the various styles of headgear favoured here: gold-embroidered hats, colourful skull caps, fur hats for the cold desert winters. Now like its neighbours to the north and south it houses craft and souvenir stalls, including the blacksmiths’ one.
To the north lies the Tok-i-Zargaron, or Jewellers’ Trading Dome, the largest of the three that remain. The building dates from 1570. It was the centre for the trade in gold and other precious metals, gems and coral. Nowadays it too houses stalls selling tourist souvenirs and spices; nevertheless it isn’t difficult to imagine it in the days when merchants haggled here and deals were struck, while camels and donkeys waited patiently as their heavy bundles were unloaded.
The Tok-i-Sarrafon or Money Changers’ Bazaar, is the smallest and most southerly of the remaining great trading domes. As the name suggests, this bazaar was home to the Punjabi money-changers whose activities were critical to the trade of Bukhara. Here traders from many lands would exchange their money for the bronze pul, silver tenge and gold tilla that made up the currency in use here. Also here would have been the stalls of the money-lenders, no doubt no less essential to Bukhara’s success as a centre of trade.
Bukhara was my favourite of the cities we visited along the ancient Silk Route in Uzbekistan; and no doubt I’ll get around to sharing more of the city in the future. For now I’m focusing on the trading domes and specifically on this blacksmith, linking to Cee’s theme of Metal.
I visited Uzbekistan in 2007
This collection and story feel so much like a visit to the Silk Road. I have the feeling that so many scenes you have captured are not so different than long ago.
Thank you Ruth – yes, I had that feeling quite a lot on this trip but most especially in Bukhara. Khiva was a bit too much like a stage set – beautiful but not so lived in. And Samarkand had wonderful treasures but felt more like a modern city with historical sites rather than an ancient one, as Bukhara did 🙂
Your post brought back wonderful memories of our own trip to Uzbekistan a few years ago, Sarah. Loved the detail in the scissors’ shot and was touched how you picked them up for your dad. Looking forward to your upcoming posts on Khiva and particularly on Samarkand!
Thank you Annie, I’m happy to have brought back those memories 🙂 I don’t know when I’ll get around to further posts about this long-ago trip but they’ll appear one day no doubt!
philosophy through photography
Lovely clicks Sarah!
Love the blacksmith guy click and scissors.
The other clicks hypnotised me into believing that I am in a fairy land.
Thank you for giving us a glimpse of Uzbekistan.
Thank you 😊 I do like the idea that I transported you to a fairy land!
Great photos. I’d love it watch a blacksmith doing is thing. 😀 😀
Thank you Cee 🙂
As I shall never go to this region, I am enjoying your brilliant images, Sarah!
Thank you Sue, I’m happy to have taken you on a virtual visit 🙂
What experiences you had
Marvellous. A totally unknown destination to me, and one that looks as though, while it may depend on tourism, it hasn’t been spoilt by it.
Thanks Margaret, that was certainly our experience back in 2007. I think they get more tourists these days (or rather did, pre-Covid) but I’d be surprised if there are enough to have changed it too much 🙂
What a fabulously different place to visit. Cities on ancient trading routes are so absorbing, you can often feel the past in the present. Great post, as ever.
Yes, that’s exactly the feeling I got here (and to a lesser extent in Khiva and Samarkand too). Have you ever been to Uzbekistan?
Not even thought about it. Yet.
I’m pretty sure you’d like it!
A wonderful post Sarah. Great photos and words 🙂
Thank you Brian, glad you enjoyed it 🙂
You have been to some amazing places Sarah. This city looks very biblical. I can only go to these places through your posts. Do you use the scissors or are they for decoration only?
Thanks Alison. Yes, I can see what you mean about Biblical, in these parts at least. Less so elsewhere as you’ll see when I share some more of it 🙂
We actually bought the scissors originally for my father-in-law. He wasn’t interested in travelling himself but was fascinated by the places we went to. We developed a habit of buying a little thing for him for a sort of ‘museum’ he created in a display cabinet. When he died we kept a few of the best objects and these now hang in our kitchen along with lots of other small holiday souvenirs and pictures. We have never used them and I doubt he did either!
So nice to have things like this that bring joy and great conversation starters
the eternal traveller
I would be tempted by a beautiful pair of scissors too. There is so much to see in these markets.
Thanks, yes, such markets are full of lovely and/or interesting things to see and/or buy!
Totally fascinating Sarah – and, as always, the photographs were amazing.
Thank you so much Yvonne 😀