Lost Out of Bukhara

Outside of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Moritz, who I met the evening before, told me that it’s worth checking out the Emir’s Summer Palace, an eclectic collection of buildings about 5 miles out of town. He told me it would be a good change of scenery since after so many mosques and madrasahs, they start looking the same. I could have taken a marshrutka (mini bus) there, but I rented a bike instead, figuring it wouldn’t be too far. However, things are easier said than done.


Numbers I notice in the modern part of Bukhara: 69.

This is the McDowell’s of Bukhara.

I bike out of the old city, out of the new city, and into the countryside, following Google Maps directions to Sitorai Mohi Khosa (Star Moon Garden), the last emir’s summer palace.

The roads get muddier and muddier the farther out I bike, but at least I’m not the only cyclist out there. However, I am undoubtedly the only foreigner out where I am in farmland. #Google Maps tells me I’m close but there’s no palace in sight. Soon it tells me I passed it and it becomes clear that I’m lost because sometimes #GoogleLies.

I resort to finding directions the old school way, by asking for directions, which turns into an adventure. I bike back the other way and ask two old women waiting for a minibus, “Uh, Sitorai Mino Hosa?” I don’t realize I’m pronouncing it wrong, but they get the gist of it. They say something while motioning that it’s far and that I have to bike back to the highway and then make a big loop inward to farmland again.

Google Maps had it way off and I bike extra miles backtracking. I get more caked in splattering mud before I make it back to the highway. I go farther and then turn in on a paved road that looks like it’s leading me to a modern monumental piece of architecture that is definitely a palace of some sort. But there is a heavily gated entrance and security office, leading me to believe that it’s just a gaudy modern gated residential community.

I ask the uniformed security guard for directions, and he too motions me to go back to the highway and loop back right.

Suddenly this short leisurely bike ride is turning into a much longer and muddier ordeal than I thought it’d be. In retrospect, I could have taken a marshrutka.

After over an hour of being lost on a muddy bike ride, I see a building with Cyrillic letters that I can phonetically sound out: Sit-or-ai Mo-hi Kho-sa. Bingo. I walk my bike to the building, passing by the cheesy playground sculptures. I park my bike and approach the stairs to the building where a woman cleaning the steps gets annoyed that I’m tracking mud on then. She questions why I’m there, as does another woman walking out. It appears that I’m at a big residential apartment building.

“Uh, museo?” I say in Spanish for some reason. It just came out that way.

They figure out my question and motion me to go back to the highway, bike farther, then loop back in. Overhearing their conversation, I think I hear the woman with the broom think I’m African. It could be my sunbaked skin (I got really dark on this trip), or it could have been the dark mud all over me.

Just when I’m about to give up, I find the museum gate of Sitorai Mohi Khosa, the former emir’s summer palace. If you recall, I’d been recommended by Moritz to check it out if mosques and madrasahs are starting to look the same — they are — since the former home of emir Alim Khan is an eclectic mish-mash of other architectural styles.

An eclectic mish-mash of architectural styles, Sitorai Mohi Khosa (Star Moon Garden) had been commissioned to be built by the eccentric emir Alim Khan. The gaudy multi-building complex sometimes looks like #Versailles, sometimes like a palace in India. There are a few peacocks wandering the grounds while many crows cawed above.

As the story goes, when the emir was in power, he’d throw an apple down to a swimming pool frequented by the women of his harem. Whoever received the apple was up next for sexy time.


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This dispatch is one of over 70 travel dispatches from the trip grouped and titled, "The Global Trip: 'Stan By Me." It's an archived compilation of Instagram and Facebook posts which chronicled a trip through three countries in Central Asia: Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.

Next entry:
Back in Bukhara for Beers

Previous entry:
Ladies Who Lunch and Laugh


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