We had one more day and night in beautiful Bukhara and so more shopping and a trip out to the Emir’s Summer Palace was next. For our last night we stayed in the very central Hotel Malika which hosts tour groups from all over the world and really is in the middle of everything you’d want to see in the city.
The Kalyan minaret
Close by is the Kalyan minaret one of the oldest and most prominent landmarks in Bukhara. It was originally built to summon citizens to prayer and features one of the oldest sections of blue glazed tiling in central Asia. It impressed the Mongol invader Genghis Khan who spared it from destruction and it was then used as a lookout for enemies and became known as the Tower of Death because until as recently as the early twentieth century criminals were executed by being thrown from the top. Nice.
The Ark of Bukhara, a massive walled fortress is also an easy walk from the hotel built and occupied in the 5th Century. It was a military structure but also a town which housed various royal courts. Its gigantic walls now house a museum.
The Malika hotel
The charming Hotel Malika, Bukhara lies at the heart of the old city. It was opened in 2004 and is surrounded by beautiful ancient monuments. All the famous sites are well within walking distance as are numerous good restaurants, bazaars and shops selling pottery, carpets, material and jewellery from Uzbekistan.
The building is on two floors built in the style of an ancient madrassah, around a shady courtyard where you can have a drink at the bar or relax with a pot of tea on a Topchan.
The hotel is a great place for business or leisure travellers with its excellent location in the old city, only 15 minutes from the airport. The thirty clean elegant rooms all have air conditioning, TVs, new bathrooms, fridges and Wifi.
Sleep well at the Malika hotel
Some rooms have king size beds and there is a gym, sauna and laundry service too. There are also conference facilities here. It does a very good buffet breakfast in its rather charming dining room – I especially enjoyed the baby figs with creamy Uzbek yoghurt. The walls feature colourful friezes of Uzbek life and you can even hire bikes from here to cycle around the city which is pretty flat.
Topchan at the Malika
We took a short taxi ride out to see the Emir’s Summer Palace known as the Palace of Moon-like Stars or Sitorai-Mokhi-Khos. You are greeted by a large flock of peacocks – which feature everywhere in royal history and are quite important in influencing patterns and design too – they were known as the birds of paradise. Somewhat over the top, and boldly lavish in its decoration and tiling, this eccentric palace was one of my favourite things I saw in Uzbekistan. The clash of European, Russian and Asian styles, colours and designs which I had heard heard described as rather kitsch, I found stunningly beautiful, and the colours and patterns just heart lifting, still dazzling in the brightest sunlight hundreds of years later.
None of the intricate detailed patterns and paintings.are repeated in different rooms and the whole vibe even all these years later, is just a riot of colour, creativity and craftsmanship. In some ways, it felt curiously modern. It has state rooms with white Russian furniture and was also said to be home to the Emir’s harem.With its mix of Russian and Central Asian architecture and traditions, the summer palace offers an intriguing symbol of, and insight into, the lifestyle of an emir trying to bridge two worlds and of an emirate caught between two ages.
The setting, especially the canopied tiled walkway was dramatic, and it reminded me of the type of backdrop they would use in a programme like America’s Next Top Model (ANTM to those in the know) So, we decided to stage our own photo shoot using the Uzbek clothes we had bought and a selfie stick held up by putting it in an ancient Uzbek lamp that was lying about. A lot of fun was had.
Bukhara’s Next Top Models!
The cool cotton coats looked perfect in this summer environment but I had to wear my gorgeous Uzbek hat too just for the photo – it does get very cold here in the winter.
Love my Uzbek hat!
We were leaving that night on the overnight Russian train from Bukhara back to Tashkent. The train had original wooden sleeper compartments such as are favoured for pursuits in old James Bond movies. The beds were cosy but the train has no air con and it was a bit like trying to sleep in a sauna. When we finally got off the train early in the morning at Tashkent we still felt like we were swaying about for most of the next day. What could we expect next in our extraordinary Uzbek adventure?