After a night at the hotel, we went for a short walk around Bukhara in the morning. This city is known as one of the oldest in Central Asia, and its history dates back more than 2,500 years. Archaeologists say that the “cultural layer” in Bukhara is over 20 meters – the depth at which the remains of houses, crockery, jewelry and tools of labor have been found. The name of the city originates from such words as “monastery” and “house of knowledge”. The Ark fortress is still the center of Bukhara, a place where governors and nobles lived in ancient times. Outside the walls of the fortress, the city appeared and grew – “shahristan” – with its trade and handicraft district – “rabad”. As the Great Silk Road ran through Bukhara, over 60 caravanserais were built in the city, and merchants from Asia, the Middle East and other countries lived here. By the 10th century, Bukhara had become an important scientific and cultural center – many well-known scientists, thinkers, artists, historians, writers and doctors worked here (for example, Avicenna). The historical center as we know it today was formed in the 16th-17th centuries, when the majority of mosques, madrasas, caravanserais and other significant architecture were built.
Unfortunately, our walk around the center was rushed – we had to hurry to get to Samarkand in time, as the SOS Children's Village management and pupils were waiting for us. We had just left Bukhara when we met another team from Belgium participating in the Mongol Rally 2017 – Arthur Lenoir and his charming companion Laurent were driving a vintage Volkswagen Beetle. That's how two Volkswagens, new and old, after travelling across half the continent, met on the roads of Central Asia! Despite the cheerful roar of the engine, the “old-timer Beetle” was having a tough time in the heat of course, so the guys decided to keep the engine compartment lid ajar for better engine cooling, and they propped it up with ... a beer can! We exchanged contacts and wished each other a happy journey. A bit later we met them again near the stela at the entrance to Samarkand Region. We also met another Volkswagen team from the Czech Republic driving a purple Polo. We naturally took a beautiful joint photo with our Volkswagens set in a single line!
Each country we visited during our trip has its own national car brand and favorite color. In Uzbekistan, it's Daewoo and Korean Chevrolet models, which are typically white – and this is quite natural and understandable, as a light car body doesn’t get as hot. There are a lot of Nexia, Lacetti, Matiz and Damas cars on the roads, and many of them are even used as taxis. In Uzbekistan, as in any other Central Asian countries, there are also a lot of old Soviet cars, like Volga, Moskvich, Zhiguli, ZiL and GAZ trucks. All of them are still in running order, and they have already been working for several decades despite the heat, low-quality fuel and broken roads.
At around 6 pm, we arrived at Samarkand’s SOS Children's Village. The director, Feruz Egamberdiev, accompanied by pupils and the local TV station personally welcomed us. Rainer told them about our project and the route still ahead of us, and also told the children about the countries we had already visited. Then we held several contests and quizzes, and the winners received prizes and gifts. At the end we played football and took some memorable photos. The children were delighted with our visit, and we were really happy to see smiles and joy on their faces. And we were really touched to the heart when they handed us a memorable homemade souvenir – a painting in a frame of branches with three figures in the national dress. Many thanks!
We would also like to thank the owner of the Platan restaurant in Samarkand, who personally welcomed us in his restaurant and did everything to surround us with care and comfort after a long journey! That's how our evening ended, and then at night we set out for Tashkent.
Author: Peter Bakanov