I left Samarkand bound for Sentyab, a small village at the Nuratau Mountains. I sought information on the internet because I wanted to experience some Uzbek countryside too. Getting there wasn’t very simple. Luckily I had an Uzbek sim-card and I was able to keep in touch with the people of nuratau.com, the organization I arranged a homestay in Sentyab with. First I had to take a taxi to the place where shared taxis leave Samarkand to different cities and towns. You’ll wait until the shared taxi fills up and then it leaves. The drive took about an hour and I was dropped off in Jizzakh, from there I had to take another shared taxi to a village called Yangikishlok. I thought those taxis leave from that exact same point where I was dropped off, but that wasn’t the case. I decided to ask people and they told me to cross the street. There were a bunch of primary school kids around and this time most of them didn’t want a photo with me, but they were asking me for my signature hahaha. I stopped a taxi and called this guy from nuratau.com again and let him speak to the taxi
driver. Once it was clear where I needed to go, the driver dropped me off at this other place, where I boarded another shared taxi to Yangikishlok. There I met the guy from nuratau.com who spoke to this same taxi driver to take me all the way to Sentyab. I took another hour to reach the village driving through the Uzbek countryside, a vast steppe with cattle, mountains and hills...and bad roads!
Once we arrived in Sentyab the driver didn’t know exactly where to go, despite the fact that the guy from nuratau.com gave him the directions. He stopped and asked this local guy, who came with us to show the way. The homestay is located near a small river and you have to climb about 30 steps to reach it. The people at the homestay were really nice but did not speak any English. I had good lunch and after that I went for a short walk behind the house, climbing up a hill from where I enjoyed some good views over the village. I just sat there for some time and relaxed, enjoying the green scenery and the quietness. Sentyab is a very quiet village and
most people live from livestock farming. There is not much going on in the village, but there are quite a lot of kids and teenagers. Many of them gather on the school terrain to play basketball, volleyball or just to hang out. I went to take a closer look and just sat down and watched them play volleyball. Some of them said “hi” but they were a bit distant. I walked back to the house just before sunset and I was still feeling this cold I started to feel in Samarkand. It got a bit worse at night. I had dinner, showered and prepared for bed. There was no electricity in the village during my stay. It was pretty cold the first night but they had enough blankets to keep me warm and they prepared the heating, which was a stove filled with coal. It was good and warm during the evening but after all the coal was burnt, it got very cold! The next day I was feeling a little bit better. I had breakfast and I went for a walk around the village. I was passing by the school and decided to sit down under a tree next
to the volleyball court. I was suddenly surrounded by many school boys, most of them between 8 and 12 years old, all looking curiously and saying “hi” and “what’s your name” etc. Then some people started to play volleyball and they asked me to join. It was a mix of teenagers and some guys in their 20’s. It was really fun to play and interact with all these people. I stayed there until around midday, then I went back to the house to have lunch. I stayed a little too long in the sun though and I was feeling quite tired. In the afternoon I decided to go for a walk. I wanted to follow the river and go a bit deeper into the mountains, but since the people at the house didn’t speak any English I could not ask the way. They didn’t have any maps or anything written in English to show. It’s a pity because other than just walking around a little and hanging out with the locals at the volleyball court, there wasn’t much I could do. I’m sure there are some great spots for hiking but it’s a pity that I couldn’t get help. I
walked along the river as much as I could, at certain parts I had to leave the riverside and walk on the dirt road instead. The right side of lower back started to hurt a little bit. I played volleyball without doing any warming up and stretching. This pain annoyed me for like three days and this made me realize that indeed I’m not an 18 year old boy anymore. I kept walking until there was a point I couldn’t really go further. I didn’t feel like going further anyways due to my back pain and I wasn’t feeling very well at this point. I walked back to the house and stayed there for the rest of the day because of my condition. I had dinner, showered and went to bed early. After all, it was a nice experience to spend time in the village anyway and I’m glad I decided to do it.
The next morning a taxi came to pick me up to bring me to Nurata. There I had to change into a shared taxi to Navoi, from where I took one last shared taxi to Bukhara. Bukhara
is the fifth city in Uzbekistan
and has about 300 000 people. Like Samarkand, this city is also home to beautiful Muslim architecture, madrassas and other monuments that are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The climate was drier and quite dusty. My lips immediately reacted to this and I had to start using lip balm again. This time, even my eyes started to annoy me on the second day I was there. It felt like I had sand in my eyes and water was constantly coming out. At one point I decided to buy lubricant eye drops and the next day my eyes were much better again.
I arrived at my guesthouse late afternoon and didn’t do anything in particular that day. I just went for a little walk in the direct surroundings of my guesthouse and had dinner. I was checking out the map and the sites to decide what to do the next day. There was a German guy in the dorm and the next day we explored Bukhara together. Most of the sites in the city are easily done in one day, but you’ll walk a lot. The guesthouse was located in the old city with its beautiful Lyabi Hauz Ensemble,
with a pond in the middle and surrounded by madrassas. We walked through a residential area to see the Char Minar gatehouse, built 208 years ago as the gatehouse to a madrassa that isn’t there anymore. Here we met two Uzbek boys on their bicycles who interacted with us a little bit. We continued towards the Ulug’bek and Abdul Aziz Khan madrassas but we didn’t go inside, instead we admired all the details on the gates of the madrassas. Even though most of them look similar, some of them kept impressing me. Just a bit further we went to Miri-Arab madrassa and the Poi-Kalyon Mosque with its beautiful minaret and I found this a very beautiful place. You’re not allowed to enter the madrassa but the mosque was open for public. On the ensemble between the madrassa and the mosque many people took pictures with me and everyone was patiently waiting for their turn. We walked through a market (don’t know the name) where they sell a lot of carpet and jewellery and then continued towards the The Ark, a fortress with thick and tall walls up to 20m high. It was built in the 5th
century but more parts
were added afterwards. It was used mostly as a military complex but also housed royals in the past. Throughout the history the fortress suffered a lot of damage due to invasions and attacks, but a lot of it has been restored. Inside it’s a museum with several rooms and from the top you get to enjoy views over Bukhara.
Then we had a late lunch where I met Manzura, a nice Uzbek girl I started to talk to and we exchanged whatsapp numbers. After lunch we went towards a big park where there was like a small fair with a few attractions and stalls selling ice cream etc. We were called by some men sitting on a patio under a tree having food and drinking. They offered us some food but since we just had dinner, we didn’t take much. We had a drink with them and left. Nearby we saw the Ismoil Samoniy mauseoleum and then we walked back to the guesthouse. It was a long day and I had more than enough. Later we had dinner and I just chilled for the rest of the evening. I also had somsa, an Uzbek meat pastry in triangle
form. They were selling them on the street, using an oven on wheels. How cool was that! I bumped into Lien again in Bukhara, we were staying at the same guesthouse but she was leaving the next day, what a coincidence!
The next day the German guy, a Korean girl and I hired a taxi-driver to visit three sites outside the city centre. I didn’t enjoy this day too much because my eyes really annoyed me a lot. We first stopped at Bahouddin Nakshband’s Architectural Complex. The place was restored about 12 years ago, it was built out throughout the centuries and is the place where Bakhouddin Muhammad Nakshbandi Bukhari was buried. He was the founder of the Nakshbandi (one of the orders of the Muslims) and considered as a patron saint of Bukhara who lived during the 14th
century. The complex consists of small mosques, madrassas and a necropolis. Then we continued to Sitorai-Mohi Hosa Palace. Built in late 19th
century, it was a countryside house belonging to Bukhara’s last emir, Said Alim Khan. We hired a guide here who explained a lot about the place. The garden is nice and has a pond and a few
buildings. The inside of the main building is beautifully decorated in Russian and European style with a lot of detail. The last stop was at Chor Bakr Necropolis. Built in the 16th
century, it’s the burial place of Abu Bakhr Said who is a descendant of prophet Muhammed. The complex has a mosque, a minaret, a pond and some other small buildings.
Overall I liked Bukhara a bit more than Samarkand. Because I couldn’t get a train-ticket, I was forced to spend another day in Bukhara. I used this day to rest, take it easy, do some typing, do some research etc. I also met Manzura for dinner which was really nice! That same evening, my left knee started to hurt a little bit and it got worse the next morning when I had to take the train back to Tashkent. I couldn’t even walk properly. In Tashkent I stayed at the same hostel where I stayed before. The pain wouldn’t go away I contacted a former classmate from Curaçao who is a doctor now and I told her about the pain and what I felt before. We spoke on Skype too and she said I might have
gotten Lyme (assuming that I was probably bitten by a tick in Sentyab). She said that taking antibiotics is the only way to treat it and she told me to buy this particular antibiotic and some painkillers. It was my last few hours in Tashkent when I went to the pharmacy near the hostel and I found everything I needed! I immediately started taking the antibiotics, which I had to do for the next two weeks. Then I took a taxi to the airport. It wasn't easy to move around with my hurting knee, but I made it on board and flew out of Uzbekistan, after I spent almost two weeks in this beautiful and interesting country!
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