Last night, after i posted to the blog, i went for a walk around the neighborhood. It would seem that things only get busier in the evening. All around Lyabi-Hauz people and families - almost exclusively locals - were walking and sitting, eating sunflower seeds and ice cream, having dinner, and kids were running around playing in unsupervised packs. It was a delightful scene and made me wish we had more squares for congregation in Vancouver. I had a cigar and people watched until bed time.
I must also mention that i had the best dinner last night - something other than the bread and cucumber/tomato salads i have been surviving on. I had this delicious salad of warm, crispy eggplant and tomatos followed by a rice, bean and vegetable dish. It seems that they don't hate vegetarians here after all!
Today i awoke with nothing planned for the day. I had basically seen all sights on my list, so the day was a mystery. The mystery was solved as over breakfast i was chatting with another guest at the hotel: a man from Istanbul who had arranged for a driver and guide to take him to some of the sights outside of the city. He invited me to tag along, and i agreed.
We first visited the Bakhautdin Naqshband Mausoleum, one of Sufism's more important shrines. It was beautiful and very peaceful, surrounded by roses and filled by visiting Uzbeks. I filled my water bottle from one of the legendary wells from which pilgrims believe springs water that brings good luck and well-being. (I must say, i was sceptical of the use of the water bottle i brought - one of these ones that has a filter built in, so you can fill it from anywhere - but it has proved to be a great asset. I can fill the bottle from any random hose or tap and drink without getting sick. Plus, i have now drank water from 3 holy springs, so i am pretty much blessed with good health and luck for the rest of the year.)
We then went to the Emir's palace, where he and his family, slaves and harem (abour 40 women at any given time) would spend their summers. As far as palaces go, it was modest in size, but its decoration was stunning: elaborate decoration and design often inlayed with mirrors for a sparkling effect. One room, all in white absolutely glittered. There was also a pool in the the back where the harem would frolic while the Emir sat in a shaded area atop a platform to watch. The Playboy mansion, Uzbek style.
We visited another site before returning to Bukhara where i and my Turkish friend went on the hunt for a new memory card for my camera (because you can't have too many pictures of blue-tiled mosques). A bit of lunch and then i retired for a short nap, which turned into a four hour sleep.
Now it is 9:30, but the whole town again seems to be out, enjoying the perfect evening air. Not being at all tired now, i will do something before returning to the hotel.
Tomorrow morning i leave for my two day desert safari adventure. As i understand it, we will be driving for about 3 hours, stopping at some sights of interest along the way, then transferring to camel, and heading into the desert, where i will be camping out in a yurt, then doing it all in reverse the next day.
I am very excited for this experience. I don't usually like camping, but this is a special experience and a yurt isn't exactly a two-man tent from Canadian Tire.
If all goes according to plan, you should hear from me in about 48 hours. Thanks for following along with me.