After a rather cold and miserable day in Bukhara, we woke up feeling hungry and ready for a new day. Our lady at Amelia served us breakfast fit for queens. The table was loaded with pancakes, rice porridge, potato pies, sausages, cheese, non, yoghurt – a treat that was tucked in with great enthusiasm by both of us. With all that nutrition in our systems, we set off to explore the many domed (covered) bazaars of Bukhara famous in the good old days for trading gold, spices, prayer caps and more. The walk through the crossroads of these markets gave us leads to master artisans in the area.
We met the master of copper chasing (the art of decorating metal items in relief). His tiny workshop was lined wall-to-wall with his handiwork. Each piece had been meticulously etched three times – which gave every plate its depth and sturdy weight. The gleam of his sparkling teeth of gold matched up to the glow of his brass and copper collection. He’s amongst the last couple of artisans in Uzbekistan keeping this painstaking quality of work alive.
We went on to spend a fascinating morning with an award winning goldsmith who makes traditional Bukhara style jewellery in gilded and gold jewelry. We were grateful for the warmth in his house. While Nisha and I were impatient to see his wares, he told us to first get life back into our frozen hands, have tea and then talk work.
After a steaming cup of herbal tea, we were allowed to enter his room where he had displayed his work. Like kids in a candy store, we soon picked up most of what was up for display. Then we asked him, “Do you have more?” Out came a patched up shoe-box packed with jewellery. We asked again, “Is there more?” Out came four more shoe boxes. Finally we asked him to take out everything he had – which he did. He showed us everything including his private collection of exquisite jewellery from the late 19th and early 20th century: all kept in innocuous plastic jars! Excited as a child, he gave us the history to every piece, every design and even shooed off some other buyers who had knocked on his door. Some exceptional pieces from his collection are now a part of the Arastan Collection.
Early in the evening, Nisha was distressed that we hadn’t “done any work for over an hour!” I was pulled out of my warm and cozy bed and marched off to look for another mausoleum, the Turki Jandi. Nisha called it Turki-Zinda (clear hangover from Samarkand) which confused every local we asked for directions. We did manage to find it and then made our call to Zahid. We were done with our adventurous ways and ready for a good Uzbek meal.
After the first night’s rip-off Zahid was taking no more chances with us wandering into chaikhanas on our own. We had a fantastic evening with him and his friend in a chaikhana close to the airport. It was mood food at its best – chickpea soup, meat samosas, roasted lamb, non, pots and pots of tea. The tea inspired a long chatty evening at an unhurried pace.
A lot happens over a pot of tea in Uzbekistan. You meet someone for the first time, they welcome you, they open up and they talk. The conversation is never forced; there are no uncomfortable periods of silence. The people are gentle with a very open and welcoming attitude to outsiders.
As we drove back to Amelia, I had mixed feelings. It had been a great evening but this was also my last meal on this trip with Zahid. We were splitting up the next day. Nisha was heading back to Tashkent and I was off to Khiva. One part of this journey had come to an end.