20 Aug, 2009
Posted by: Scott In: The Rally
It was about a five hour journey from Bukhara to Samarkand, and we passed through many villages on the way. As always, we were stared at by everyone we passed and enjoyed a fair bit of waves and friendly shouts from the locals. We were planning on getting into the city before nightfall so that we could find out way around a bit easier, but that was not to be so. We circled around for a bit trying to find a B&B recommended to us by Charlotte. We couldn’t find it, so I decided to park the car and get out to walk around the city a bit and see what we could find.
We made our way to Registan Square and the three medressas there when I heard loud music coming from somewhere in the distance. Thinking that it might be a concert, we headed off in that direction. What it turned out to be was a huge wedding at an outdoor venue. We weren’t the only ones attracted to the commotion–it turns out that there were another couple of Mongol Rally teams, one of which I had met in Bukhara, standing at the gates and watching the proceedings. It wasn’t long before one of the revelers invited all of us to join them, and so we walked in and were seated at a table. Each table was adorned with food and various drinks, and it wasn’t long before our hosts were lying us with vodka. I had noticed that a few other foreigners were sitting at a table a few down from us and went over to say hello. Three were from South Korea and two were from Holland, and had been invited to the festivities a few hours earlier. We ate, drank, and talked for a bit while swapping stories of traveling through Central Asia. The table we had initially been seated at was dispersing as members got up to join in the dancing and festivities of the thousand person affair.
Things started to die down a bit after 9:00PM so we followed Yerd and Myrthe (the Dutch couple) back to their hotel to see if there was a room available for us. Interestingly enough, the hotel we had been looking for all along was right now door. It seemed that they were booked up and that we’d have to sleep the first night in the open courtyard, but lucky for us a couple checked out at around midnight and we were able to check into the freed up room.
The next day we set out to explore the city. The hotel was very centrally located, so it was only a short walk to Registan Square, the Guri Emir mausoleum, and other such notable sights. I had been very eager to see Samarkand, the former capital city of the Silk Road, but was left a bit disappointed in the end. It seems that the city’s 2,750 birthday was to be held on August 25th, so there were large amounts of construction going on around the city and at the sights themselves. The city was one large work-in-progress it seems. The worst bits were where they were plastering new brick over the old facades in order to make them look ‘nicer’. It seemed that President Karimov wanted everything to be sparkling for the city’s upcoming birthday. We were finished looking around by mid-afternoon and returned to the hotel to relax a bit before having a filling dinner in the courtyard.
The next day we bid farewell to Yerd & Merth (thanks for the Lonely Planet guidebook guys!) and continued on our way to the border on Tajikistan.
Pictures have been posted in the gallery.