We travelled to Bukhara over a slow very bumpy road through 6 road checks. The journey took about 5 hours though the desert.
Uzbekistan, is one of the largest exporters of cotton in the world.
For decades, the government of Uzbekistan, under President Islam Karimov, has forced adults and children as young as 10 to pick cotton under appalling conditions each harvest season. Provincial government offices order schoolteachers to close schools and enforce quotas in the cotton fields. The local authorities send government and private business employees to pick cotton, in order to meet cotton production quotas. The Uzbek government combines these orders with threats, detains and tortures Uzbek activists seeking to monitor the situation, and refuses to allow international monitors into the country.
We passed crops but we did not see cotton being grown. We were told that a tourist bus had stopped and passengers had spoken to the workers picking cotton. This had been reported to the government and the cotton was now being grown some distance from the road.
The city is 2500 years old. It is located in the middle of the steppes and the desert with temperatures up to 45C in summer but it got up to 55C last summer. Bukhara has been part of the Silk Road since the 7th century with the largest caravan having 3000 camels and the smallest with 500 camels. (According to our local guide)
It has the look and feel of an oasis.
We stayed in a hotel which had been the house of a Jewish merchant and had a courtyard covered with vines.
We visited the Emir’s palace where in June 1842 two British officers,Colonel Charles Stoddard and Captain Arthur Conolly were put to death. They were paying the price of being part of “The Great Game”. In fact it was Conolly who first coined this term.
One of the highlights of my visit to Bukhara was a homam, a turkish bath in a 16 century bathhouse. A great experience.