Nasreddin was a storyteller who would arrive in towns and cities along the Uzbek Silk Road on his donkey carrying a few meagre possessions on his back and a myriad of fables, poems, parables, legends & fairy tales in his head.
Just like Gandalf the Grey in The Lord of the Rings, Nasreddin was revered by young & old alike, so an unannounced visit was met with great fanfare & banquets where the wise orator would be guest of honour.
He is immortalised in the magical city of Bukhara, where his bronze statue is to Uzbeks (and Afghans, Pakistanis and all Central Asians) what Bob Marley’s is to Jamaicans or Frederic Chopin’s is to Poles.
Bukhara was our first stop on the legendary Silk Road route in Uzbekistan. We would be staying three nights in the wonderful Safiya Boutique Hotel, a fitting bolt hole in this most fabulous of cities.
First off we needed some money. $50 was exchanged for 400,000 Som. ‘Loadsamoney’ as English comedian Harry Enfield used to bellow whilst waving a large wad of notes about.
Bukhara is one of Uzbekistan’s three jewel cities along with Samarkand & Khiva. We would be visiting all three and could barely contain our excitement at the prospect.
Like kids on Christmas Eve, we decided to leave the main sites until the next day. We had glimpsed the Ark and Kalan Minaret from the taxi bringing us from the border with Turkmenistan, but had averted our eyes lest we spoil the surprise in store.
In fact I had shunned any pictures of any of our destinations, such was my resolve to see them in the flesh as a first ever sighting.
That afternoon we contented ourselves with black tea & baklava and the exterior of medrassas, caravanserai, khans, covered bazaars & mosques in the iconic surroundings of Lab-i Hauz, the highly renovated square come tourist trap that surrounds a pond and where Nasreddin’s much selfied statue also resides.
Coming next: In we went, two by two.