#6 colossal sikandra: 7 reasons why agra should be on every travel bucket list

After getting all sentimental at Shah Jahan’s expression of love for his beloved, departed wife and marvelling at the artistic nuances of Nur Jahan’s token of devotion towards her doting parents, I am ready to be bowled over by Sikandra, Akbar’s tomb for his own self.

Here was a monument made by, and for, one of India’s greatest rulers—befitting his stature and achievements. I wondered what it was going to be like. Continue reading

the spectacular treasures of samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known,
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand.

~ James Elroy Flecker

One cannot claim to be a traveller, and not have made the journey to Samarkand. Or at least have thought of it, fantasised about it. It would be blasphemy.

Samarkand is everything the traveller searches for, within and outside of oneself. It reveals secrets about life held gently amidst its spectacular edifices in blue and gold. The romantic exotic tile-clad mosques, madrasahs, tombs, bazaars and squares transpose one back 500 years in time to a grand fairy-tale city, deep in arid windswept Central Asia. On a philosophical note, Samarkand is the semi-mythological place of “justice, fairness, and righteousness” in Islamic Classical literature.

Much like Flecker’s reference to it, a lust for knowing more about ourselves and these ideals, makes the passage to Samarkand one of those non-negotiable, mandatory journeys one just has to take. 🙂 Continue reading

why tashkent needs to be in your travel bucket list

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I bet you never thought of Tashkent as a candidate for your travel bucket list. Khiva, Bukhara, Samarkand in Uzbekistan—of course. But Tashkent? It’s the administrative centre. Aren’t capital cities of historically rich countries drab and dry in comparison? Well, at least that is the assumption we most often live with. A fair enough one, for they often are so, serving as entry and exit points for air travel, or are confined to business and politics.

But some are a bit more. Tashkent is one of them. Now I am not saying it is steeped in history or burgeoning with attractions like the rest of the country or you will definitely be disappointed. You may even get cross with me for my recommendation. 🙂

Known as Tashkent or Toshkent, meaning ‘Stone City’ since the 11th Century, it is a showcase of ‘modern Uzbekistan’, a sparsely populated country proud of both its rich heritage and recent independence (1991). Continue reading

shakhrisabz, tamerlane’s home town

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The grandeur of the Ak-Saray Palace and the simplicity of his own intended tomb, both in Shakhrisabz, perhaps best describe Amir Temur (1336-1405), better known as Tamerlane [Temur, the lame], the person. Complex, multi-faceted, termed history’s most callous butcher, conqueror of southern, western and central Asia, he was the founder of the Timurid dynasty, and the great-great-great-grandfather of Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. Continue reading

top 15 memorable things to do in bukhara

Yes, you read right. The blog post headline is a listicle. The first I am ever writing on travel. It is a style much in variance with what I have been writing to-date. I have been reading listicles everywhere for a while now—across all media, and genre, by varying levels of writers—from influencers, to those just recently having discovered a love for the written word.

A part of me sees it as the easy way to writing. But, yet I also often catch myself choosing to read a listicle over a feature. So this morning I woke up and told myself, let’s join what everyone is doing [almost] right. 😛

What better place to start than to use this format to write about Bukhara, the third stop on my journey to Samarkand in Uzbekistan; a blog post still sitting on my desktop because every time I look at it I get all nostalgic. Plus, I don’t know where to start. There is way too much to it.

Whilst Khiva is a compact fairy-tale town enclosed in medieval walls, Bukhara is scattered, both geographically and thematically, as well as bigger: there is the marketplace, learning and spiritual hub, royal grounds, and necropolis. If one is not aware of its various facets, it is easy to give some of them a slip. And hey, Bukhara does not come into our lives every day. So here are my top 15 things to do in Bukhara, a World Heritage Site, on World Heritage Day, and why I chose to put them in this list. If you have any that you feel merit a place, please do share. 🙂

1. Get up close and personal with Nasreddin Hodja, the Islamic world and Bukhara’s most loved trickster

bukhara_nasreddinhodja Continue reading

the golden journey to samarkand

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[I traveled to Uzbekistan for 11 days in September this year. My below post first appeared as a travelogue in Hindustan Times, one of the largest newspapers in India, on 25 October 2015, in both its print and online editions. The online edition can be read here]

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‘Ishani!’ I can feel scores of eyes bore into me. There is the blatant stare, the questioning glance, the shy surreptitious gaze. They are all invariably accompanied with the word ‘Ishani’ whispered in hushed tones. The wide cheek boned faces soon, thereafter, break into warm welcoming grins and I hear the magical word again, ‘Ishani’. Aah, I get it. It’s a greeting! Ishani to you too, my dear.

I have just arrived in Nukus, a remote, Russian-ised town in north-west Uzbekistan where I am to start my 11-day journey across a country I have dreamt about, bucket listed and hankered to visit since I read the poem The Golden Journey to Samarkand by James Elroy Flecker:

“We are the Pilgrims, master: we shall go
Always a little further …
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men are born.”

Continue reading