Saturday, August 23, 2008

Aug 21 - Bukhara

Mike bounded out of bed, without shower or change of clothes, for a 6 am Shacharit service. The service, complete with tea, lasted an incredible 1:40. The Bukharan ritual includes a long long introductory section of prayers (apx 40 minutes), and an expanded Tahanun, which includes a small Slichot service. From some points of view, the Bukharan ritual is pure Judaism, uncorrupted by the demands of the medieval popes, pogroms, and other influences. It is really quite interesting to see a prayer ritual so different from modern American prayer, but it could get really long really quickly. On the other hand, having a pot of tea in the morning and in the afternoon whenever one prays is something we could get used to very quickly.

Back to the hotel for a breakfast. Carol had attempted to shower, fighting a broken hot water faucet and low water pressure. So Mike opted for breakfast and then shower afterwards. At breakfast, who appeared but our Japanese taxi mate from the Kokand-Tashkent trip. He was about to visit Khiva and fly from Urgench to Tashkent to catch his trip ending flight from Tashkent the next day.

Our first goal was to visit the old Jewish Quarter, where we would find the other Synagogue, the Jewish Cemetery, and the Kukluk Bazaar, supposed to be held only on Thursdays. Once again, the old section of town presented walled off house fronts. It took imagination to think what lay within each broad metal or wood door. The maze of alleys did not always carry names, and there were numerous opportunities to be lost.

We chanced across a small Muslim ruin which contained turbes (another mausoleum). A mother and her small daughters prayed then drank from the fountain and refreshed themselves with the mint.

Pushing onward, we unexpectedly stumbled on the cemetery. This may be a very old cemetery, but the old gravestones have lost their detail, and the only ones really readable are the newer stones. There were striking basalt pillars at some graves with large lithographic pictures of the deceased on the stones. After a through viewing, we were pointed in the direction of the other synagogue, which is well hidden in the neighborhood.

Wandering, we came on a pre-school that was probably part of a Jewish program. One of the teachers walked us the final meters to the other synagogue. We got there and had a good look around, and learned that services were at 7 pm that night. The walls of the synagogue were decorated with bulletins from Bukharan synagogues in Queens, New York, as well as much Judaica. Once again, an open courtyard format, next to a closed main sanctuary.

Back to town center for lunch (discussed elsewhere). At some point while wandering, Mike opened the camera case pocket and discovered the missing SmartMedia card with the Chinese photos. We resolved to get everything copied onto DVD, as soon as feasible.

A little more wandering, a large dose of internet, and some down time before heading back to synagogue two.

At this hotel, our choice of channels included a sports network where everything Olympic and anything remotely Uzbek was featured. There were also two music video channels. Music videos here will feature a contemporary singer or instrumental group always backed by a folk dancer interpreting the music. Finally, there was a channel that ran short featurettes. This week they were serializing the movie, Gone With The Wind, dubbed into Uzbek. Whenever they could, they cut to the English when names were being pronounced, so the Uzbek Mammy would suddenly spout: "Miz Scarlett!" in that unmistakeable voice.

Off to the other synagogue a little after 6:30 pm, still not perfect in retracing our path. After the evening service, it was dark. We were afraid to go back on the alleys in total darkness, not from a personal safety issue, but because the streets were rough and rutted. So we headed out of the maze of small streets, hoping to follow two larger streets back to the hotel. That did not work, and we hailed a taxi. The driver seemed to take the longest possible route between points A and B, but we paid only 1000 sum, and he accepted it.

We were back at the central restaurant area, where we had the 12,000 sum two skewer and one beer meal, discussed elsewhere.

Back to the hotel, where they had fixed the hot water knob. Time for a large laundry Barf, hanging the clothes on a second story clothes line, hung over our central courtyard. The climate here is so dry that everything dried overnight, even though our heavy items were fairly wet when hung out.

That evening in the hotel, about 10 pm, we met Derek, an American exchange student, who was on vacation from his year studying political science in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We hit it off immediately, and stayed up talking about all kinds of experiences. Derek had been visiting with one of his professors, who was a Bukharan native, and so he was clear on the differences between native pricing and tourist pricing, as we have discussed elsewhere. In fact, he and his professor had paid 1000 sum apiece at a teahouse, where tourists were routinely charged 5000.

We told him of our Hotan 4 am experience, arriving without a hotel. He agreed that what happened to us in China could only happen in China. He stated that in Bishkek it would work as follows: (1) the police would examine our documents, and find some defect requiring a bribe; (2) the police and the taxi driver would decide what our exhorbitant taxi ride would cost and how they would split it; and (3) when we were dropped off on the side of the road, a pack of drunks would descend on us, and it would be all over.

He had one more day in Bukhara and was intending to see two out of town sights, that also interested us.

To bed after 11 pm.

No comments: