The Covered Bazaars of Bokhara
August 2012 – Bokhara, Uzbekistan
The One that Got Away!
I had finished reading Travels into Bokhara: The Narrative of a Voyage on the Indus Being an account of a Journey from India to Cabool, Tartary and Persia. (1834) by Sir Alexander Burnes not long before I reached the Amulet Hotel. It had originally been built as a madrasah for Islamic students to study philosophy and religion in the early 19th century by the famous merchant, Sayed Kamol. Now the student’s cells made quite adequate hotel rooms.
I was there for the usual reasons, Arabian Nights tales of the fable covered bazaars filled with ikat silks and aromatic spices and the magical Bokhara carpets; that and to see the “Bug Pit” at The Ark Fortress, where Colonel Charles Stoddart and Captain Arthur Conolly had been imprisoned for so long before word of the disastrous British Retreat from Kabul in the 1st Afghan war reached Emir Nasrulla Khan. After that the British officers were no longed deemed necessary pawns in the Great Game – which, coincidentally, was a term coined by the unfortunate Captain Conolly several years before they beheaded him in the main square.
Bokhara is the generic name applied to carpets produced by several different Turkoman tribes, since that was the Silk Road city where they were sold. Probably the most common Turkoman tribe to be associated with the term Bokhara was the Tekke. The field had a very distinctive gul design.
This was a very nice carpet, maybe late nineteenth century, very tight and the warp threads were white wool, unlike the modern carpets, which use gray wool. I already had a Tekke in my collection and this was was a bit big to carry overland to Afghanistan. I was sure I could find something equally nice in Kabul. As it turned out, this one was one of the better carpets I saw on the trip…but not the best. That’s the one that got away,