Waking up after a restless night I still feel a bit dizzy. I finally managed to shut Timur up, but have got a nice fever instead. The group is a bit muted today, I am not the only one to have been feeling the wrath of the Emir. We check out of the hotel and board our bus heading for the city of Shakhrisabz. Located on the road between Bukhara and Samarkand it also connects to Termez in the south and the main gateway to Afghanistan, a route which was heavily in use during the Soviet occupation of former years. The city itself is kind of small, and were it not for its place in history it would have been decidedly off the beaten track. None other than the great Timur himself was born here in 1336, and the city was to be a living monument to his greatness, even though many of his works were later razed by Abdual Khan II, Emir of Bukhara, sometime in the 16th century.
I am a bit worried at first, but the bus ride turns out to be ok. The landscape is mainly desert, yet the barren fields are home to sheep, goats and donkeys finishing off the last dry straws of grass or brush. Uzbekneftegas has some facilities here and we meet the occasional BTR 80 armoured personnel carrier.
At noon we stop for lunch in a typical countryhouse where a big table has been prepared for us. I get the recommendation to avoid the food but I am getting really hungry and decide to have a light meal anyway. Feeding the Emir turns out to be a bad idea, and I soon have to seek out the first available wasp-infested squatter. Speaking of wasps, there are some really large species around here, and they tend to get in everywhere. For example, when riding the bus it is common to be accompanied by a number of them flying in and out of the aircon in the ceiling. Compared to our aggressive Swedish black and yellows, these maybe 50% larger wasps are brown and yellow that don’t pay much attention to you and never get into your face in the same irritating way.
We spend a few hours doing the sights of Shakhrisabz, including the large Kok Gumbaz Friday Mosque a large blue domed mosque with a nice garden. It was built by Timur’s grandson Ulughbek. Nearby is the remains of the Dorus Siadat mausoleum and burial grounds, including the tomb intended to be Timur’s own. Downtown by a big square is the ruins of Ak-Saray, Timur’s old summer palace. Not much remains of this building, except part of the 40-something meter high entrance archway. Apparently it required 24 years of work to finish the palace and it was probably a fantastic piece of work back in the day. Then its off again for another two hours on the highway, until we reach the destination for the day, the legendary city of Samarkand. We proceed directly to the four star Afrosiab Hotel and I am so happy to see a comfortable bed and immediately lie down and sleep like a brick for twelve hours, and all attempts at waking me fail miserably. Dinner will have to be spent without me.