Kalon Mosque and Minaret

21 Photos of the Ancient Silk Road City of Bukhara

Photography, Street Photography, Uzbekistan

I awoke my first morning in Bukhara before dawn, bundled up to brave the chilly autumn air, and walked out of my guesthouse without a plan. I wanted to take photos, but I didn’t know where to start. In the distance, the illuminated Great Kalon Minaret beckoned. I went towards it drawn by a mysterious force, like a moth to a flame.

I rounded the corner and stood gobsmacked: in a large square between the imposing Kalon Mosque and Mir-i-Arab Madrasa, the illuminated minaret towered above me. It was my first time seeing the stunning Islamic architecture of Central Asia and I was duly amazed.

For the first time in my life, I had something in common with Ghengis Kahn, other than awesome facial hair. When he looked at the minaret 800 years ago, he was so impressed that he ordered it spared as his invading troops sacked the city. One must presume this was a hit to morale: knocking down a 150ft tall tower would have been great fun for a band of pillaging warriors high on victory and bloodlust.

I am grateful he spared it. I spent every morning at the square with worshippers arriving for pre-dawn prayers, bread vendors setting up shop, and students going for early morning jogs. One morning, to my great surprise, a man walked through with four unruly goats.

The rest of Bukhara is a delight to visit as well. Everything of interest is within easy walking distance and the city is filled with cafes and quality restaurants. You can even drink a beer at sunset on a rooftop bar with a view of the minaret. In the evening, locals and tourists alike gather in the pedestrian zone in the center for drinks, dinner, card games, and socializing.

Bukhara succumbed to the Mongols but it seems to be holding its own against a more nefarious and relentless horde: package tourists. Although many of the grand buildings have been restored and some converted to tourist shops, the city retains its old-world charm even as travelers arrive in increasing numbers. And in the pre-dawn hours, as the sunrise glows on the horizon and the Kalon Minaret shines in the darkness, the city is every bit as magical as it was in the days of Ghengis Kahn, but with less pillaging and more espresso.

Bukhara Travel Photography


Bukhara Street Photography

A boy on his way to school passes by the Mir-i-Arab Madrassa and Kalon Mosque.


Kalon Minaret Bukhara

The Kalon Minaret and Mosque at sunrise.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

A pair of babushkas taking the grandkids for a stroll.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

The Kalon Mosque from the inner courtyard.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

Uzbeks are obsessed with sweeping and watering the entrance to their houses. Since most streets in the old town are unpaved, the water keeps down the dust.


Abdulaziz Khan Madrassah

The entrance to Abdulaziz Khan Madrassah.


Bukhara Uzbekistan4

Coca-Cola, hot dogs, Russian letters, Islamic architecture, Muslim woman – a strange combination.


Bukhara Uzbekistan Street Photography

Upon arrival in Bukhara, I was greeted like a dignitary.


Bolo Hauz Mosque

The ornate Bolo Hauz Mosque is supported with carved lodge poles.


Uzbekistan street photography

A game of football in a local neighborhood.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

Pedestrians dodging a local soccer game.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

The blue tiles of the Kalon Mosque.


Bolo Hauz Mosque

Bolo Hauz Mosque


Uzbekistan Street Photography

The imposing Mir-a-Arab Mosque.


Uzbekistan Photography

The locals buried the Magoki Attor Mosque in the sand before Gengis Khan sacked the city in order to save it.


Uzbekistan Street Photography

Early morning shadow and light at the Toqi Telpak Furushon Bazaar.


The Ark Bukhara

The imposing walls of the Ark, a fortress in the center of Bukhara.


The Ark Bukhara

The massive walls of the Ark.


The Kalon Minaret Bukhara

The Great Kalon Minaret at night.


Bukhara mosque

Prayers at a local mosque.


Kalon Mosque and Minaret

The Kalon Mosque and Minaret at sunrise.

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See Also: 21 Photos of Khiva, Uzbekistan

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

36 thoughts on “21 Photos of the Ancient Silk Road City of Bukhara”

    • It is a truly stunning place. I took the shot from above at a rooftop bar. It was great to be able to drink a beer and watch the sunset!

  1. Jen Robinson says:

    Beautiful work, Jeff. My favorite is the Kalon Minaret and Mosque at sunrise and the four unruly goats.

    • Thanks Jen. I almost stayed in bed that morning, but drug myself out of bed. The goats were a big surprise, worth waking up for.

  2. Beautiful pictures. I always want to get up early to explore a new city in the morning, but it rarely happens. Your morning shots are sure worth he effort.

    • I woke up that first morning and enjoyed it quite a lot, then made it a goal to do it every day. I think that daily act greatly enhanced my trip because I got the best light, walked about 3 miles before breakfast, and had many interesting interactions with locals. But yeah, it is hard to do it on vacation.

  3. There is something so aesthetically appealing about those mosques—the soothing colour of the natural stone punctuated by the turquoise domes, the elegant arches, the symmetry… Beautiful photos! I’m looking forward to a greeting like yours!

    • So much of the old town is mud and brick, very plain. And then you have these ornate mosques with the blue color. It is really beautiful. On top of that, the architecture is grand and imposing. Thanks for commenting!

  4. What a stunning city! I especially loved the glowing beacon of the minaret at night. And smiled at the international language of football 🙂 🙂

    • The minaret at night is really stunning, visible all over the town. You can go all over the world and see football – crazy how popular it is. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Jeff, your photos are beautiful. It is such a pleasure to look through them and be taken along to this gorgeous city. The Minaret all light up at night is impressive, but I think my favourite picture is number 10. The way you capture the boys playing with the ball and the older lady with the little kids looking over…such a great picture.

    • Thanks Gilda. #10 is my favorite photo too. I found that courtyard outside the main tourist area and all the people were very friendly and seemed to appreciate a tourist visiting that part of their city.

  6. This is too beautiful, Jeff. It is really fortunate indeed that the Mongols spared the Great Kalon Minaret despite their destruction spree across vast swathes of land. It looks marvelous at daytime when the sun shines over it, but when it’s illuminated at night, wow, it looks like something straight out of a fairy tale! Like Caroline, I also feel that there’s something soothing about the color combination of those mosques and madrassahs.

    • The color scheme is very pleasing, especially with those blue tiles mirroring the rich, blue sky. The desert light is quite amazing. You’ll thoroughly enjoy it when you visit.

    • It is an incredible place for sure. Within such a short walking distance you have the Ark, the giant minaret, the mosques, and the old bazaars. It is sort of a storybook destination. Thanks for commenting.

  7. The envy grows. Even the name of this city has an exotic ring to it, and the photos show (beautifully) what I imagine would be there. Can’t wait to get to this part of the world someday.

    • It will not disappoint. I’d seen the photos of the grand architecture and wanted to go, and it exceeded my expectations in person. If you go in late October like I did the crowds are gone and the weather is perfect.

      • Duly noted! I will need a break next October after our daughter’s wedding … this could be it!

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  9. It’s amazing how in many cultures, even if the population lives very modestly, the religious buildings are truly impressive. You found some impressive light too, in your early morning hours.

    • No expense is spared for religious buildings. All the old towns in Uzbekistan have homes made of mud, yet the mosques are enormous.

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  13. Your photos are gorgeous and I look forward to taking the time to reading the posts once we get back to Viet Nam. We have been “on the road” in the U.S. and Japan for a total of two months now and so ready to be back in the warmth and in a grounded mode. Ben has always wanted to go to Uzbekistan, so I look forward to sharing these posts with him so we can stimulate some discussion about getting it back “on the list” of top places to go, or not ha. See your posts will be widely influential one way or another.


    • Thanks Peta. I have been traveling as well, looking forward to getting back to home base too. As much as I love to travel, it is always nice to get back in a routine. You and Ben would love Uzbekistan! April, May, Sept, October, and early November are the best times to go.

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