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Uzbekistan: Bukhara Jewish Cemetery

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Bukhara Jewish Cemetery | Uzbekistan | Asia

[Visited: June 2010]

We planned a walk around Bukhara, and after a short visit to a market, we walked south of the city centre while the sun was still climbing in the sky. When we saw a big tennis complex, we knew we were close, walked around it through a dusty, quiet alley, and found the entrance to the cemetery, on the northeastern side. A small garden just behind the entrance was hiding the rest of the cemetery from our view, but once we got past that, we saw the first tombstones.

Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Some of the many tombstones at the Jewish Cemetery in Bukhara

We soon noticed that almost all tombstones were black, with grayish faces and letters sketched on the black marble surface. Many tombstones have a pointed top, giving them a asymmetrical look. Often, we came across couples with a shared tombstone, or tombstones where the deceased was depicted in a sympathetic way, sometimes making them look almost alive. The cemetery consists of various sections; the central one seems to be reserved for the well-off, while the outer sections are much simpler tombs.

Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Watchmaker with a clock on his tombstone at the Jewish Cemetery

Here, you find row upon row of white tombstones, scarcely, if at all, decorated, sometimes with fences around them, stars on top, but sometimes with flowers. This was the impression we had: even though the cemetery at times gave an abandoned feel, we could also see that people still visit it, and leave flowers for their deceased relatives. While nowadays most of the jews traditionally living in Bukhara have left, mostly to Israel and the United States, the community used to be thriving in this city that now is almost totally Muslim. The Bukharan Jews are probably one of the oldest ethno-religious groups of the entire region, and while not living solely in this city, it was one of the places they were numerous until well into the 20th century. The cemetery is testimony to their presence, coming to life through the realistically and solemnly carved figures on the tombstones.

Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Charming Jewish woman on a tombstone in the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Couple sharing a tombstone of the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Tombstones in grey and black at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Star above a tomb of the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Classical tombstone at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Some of the many black tombstones at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Three men on one gravestone at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Black gravestone at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): White tombstones at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Tomb with flowers at the Jewish Cemetery
Picture of Bukhara Jewish Cemetery (Uzbekistan): Tombstones sticking out of the ground at the Jewish Cemetery

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