Shopping in old town Bukhara is an expensive endeavor. A meter of fabric is $8 USD, “hand made! Very beautiful!” while a T-shirt is $20USD and a carpet over $1000. Looking around in the souvenir bazaars there was nothing I could afford other than overpriced postcards. We decided to walk to the local’s market to see what locals paid for things and to stock up on snacks for the long train ride to Ashgabat.
The local market, the Kolkhozny Bazaar, is located on the extreme west side of town down several long, narrow roads closed to thru-traffic. We hiked down there one afternoon in sweltering heat, on the off chance that we could afford a token of our travels from this gathering of merchandise.
Walking into the bazaar from the eastern side we were shocked by the smell of rotting flesh. It was thick in the area and palpable—it is a smell unlike any other and one that will stay with you once you encounter it. We pushed through the smell and emerged on the other side in a matrix of alleyway shops all made of white plastic with snickers advertisements in the windows.
Walking through the matrix we came to an exit and walked out into a vast courtyard with the longest strip mall we’d ever seen in the distance. This strip mall housed food, clothing, shoes, household supplies and baby toys: everything you could imagine. It extended from one horizon to the other as far as we could see. We picked a direction and walked until our feet were sore, Mike bought a pair of 6000CYM plastic sandals and I was ecstatic to find that 2 meters of rich, patterned fabric cost 2,400CYM ($1.20USD). I bought some fabric and we picked out snacks for the border crossing and headed back to the hotel with our arms loaded down.
Back in old town prices for escalated the closer to the town center you got, and we smiled with the knowledge of our secret bazaar on the western fringes of Bukhara.