Day 85: Lyabi-Hauz

relaxing and enjoying an authentic meal at the Lyabi-Hauz cafe

Lyabi-Hauz is the focal point for activity in the tourist hub of Bukhara.  For Uzbekistan, Bukhara is a key stopover on the highlights silk road tour of Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand.  As one of the major centers of human civilization since the 6th century BC, representing over 2,500 years of history, the availability of water has always proven to be a major challenge for residents of the city.

In such a hostile climate, an ingenious solution was devised to provide a source of water to the city through a system of over 200 hauz, or pools, scattered throughout the city.  Though few of the pools remain, Lyabi-Hauz was spared Bolshevik “improvements” and today remains an oasis in the historic city center.

Although the pool’s origins are unclear, the most likely explanation is that Lyabi-Hauz served a simple practical purpose only to become today’s romantic centerpiece by chance.  According to the legend, the gardener of the Emir was denied permission to buy a lot for a planned building project because an old Jewish woman refused to sell her house.  To force the woman to sell, the gardener arranged for an irrigation channel to be built underneath the woman’s house.  As the water began to undermine the foundations of her home, the woman was eventually forced to move, but refused to accept any money.  Instead she brought her case to the Emir who agreed to grant her a plot of land elsewhere in the city which eventually became the Jewish quarter.  The pool is located in the center of the architectural complex built on that acquired land.

Lyabi-Hauz in winter – photo credit Sergey Mayorov 

The rectangular pool measures 36 x 46 meters, large yellow limestone blocks forming stairs that lead into the water on all sides.  Trees as old as the pool itself still provide shade to visitors who congregate here for the microclimate created by the water and a fountain that cools the air.  Today travelers can rest and enjoy tea while relaxing in a topchan at the Lyabi-Hauz restaurant and chaihanna on the northeastern corner of the pool.  Among a plethora of other cafes and restaurants popping up all over town, Lyabi-Hauz offers the best atmosphere, best food, and provides a relatively authentic experience for much less than most nearby establishments.


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