I returned to the hotel via the still-lively bazaar for a short rest, then went for another walk. On this occasion I went to the Registan to take photos of people with the medressas in the background, then, with the light improving with every minute that passed, walked to Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum to take photos of the remarkable fluted dome. To the east of the mausoleum a remnant of the old city lies behind one of the many high walls, so I entered the area to walk through what is a pleasant residential district. Not far from Gur-E-Amir Mausoleum is much smaller Aksaray Mausoleum. The iron gate leading to the mausoleum was locked, so I could not examine the interior; instead, I walked the short distance to Rukhobod Mausoleum, where an extensive restoration programme was under way. Rukhobod Mausoleum dates from 1380 and is thought to be the city’s oldest surviving monument.
We had a very good evening meal at a restaurant popular with Russians (there was too much food to eat, even though Hilary and I had given lunch a miss. This said, about midday we ate some bread bought at the bazaar and an apple each). As usual, we ordered a beer each and managed to buy one for Davron. Although a devout Muslim, Davron had a pragmatic approach to the consumption of alcohol. He said that, in common with a majority of Uzbeks, he had “one hand on the Qur’an and one hand on the wine bottle”. If such an attitude persists, Uzbekistan may avoid the worst excesses of Sunni extremism. However, we had already seen a considerable number of men and women dressed in imitation of zealously devout Sunni Muslims in parts of the Middle East, Turkey and Europe. The influence of Wahhabism is very obvious, I am sad to report. Also, I could not purge from my mind the hostility that exists among mainstream Sunni Muslims toward “folk” religion practices such as those associated with the fallen tree at Bukhara’s Shrine of Bahaudin Naqshband and the marble qur’anic stand at Bibi-Khanym Mosque, practices that their critics condemn as “superstitious”. Because all religion is superstition, why should aspects of “folk” religion be any more of a problem than aspects of religion described as orthodox, conventional, mainstream or acceptable to religious authority figures?