After nightfall in Bukhara, floodlights illuminate the madrassas, mosques, and century-old buildings surrounding the Lyabi Khauz water reservoir, bathing the structures in neon colors of green, yellow, blue and red.
The garish lighting is but one of over a hundred examples in which officials “modernized” architectural monuments with the aim of making them more appealing to tourists. But ask foreign visitors, and many say such “modernization” efforts tend to taint the city’s feeling of authenticity.
“It’s too much. There’s so much kitsch,” a Hong Kong tourist said while strolling between rows of souvenir stalls connecting two trading domes. “It’s not what I expected.”
As Uzbekistan continues to open itself to a growing and lucrative tourism industry, the stewardship of its main attractions, in particular in Bukhara, is open to criticism. Commercial pressures seem to be steamrolling the spirit of preservation.
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Dean C.K. Cox is EurasiaNet's photo editor.