Sometimes written Lyab-i Hauz, which in Persian means ‘by the pool’, Lyabi Hauz is THE restaurant in Bukhara. Every night, even in winter, it is full with locals and tourists alike. If you’re in a group, it’s best to make a booking, especially if you want to get a table next to the water.
Situated next to one of the few remaining central pools, known as Hauz (Howz) in Persian, Lyabi Hauz Restaurant is located in the very centre of ancient Bukhara. The pool, as it was designed to do, provides natural air conditioning in the hot Bukharan desert weather, and the cool breeze after a hard day of sightseeing is definitely a welcome relief. Surrounding the other sides of the pool are the famous Kukeldash Madrasah (Islamic School), the largest in the city, as well as a Khangah (lodging for Sufis) and another less important but no less spectacular madrasah .
Until the 1920s and 30s, Bukhara was covered in these pools, not only providing natural air conditioning, but also the primary water source for the local population. Of course, the one downside to this fabulously simple ancient infrastructure was its propensity to spread water born diseases and therefore most were filled in when the Soviets took control of the area and implemented modern water systems.
The wonderful thing about Lyabi Hauz Restaurant is that despite its popularity, fantastic location and high number of tourists as clientele, the prices are still extremely affordable, even for those on a budget, while the service is well above average and the food a very high standard. It’s difficult to ask for much more, especially when it’s become so normal to expect overpriced bland offerings from any restaurant remotely in a tourist area the world over.
Serving up classic traditional Uzbek food, Lyabi Hauz Restaurant specialises in Shashliks (Kebabs), manty (traditional dumplings), jizz (fried meat with onions), somsa (meat and vegetable filled pastries), plov (the most famous of all Uzbek dishes, consisting of rice, meat, and vegetables), as well as western classics such as pizzas, steak, stroganoff and even Chicken Kiev. With the average price ranging from USD$3 to USD$7 for most mains and a beer USD$1, it’s really not what you’d expect from one of the best placed restaurants in the world.
Lyabi Hauz Restaurant isn’t just a great stop for dinner, but even an afternoon drink, where the people watching is second to none. Most nights during high season, the restaurant puts on a show and the local Bukharans after a few vodkas aren’t afraid to show their moves on the dance floor. With that in mind, if you do want to be able to hear the company you’re sitting with, it’s best to get a table that isn’t too close to where the band/DJ sets up. Many locals who have not decided to dine at Lyabi Hauz congregate around the surrounding area to listen and dance to the music, making the square the focal point of Bukharan nightlife.
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