Look up the histories of these cities and you will be lead down a mythological rabbithole. These places are old.
One interesting detail I discovered is that sometime during the Sassanian Empire, around the turn of the 8th century a.d., there were many coins minted in Bukhara with Christian symbols, so many that it is believed that Christianity was the official religion of the ruling class in Bukhara. Islam did not permeate the area until about 751 a.d. Apparently Bukhara was a haven for persecuted Nestorian Christians and Manicheans, a strange religious group founded by the Persian Mani, which has to do with the cosmic play of light and dark forces in the universe.
Anyhow, the city is heavily restored, but has a genuine feel because the old city is still very much inhabited, unlike Khiva, which is basically a giant museum. The madrassa and mosque here are the most striking works of human hands I have yet seen, surpassing any modern artistry that exists today. Oh, we could do it, but nobody could afford to have it done. Every tile is hand cut. Every tile. Incredible. Add to this the sacred geometry of the designs and you have evidence of a culture that far exceeds our modern ones in subtelty and brilliance… and in taste.
The signature buildings of old Bukhara are the Minaret, built in the 12th century, the Madrassa, which means school, built in 1536 (Khiva and Bukhara were spiritual centers for Islam in their day), and the Kalyan mosque, 15th century. There are heaps of other buildings scattered around town as well. The Ark is the original city center, a half-restored fortress that makes for an imposing sight, from the front. The inside is a tourist trap, nothing to see in there. It is hollow, with no good views of anything from the top.
This sucker is 46 meters (150 feet) tall, 9 meters wide at the base.
Look at the detail.
The following three pictures are the inside of an old house:
The tiny little Chor Minor.
The bulk of The Ark’s walls.
The Gate of the Ark
I was far more intrigued by the backside of the ark myself, you can see the old walls, and how old they are! They’re rotting into a mound of dirt.