Bukhara from Sanskrit vihara or Soghdian βuxārak ("lucky place"), is the capital of the Bukhara Province (viloyat) of Uzbekistan. The nation's fifth-largest city, it has a population of 263,400 (2009 census estimate). The region around Bukhara has been inhabited for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion.
The historic center of Bukhara, which contains numerous mosques and madrassas, has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Persian-speaking Tajiks constitute the largest element of the city's population. The city has long had a mixed population including Jews and other ethnic minorities.
Fitzroy Maclean, then a young diplomat in the British Embassy in Moscow, made a surreptitious visit to Bokhara in 1938, sight-seeing and sleeping in parks. In his memoir Eastern Approaches, he judged it an "enchanted city", with buildings that rivalled "the finest architecture of the Italian Renaissance".