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The mausoleum of Bahauddin Naqshbandi outside of Bukhara is a gorgeous and peaceful spot, full but not crowded with families making pilgrimage. A visitor can engage in a series of spiritual practices. At the tomb itself, people found spots sitting on benches under the mulberry trees, holding their hands up in the cupped prayer position.

Praying at the tomb

Praying at the tomb of Bahauddin Naqshbandi

Visitors circumambulate a tree that tradition says bloomed from the walking stick of Naqshbandi. To cure back pain, one ducks under the low branches.

Sacred tree at Naqshband

Sacred tree

People drink water from a holy spring.

Sacred spring at Naqshband

Sacred spring

An imam chants the Qur’an before people share food they brought. On the day we were there, it was a few days before the baccalaureate exams, and the imam added an extra prayer for success for the students.

Praying with Imam at Naqshband

Praying with Imam

If one has a particularly large request, one can sacrifice an animal. When we were there, a sheep arrived on the scene while staff arranged seats for the ceremony. We did not stay for the main event.

Sacrificial lamb

Sacrificial lamb

People of all ages were there. Some focused on the religious practices, others enjoyed the shade and the park. We met a group of older women from Andijan, in the Fergana Valley. They approached us and asked to take a photo with us. One woman, smiling with a mouth full of gold teeth, told us she had trained to be a French teacher but there had been little call for it in her town so she taught Russian. They took our hats and wore them in silly positions for the photo. What made us so interesting that we deserved a photo – whether being specifically Americans or just Westerners in general – I did not discover.

They were smiling just before the photo, I promise!

They were smiling just before the photo, I promise!

The shine is unapologetically populist in its religious practice. There is not even a gesture, as far as I could tell, to the concerns Salafis and others have about folk Islam distracting from a focus on the unity of God.

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