With a history spanning over 2500 years, Bukhara has flourished as a cultural and religious centre in Central Asia. Its well-preserved heritage, comprising an impressive fortress, luxurious palaces and a myriad of mosques and madrassas, bears witness to the city’s historical significance and attracts today millions of visitors from all over the world. In 2019, Sabina Ashurova took a leap of faith to explore the unique tourism potential of Bukhara. She opened her family guest- house, Koh-I-Noor, located just next to one of Bukhara’s most iconic landmarks, the Chor Minor.
One of the buildings of the guest house is around 300 years old and is a classified historical site. With the latest additions built towards the end of the 20th century and refurbished 20 years ago, Sabina is able to host guests in seven rooms, providing all the necessary services. At the centre of the guest house lays a carefully landscaped courtyard, bathed in direct natural light, a traditional arrangement that helps to keep the space cool in summer.
The name of the family guest house was chosen for its meaning in Persian: ”Koh-I-Noor” translates to “Mountain of Light”. In school, Sabina was mostly interested in history, geography and foreign languages. Although she pursued studies in tourism later on, little did she know that she was laying the foundation for a future in business.
After her marriage, Sabina moved in with her husband’s family and began to take an interest in the uncommon history of their home: the house had belonged to a tea master at the court of the Emir of Bukhara in the 18th century. Having started a family, Sabina was eager to flourish professionally while being able to spend time with her children. One day she strolled through the narrow streets of Bukhara’s old city, Sabina noticed the many “Family Guest House” signs on private houses. It struck her that this was exactly the opportunity she was looking for, as having her own family guesthouse would enable her to share the history of her house, use her hospitality skills and engage in an exciting business journey while staying close to her children. Sabina’s husband and in-laws immediately supported the idea.
Promoting the local culture and history is a central dimension of Sabina’s business. Her hospitality and outstanding service did not go unnoticed and Koh-I-Noor was eventually awarded the title of “Best Family Guest House of the Year” by the government of Bukhara province. In 2021, continuously seeking for ways to improve her business, Sabina engaged with the Association of Private Travel Agencies of Uzbekistan. Within the framework of Acted’s’ Set to Switch project, funded by the European Union’s SWITCH-Asia programme, she benefitted from the ‘Training of Trainers’ and the study-tour held in Germany to visit green community-based tourism enterprises.
These activities allowed her to gain knowledge in management, service, marketing and business promotion and gave her an opportunity to enhance her skills and focus on developing her guest house’s sustainability. The family guest-house was also equipped with a hybrid photovoltaic system, a green and economic way to continuously provide electricity.
We organise a cultural programme for the guests; excursions around the old town and surroundings; master classes on cooking pilaf on the fire; folklore shows; trips to nature - horse riding; fishing.
The support from the Set to Switch project comforted Sabina’s and her family’s plans for the future. Sabina dreams of opening a summer camp for children, where they could play and enjoy while learning more about the country’s national traditions, customs and rich culture. For Sabina, this journey was synonymous with personal growth.
I remember well when tourists from Bosnia and Herzegovina came. They read online reviews and wanted to see the lady of the house. It was unexpected and very pleasant for me. One of the guests said that she had wanted to meet me for a long time. This has until now been another impetus for further business development.