10-01 Bukhara 1

1st.Oktober 2019, Bukhara 1

This was a very full day of sightseeing in Bukhara. There was a huge amount to see and it was all very interesting. Much more of the old city is preserved than in Tashkent and I believe Samarkand. Yesterday we were escorted by our guide to the citadel/castle and some of the many Mosques, Madrasahs (Koran schools) and mausoleums.

Central Asia’s holiest city, Bukhara (Buxoro) has buildings spanning a thousand years of history, and a thoroughly lived-in and cohesive old centre that hasn’t changed too much in two centuries. It is one of the best places in Central Asia for a glimpse of pre-Russian Turkestan.

Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of Uzbekistan, situated on a sacred hill, a place where sacrifices were once made by fire-worshippers in springtime. This city was mentioned in a holy book “Avesto”. Bukhara city is supposed to have been founded in the 13th cent. B.C. during the reign of Siyavushids who came to power 980 years before Alexander the Great. The name of Bukhara originates from the word “vihara” which means “monastery” in Sanskrit. The city was once a large commercial centre on the Great Silk Road.

Bukhara lies west of Samarkand and was once a centre of learning renowned throughout the Islamic world. It was the hometown of the great Sheikh Bakhouddin Nakshbandi, who was a central figure in the development of the mystical Sufi approach to philosophy, religion and Islam. In Bukhara there are more than 350 mosques and 100 religious colleges. Its fortunes waxed and waned through succeeding empires until in the 17th century it became one of the great Central Asian Khanates.

Bukhara with more than 140 architectural monuments is a ” museum town ” dating back to long before the Middle Ages. 2,300 years later, ensembles like Poi-Kalyan (Kalon), Ismail Samani Mausoleum, the Ark and Lyabi-Khauz attract much attention. The city consists of narrow streets, green parks and gardens and historical and architectural monuments belong to the different epochs, but located close to each other.

Samanids mausoleum

mausoleum interior

Of all the medieval buildings in Bukhara, the Samanids Mausoleum is of most special interest. This world-famous architectural masterpiece was built at the close of the ninth century. The mausoleum was erected as a family crypt immediately after the death of Ismail Samani’s father. Later, Ismail himself and his grandson Hasr were also buried in it. The Samanids Mausoleum reveals the genius of a plain design. This is seen in its composition and the balanced design of its facades and interiors. It consists of a semi-spherical dome resting on a cube. All of the facades are identical and marked with three-quarter domed columns on the corners. The interior is characterized by regular kiln-dried bricks, forming horizontal, vertical, and diagonal patterns on the walls. There are also separate details in the shape of disks or rosettes. Although this building is connected with pre-Islamic architecture, it also anticipates the emergence of a new architectural style with comparatively small dimensions; the Samanids Mausoleum is full of magnificence and feeling of moving from this world to the world that lasts forever.

Mausoleum Chashma-Ayub

the nearby market

In Central Asia, there exist a great many places which were presumably visited by saints many centuries ago. One of them is the Chashma-Ayub well, translated as Saint Job’s spring. A legend has it that the Bible prophet Job, having visited this land, decided to help the people who suffered from water shortage in the desert. He struck the ground with his stick, making a source of crystal-clear water spring at that place. The people believe that the water from the source possesses healing power and a mausoleum has been erected over it. The building shaped in a form of an oblong prism is crowned with domes, each different in form. Over the main building containing the spring is a special double dome with a conical “cap”.

Bolo Khauz minaret

Bolo Khauz reservoir

Bolo-Khauz Complex is the only preserved monument on the Registan Square. It is located on the opposite site from the Ark – the Emir’s fortress. The complex consists of the reservoir and a Friday mosque and minaret. Bolo-Khauz Mosque was supposedly built in 1712 by order of the Emir’s wife. Another legend maintains that Emir Shakhmurad (1785-1800) built it for public prayers, because he liked to be among the common people. A wooden ceiling ayvan (traditional verandah), which rests on refined columns, is abundantly decorated with fretwork and ornamented with floral and geometrical patterns. A short minaret was built in 1917 by Shirin Muradov, a famous master of Bukhara. The most ancient part of the complex is the pond (Khauz), which is named Bolo-Khauz (“Children’s reservoir”). It is one of several ponds in Bukhara, which have survived. In past these reservoirs were the water source for the population but unfortunately also the source of many diseases, therefore most of them have been drained.

The Ark-Citadel

The Ark-Citadel was the residence of the Bukhara khans. According to the latest excavations, a citadel was first built on this site in the 4 century BC. During many years of building and destruction, a 20 meters high artificial hill was formed; its upper layers were built over in the time of last bokharan emirs. The wooden part of the Ark building was burnt down during the fire of 1920. The Ark originally included the whole city, consisting of closely packed houses; courts and yards with state institutions, the emirs, his wives, and relatives and officials lodgings. Inside the trapeziform outline of the citadel walls the planning was right-angled with a traditional cruciform crossing of main streets. The spectacular-looking Ark, a royal town-within-a-town, is Bukhara’s oldest structure, occupied from the 5th century right up until 1920, when it was bombed by the Red Army. For centuries it was the residence of the emirs of Bukhara. It is about 80% ruins but there are still some remaining royal quarters, now housing several interesting museums. The most interesting of the preserved quarters is the throne-room of Bukharan emir, a space for ceremonies and festivals. It was a vast, brick-paved courtyard surrounded by ayvans on well-proportioned wooden pillars on 3 sides. On the long axis of the court in a deep ayvan there is the emir’s throne. This marble “takht”, dating back to 1669, stands under a painted wooden canopy supported on fretted marble pillars, which were made by Nuratian masters.

Kalon Mosque

Mosque courtyard

The Kalon Mosque is one of the outstanding monuments of Bukhara, dating back to the fifteenth century. According to data from archaeological excavations, the original Karakhanid Djuma Mosque was destroyed by fire and dismantled, apparently at the time of the Mongolian invasion. Sometime later, it was rebuilt, but this reconstructed mosque did not last long. A new mosque was built in the fifteenth century, at the time of the Sheybanids. Under Timur, the construction of monumental buildings was concentrated in Samarkand and Shahrisabz. However, under Ulughbek, the powerful clergy of Bukhara initiated the construction of a new Djuma Mosque on the site of the old one. Its dimensions are just slightly smaller than those of the Bibi-Khanum, Timur’s congregational mosque in Samarkand. However, Bukhara’s Djuma Mosque is not decorated as elaborately as the Bibi-Khanum.

Poi-Kalon ensemble

Kalon Minaret

When it was built by the Karakhanid ruler Arslan Khan in 1127, the Kalon Minaret was probably the tallest building in Central Asia – kalon means ‘great’ in Tajik. It’s an incredible piece of work, 47m tall with 10m-deep foundations (including reeds stacked underneath in an early form of earthquake-proofing), and has stood for almost nine centuries. Chinggis (Genghis) Khan was so dumbfounded by it that he ordered it spared while his troops ransacked the rest of the city. At the foot of the minaret, on the site of an earlier mosque destroyed by Chinggis Khan, is the 16th-century congregational Kalon Mosque, big enough for 10,000 people. Its courtyard has some spectacular tile work. Used in Soviet times as a warehouse, it was reopened as a place of worship in 1991.

Mir-i-Arab Medressa

One of the two domes

There are two big blue domes of the Miri-Arab madrasah towering above the surrounding buildings in the centre of Bukhara. Along with the Kalon mosque and minaret, this religious educational establishment forms the whole ensemble Poi-Kalon that is the spiritual centre of the city. Construction of the Miri-Arab madrasah dates back to the 16th century and is attributed to the sheikh Abdallah Yamani (from Yemen), the spiritual pir (guide) of sheybanids. The exact date of the beginning of the construction is still unknown. According to one version, scientists believe that the building was erected in the period of 1530-1535/1536. The other version states, that the madrasah was built to celebrate the victory of the sheybanid army over the troops of the Sefevid shah Ismail I in the battle of Gijduvan in 1512. It is also supposed that the final construction works were carried out with the funds of Ubaydulla-khan; the money being received from the sale of 3000 captive Iranians into slavery.

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