10-02 Bukhara 2

2nd.October 2019, Bukhara 2

Today we were left to ourselves after visiting the mausoleum of a famous prophet outside the town. The rest of the day was spent with more sightseeing of the bazaars and souvenir hunting. I bought a silk carpet. For lunch we had the traditional Usbekistan meal of Plov, similar to the Indian Pilau. One of the group wanted to visit the Jewish quarter, so we went there and found the old synagogue which was really the only point of interest.

The tourist activity is centred round the Labi-Khauz pool which used to be one of the many water reservoirs. We had our evening meal in a restaurant on its banks on both evenings. One evening we had booked to go to a folklore show but it was unfortunately cancelled due to lack of sufficient spectators – a large group had cancelled.

Telpak Furushon Trading Dome

Toki-Zargaron, Bazaar of the jewellers

Bukhara is well-known to the world not only for its mosques, Ark Fortress and the majestic Kalon minaret but also for its trading domes stretching in a row from the Miri-Arab madrasah to the Lyabi-Khauz (see below). In the XVI century under the Shaybanides dynasty, Bukhara became the capital giving rise to unprecedented growth of the city, and since it was located on the Great Silk Road, the markets and trading stores became even more congested. Several centuries have passed since that time and only four trading domes have survived. A little to the north of Toki-Sarrofon the large Telpak Furushon Trading Dome is located. This is a massive complex having a hexagonal design. Under its spherical domes shops selling knives, jewellery, music instruments and various souvenirs are concentrated. Adjacent there is a medieval blacksmith shop, where one can watch the process of manufacturing knives and other tools. This the largest trading dome of Bukhara is the most northern being located close to the Poi-Kalon. The Toki-Zargaron was the first of the trading domes and is extended upwards and strengthened with ribs which make it appear different from the others. The name Zargaron arises from the word “zargar” which can be translated as “goldsmith” and there were once 36 jeweller’s workshops located here. Today one can purchase besides jewellery, scarves and various household accessories: Bukhara door-handles, bells, horseshoes for luck, etc.

Ulugbek Madrasah

Medressas Ulugbek & Abulaziz-Khan

Ulugbek Madrasah was founded in 1417, according to the inscription on the bronze plate of door. In the portal tympanum there is the name of the master, who built it – Ismail ibn Takhir ibn Makhmud Ispfargoni. It is possible that he was a grandson of one of the masters, whom had been captured by Timur in Iran and had left their names on the portal of the Gur-Amir complex in Samarkand. Bukhara Madrasah is the first Madrasah built by Ulugbek. It is comparatively small, but has great form being a building with two-ayvan square courtyards surrounded by two-storey hudjrs. Opposite there is Abdullazizkhan Madrasah built it in 1651 – 1652, the last large Madrasah in Bukhara. This building is a typical composition, with four-ayvan courtyards, but with an unusual divergent fan of hudj groups and cupola buildings on the central axis.


Lyabi-Khauz at sunset

The architectural ensemble Lyabi-Khauz was formed by three monumental buildings: Kukeldash Madrasah in the North and Khanaka and Nodir Divan-begi in the West and East. From the South the square was closed with a trading street and the centre became a reservoir. The plaza built around the pool in 1620 (the name is Tajik for ‘around the pool’), is perhaps the most peaceful and relaxing place in town – shaded by mulberry trees as old as the pool. The old tea-sipping, chessboard-clutching Uzbek men who once inhabited this corner of town have been moved on by local entrepreneurs bent on cashing in on the tourist trade. However, the plaza maintains its old-world style despite the evening pop music and family funfair feel.

According to an ancient legend, khan Nadir Divan-begi could not buy a plot of land for a planned building, because the house of a single jewish woman was situated there. But the all-powerful vizier ordered a channel to be built under the woman’s house, and the water began to wash away the walls, forcing the unfortunate woman to sell the plot in exchange for a site where a synagogue could be built (see below).

Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah

Hodscha Nasreddin in front

Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah is a part of the architectural complex located round the well-known Lyabi-Hauz in Bukhara. The madrasah building, as well as the Khanaka nearby, were named after vizier Nadir by whose order they were constructed. Vizier Nadir served at the court of one the strongest and most powerful representatives of the Ashtarkhanid dynasty Imamkuli-khan, who ruled in Bukhara 1611-1642. The reign of Imamkuli-khan was one of the most stable and relatively peaceful for the whole period of Ashtarkhanids in Bukhara. It was a time when governors paid attention not only to the constant wars, but also to town-planning. Initially, Nadir Divan-begi ordered the building of the Khanaka (a place for Sufis to reflect and rest), later a caravansari was added. However, at the opening ceremony, Imamkuli-khan proclaimed that the caravansari was built to the glory of the Allah and therefore the vizier had to reconstruct it as a madrasah. The Nadir Divan-begi madrasah is decorated in the style typical for all Muslim monuments of Central Asia. Although images of birds, animals, a human being and the sun were also used in the decoration, which was uncharacteristic for Islamic monuments. The Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah was built on the model of the Sherdor in Samarkand but the famous lions on the portal were replaced by mythical birds of happiness.

Chor Minor

Carpet weaving

Photogenic little Chor Minor, in a maze of alleys between Pushkin and Hoja Nurabad, bears more relation to Iggndian styles than to anything Bukharan. This was the gatehouse of a long-gone madrasah built in 1807. The name means ‘Four Minarets’ in Tajik, although they aren’t strictly speaking minarets but rather decorative towers. “Chor–Minor” is translated however as “four minarets”. The corners of the square-rectangular madrasah building are decorated with four small minaret-like towers crowned with blue domes, different in shape and decor from each other. The towers’ décor elements are believed to reflect the religious-philosophical understanding of the world’s four religions. At least, it is easy to see that some elements look like a cross, a Christian fish, and the Buddhist prayer wheel.

Jewish Synagogue courtyard

Jewish Synagogue interior

The finely carved doors of the Jewish Synagogue open to reveal a well-maintained courtyard with white painted walls adorned with inscriptions in Hebrew. Inside the two-story building off the small courtyard are two rooms for worship. The interior of one room is fitted with the usual form of the synagogue: there are sacred scrolls of the Torah, Judaic candelabras, as well as objects for ritual ceremonies. Richly embroidered black and gold wall hangings conceal the synagogue’s 500-year-old Torah. The synagogue dates from the 16th century and is still in use, although the number of worshippers has declined dramatically over the years. There are only around 300 left in the city, and some of these are about to leave. Many of the fine old houses in the Jewish quarter surrounding the synagogue have had a new lease of life as guest houses. They have retained their original features, such as ornately carved wooden verandahs supported by columns carved from whole tree trunks.

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