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Places of interest
Abdulla Khan Medrese in Buchara

Abdulla Khan Madrasa in Bukhara

Abdulla Khan Madrasa in Bukhara

The Abdulla Khan Madrasa in Bukhara, built in 1588-90, is one of the most outstanding works of Central Asian architecture. The main entrance to this Madrasa is designed as a high portal. The dimension of the façade and the variety of decorative materials give it a colourful, festive appearance. Cold tones of majolica tiles (blue, greenish-blue, white) play well in bright sunlight.

The Abdulla Khan Madrasa in Bukhara is located opposite Madari Khan Madrasa and forms with it a single architectural ensemble called Kosh Madrasa. In Central Asian architecture, the building ensemble consisting of two facades facing each other is referred to as “kosh”. (twin, paired) and in relation to the two madrasas “twin madrasas”.

The school of Bukhara introduced local peculiarities into the traditional architecture of the Madrasa, the appearance of which is striking in the 15th century, when comparing the first preserved Madrasas in Central Asia, built by Ulugbek in Bukhara, Gijduvan and Samarkand. Ulugbek’s Madrasa in Samarkand had beautiful facades and tall thin two-tier minarets at the corners of the building. The basic principle of the ground plan remained unchanged – the rooms were arranged around the courtyard. In Bukhara the main façade is opened by arched loggias, while in the corners of the building there are stocky towers – guldasta, cut at the height of the side wings. The Bukhara madrassas also differed in their design features.

The doors of the Madrasas are made with great skill from individual pieces of wood with the finest carving without a single nail.

The floor plan of the Madrasa has a number of features that show that the architects tried to use the inner space as rationally as possible, including as many rooms as possible. Opposite the main façade is a group of hujras (a small living room for pupils/students) and behind it, to the right and left of the entrance hall, are the mosque and the darskhana. An interesting feature is the location of the mosque; its ground plan is slightly rotated in relation to the main axes of the madrasa, but not towards the Qibla (i.e. towards Mecca), but strictly on the sides of the world.

Places of interest
Abu Mansur al-Maturidi Mausoleum

Abu Mansur al-Maturidi Mausoleum

Abu Mansur al-Maturidi Mausoleum

The Abu Mansur al-Maturidi Mausoleum – is located in Samarkand, near the famous Registan Square. The mausoleum was built over the tomb of Abu Mansur al-Maturidi (870 – 944), a famous Islamic theologian, expert of Fiqh (Islamic law) and interpreter of the Koran (Mufassir).

The scientist was buried at the Chokardiza cemetery in Samarkand, where according to legend more than 3000 scientist-theologians were buried. A mausoleum was built over the grave, which was destroyed in the 1930s.

Abu Mansur al-Maturidi was born in the town of Maturid, near Samarkand, where he studied religious disciplines. He then taught Fiqh and Kalam. Maturidi believed that man had the freedom of choice and that faith consisted in the verbal recognition of Allah and not in religious rites.

In 2000, on the 1130th anniversary of the birth of Muhammad Abu Mansur al-Maturidi, an architectural complex designed by the architects Salakhutdinov and Nurullaev was built on the site of the destroyed mausoleum.

The interior was decorated by Najmiddinov, the exterior by Asadov. The dimensions of the mausoleum are 12 × 12 × 17.5 meters. The building is crowned with a double dome, the outer one – ribbed – is decorated with blue majolica, the drum is decorated with 24 arches.

On the white marble gravestone are engraved the sayings of a scientist and you can read the sayings of Imam al-Maturidi. To the west of the mausoleum there is a small building with a dome, on the north side a hill (Sufa) with tombstones from the IX-XVIII century. In the garden there is a pavilion – a rotunda with the tomb of the lawyer Burhaniddin Al-Margiloni.

The Imam Abu Mansur al-Maturidi had great theological knowledge and was known and highly respected not only among his numerous students but also in the scientific world of the Muslim Orient.

Places of interest
Baland Moschee in Buchara

Baland Mosque in Bukhara

Baland Mosque in Bukhara

The Baland Mosque is a typical manifestation of innovation in the architecture of Bukhara at the end of the Navoi era and in the first decades of the Uzbek Khanate. The name Baland Mosque owes its fame to its location on the high stone foundation.

South of the city park and the Kosh Medrese, in the depth of Bukhara’s residential buildings, is the historic mosque called Baland (“High”). This mosque of the rich Bukhara district is more than five hundred years old.

The oldest part of it is a rectangular winter building. It is enclosed by an L-shaped pillared aivan, which serves as a summer mosque. The wooden columns with stalactite capitals on marble bases and aivan ceiling were made in the XIX century, replacing the earlier structures.

The suspended ceiling of the Baland Mosque is unique, decorated with geometric ornaments and domes carved from wood. The small inner hall of the structure has a richly decorated mihrab and a wooden pulpit – minbar. The mihrab and wall panels are covered with carved Kashin mosaic in blue-green shades.

The walls of the mosque are covered with multi-coloured painting in kundal technique with abundant gilding. The floral and vegetative ornamentation gives this painting the impression of wall “carpets”.

A special spiritual atmosphere is created by the Arabic inscriptions in complicated Sülüs script.

Cubic volume with flat suspended ceiling and Aivan on the carved wooden columns is a typical example of the Guzar mosques in the neighbourhood. The colourful splendour of the mosque is concentrated in its interior, in the decoration of the ceiling and walls.

The dominance of the surfaces is compensated here by classically found proportions of the parts: a panel, above it large and small panels, then a frieze. The panel of the Baland Mosque consists of a series of rectangular frames, each filled with a mosaic pattern.

The central part of the wall is decorated with a lancet-shaped panel filled with a floral pattern, then a narrow inscription panel above the frame, then a moulded cord above the frame – they alternate with each other and vary in shape and pattern.

The ceiling is of wood, intricately carved, with a dripstone recess in the centre of the star-shaped figure. The hexagonal tiles of the panels are decorated with ornamental painting in gold.

In the Baland Mosque, the means of pictorial decoration of the walls are developed with extraordinary brilliance in Bukhara.

It is not surprising that in the architecture of later times, architects repeatedly turned to the interior of the mosque as a model and worthy example.

Places of interest
Bibi Khanum

Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand

Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand

Only four of the great buildings of that time have been preserved: the remains of the Ak-Saray Palace and the tomb of Amir Temur, the mausoleum of the Dorusiadat complex in Shakhrisabz, the mystical mausoleum of the Sufi-hoja Ahmad Yassawi in Turkestan and the ruins of a cathedral mosque in the capital Samarkand, known as the Bibi Khanum Mosque, which was to become the most magnificent mosque in the Muslim Orient.

From the Afrosiab Hill the traveller can enjoy the panorama of an ancient city with a huge bazaar, behind which is the building of the XIV-XV century – the Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand. The Jome Mosque occupied a special place in the life of the medieval town. It was a building of great public importance, embodying the feudal power of state and religion.

The Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand (translated as “Elder Wife”, according to one of the legends it was built by Temur’s eldest wife, Saray-Mulk-Khanum) had a different name – Friday Mosque of Samarkand, where thousands of male Muslims came. Actually, the mosque was built in 1399-1404 by order of Amir Temur after his return from the Indian invasion. It was a time when the architecture of Central Asia developed a monumental style of façade construction, the directions of which correspond to the famous statement of Amir Temur: “If you doubt our power, look at our buildings”. The mosque was built in a short period of time – five years – by talented local masters and stonemasons from Azerbaijan, Persia, Khorasan and India. To ease the heavy work, 99 elephants from India were used.

To date 5 structures have been preserved: a portal; on the opposite side, in the depth of a courtyard, there are large mosques; on the sides – small mosques; a minaret. The enormous work of historians, archaeologists and art historians gives us the opportunity to present the original appearance of the mosque. One of the characteristic features of the architectural ensembles of this period is the enormous size and proportionality, the proportionality of the compositional parts of the ensemble, a beautiful example of which is Bibi Khanum.

It is a grandiose building, located on the area of a 167 x 109 m high slender portal 36 m high and 46 m wide, a spacious courtyard 54 x 76 m, a monumental main mosque, which stands on the central axis of the complex. The height and width of the main hall of the mosque is 41 m. With a portal span of 18 m. The inner courtyard was bordered by a gallery with 480 marble columns and pillars and bright small mosques. The buildings were constructed of 27x27x5 cm bricks on a gangway. The entrance to the mosque was decorated with two wing gates made of seven-alloy, carved marble slabs and the richest decoration.

In the middle of the courtyard there is still a marble desk, which was made for the Holy Quran in gigantic sizes by Ulugbek. On the edges of the court there were minarets about which one of the Temur historians wrote: “The minaret raised its capitol to heaven and wept: ‘Verily, our deeds point to us’. About the dome of the mosque it was written even then: “Its dome would be the only one if the Milky Way was not a pair with it”.

It is remarkable that the dome of the mosque, which could be seen for many kilometres from the main entrance when approaching Samarkand, is not visible, as the height of the dome corresponded to the height of the portal.

The construction of the large mosque is executed in mayolica technique in combination with non-rigid bricks and carved, framed mosaic, decorated with the finest plant, geometric and epigraphic ornaments. The interior of the mosque was decorated with plaster paintings on the walls and gilded papier-mâché on the inside of the dome. The external decoration of the small mosques is inferior to that of the large mosque. This is an architectural technique whose purpose is to emphasise the dominant importance of the main building.

The decoration of the building has concentrated all the best that the masters achieved until the beginning of the XV century: Mayolica and carved mosaics, carved marble, carved wood, painting on the plaster and decoration in papier-mâché. This was a new stage in the development of traditional medieval mosques. The innovation of the master builders is also reflected in the pursuit of maximum aesthetics of form. Amazingly many things – double, raised on the drums of the domes, sharp points of the minarets, high portals, towers, elegant marble columns of the gallery with a vaulted ceiling. There is an introduction of the vertical as the most important element of architecture.

The mosque was built on a large scale, but without taking into account earthquakes with such increase in size. In spite of the deep foundations of the broken stone, huge masses of brick masonry in the walls, the thickness of which reaches five metres, began to fall down stones from the cracked dome already during Timur’s lifetime.

East of the mosque, on the opposite side of the street, there is an original monument – an octahedral, columnar mausoleum Bibi Khanum with a crypt. This building has no main façade; it was probably added to Bibi Khanum Madrasa.

The decoration of the mausoleum shows that it was built simultaneously with the mosque. In a spacious crypt on the floor there are marble sarcophagi. When it was opened in 1941, the remains of two other middle-aged women in rich clothing were found. It is possible that one of them was the Saray Mulk Khanim. A poetic legend about the construction of the Bibi Khanum mosque has been preserved until today.

The beautiful Bibi-Khanum, wife of Timur, was to surprise and delight her husband. When the ruler was absent during one of the numerous military campaigns, she called the best builders and masters of Samarkand to the palace and offered them to build the structure. The work started immediately. The walls grew quickly.

Meanwhile, Samarkand received news of Timur’s imminent return. Bibi Khanum constantly overreacted. Then the master builder made the condition: “The mosque will be built on time, but… you, Her Majesty, will give me a kiss”.
The Ruler was outraged: “I will give you any of my slaves of your choice. Why do you only look at me? Look at the painted eggs, they are of different colours and do not resemble each other at all, but when you break them, do they differ in any way? That is how we women are”.

But the architect insisted: “I want to answer you. Here are two identical glasses. One of them I fill with clear water, the other with white wine. And now they resemble each other, but when I touch them with my lips, one of them burns me with liquid fire and the other one I will not feel. It is love.”

Temur approached in Samarkand. The anger of Bibi Khanum had no limits. For so long the treasured surprise was in danger for the ruler. Besides, as legend has it, the master builder was young and handsome. And she agrees. At the last moment she tried to cover herself with her palm. But the kiss was so passionate that its heat penetrated the hand of beauty and left a fiery red stain on her cheek.

Only a few days later Temur had come to town. Domes and minarets rose before his eyes and amazed with their splendour. But his joy was overshadowed. When he saw the sign of the kiss on Bibi Khanum’s face, he went into a rage. Bibi Khanum confessed everything. By order of the “Iron Lame” the guards hurried to find the architect. Fleeing from persecution, he and his pupil climbed up the minaret of the mosque.

And when the guards ran up the countless steps behind them, they found only one student. “Where is the master builder?” – they asked – “The teacher made wings and flew to Meshhed,” he replied. That is a legend.

At the beginning of the XX century, the Bibi Khanum mosque was a destruction and majestic ruin, time was hard on the Friday mosque. But even these ruins leave an indelible impression. From the 1960s to the present day, as a result of restoration and grandiose works, the inner and outer domes were built, the vault of the portal and the base of the walls were reinforced, the interiors of small mosques were restored and minarets were rebuilt. The works are in progress. The Bibi Khanum Mosque in Samarkand is an immortal masterpiece of architecture in the Muslim Orient.

Places of interest
Ark in Bukhara

Citadel Ark in Bukhara

Citadel Ark in Bukhara

In the centre of Bukhara there is a bulwark of the last emirs – the citadel Ark. The archaeological remains of the beginning of our era, when several settlements already existed on Bukhara, are much deeper than its present location.

High brick walls with a serrated end hide a huge hill – this is where the city of Bukhara appeared in ancient times, more than two thousand years ago. This is its fortress, the Ark Citadel.

Over the centuries its height gradually increased as new buildings were erected in place of dilapidated ones. According to legend, the tomb of Siyavush, the legendary founder of the city, was located here.

Queen Hutak Khatun lived and reigned here in the 7th century A.D. She defended Bukhara from the Arabs for several years with cunning and diplomacy. The medieval historian Narshakhi wrote about these events: “Allah instilled fear in the hearts of the infidels and they left without accepting the fight”.

Remains of former forts and palaces are hidden in the archaeological deposits of Ark. In the later Middle Ages Bukhara emirs lived here. Next to the gate there was a whip (“Kamchin”) as an impressive reminder of the emir’s power.

Only a few buildings of the former mighty Ark have survived. On the upper terrace of Nagorakhan flour was collected around the clock. Trophy clocks – chimes (made in the XIX century by the captured Italian Orlando) rang every hour on the bell tower and five times a day appeared on the tower of Azanchi (the person calling for prayer), announcing the beginning of the prayer.

During Ramazan or Kurban and other festive events, an orchestra played with four unique changes of curtain and dress of the musicians: light, yellow, fire red and black.

The square in front of the entrance to the citadel Ark – Registan, was the main arena of all events in the city and the religious centre of Bukhara. The Ark Citadel is the result of the efforts of thousands of slaves who many centuries ago, under the bright sun, created an artificial hill by hand and without equipment.

In order to present the scale of this gigantic work, we, the people of our era, must forget modern technology and exclude even such means of transport as Arava. This mighty fortress rises above Registan Square as a symbol of greatness, power and insurmountability.

This is the goal pursued by those in power. And yet the impression was deceptive. For a very long time, the citadel has not held Ark steadfast. Repeatedly it has been built and destroyed.

The age of the Ark Citadel is not exactly determined, but at least one and a half thousand years ago, this majestic fortress was already the seat of the ruler of a vast and densely populated country.

For many centuries Ark remained the main residence of the Emir of Bukhara, the place from which the supreme command of the country was exercised. Here, in a mighty fortified citadel, lived not only the emir but also the chief vizier, the military leaders, the emir’s most numerous servants.

The Ark Citadel is a living witness to the rich history of the city. When Genghis Khan’s warriors conquered Bukhara in 1220, the city’s inhabitants locked themselves in the Ark and Genghis Khan’s warriors invaded the Ark, killing the defenders, plundering values and destroying the fortress.
Repeatedly, riots broke out in the city and then Ark became the epitome of cruel tyranny, cobblestones flew outside its gates, as they did in 1708 during the uprising associated with the abolition of currency reform.

Here in Ark Citadel, apart from the rulers cursed by the people, great scientists, poets and philosophers lived and worked. In the Middle Ages, when the culture of Bukhara reached its peak, Rudaki, Firdousi, Abu Ali ibn Sina, Farabi and later Omar Khayyam worked here.

Ark is a large above ground complex. From the ground plan it resembles an irregular rectangle, which extends slightly from west to east. Its southeast corner is slightly cut.

It is located in the middle of the western part of the modern city. The length of the walls is 789.60 m, the area is 3.96 ha. The height from the level of Registan Square, in the vicinity of which it is located, varies between 16 and 20 metres.

The front entrance to the Citadel Ark is architecturally designed in the form of two pier towers. The upper part of the tower is connected to the gallery, above which there is a room with terraces.

The entrance to the gate (tahkul) is a ramp or gradually ascending path that leads through a long covered corridor to the Jami Mosque. The ramp is fenced in on both sides with a massive stone railing, its length is about 20 metres.

On one of the walls of the Ark Citadel there was a large leather whip (a symbol of the emir’s power). A long dark corridor starts from the gate of the Citadel Ark, along which are the rooms for water and sand, the cells for prisoners.

It is known from historical materials and from the accounts of eyewitnesses what sophisticated tortures the emir used to subjugate his subjects. In the citadel Ark itself there is a large complex of buildings.

The eastern half of the arch is now an archaeological monument. The Childukhtaron Mosque, with which the legend of forty tortured girls thrown into the well is connected, has been preserved here.

From the height of the Ark Citadel there is a breathtakingly unique panorama of the ancient part of Bukhara. The restorers in Bukhara call the Bukhara Citadel Ark a textbook for builders. Extensive restoration work is currently underway in the Citadel Ark.

The walls on the side of Registan Square and many rooms inside the citadel have been restored.

Places of interest
Gur Emir Mausoleum - Samarkand

Gur Emir Mausoleum

Gur Emir Mausoleum

The inscription at the entrance to the Gur Emir mausoleum.

“The gracious and almighty Allah said: “Whoever enters here will find salvation!
“This is the paradise that was promised to us – enter it and stay in it forever!
Allah said: “Blessed and Allah Almighty, lead the righteous to Paradise and the rivers of Paradise, safe and secure. May the truth be above Almighty Allah!”
“The Prophet said peace be upon him: Death is the bridge that unites friends with friends.
“The Prophet said peace be upon him: Happy is he who lets go of the world before the world lets go of him; prepare his own grave before he enters it; please his Lord before he goes to him”.

Gur Emir means “tomb of the king” in Tajik. This architectural complex with its blue dome contains the tombs of Amir Temur (Tamerlan), his sons Shokhrukh and Miranshah, the grandsons Ulugbek and Sultan Muhammad.

Gur Emir is the mausoleum of the famous commander, ruler and founder of the Timurid dynasty – Amir Temur (Tamerlan) in Samarkand (Uzbekistan)
This mausoleum occupies an important place in the history of Islamic architecture, as it is a prototype of later mausoleums of the Grand Moguls (the Grand Mughal Empire in India), in particular the Humayun mausoleum in Delhi and the Taj Mahal in Agra, built by the descendants of Temur, who ruled in Northern India for several centuries.

Part of the complex was built in the late 14th century by order of Sultan Muhammad. Only the foundations of the madrasa and khanaka, the entrance door and part of one of the four minarets have been preserved to this day.

Construction of the mausoleum itself began in 1403 after the sudden death of Sultan Muhammad, the direct heir of Amir Temur (Tamerlan) and his beloved grandson. In fact only Amir Temur’s (Tamerlan) other grandson, Ulugbek, completed the mausoleum.

During his reign the mausoleum became the family tomb of the Timurid dynasty. The entrance of the ensemble of Sultan Muhammad is richly decorated with carved bricks and various mosaics. The door was artistically decorated by an experienced master (ustad) Muhammad bin Mahmud Isfahani.

Externally the mausoleum of Gur Emir is a single-domed building. It is known for its simple forms and monumental appearance. It is an octagonal building, which is crowned by a blue fluted dome.

The external decoration of the walls is made up of blue and blue and white tiles arranged in such a way that the geometric and epigraphic ornamentation on the background of terracotta tiles can be seen from afar.

The dome, 15 metres in diameter and 12.5 metres high, is painted with deep rosettes and white tiles in bright blue. The ribbed decorations give the dome an amazing expressiveness.

During the reign of Ulugbek, the passageway was created to provide an entrance to the mausoleum. Inside the mausoleum there is a high and spacious chamber with deep niches on the sides and a variety of decorations. The lower part of the walls is covered with onyx panels.

Each of these panels is decorated with paintings. Above the brick group there is a marble cornice in the shape of a stalactite. Large areas of the walls are decorated with various motifs; the arches and the inner dome are decorated with boxes made of papier-mâché, gilded and decorated with various motifs.

The decorative carved tombstones in the inner room of the mausoleum only indicate the location of the actual tombs in the crypt directly under the main hall.

Amir Temur also built a tomb for himself in Shakhrisabz, but when Amir Temur died in 1405 during his campaign to conquer China, the roads to Shakhrisabz were covered with snow and so he was buried in Samarkand.

During the reign of Ulugbek a dark green nephrite stone was laid over Amir Temur’s grave. This stone was formerly used in the temple of the palace of the Chinese emperor, then as the throne of Khan Kabek (descendant of Genghis Khan) in Karshi.

In 1740 the King of Persia – Nadir Shah – stole the stone, and it is believed that from that moment on it brought failure to his succeeding masters. His advisers convinced him to return the stone to its rightful place.

The second time the stone was stolen happened in 1941 when Soviet archaeologists discovered the burial chamber. During this research the sculptor Gerasimov restored the features of Amir Temur on the basis of his skull and it was also confirmed that he was a giant for his time, more than 1.80 m tall and paralysed.

The murder of Ulugbek and the authenticity of other graves were also confirmed. Next to Amir Temur’s grave are the marble gravestones of his sons, Shokhrukh and Miran Shoh and his grandsons, Sultan Muhammad and Ulugbek.

The remains of Mir Said Baraka, the spiritual teacher of Amir Temur, are also found in this mausoleum. Some architects see the Gur Emir Mausoleum, the Rukhabad Mausoleum and the Aksaray Mausoleum as a unified ensemble of mausoleums because of their proximity to each other.

Places of interest
Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara

Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara

Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara

In the historical centre of Bukhara there is the architectural Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble, whose construction dates back to the XVI century. The name of this ensemble is quite interesting: “Gaukuschon” literally means “bull murderer”. It can be explained by the fact that in the past there was a huge market with a slaughterhouse. This large area was already used as a trading place in the past. Under the new rulers of the Shaibanid dynasty in the XVI century, the rapid development of Bukhara began and the construction of many unique architectural structures, which have survived to this day. Under the Shaibanids, the construction of new religious buildings began on Gaukushon Square – a large madrasah and a Jome Mosque with a high minaret appeared here.

The idea for the foundation of this ensemble came from Sheikh Hodja Saad of the revered Juibar family. He provided funds for the construction of large and important buildings and became the main supporter of the project. His name was subsequently added to the name of the mosque and the entire complex as a sign of respect and gratitude. The Sheikh was also called “Hodja Kalon”, which means “Great Hodja”, so the structures of the complex are sometimes called “Hodja Kalon”. The Sheikh of Hodja Saad himself was buried in the tomb of Chor-Bakr together with all the members of his family dynasty.

The large architectural Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara, together with other buildings of the historical part of Bukhara, is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Now there are souvenir shops with goods for tourists near the Medrese and there is a restaurant near the square. Travellers who have visited the complex notice that some parts of the buildings look a bit neglected despite the restoration works that have been carried out.

Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara consists of a madrasah of astonishing beauty and a Djomé Mosque (Cathedral) with an impressive minaret, which in height is only inferior to the famous minaret of Kalon, one even believes that the minaret of Hodja Gaukushon Ensemble in Bukhara is a scaled-down copy. The decoration used for the decoration of the Hodja Gaukuschon complex is a two-colour Ganch decor.

The madrasah is a Muslim educational institution whose graduates can enter higher education institutions. On the Gaukuschon square a building was erected according to a traditional court scheme in a typical oriental style. The madrasah is a two-storey building with vaulted Hudschras. The building itself has the shape of a correct trapezium, as it was located at the crossing of several streets. It was built in the middle of the second half of the XVI century – 1570 under the ruler Abdullah Khan II from the dynasty of the Shaibanids. Here students studied the history of Islam, Arabic, Sharia and the Koran.

Almost thirty years later, in 1598, a mosque called “Masjid Djome Hodja” was built on the square north of the Gaukushan madrasah. The Hodja Mosque was a Djome Mosque (Cathedral Mosque), also known as “Djuma Mosque” or “Friday Mosque”. In other words, there was Namaz, the collective midday prayer of the faithful of the Muslim community, which takes place on Fridays. The mosque could accommodate several thousand people. Most of the believers were housed in a courtyard with vaulted galleries under domes supported by brick pillars. The main building, the maxura, is located in front of the mihrab, a niche in the wall facing Mecca.

Between the mihrab and the mosque there is a minaret reflected in the water of the house, a hydro-technical structure of the artificial reservoir type, which serves as a drinking water reservoir. Travellers write that the water reservoir is kept in a clean and good condition, it is pleasant to sit and rest after the walk. The minaret is made of baked bricks and has a conical shape. The foundation consists of stone with bundles of wood around it. Inside, a spiral staircase leads to a rotunda lantern with a dripstone cornice. The minaret has 12 window openings.

Places of interest
Muslim Tour in Usbekistan

Imam al-Bukhari Complex

Imam al-Bukhari Complex

In the village of Khartang in Payaryk district (25 km from Samarkand) is one of the most venerated pilgrimage sites of Islam – the complex of Imam al-Bukhari.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari is a famous theologian and Hadith scholar (Hadithology is the science of Hadith, reports on the utterances and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) and the author of the second most important Muslim book after the Koran, “Al-Jomiy al-Sahih” (“A Trusted Collection”).

Imam Al-Bukhari was born in Bukhara in 810. It is known that his great-grandfather was one of the first to adopt Islam. His father was one of the tellers of holy legends. His father died when Al-Bukhari was still a child. Al-Bukhari remained with his mother, who raised him. She was an educated woman who trained the boy in various sciences. Muhammad was a sensitive, intelligent man and had an extraordinary memory for his age. At the age of 7 he learned the whole Koran by heart, at the age of 10 he knew several thousand Hadiths by heart. In 825, when he was 16 years old, al-Bukhari went to the Hajj in Mecca and Medina with his mother and his older brother Ahmad. After the pilgrimage, his mother and brother returned to Bukhara and he travelled for many years to different Muslim countries, where he studied with famous Islamic scholars of the time.

According to a legend he collected hundreds of thousands of hadiths, of which he knew 300,000 by heart. He spent 42 years of his life studying them. He began to write his book in Basra and continued writing it for many years, including, according to him, hadiths from 1080 experts. His book contains 7275 authentic Hadiths. Proof of the authenticity of the Hadith is the reliability of the transmission path and each of its connections, which gives a moral picture of the transmitter on which he can rely. Al-Bukhari attached particular importance to identifying the persons who served as the source of the transmission. He inserted only those hadiths that were made into “credible” statements by people who were direct witnesses of the Prophet’s act. Imam al-Bukhari had been working on his book for 16 years.

It is known from sources that he wrote many other books, including “Ta’rihih Kabir” (“The Great History”). After writing “As-Sakhih”, he returned to Bukhara and began to teach anyone who wanted to learn, because he believed that learning together would bring great benefits to society through literacy. His authority was so high that a hadith unknown to him was considered untrustworthy by the people.

Regardless of his will, he clashed with the ruler of Bukhara, Tahiridd Holid ibn Ahmad, and was forced to move to the village of Khartoang near Samarkand, where he died in 870. The cemetery in the village of Khartang in the Payarik district of Samarkand region became the most venerated and holy place of pilgrimage. In the XVI century a small mosque was built near the Imam-al-Bukhari mausoleum and Chinar trees were planted.

During the time of the Soviet Union this Muslim holy place was forgotten and no religious ceremonies were held here. The mosque gradually fell into disrepair, but it was to be revived in 1954 thanks to the visit of Indonesian President Sukarno. After his visit to Moscow, President Sukarno arrived in Tashkent and asked to be allowed to venerate the remains of St. Imam al-Bukhari. The authorities of the Republic, having heard this, were even confused at first because they had already forgotten who Imam al-Bukhari was and where his tomb was located. In a hurry the order was given to send the Commission to Samarkand immediately. The authorities could not refuse President Sukarno, since the Soviet Union was then beginning to establish international relations with many countries, including countries in the Islamic East, on Khrushchev’s initiative, and the refusal therefore threatened to cause an international scandal. When the authorities arrived on the scene, however, they saw an extremely unpleasant picture: the mosque was completely abandoned and there was not even a gravestone on Al Bukhari’s grave. And on the orders of the High Command, the mosque and the surrounding area were cleaned up as much as possible within one day and even an asphalt road to the mosque was laid in a very short time. In short, the Al Bukhari Mosque welcomed President Sukarno. He bowed before the grave of the great scholar and honoured his memory. President Sukarno was followed by Somali President Madiba Keita, who also visited Tashkent and asked to visit the tomb of St. Ismail al-Bukhari. The Ismail al-Bukhari Mosque was then handed over to the Islamic Council of Muslims of Central Asia and Kazakhstan, apparently on the orders of the Centre (Moscow). Since then the mosque has been visited again through prayer.

After the independence of Uzbekistan, the Complex of Imam Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari was restored. In 1998, a majestic memorial complex was built in the village of Khartoum, which includes a mausoleum, a mosque, a library and a Koran school. In the same year 1998, the celebrations of the 1225th birthday of the famous scientist took place in Samarkand on 23 October.

Access to the complex is through an entrance portal with carved gates. In the centre of the Complex is the mausoleum of Imam Ismail al-Bukhari in the shape of a rectangular prism, square at the base, measuring 9×9 m and 17 m high. The dome of the mausoleum is double, ribbed and decorated with blue tiles. The walls are decorated with mosaics, majolica, ganche, onyx and granite with plant and geometrical ornaments. In the centre there is a gravestone made of light green onyx.

On the left side of the courtyard there is a mosque, a khonaqo and a hall of 786 square meters, where 1500 believers can pray at the same time. On the right side there is a library and a museum with rare copies of handwritten and lithographic books on Islamic religion, gifts from statesmen of different states, including a part of the “Kiswah” – a ceiling piece from the Kaaba in Mecca, which was presented to the memorial by the King of Saudi Arabia.

At the back of the courtyard is a hadith training centre. In the middle of the courtyard there is a water basin – “Khauz” with ancient Chinar trees, next to which there is a medicinal water spring.

In order to research the spiritual heritage of Imam al-Bukhari in depth and to spread it widely, an international foundation was established, which has been publishing its own spiritual and educational journal since 2000. Al-Bukhari’s books are used in madrassas and Islamic universities as the main textbook for the study of the Sunna (holy tradition) about the Prophet Muhammad.

Places of interest

Ishrat Khana Mausoleum

Ishrat Khana Mausoleum

The Ishrat Khana mausoleum dates back to the reign of the Temurid Abu Said (1451 – 1469), the ruins of which bear a somewhat unexpected name: “Ishrat Khana” – “House of Joy”, obviously because of a very rich architectural design.

There are legends that connect this building with Temur, but in 1896 the archaeologist Vyatkin found a document that says that a noble woman Habiba-Sultan, wife of Temurid Sultan Ahmed Mirza, built a domed building over the grave of her sister-in-law, Princess Hawend Sultan biki, daughter of the then ruler Abu Said.

This building, which dates back to 1464, was a dynastic mausoleum for a wife and children from the Temurid house. According to written records from 1464, the building was commissioned by the wife of Sultan Abu Said Habiba Sultan Begim in memory of her deceased daughter, Sultan Hawend biki.

During archaeological excavations in 1940, up to thirty women and children were found buried here. The building described represented a whole complex of buildings.

The central square was occupied by the burial vault, which was decorated with a high portal from the west. From the south, the building was adjoined by the arched dome gallery, which provided an additional entrance to the tomb.

On the north side there was a mosque. In the corners of the building there were vaulted rooms for people who served the mausoleum. Only the ruins of this building have been preserved.

In 1903 the dome collapsed together with the high drum in an earthquake. In the 1940s restoration works were carried out to preserve the monument. The central square was occupied by the tomb, which was decorated with a high portal from the west.

From the south, the arched domed gallery adjoined the building, through which an additional entrance to the tomb was created. On the north side there was a mosque. In the corners of the building there were vaulted rooms for people who served the mausoleum.

The Ishrat Khana Mausoleum is located north of the Abdi-Darun mazar. It is a building from the second half of the XVth century with a large portal and a high central hall, above which the dome was still preserved in the XXth century. Under the hall there is a burial chamber with 23 burials of women and children.

Inside the mausoleum mazaik panels, wall paintings and plaques were used. The meaning of Ishrat-khana “house of joy” is to convey the idea of the “eternal home for paradisiacal life”.

Places of interest
Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara

Ismail Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara

Ismail Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara

The Mausoleum of Ismail Samani, located opposite the Ark in Bukhara, in the depths of the Central Cultural and Leisure Park, is world famous. This unique construction attracts the attention of scholars from all over the world.

The unique structure is also studied by architects and historians and painted from it by artists. Anyone interested in the historical past of the Central Asian peoples inevitably appeals to them.

The monument bears witness to the great development of building techniques and the high level of architecture. During this period, high-quality toasted bricks and alabaster mortar are used in construction.

The construction of Ismail Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara was preceded by the development of mathematical knowledge, especially geometry, which equipped the most experienced and skilled builders with methods of preliminary design of buildings and calculation of their proportions based on mathematical relations.

This gave rise to the delightful harmony of the whole and its parts that we can observe in the Ismail Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara. The mausoleum is a kind of central building, which is a cube with slightly inclined surfaces and a hemispherical dome.

Characteristic of the mausoleum is a design that connects the dome with the squares of the walls. This design determined to a great extent the internal and external appearance of the building.

The building of the mausoleum was to be strong, although it fulfilled the task of the lightest construction. On the massive, 1.8 m thick walls, the square room walls were provided with relatively thin arches – four arches on the walls and four corners.

The thick walls prevented the structure from collapsing for a millennium. On the top of the building, behind the arches, there is a light-filled gallery that opens to the outside with an arcade of small lancet windows.

This makes the structure light and resistant and creates a kind of illumination inside the mausoleum. All four façades of the Ismail Samani Mausoleum are the same. The centre of each side is intersected by a large lancet arch, and the corners are flanked by massive three-quarter brick columns.

The interior and exterior walls of the building are treated with patterned brickwork, creating a rich light-shadow texture on the walls that adds a certain brightness to the building.

The Ismail Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara, built at the turn of the IXth and Xth centuries, was dedicated to the Legion of the Holy Spirit. According to legend, it was built by Ismail Samani – the actual founder of the Samanid state, who conquered Bukhara in 874 and made it his capital – for his father Amad ibn Asad.

Later, the mausoleum became the family tomb of the Samanids: Ismail himself was buried there and then, according to the inscriptions above the entrance, Ismail’s grandson. The time of construction of the Ismail Samani Mausoleum is between 892 and 943 years.

The building has been well preserved until our time and is in excellent condition. The mausoleum is rightly considered one of the most perfect works of world architecture.

The mausoleum’s purpose as a tomb led to the creation of a square single-chamber space with a three-tiered interior structure: a quadruple, an octagon and a domed shell.

It is necessary to believe that at the time of the construction of the mausoleum, such an interpretation of the interior of the domed building was a long way of development and became a tradition.

The arrangement of the light openings of the gallery of the Samanid Mausoleum is of particular interest to us: the relatively high position of the light openings, their tiny size reminiscent of loopholes, the presence of sloping window sills and strip-like window niches outside the building.

Places of interest
Kalon Minor - Bukhara

Kalon Minaret in Bukhara

Kalon Minaret in Bukhara

For over eight centuries, the Kalon Minaret has been rising above the ancient Bukhara, without which the architectural appearance of the city is difficult to imagine. The minaret largely determines the silhouette of the city. This is quite understandable, because it can be seen from far away, no matter from which side we approach Bukhara.

The Kalon Minaret (“Great Minaret”) became the main symbol of St. Bukhara. For a thousand years this sacred tower has dominated Bukhara and proclaimed the greatness of the Islamic faith.

At the foot of the minaret there is the central ensemble of Bukhara – Poi-Kalon (“At the foot of the Great “), which includes the Kalon Mosque (XV – XVI centuries), the Miri-Arab Madrasah (XVI century) and the Amir-Alim-Khan Madrasah (early XX century).

The Kalon minaret replaced the first minaret of Bukhara, which according to the information of al-Narshahi was built in 918 – 919 and dismantled in the 1120s by order of the Karakhanids Arslan-Khan. Many legends are connected with the minaret of Arslan-Khan, the top of which is said to be on the plain of Samarkand.

The creator of the architectural masterpiece, “the pearl of the medieval east”, is the Ustod (master) Baqi. His name is linked to a wonderful legend about a certain architect who did not spare his life to preserve the secret of minaret construction and pass it on to his students.

At the same time, the Poi-Kalon ensemble is one of the most important central squares between the main gardens of Kalon Jome Mosque (the Mosque Cathedral) and the Miri-Arab Madrasah. On the third side, the view of the square is enclosed by a minaret and a vaulted library hall.

The Kalon minaret was built in 1127 by the Karakhanids Arslan-Khan, after the old minaret, which was near the walls of the citadel, was buried and the mosque of the cathedral was moved to the city limits.

The new minaret was built entirely of fired bricks with a fine bond. It has the shape of a 45.5 metre high round tower with a diameter of 9 metres at the base and 6 metres at the top.

The surface of the minaret is decorated with 12 strips of geometric ornaments, one part of which contains Kufi scriptures. The minaret shows the year of construction – 1127 and the name of the architect – Baqi.

According to the legend, Baqi, after laying the foundations of the minaret, suddenly “disappeared” and only reappeared when the solution hardened. He feared that the Khan would rush the construction and it would lead to the collapse of the minaret, as happened in 1121.

Inside the tower there is a spiral staircase with 104 steps, at the top there is a lantern with 16 arches decorated with stalactites. In the past, the upper part of the minaret was located above the lantern, after its loss a modern superstructure was built here.

The upper part of the Kalon minaret was damaged during the artillery fire and aerial bombardment of Bukhara by the Red Army in 1920 and was restored as a result of restoration works.

The Kalon Minaret has another name – “Tower of Death”, which is connected with the fact that it was a place of execution – from its upper platform people were thrown to their death.

The Kalon Minaret was given an original shape, which was later repeatedly imitated. Above the lantern there was probably a second limb of which only the base of the central pivot remained.

The Kalon Minaret is strict, majestic and well-balanced in its monumental, multiple heavy forms. At the same time, it is clearly arranged and filigree in every detail. Its proportions and divisions withstood all earthquakes that destroyed more than one high-rise building in Uzbekistan.

The secret of its stability lies in the empirically correct proportions of its parts, in the construction of its foundations and in the high quality of its masonry. The Kalon Minaret is connected by a bridge to the roof of the Kalon Jome Mosque (the mosque cathedral), from where you can enter the interior of the minaret and climb up a narrow and steep brick spiral staircase with 105 steps to the rotunda.

From the rotunda of the minaret one has a magnificent view of Bukhara, the remains of its walls.

Places of interest
Kukaldash Madrasa in Bukhara

Kukaldash Madrasah in Bukhara

Kukaldash Madrasah in Bukhara

One of the most famous monuments of Bukhara – the Kukaldash Madrasah – is located near the Labi-Hauz architectural complex. This educational institution was built between 1568 and 1569. This is the largest Madrasah in Bukhara and one of the largest similar educational institutions in Central Asia.

The name “Kukaldash” is very common. In Tashkent there is a Madrasah of the same name. The name means “sun friend” or “milk brother”.

The Kukaldash Madrasah in Bukhara has an architectural form and decoration that is completely atypical for the time. Most educational institutions in Bukhara were built schematically according to a model at that time. They were majestic buildings with a luxurious entrance group, surrounded on all sides by huge walls. When Kukaldash was built, this tradition was not respected. The walls around the construction are by no means empty, they have numerous niches and balconies with Ganche ornaments. There are a total of 160 cells on two floors and in the courtyard of the building.

The Madrasah was built during the reign of Abdullakhan II. The financing of this large building project was provided by Emir Kulbab. eser Emir was able to gain the respect and approval of all in his position as a state. This wisdom and diplomacy enabled Kulbab to receive one of the most honourable titles, the title of Kukaldash. Later a madrassa was named after him.

There are speculations that the Kukaldash Madrasah in Bukhara is one of the components of the Labi Havuz ensemble, but this statement is fundamentally wrong. After careful examination of all the buildings, archaeological experts have concluded that Kukaldash is an independent structure.

Kukaldash did not always serve as a Madrasah. Over the years, its purpose changed regularly. There was a moment in the history of the building when it was used as a caravanserai. The most famous and talented masters of the time were involved in the construction of the Madrasah. The Ganch arches are closely interwoven and together form a vault of overwhelming beauty and ornamentation. The gates to the Madrasah are decorated with mosaics that were applied without glue or nails. The front entrance group is decorated with geometrical ornaments.

The Madrasah has experienced many events, including a devastating earthquake. At that time the elements thoroughly destroyed the portal in front of the building, which was then simply fixed with metal brackets.

During the reign of Beklar begi, bricks were used to extend the upper floor of the building and the breathtakingly beautiful sky-blue domes. Nevertheless, the Madrasah has retained its appeal to this day thanks to talented craftsmen who willingly initiated its reconstruction.

Kukaldash is of great significance for modern history because one of the most famous Central Asian writers, Sadriddin Ayni, lived for a long time in one of the cells and created his great works. He died in the middle of the 20th century, but his work is immortal. He left his descendants a large number of important literary masterpieces and today the name of the writer is immortalised on the walls of the Kukaldash-Madrasah – a small monument has been erected inside the building and some of Sadriddin Ayni’s personal belongings and even some of his handwritten texts are on public display.

Places of interest
Labi Hovuz in Bukhara

Labi Havuz ensemble

Labi Havuz ensemble

Labi Havuz (on the pond) is the largest ensemble built in Bukhara in the XVII century. Three buildings of the Kukaldash madrasah (1568 – 1569), Khanaqa Nadir Divanbegi (1622) form the ensemble, in which Labi Havuz is the central organizational element.

The oldest part of this building complex is the Kulba-Kukaldash madrasah, which has 160 cells and is considered the largest in Bukhara. The rooms in the Kukaldash madrasah give an impression of narrowness, overcrowded corridors, stairs, stumbling blocks. The best that the architecture of this madrasah has preserved for us are the constructions and decorative ornaments of the two main halls of the mosque and the darskhana (study rooms), as well as the domed ceilings under the corridors leading from the gates of the madrasah to the courtyard. Particularly beautiful in the madrasah are the carved wooden doors with complex star patterns.

Otherwise it can serve as a model for extreme carelessness in the building trade and negligence of dignitaries who, competing with each other, build charitable institutions but save the maximum.

The Labi Havuz ensemble was finally formed after the construction of the Great Havuz and the Khanaqa (retreat). The banks of the basin (pond), cut into corners, were covered with large blocks of stone on whose ledges the Meshkabe – water carriers whose services were used by the people of Bukhara – went down to fetch water.

The water was used to irrigate the roads, for construction purposes and as drinking water. Picturesque centuries-old trees still stand around the pond today. Shortly after the construction of the water collection pond, a madrasah by Nadir Diwanbegi was built on the other side of the square.

It is interesting with its beautiful proportions of the facade and the remains of pictures of fallow deer, fantastic birds in the arches. The whole courtyard part of the madrasah is a small pattern. The architectural design of Labi Havuz is very attractive.

The inclusion of a huge water level, trimmed with a thick edge of greenery, in the complex of monumental buildings, whose actively connecting beginning is not a traditional square but a water basin, was a new word in the history of Central Asian art and the appeal of this technique under the conditions of the southern city should not be underestimated.

It is said that when Nadir-Divan-Begi built the Khanaqa (place of retreat), a large house belonging to a Jewish widow is said to have stood on the site of the existing havuz. The Divan-Begi decided that this place was ideal for the construction of a water collection basin on the Khanaqa.

He approached the widow with an offer to sell the farm at a good price. But the Jewish woman would not agree to this under any circumstances.

Places of interest
Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan

Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan of Bukhara

Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan of Bukhara

Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan is the last of the largest madrasas of Bukhara (1652), with a large courtyard, spacious darskhona (study room), summer and winter mosques and quite comfortable hujras (a living room for Koranic disciples/students). In a small courtyard, in front of the entrance to the living area of the Hujras, there is a taschnau – a sewage well covered with a stone slab.

The room has a plaster wall that separates the bedroom. The madrasa Abdulaziz Khan, named after its founder, can without exaggeration take a special place in the architectural development of Bukhara.

Abdulaziz Khan, the ruler at the time, ordered the construction of a Persian-style madrasah with a large courtyard to be shared by four aiwans (the most important part of a palace, i.e. the audience hall). The entrance portal, built according to the “Kosh” principle, is characterised by its impressive size, height and rich external decoration.

The aiwan of Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan is multifaceted and decorated with hanging stalactites. Instead of the usual and common geometric, astral and vegetative ornaments, more complex and colourful shapes are used for the covering of the Abdulaziz khan madrasah.

Madrasah Abdulaziz Khan contains images of the Chinese dragon and the lucky bird Semurg (in the mythology of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia Simorgh is the king of birds as well as a bird of protection and is said to have supernatural powers). The colour scheme contains mainly yellow tones. Fireplaces for heating are an innovation.

The names of the master builder Muhammad Sapih, the decorators Mim Hakan and Muhammad Amin are intertwined in the ornament. The Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan is a unique architectural ensemble with Ulugbeg Madrasa, but it is more interesting in design.

The entrance is characterised by its high and rich external decoration. All the building techniques of the time were used in the construction of the courtyard and the rooms: carved tiles and carved mosaics, relief majolica, gilding.

In the last century, the complex was called Zargaron Madrasa, because it was built next to the jeweller’s bazaar (Zargar, Zerger), in front of the Ulugbeg Madrasa. According to the plan of the builders, it was to overshadow the beautiful work of the architects of the XVth century.

In the madrasah Abdulaziz Khan, the variety of decorative ornaments of the main façade and the winter and summer mosques is amazing. Here rather light and comfortable hujras are created for students, and the madrasah is a kind of symbol of the timeless old Bukhara.

In the artistic decoration of the walls of the courtyard and the rooms all decoration techniques are used: carved tile and brick mosaics, relief majolica, marble carving, painting on the ganch, gilding (kundal) and painting with glue colours on the plaster.

There are two mosques in the madrasah – in summer (in the courtyard) and in winter (in the western corner of the entrance corridor). Both mosques are built in the style of the madrasah itself. The same approaches are used in their decoration.

Interesting is the painting of the walls with genre drawings, which was an innovation in the traditional architecture of that time. The paintings are painted with blue paint on a blue background, there are also landscapes with trees and pergolas.

The work on the Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan was not finished. There is no decoration on the left side of the facade and on the right side of the courtyard. In the absence of Abdulaziz Khan, a palace overthrow took place in Bukhara, he was deposed from the throne and work on the madrasah was stopped.

The architectural monument is also a clear historical testimony of the changes that are taking place in the state. On the territory of the madrasah there is a museum of artistic woodcarving.

In its exposition there are dervish sticks (XIX century), caskets, carved doors, shutters, tables, stools for fabrics from pear wood (XIX – XX century). In 1930 the capital of the Madrasa Abdulaziz Khan was restored.

The famous national master usto Shirin Muradov took part in the restoration works. Between 2006 and 2009 the entrance portal was renovated with funds from the Cultural Heritage Preservation Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Places of interest
Bayan Quli Khan Mausoleum in Buchara

Mausoleum Bayan Quli Khan in Bukhara

Mausoleum Bayan Quli Khan in Bukhara

One of the students of Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi was the Genghiside Bayan Quli Khan (died 1358). In 1346 the power in the western part of the Mongolian Ulus Chagatai, to which Bukhara belonged, was taken over by Amir Kazagan.

Amir Kazagan did not belong to the Genghisid clan and ruled in the name of Bayan Quli Khan. When power passed to the son of Kazagan, Amir Abd-Allah, he executed Bayan Quli Khan. Bayan Quli Khan was buried near the mausoleum of Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi.

Around 1358, under the Temurids, the mausoleum of the Mongolian Khan Bayan Quli Khan (died 1358) was built in Bukhara near the honorary tomb of the famous Central Asian scholar Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi (died 1261). The mausoleum is characterised by a rich ornamental decoration with carved cast terracotta.

This two-chamber building consists of Ziyarat-khana (pilgrimage room) and Gurkhana (burial room), with a narrow bypass corridor. The main façade, to which the portal is dedicated, stands out from the others and covers the stocky domes of the building.

The facades of the building and the interior of Ziyarat-khana are dominated by carved cast terracotta (lost in many areas), made of large slabs and in the stalactite filling of the sails – whole blocks.

The ornaments are dominated by girih tiles, imitations on masonry slabs, but above all by the finest plant meshes and bizarre inscriptions. The colour is dominated by light blue, which is complemented by white and blue.

The building above the funeral of Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi (2nd half of the XIVth century) is adjacent to the basement of the mausoleum of Bayan Quli Khan in Bukhara. It is also composed of two chambers (Gurkhana and Ziyarat-khana), but excellent in composition and of considerable size.

Both rooms are crowned by egg-shaped domes; dominated by the dome of the Ziyarat-khana. The side facades are accentuated with vaults in rectangular frames. The burial is marked by a three-tiered majolica gravestone.

The prismatic volume of Mausoleum Bayan Quli Khan in Bukhara contains two rooms: the domed hall – Ziyarat-khana and the dark burial vault behind it, which is encircled on the sides of the corridors, as was customary in Buddhist temples.

The most important artistic value of the mausoleum are the carved cast terracotta and miniature tiles with which it is decorated inside and outside. A gamma of 11 colours is typical of the pre-Temurdish era: blue, manganese black, white and to a lesser extent – blue.

The platform on which the mausoleum stands is lined with a traditional motif: Adobe masonry with inserts of blue glazed “arches” on the vertical walls and its surface is lined with parquet in the form of hexagonal ripples in a rectangular enclosure. Its architectural solution was innovative for its time: it is one of the early examples of a two-chamber mausoleum.

Places of interest
Mausoleum Chashma Ayub in Buchara

Mausoleum Chashma Ayub in Bukhara

Mausoleum Chashma Ayub in Bukhara

The mausoleum Chashma Ayub in Bukhara (and the fountain of the same name) translates as “Job’s spring”. In Arabic, Job sounds like Ayub. The place is sacred to three religions. According to legend, the prophet Job came to the settlement even before the city of Bukhara was built on the site. At that time, the locals were dying of thirst. They had prayed to God for deliverance from the drought. Job, responding to the plea of the suffering people, struck the ground with his staff – and at the place of the blow, a well of pure, cool water appeared. As a result of this magical phenomenon, the locals have attributed new miracles to the well over the centuries. It is believed that the water from the well has healing properties and can make wishes come true. The Orthodox Church of Bukhara regularly reads Akathist prayers at this site.

In one way or another, but unknown events somehow connected to the name Ayub, played a role here in the formation of the city and the emergence of a diaspora of Bukhara Jews. Even in pre-Islamic times, Chashma Ayub was the sacred centre of Bukhara and the “Naukand” cemetery was built nearby.

The mausoleum was built during the Karakhanid dynasty in the 12th century. In two centuries, Amir Temur decided to continue the work started by his predecessors and hired the best masters to transform and improve the construction. The architects who worked on creating the majestic look of the architectural monument were from Shakhrisabz of Khorezm and their individual and unique style can be seen in many features of the building.

During five centuries, from the 14th to the 19th century, the mausoleum was repeatedly rebuilt and remodelled. There are a number of tombs on its territory. The tomb of Khoja Hafiz Gunjori is considered the oldest of them. The famous scholar and theologian was buried here in 1022.

Today, the Chashma Ayub mausoleum in Bukhara is interesting not only because of the ancient tombstones, but also because of the water museum. The museum’s exhibits make it possible to study in detail the process of the emergence and establishment of water supply in the region. One can find ceramic water pipes from the 18th and 19th centuries, a wide variety of containers made of leather, glass and other materials that were exclusively for water, models of water reservoirs and other objects. In the museum you can follow the history of water supply over 10 centuries. In addition, the Water Museum vividly shows the history of the Aral Sea tragedy: with maps of the spreading desert and sad photos. Of great interest to tourists is the unique exhibition of carpets held on the territory of Chashma-Ayub.

Places of interest
Mausoleum Imam Kazikhan in Bukhara

Mausoleum of Imam Kazikhan in Bukhara

Mausoleum of Imam Kazikhan in Bukhara

The mausoleum (the Mazar) of Imam Kazikhan in Bukhara is mentioned in the Book of Mullozoda, where the full name of the Imam is given (Imam Hasan bin Mansur bin Mahmud bin Abdu-laziz Margilani). It is also reported here that “Khazrati Imam Kazikhan” was a judge (Qozi) in Bukhara and wrote several books.

A very interesting legend about him has been preserved in Bukhara. Hulagu Khan came to Bukhara with his troops. He announced his intention to destroy Bukhara if he did not receive a correct answer to the question of who had led him to the heads of Bukhara.

The people of Bukhara asked for forty days to think it over, but could not produce anything satisfactory. Finally, there was a boy in a maktab (school) who undertook to answer Hulagu Khan.

As the time limit was running out and no more honourable solution could be found, they decided to send this boy to Hulagu Khan. The boy asked that a camel and a large white goat be brought to him and that he himself be sent to Hulagu Khan in a palanquin (maofa).

When Hulagu Khan saw the boy before him, he became angry and said, “Have they not found a greater, have they not found a white-bearded old man, that they might send a child to me?”

The boy replied, “If you need someone tall, here is a camel. If you want someone with a white beard, here is a goat. If you want an answer, here it is. Who brought you to us? You were guided by our bad deeds.”

Hulagu Khan was surprised at the boy’s wisdom and said, “I have travelled through many countries and no one to whom I asked this question could give the right answer, but you have found a good answer to which there is no objection. You can ask whatever you want.” The boy asked to be given as much land as the camel’s hide would bear. The boy had a camel slaughtered and its hide split into thin strands and surrounded the city with them. This is how he got Bukhara from Hulagu Khan.

Where the strands lay, he had a wall built. They started to build the wall, but he was gone. Through clumsiness, the builders took the clay for the wall from the city side and that is why the city ended up in a valley, there was no moat outside.

When the boy came back, he was very angry with himself for not specifying where the earth should be taken from: “If you had taken the earth from outside, you would have got an impregnable fortress”.

The boy attained sainthood and became famous under the name Imam Kazikhan. His tomb (mazar) was considered to help with illnesses. The mausoleum of Imam Kazikhan in Bukhara was highly revered and was never ridden past on a horse (you got off the horse when you rode past).

Hulagu Khan in the life of Imam Kazikhan

Hulagu Khan (1217 – 1265, Maraga, Iran) – grandson of Genghis Khan, brother of Grand Khan Munke – the head of the Mongol Empire, founder of the Hulaguid dynasty and state.

It is known that in 1256 Hulagu Khan led the army of Eastern Christians, the majority of whom were Turks – Nestorians, in an unprecedented crusade into the Middle East.

Hulagu defeated the Ishmaelite state in Iran (1256) and the Abbasid Caliphate (1258), fought the Mamluks in Syria (1260) and the Golden Horde (1262). In 1256 he proclaimed himself ruler, although he nominally recognised the suzerainty of the Great Khan, from whom he received the title “Ilkhan” (Khan of the tribe) in 1261.

On the tomb, the years of Imam Kazikhan’s life are given as between 1132 – 1212. If this dating is correct, Imam Kazikhan was 85 years older than Hulagu Khan and could in no way be the boy during his crusade.

Moreover, Imam Kazikhan was buried in this mazar 44 years ago when Hulagu Khan was approaching the walls of Bukhara with his army. So, either the dates given on the tomb are not credible or the meeting of Imam Kazikhan with Hulagu Khan is pure fabrication.

In any case, it is very important that Bukhara has preserved the information about such a unique event as Hulagu Khan’s crusade from the East.

Places of interest

Mausoleum of St. Daniel

Mausoleum of St. Daniel

The Mausoleum of St Daniel (Daniyar) is a unique burial place of the saint, who is venerated in three world religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. It is located on the high hill of Afrosiab, on the outskirts of Samarkand, off the coast of the Siab River. Muslims call him the prophet Khodja Daniyar, the Jews call him the prophet Daniel, and in Christianity he is known as the prophet Daniel.

In the Jewish religion, the prophet Daniel was a close associate of the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar for his success in science, art and wise interpretation of dreams, which brought him fame. In his old age, the prophet moved to the ancient city of Susa, where he died and was buried in the royal mausoleum.

Islam has its own version. The Prophet Hoja Daniyar is considered to be an associate of Kusam ibn Abbas, known as the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. During the military campaign of Amir Temur to Asia Minor, the arriving army was unable to conquer the city of Suza. Local wise men told the surprise invader that the city was protected by the remains of St. Daniel. Amir Temur went to the saint’s tomb to take a handful of the holy land and bring it to Samarkand. On the way home, however, a caravan of camels suddenly stopped near the city. It was a sign from above and there they decided to build a Mausoleum.

After the mausoleum was built, the tomb began to grow over the years and reached a length of more than 17 metres (about 18 metres), according to legend. The Mausoleum of St Daniel was regularly completed and extended, and right at the beginning of the XX century a long rectangular building of the Mausoleum with a chain of five low domes was built above the tomb of the Prophet.

Inside the Mausoleum there is a long Dakhma in which the Prophet is buried. On the grounds of the Mausoleum Complex there is a spring, which is considered to be healing and holy. Many pilgrims drink water from this spring in the hope of healing their illnesses or simply being sanctified. In addition, an Aywan (summer terrace) for prayer was built on the territory of the Complex.

In 2001, the city of Samarkand and its historical architectural and archaeological monuments, including the Mausoleum and the Khoja Doniyor Complex, were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List under the name “Samarkand – Crossroads of Cultures”.

Places of interest
Miri Arab Medrese in Buchara

Miri Arab Madrasah in Bukhara

Miri Arab Madrasah in Bukhara

Miri Arab Madrasah is an Islamic educational and religious institution from the 16th century in Bukhara. It has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Poi-Kalon Madrasah is a part of the architectural ensemble Poi-Kalon (it includes three buildings – Madrasah, Mosque and Minaret). Miri Arab Madrasah is located on the opposite side of Kalon Mosque.

Miri Arab Madrasah in Bukhara was built in the first third of the 16th century by order of Sheikh Sayyid Abdullah al-Yamani Khazaramavti. This sheikh once had a great influence on the ruler Ubaidullah Khan. An enormous fortune was spent on the construction of the mosque: one version – 3,000 Persian prisoners were sold into slavery for this purpose and another version – the resources were obtained in military campaigns.

Even historians cannot agree on the exact date of the construction of the Madrasah. Some say that it is 1535 – 1536 and the rest – that at that time Miri Arab Madrasah had already been built, because before his death Sayyid Abdullah al-Yamani Khazaramavti (he died in 1526) ordered to bury him in the territory of the Madrasah. It is possible that Miri Arab was rebuilt in the years 1535 – 1536, therefore this date is given. By the way, exactly after the death of Sayyid Abdullah al-Yamani Khazaramavti, the Madrasah received the name Miri Arab, which means “property of the Arab”.

Although the construction was carried out in accordance with the existing structural scheme, the ensemble was executed with a certain scope and freedom. The Madrasah has 111 fairly spacious hujras, each consisting of a small living room, a living room with cupboards and a storage room.

The spacious aivans served as summer auditoriums. The grave of the founder and builder of the Madrasah took the place of a large darshana on the main façade.

The size of the Miri-Arab madrasah is 73 x 55 metres.

Its majestic façade is raised on a high platform above the grounds of the Kalon Mosque and is completely covered with mosaics. It is surrounded by massive corner towers. In the centre of the façade there is a high entrance portal with a semi-circular octopus vault and two-storey loggias on the sides.

The corner halls are crowned by turquoise domes. Their high cylindrical drums are decorated with tile mosaics that form the borders and epigraphic texts.

There are two large halls at the corners of the front façade of the Madrasah. In the southern hall there is an audience and a mosque, while in the northern hall there is a necropolis of Sheikh Miri Arab (“Prince of the Arabs”) – this was the name of Sayyid Shams ad-Din Abdullah al-Arabi, who came from Yemen.

In the 80s of the XV century Miri Arab moved to Central Asia and became an apprentice of Khodscha Ahrar. He was the head of the Muslims of Bukhara and enjoyed great authority at the courts of Muhammad Shaybani and Ubaidullah Khan.

Ubaidullah Khan revered Miri Arab as his spiritual teacher. Ubaidullah Khan was the educated man of his time. He freely recited the Koran, wrote commentaries in Old Uzbek, wrote several Sufi tracts, was a gifted singer and musician.

Until 1920, the Madrasah was located in the Emirate of Bukhara (a state situated on the territory of today’s Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and part of Turkmenistan). After 1920, when the Soviet Union came to power, the Madrasah was closed. In 1945, however, Mufti Eshon Bobokhon succeeded in discovering Miri Arab. Until 1989 she was the only Madrasah in the USSR (another one from 1956 to 1961 was in Tashkent, but it was closed because of the accident of the building).

The study in the Madrasah took 9 years, if the first-year student already had a secondary secular education – 4 years. The programme covered secular and religious subjects and was supervised by the Council for Religious Affairs of the Government of the USSR. There were very few students in the Madrasah: between 40 and 80 people studied there every year.

The sights of the Madrasah are the internal open portals, located on the axes of the court and used as summer classrooms. Carved mosaics with predominantly plant ornaments and complex handwriting in the form of a Sülüs were used in the exterior decoration.

It was this Madrasah that gave the Islamic Orient the most enlightened personalities in religious studies, poetry and culture.

In the meantime, the Miri Arab Madrasah has become one of the most important religious educational institutions in Bukhara. It is here that the future Muftis (Islamic jurists) are introduced to all the subtleties of Islam.

Places of interest
Nodir Devonbegi in Buchara

Nadir Divan-Begi Ensemble in Bukhara

Nadir Divan-Begi Ensemble in Bukhara

The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah, which belongs to the Nadir Divan-Begi Ensemble in Bukhara, was planned and built as a caravanserai, and at its ceremonial opening it was declared a Madrasah by Imam Kulikhan (1622 – 1623). The building had to be reconstructed and rebuilt to meet the new title. The one-storey building was extended by one more floor, which was equipped for the stay of students. A portal and loggias also appeared in the structure and some towers were added to the façade. The Madrasse is interested in the fact that the main hall for teaching has not been built.

Therefore, there are no Aiwans in the Madrasah of Nadir Divan-Begi, no Darskhana domed rooms, whose role was played by large corner rooms. The wide and high passage through the portal and the exit to the back courtyard of the house, which is typical for caravanserais, have been preserved.

The portal contained elegant pictures of animals from mosaics. Among them are a few birds of happiness Semurg (Simurg is in the mythology of the Turkic peoples of Central Asia king of birds as well as a bird of protection and is said to have supernatural powers) flying towards the sun. In their strong claw paws these mythical birds keep deer. The portal is also decorated with a holy inscription praising Allah and his prophet Muhammad (S.A.V.).

On the opposite side of the Madrasah is a Khanaka, named after the same vizier. This building was constructed between 1619 and 1620. This building consists of several parts. The main part is a huge, elongated portal, which is decorated with epigraphic representations on the sides. There are hujras on both sides of the portal. The central entrance group of the Khanaka is very simple and modest, decorated in the classical style – decorated with flowers.

The Madrasah is separated from the Khanaka by a huge artificial pond, which is shaped like a rectangle and stretches from east to west. It is the havuz of Nadir Divan-Begi. Its bank looks like large steps in a bright yellow tone. The main material used to build these steps was limestone.

The main façade of the Khanaka is beautifully reflected in the water of the house and also serves as a kind of architectural and decorative screen that completes the perspective. For centuries, a slender portal woven with majolica was reflected in the mirror of the house.

The Masjidi Kalon Mosque is called Khanaka by the Hungarian dervish Hermann Vambery, where in the shade of the trees “actors depicting the exploits of famous warriors and prophets never lack crowds of curious listeners and spectators.

The ground plan of the building of Khanaka is relatively small, compact and square. It is two storeys high, almost completely hidden behind a high portal. Only above the side facades is a slightly elevated dome visible.

The spacious and high hall opens inside. It occupies almost the entire area of the Khanaka, only in its corner massifs are small hujras arranged.

Places of interest

Registan Square

Registan Square

Registan Square is the meaning of ” Sand court”. Registan Square is an administrative, commercial and craft centre of the city in the Orient. Registan Square in Samarkand is one of the outstanding examples of urban planning in Central Asia, which was built between XV – XVII centuries and consists of three Koran schools – Ulugbek Madrasah (1417-1420), Sher-Dor Madrasah (1619-1636) and Tilla-Kari Madrasah (1647-1660). With Registan Square you can “turn the pages” of Samarkand’s several thousand years of history. The entire history of the medieval town is also reflected here. On the north-eastern side there is the Chorsu market place, built in the XVIII century. It is said that all roads go to Rome. There is no doubt that all roads lead from Samarkand to Registan. Six radial roads converged to the square, at the crossing of which the Telpak-Furushon bazaar was built at the beginning of the XVth century. On the northern side of the square Ulugbek built a caravanserai with his name. All streets bordering it were filled with small workshops and benches. Four years after the caravansary was built, Ulugbek built a khanaka on the site where Sher-Dor Medresse now stands. Therefore the market place had to be dismantled. Everyone who enters this square is in a special mood: it seems that centuries later the cries of the craftsmen, the murmur of the Oriental bazaar, the voices of the heralds announcing the decrees of the rulers come here… In the time of Amir Timur, Registan was the most important market place of the city. During the reign of Mirzo Ulugbek it takes on a festive and official character. However, Registan has not lost its importance as a centre of public life, trade and craft activities. Outstanding achievements of the artistic thinking of the XV century are architectural ensembles. The most important urban planning task at present is the architectural design of Registan Square.

Places of interest
Sayf ad-Din Baharzi Mausoleum in Buchara

Sayf ad-Din Baharzi Mausoleum in Bukhara

Sayf ad-Din Baharzi Mausoleum in Bukhara

Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi (1190 – 1261), the disciple of the outstanding Khorezm Sufi Nadschm ad-Din Kubro (d. 1220), preached in Bukhara, where he founded the famous Khanaqa of the followers of Sufism “kubroviyya”.

In Bukhara, Sheikh Baharzi succeeded in converting the Khan of the Golden Horde Berke to Islam. At the end of the nineteenth century, he led a medrese in Bukhara founded by the Mongol dignitary, the Muslim Ma’skd-bek.

The Sufi Khanaqa in Fatkhabad emerged in the early 10th century, apparently some time after the establishment of the Kubrawiyya brotherhood (tariqa) in Khorezm, founded by Nadschm an-Din al-Kubra.

The Qubrawiyya represented the Central Asian school of mysticism, was traditionally Sunni, and extended its activity to the borders of western China, operating into the 18th century.

Sayf ad-Din Baharzi was a murid (disciple) of Nadschm ad-Din Kubro, his follower and disseminator of al-Kubro’s ideas. The Khanaqa practised silent and loud zikr, self-singing, and preached the ideas of al-Qubro – ritual purity, fasting, silence, withdrawal from the world and spiritual remembrance of God.

As in the Tariqa Kubrawiyya, the authority of the supreme sheikh (caliph) in the Fatkhabad community was hereditary; all the descendants of Sayf ad-Din Baharzi were sheikhs and headed the Fatkhabad.

The Sayf ad-Din Baharzi Mausoleum in Bukhara stands out for its grandiose forms, the size of its construction and the extraordinary simplicity and clarity of its architectural idea. It is a building with a more complex plan – with a tomb – purkhona and a space of remembrance – ziarathona.

Two domes above form the profile of the building. The Sayf ad-Din Baharzi Mausoleum in Bukhara is almost unadorned, but the richest decorative element of the monument – a luxurious tombstone standing in the room of the Gurkhan – more than covers it.

This tombstone, with its astonishing delicacy and versatility of pattern, the limitless intricacy of the weaving of the plant ornament and the most intricate ligature of Arabic inscriptions, is a true masterpiece of medieval woodcarving.

After his death, Sheikh Sayf ad-Din Baharzi was buried in Bukhara in the Fatkhabad district. At the end of the XIIIth century, the mausoleum was built over his tomb, to which the domed Khanaqa with portal was added in the XIVth century.

This Khanaqa was a place of Sufi worship until the end of the XVIIIth century. It was a place of Sufi meetings until the end of the XVIII century.

Places of interest
Samani Mausoleum in Bukhara

Secret of Samanid Mausoleum

Secret of Samanid Mausoleum

To the west of Registan Square in Bukhara, in the greenery of the park, situated on the old “Naukand” cemetery, there is a perfect architectural creation – the Samanid mausoleum and the secret connected with it. It is believed to be the tomb of the Samanid rulers, which was built in the late IX to early X century. centuries.

It is possible that the construction of the mausoleum was a response of the Samanids to the call of the Abbasid caliphate, where in 862 the mausoleum of Qubba al-Sulabiyya was built over the tomb of the Caliph of al-Muntasir.

It is important for our topic that these were probably the first Islamic mausoleums in which the original form of the right dome “Qubba dome” was embodied. The secret of Samanid mausoleum lies in its richest brick decoration and exquisite architectural composition, which many scholars attribute to the pre-Islamic culture of the ancient Sogdiana.

This contradiction gave rise to the idea of versions of the earlier construction of the mausoleum and even to interpret it as a Zoroastrian temple of the sun. Let us try to solve this problem on the basis of a semantic analysis of the mausoleum symbolism.

In our opinion, the mausoleum has a main symbolic composition in its arches, which represents its essential cosmogram. This characteristic square sign is symmetrically located on both sides of the entrance to both sides of the mausoleum.

Each of the signs has four inscribed squares in its structure. The inner square is inscribed with a circle. The outline of the outer squares contains 40 “pearl rings”. Within the squares there are also large and small “double-winged” signs.

Let us take care that this composition of signs is a flat projection of the volume solution of the mausoleum itself, i.e. their cosmograms are identical. This idea is suggested, besides the connection “cube-square” and “dome circle”, by the parallel between 40 “pearls” of the sign and 40 arch-shaped openings in the upper outer part of the walls.
In the Samanid mausoleum everything from bricks, floor plan and facades is built on one square and its derivatives. This underlines once again the decisive value of the square in the symbols of the mausoleum. Possibly the influence of the Kaaba image is already very strong here.

Starting from the square, the cosmogram of the mausoleum can then be broken down into three symbols based on the square:

  1. the already known sign “circle in square”,
  2. the sign “square inscribed in the square” and
  3. the sign “two squares with forty pearls”

1. “circle in square” is the original original form of the mausoleum, as shown above.

2. the characteristic feature of the mausoleum is its chortaku-like opening on all four sides, which explained the possibility of the source of its spiritual power.

Probably this idea is expressed by an inner square shifted in orientation, the corners of which indicate the location of the entries. The wings above the arches of the mausoleum are a traditional symbol of spirituality (think of the wings of angels).

The existence of these signs determines the overcoming of worldly vanity at the entrance to the mausoleum, the initiation into the divine. The semantics of the sign “a square inscribed in a square” can also be interpreted as a symbol of the “unity of macro- and microcosm”.

The movement from the small to the large square is magnification, which means macrocosm and infinity of the universe. The backward movement (reduction) represents the microcosm and the spiritual world.

3. “Two squares with forty pearls” refers to the symbolism of the sacred number 40. In the Islamic tradition the fate of the soul at birth and death is connected with it: Forty days the soul enters the body of a newborn child, forty days it does not leave the earth after death.

Considering the purpose of the monument, we can also assume that the “forty pearls” of the mausoleum symbolise the “forty saints” – Chiltan (Persian, Tajik – “forty people”) who protect the world.

The Uzbeks and Tajiks, Kazakhs and Kyrgyz have preserved old legends about “Chiltans” – the forty years of the “secret saints” or “innermost people”. Later, they became intertwined with the Sufi and Ismaelite beliefs and brought Chiltans into the circle of Muslim saints.

Then the square “fence” of 40 pearls on the shield means the protection of the mausoleum by 40 powerful saints, the spiritual connection of the buried saint with them. The image of the 40 light sources (arched windows) illuminating the mausoleum and thus counteracting the darkness corresponds well with the image of the 40 saints protecting the mausoleum.

Furthermore, the sacred number “forty” for Maverannahr and Khorezm was one of the characteristics of the secret association of senders of the Siyavush cult (zhretses’ corporation) in the early Middle Ages.

The image of Siyavush embodied a sun deity associated with a calendar-agrarian cult whose high priest in pre-Islamic Bukhara was the ruler of the region. Thus the cosmogram of the Samanid mausoleum combines Islamic and pre-Islamic symbols.

This is a proof of the two faiths of the population, who officially accepted the new Islamic faith but continued to practice “pagan” rituals, and of the fact that the two were officially recognised by the Samanids.

It is likely that the proclamation of Samanid statehood independently of the Abbasid caliphate in the 60-70s of the 9th century demanded local pre-Islamic religious ideas and symbols in the interest of cultural sovereignty and the sanctification of the new ruling dynasty.

This explains the “secret” of Islamic Samanid mausoleum.

Places of interest

The Afrasiyab Settlement

The Afrasiyab Settlement

Afrasiyab is the name of the legendary and mythical King of Turan and one of the legendary heroes “Shahnameh”, poems of the great Persian poet Ferdowsi. Under the same name is known the place where the ancient Samarkand – its original core – the settlement Afrasiyab was located.

It was one of the first settlements on the territory of the modern city, called Marakanda, and was founded in the middle of the first millennium BC, when it was surrounded by fortified walls.

Turan, in turn, is the name of a vast territory that occupies almost all of Central Asia. At the beginning of the VIII. It was conquered by the Arabs and soon became an important centre of Muslim culture.

In 1220 it was almost completely destroyed by the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan. Afrasiyab was conquered by Alexander the Great in 329 BC. Excavations carried out (with interruptions) since 1874 have shown that life on Afrasiyab was almost uninterrupted from the VI century BC until its destruction by the Mongols in 1220.

The Afrasiyab settlement consists of a citadel, an inner city and a suburb. Residential and craft quarters, a mosque, the remains of a palace from the VII-VIII centuries, where polychrome murals were discovered in 1965, have been opened.

The Afrasiyab settlement is now a huge accumulation of uninhabited hills bordering the modern city on the north side. In the distant past, life was boiling here. For this reason our scientists are very interested in Afrasiyab.

The archaeological research on the settlement of Afrasiyab began at the end of the XVIIIth century. The archaeological research on Afrasiyab began at the end of the XVIII century, shortly after Central Asia was annexed by Russia, with excavations carried out by Borzenkov in 1874 and Krestovsky in 1883.

The first amateur excavations were not of serious scientific importance, but they brought valuable findings. Subsequent archaeological research conducted here has fully confirmed that Samarkand was one of the largest commercial and cultural centres in Central Asia long before our time.

In the settlement of Afrasiyab, beautiful finds of cast and waterless clay tableware, many terracotta statuettes, fragments of ossuaries, glassware, various tools, women’s jewellery, coins and so on were found.

Archaeological finds give an impressive account of life in ancient Samarkand during the many centuries of its existence. It is now proven that the settlement of the urban character in Afrasiyab existed two and a half thousand years ago.

The city was surrounded by mighty fortress walls, within which the citadel of Shakhristan, a jam mosque, dwellings and craft workshops were already located in that period. The territory of the city was crossed by direct stone streets and divided into quarters – Guzar.

The burial mound discovered during excavations in 1965 in the centre of Afrasiyab was of exceptional archaeological value. What was found here surpassed all the expectations of scientists.

Buildings made of raw bricks excavated in the depths of the mound, colourful murals, inscriptions in the Sogdian language, many household items, glassware – from miniature glasses to inkpots – revealed the rich original culture of the ancient city to archaeologists and historians.

In this way, the veil of the mystery of Afrasiyab was lifted. Several buildings from the VI to VII centuries were uncovered. Their walls are decorated with very artistic paintings, painted with glue colours on clay plaster.

In one of the rooms in which the archaeologist Warhotowa conducted excavations, strange genre paintings were found, which are on the walls on three floors. Ancient painters depicted in vivid colours a majestic procession of men and women carrying rich gifts and dressed in festive costumes. Real and fantastic animals take part in the procession.

These genre paintings, characterised by the vividness of the colours, bear witness to the high level of skill of their creators and provide rich material for the study of the cultural history of Central Asia before the Islamic conquest.

On the walls of the palace, which belonged to the ruler Samarkand Ishkhid, a talented artist wrote a great composition. A white elephant with a bell on its neck and in a collection of tassels moves before the procession.

The main figure on the elephant apparently represents a princess or queen. The elephant is followed by three women on horses. The image of one of the female figures is relatively well preserved.

She wears a short red dress, yellow trousers and black boots. Her hands are decorated with bracelets and a scarf is thrown over her shoulder. Behind the women, two men are depicted on camels.

The riders are armed with long straight swords and short daggers hanging from their belts. To their right they see a flock of birds resembling geese or swans. The birds are accompanied by bearded warriors in white clothing, who are led on their horses, and by a young man walking behind the horse.

Behind him on a yellow horse sits a rider dressed in a red caftan of richly decorated fabric. The artist portrays the rider in a disproportionate size compared to other figures.

In all probability the painting depicts a wedding procession. The elephant is brought to the palace to meet the groom of Princess Chaganyan. She is accompanied by her friends and honourable dignitaries.

The large figure of a rider on a large yellow horse seems to be the groom or King of Samarkand or one of his Sons.

There are Sogdian inscriptions on the faces, hands and, above all, on the clothing depicted in the paintings of the above-mentioned figures. A large hall decorated with wooden sculptures was also excavated.

They were charred in the fire that destroyed this building thirteen centuries ago. This contributed to the preservation and conservation of the sculptures. Landscape bas-reliefs were found in other rooms of the palace.

The combination of colours that have retained their brightness and juiciness is fascinating: shades of blue, white, yellow, red and brown. The combination of them does not give the impression of colourfulness. The tones of the wall paintings are harmoniously combined and caress the eye like a bouquet of bright spring flowers.

The subtlety of the drawing, the careful elaboration of all details, the expressive drawing of faces and figures are amazing. Everything points to the centuries-old traditions of art. Particularly striking is the strength and durability of the chemical composition of colours that have survived the test of time.

New brilliant art patterns of the old masters of Samarkand, which surpass everything known so far in their careful execution and colourfulness, have already taken their honourable place in the art history of the peoples of the East.

Places of interest

The Ak-Saray Mausoleum

The Ak-Saray Mausoleum

On the opposite side beside the Mausoleum of Gur Emir is the Mausoleum of Ak-Saray, which is considered to be the burial place of the male representatives of the Temurid family in the second half of the XVth century. The half-destroyed building has kept a compositional core – the cruciform hall above an octagonal crypt.

The Mausoleum is famous for the monumental painting of the interior, which completely covered it. It is one of the best examples of the organic fusion of construction and architectural plasticity of the dome on the intersecting arches and the mesh-like sails.

The walls and ceilings of the ceiling were covered with gilded relief painting “kundal” with the stylised ornament on a blue background. The interior of the hall was surrounded by a mosaic panel with an elegant pattern of flower vases against a background of a diagonal lattice of blue and white tiles.

The slab of the crypt was covered with grey marble. The restoration work to restore the mausoleum is in progress. There is a legend about the mausoleum of Ak-Saray, which says that a decapitated man is buried in the niche that was built near the eastern wall. According to one of the versions it is the burial place of Ullugbek’s son Abdullatif, who was executed after his father’s fall.

Places of interest

The Bibi Khanum Mausoleum in Samarkand

The Bibi Khanum Mausoleum in Samarkand

The inscription at the Bibi Khanum Mausoleum in Samarkand.

“In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious and Merciful. There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet. I testify that there is no God but Allah, and I testify that Muhammad is his Servant and Messenger. There is no God but Allah, the only God who has no equal, the world belongs to him, the praise belongs to him. He gives life and takes it back. He is eternal and immortal: in the hands of his goodness he is the Lord of all things. All will return to you”.

The Bibi Khanum Mausoleum in Samarkand (beginning of XV century) located in front of the Jame Mosque of Bibi Khanum, was built in honor of his wife’s mother and was one of the first to be built in Samarkand under Temur.

The remains of an octahedral exterior and a cruciform one inside the mausoleum of Bibi-Khanym are its components. Madrasa Bibi Khanum also existed in the XVII century.

It is not clear to what extent Malikho’s words about the building of the madrasa (was destroyed by A’Bdullahan (XVI century) in such a way that “nothing of it is left except the mausoleum of Bibi Khanum”.

The Bibi-Khanum mausoleum apparently served as a burial place for women from the Temurid dynasty (it is associated like a mosque with the legendary ruler Bibi-Khanum). According to Clavijo, Bibi-Khanum’s mother was the first to be buried there.

There is no information about the burial of Bibi-Khanum itself (Sarai Mulk-Khanum), although popular tradition refers to this building as Bibi-Khanum’s mausoleum. It is a high octahedral structure with a cylindrical drum surrounded by a large Kufi inscription and an unsaved outer dome.

Inside, under the cruciform Gurkhana plan, there is a marble tomb with three female tombs in sarcophagi. The interior of the mausoleum is decorated with a mosaic panel and paintings on the plafond and walls, where ornamental motifs and stylish landscapes are presented.

In 1941 archaeological excavations of the skeleton and tombs were carried out here. In the years 1956 – 1957 the works on historical-architectural and archaeological research of monuments were carried out.

All tombstones are surrounded by a marble grid set by Ulugbek. The burial in the western part of Gur-i Emir, which was considered to be the tomb of Said Omar, should be called “the tomb of an unknown”, as the inscription on the tombstone itself emphasizes.

The upper tombstone of Temur is made of dark green nephrite, which was delivered by Ulugbek from the upper reaches of the river Ili in 1425. An Arabic inscription is carved into this stone in which it is claimed that Tamerlane is said to have descended from a common ancestor with Genghis Khan.

At the end of the inscription is the legendary tale of the immaculate testimony of one of Genghis Khan’s ancestors by a woman named Alunkuva, “who received him from the light that pierced through the mountain door and appeared before her as the image of a perfect man”, one of the descendants of Caliph Aliya.

This invented relationship with Genghis Khan was written after Temur’s death. By order of Nadir Shah, after the capture of Samarkand in 1740, the nephrite tombstone of Temur and double-winged metal gates were delivered from the mosque of Bibi-Khanum to Mashhad.

After checking them, Nadirshah ordered the stone and the gate to be returned to Samarkand and put “in its place”. The gravestones of other members of Temur’s family fill the following rooms of the building.

During the period of Soviet power from 1924, major renovation and restoration works were carried out on the territory of the mausoleum: the ceiling of the mausoleum was fixed on the lattice girders of the vault, thus removing the pressure of the tombstones on the mausoleum.

Places of interest
Basar Chorsu Samarkand

The Domed Bazaar Chorsu

The Domed Bazaar Chorsu

Behind the Madrasa Sher Dor is the historical Domed Bazaar Chorsu. In the meantime the bazaar has been restored. Chorsu (Chorsu – the covered market, literally – four corners) is a building that is situated next to the Sher Dor Madrasa. The domed bazaar Chorsu is located in the historical centre of Samarkand and is part of the architectural ensemble of Registan Square.
The historical sights such as the Shaybanid tomb stone complex, the Sher Dor Madrasa, the Tilla Kori Madrasa and the Ulugbek Madrasa are in the immediate vicinity.
In translation “Chorsu” also means “crossroads”. It is the common name of the historical bazaars in Central Asia, which has also been preserved from one of the historical bazaars in Tashkent. The building is a hexagonal pavilion crowned by a large dome in the centre and six smaller domes in the centre line of each of the wall surfaces. The chorsu was built in the 15th century at the crossroads connecting Samarkand with Shakhrisabz, Bukhara and Tashkent.
At the beginning of the XVIII century. At the beginning of the XVIII century the building was rebuilt and turned into a headwear shop. The building served as a business and trade centre. Not only various goods were sold here, but also deals and agreements were made.
In the XVIII. In the XVIII century the building was used as a centre for selling headwear. In 2005 the domed bazaar was restored and in order to restore the full height of the building a three meter thick layer of earth was uncovered from the surface.
Today, the Domed Bazaar Chorsu houses a Gallery of Fine Arts which displays works of Uzbek artists and sculptures as well as priceless works from the past. In 2005 the building was handed over to the local Academy of Arts as an exhibition gallery.
Nowadays you can also see the works of contemporary Uzbek authors.

Places of interest

The Hazrat Khizr Mosque

The Hazrat Khizr Mosque

The Hazrat-Khizr Mosque is first mentioned in the period of the Arab conquest of Sogd (beginning of the VIII century). According to legend, after the capture of Samarkand by the troops of Qutaiba ibn Muslim in 712, the Arabs tried to flood the city fortress (Kala) by blocking the Arzis canal with a dam. However, a huge white bird came down from the sky and destroyed the dam. In memory of this event, one of Qutaiba ibn Muslims’ confidants, Muhammad ibn Vasi, built the Hazrat Khizr Mosque on the site of the Zoroastrian temple worshipped by the Sogdians at the southern tip of Afrasiab. The mosque was completely destroyed during the Mongolian conquest in 1220.

The current mosque was built on an old foundation in 1854. In 1884, extension and reconstruction work was carried out in the building. In 1899 the aywan (summer terrace) of the mosque was rebuilt and the Darvazahana (entrance gate) was added. The works were completed in 1919, when the entrance portal and the eastern minaret were built by the famous master from Samarkand, Abduqadir bin Baqi (Abduqadir Baqiyev), and Darvazahana (entrance gate) was covered with a ribbed dome.

The Hazrat Khizr Mosque is an outstanding example of the traditional architecture of the Samarkand school. It is a rectangular structure measuring 30×16 metres. The composition of the mosque is asymmetrical. Its main elements are a winter khanaqa covered with a dome and a column ayvan (summer terrace). In the central part of its western side there is a mihrab with hujras on both sides. On the side of the mosque there is a square entrance hall with a ribbed dome on a multifaceted drum (darvazahana) and a portal flanked by guldasta towers with a carved wooden door from the XIX century. Separated from the building is an elegant oriental minaret. On the west side of the mosque façade there is a Guldasta tower that balances the minaret. The mosque is decorated with ceiling paintings, kirma on plates, carved ganch in ornaments and medallions, ganch casts in frames and stalactite cornice.

Places of interest
Sher Dor Madrasa - Samarkand

The Medrese Sherdor

The Medrese Sherdor

The Medrese Sherdor was built on the site of the Ulugbek-Khanaka, which was created in 1424 in the eastern part of the square opposite the Ulugbek Medrese. At the beginning of the XVII century the Khanaka, together with other buildings of the square, was dilapidated and dilapidated. By order of the ruler of Samarkand Jalangtush Bahadur the construction of Sherdor and Tilla-Kari addresses was started. The Medrese Sherdor (Medrese “with tigers”, ” home of the lions”) was built by an architect named Abdul-Jabbar, the master decorator Muhammad Abbas.

The Sherdor Medrese almost mirrors the Ulugbek Medrese standing in front of it, albeit in reverse proportions. It is characterised by its oversized dome, which may have caused the gradual destruction of the building a few decades after its construction. The walls of the madrasah are covered with quotations from the Koran, the entrance portal shows the coat of arms of Samarkand – leopards with the sun on their backs, in the centre of the arch there is a swastika, and above it there is a special Arabic script on which is written ” The God is Almighty”. The outer and inner facades are decorated with glazed bricks, mosaics and paintings with rich gilding. The decoration of Medrese Sherdor is clearly inferior to the refinement of the Medrese Ulugbek built in the XVth century, which fell into the “golden age” of Samarkand architecture. Nevertheless, harmony of large and small forms, graceful mosaic pattern, monumentality, sharpness of symmetry – all this puts the Medrese in a row with the best architectural monuments of the city.

Places of interest
Ruhabad Mausoleum

The Ruhabad Mausoleum

The Ruhabad Mausoleum

North of Gur Emir Mausoleum there is a Mazar (mausoleum) built over the tomb of the mystic Burhaniddin Sagarji who died in the XIV century. The exact date of construction of this building, known as Ruhabad (“dwelling place of the spirit”), has not been determined.

Due to the nature of the relief tile ornaments around the relocated north door, some researchers date this Mazar to the second half of the XIV century, while others consider it to be a Temur construction from the 1980s of the XIV century.

Monumental brick building with a dome with a central composition: a cube, octagon with windows on the main axes, spherical dome. The main façade is highlighted by arched entrances framed with tiles in carved terracotta.

In 1952, ring anchors were installed here to reinforce Ruhabad Mausoleum and the ceiling was repaired. The sons of Sheikh Abu Sa’id, Sheikh Isom al-Din and other members of the Sagarji family, especially the “Chinese princess” of Sheikh Sagarji’s wife, are buried there.

Abu Sa’id, Sheikh Isom al-Din was (according to the Arab traveller Ibn Batuta) the Central Asian sheikh (head) of the Muslims in Beijing. When he died, his son brought him to Samarkand and, according to his father’s will, he was buried near the tomb of the Sheikh of Samarkand Sheikh Basir.

According to a legend, under the dome of the mausoleum there is a hiding place with seven hairs of the Prophet Muhammad. Next to the Ruhabad Mausoleum there is a summer mosque, the decoration of which was influenced by East Turkestan or Chinese traditions.

Places of interest
Shohi Zinda - Samarkand

The Shahi Zinda Ensemble

The Shahi Zinda Ensemble

The Shahi Zinda Ensemble – a complete city that can compete in beauty with such world famous tombs as the Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal in India. It is a pilgrimage place of the world, where people are attracted by a special spirit, a magical power.

“The venerable and humble women and sisters of Amir Temur wanted to be buried on the threshold of this place, protected by the angels, – writes Abu Tahir Khoja, – and built such buildings here that the azure sky averted the eye of time – they did not see such beautiful and elegant buildings, so the turquoise dome of the sky opened their eyes – the moon and the sun – he did not admire such colour tiles.

A series of elegant, shining blue tomb vaults stretched along the ancient slopes of Afrasiab. Shahi-Zinda – one of the sanctuaries of the Muslim Orient – is a monumental complex of tombs, which was built in the X – XI centuries and today comprises forty-four tombs in more than twenty mausoleums.

The most important sanctuary on the top of the hill is the Mazar, attributed to Kusam, son of Abbas, cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, according to legends and sagas. The ritual of worshipping his tomb was introduced in the past.

There is a legend about him as the Shahi-Zinda, the “living king”. This appearance has been known in Central Asia for a long time and is associated with the image of Siyavush, the “suffering deity”. The roots of this story go back to an ancient cult of suffering and dying deities.

This image has been most popular among women since ancient times. Obviously it is thanks to the worship of “disappeared saints” that this famous necropolis became the women’s burial place for Amir Temur.

According to archaeological excavations, the area of the necropolis was a residential area of the ancient city until the XI century. The foundations and crypts of the first buildings of the ensemble date back to the XII century. century. In the XIII century, after the conquest by the Mongols, the inhabitants left the old fortress and Shahi-Zinda was in desolation for a long time.

At the beginning of the XIV century colourful buildings of mausoleums appeared one after another on the site of the dead city. At the time of Temur’s death, the buildings in Shah-i-Zinda were only within the walls of old Samarkand. Behind the back of the fortress wall, there was a large moat and a precipice.

In the course of time the detached walls were razed to the ground and the buildings of the lower group were erected at the foot of Afrasiab during the rule of Ulugbek. At first a detached mausoleum with two domes and a portal to the south appeared.

For the ascent to Afrasiab a wide staircase was built. The buildings of the lower group were completed between 1434 and 1435. The inscription on the entrance portal informs: “This majestic structure was founded in 838 AD (1434-1435 AD) by Abdulaziz-khan, son of Ulugbek Guragan, son of Shahrukh, son of Amir Temur Guragan.

Mazarishah is very popular among the population. Eyewitnesses reported that the dervishes of the cadmium order passed by here every Thursday of the 1920s. The Jahriya ritual, developed by the great Sufi Ahmad Yassavi (loud Radia), began in the upper mosque, then the participants, without stopping to say “ho” or “huh”, walked down the numerous steps of the stairs to the lower mosque in circular movements.

Before the end of the ceremony, the participants sang religious verses (hoviz). It was believed that the performance of Ziarat on the Mazars of St. Kusam had an amazing influence on the aesthetic mood of the “people of the heart” (mystics).

In 2005, Shahi Zinda Ensemble underwent extensive restoration, during which the fence of the mausoleum streets, which rose on the right side of the path, was removed to open the space where the mosque, early medieval (11th century) madrassas and traces of earlier mausoleums were found.

Places of interest
Mausoleum Shaybanids

The Shaybanid Mausoleum

The Shaybanid Mausoleum

East of the Madrasa Tilla-Kari is the Shaybanid Mausoleum, a stack of tombstones, the oldest of which dates from the XVI century. The founder of the Shaybanid Dynasty was Abul Khair’s grandson, Muhammad Shaybani, who settled in Tashkent in 1500 with the support of the Chagatai Khanate, conquered Samarkand and Bukhara and overthrew the last rulers of the Timurid Dynasty who ruled there. Shaybani then turned against his supporters and conquered Tashkent in 1503. In 1506 he took Khiva and in 1507 he attacked Merv (Turkmenistan), Eastern Persia and Western Afghanistan. The Shaybanids prevented the attack of the Safavids, who conquered Akkoyunlu (Iran) in 1502. The Persian Shah Ismail I of the Safavid Dynasty was alarmed at the success of the Shaybani Khan. He was confronted not only with political interests, but also with religious politics. The fact is that Shah Ismail declared Shiism to be the state ideology and Shaybani-Khan defended the Sunni. In December 1510 at the Battle of Merv, where 30,000 men were waiting for reinforcements, Muhammad Shaybani-Khan came out of the city with the 5,000-man Army and was ambushed. It was surrounded by Shah Ismail’s 17,000-strong army and was defeated despite the stubborn resistance. The decapitated body of Shaybani-Khan was buried in Samarkand, the capital of his empire. Today, Shaybani-Khan’s gravestone is displayed in the Ermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. The Shaybanid Mausoleum was destroyed in the 1870s by the occupying forces (of Tsarist Russia).
After Shaybani-Khan’s death his only son, Muhammad Temur Sultan (died 1514) remained. From the sister (Khanzad) of the Founder of the great Mughal Empire Babur, Shaybani Khan had a son, Khurram, who died some time after his father’s death. In spring 1511 his uncle, Kuchkundzhi-Khan (1511-1530) was elected Khan of all Uzbeks. He was the son of Abulkhayir-Khan (1428-1468) and the daughter of Mirzo Ulugbek (1409-1449) Rabiya Sultan Begim (died 1485, buried in Turkestan). It should be noted, however, that the real power in the country belonged to Ubaidullah Khan, who succeeded in defeating the Safavids and maintaining independence from Iran. Thanks to this, the population retained its Sunni faith. Under the rule of Kuchkundzhi Khan, Samarkand remained the capital of the Shaybanid Empire.  The Uzbek invasion in the 16th century was the last stage in the folk history of the modern Uzbek nation.

Places of interest
Ulugbek Medrese in Buchara

The Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara

The Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara

During the reign of Ulugbek, a descendant of Amir Temur, education developed actively. Ulugbek was involved in educational activities and established many famous madrasas in various cities of the country, including Bukhara with its strict Islamic principles. The Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara was built even earlier than the famous similar educational institutions in Samarkand (Ulugbek Madrasah in Samarkand) and Gijduvan and became their prototype.

The building of the madrasah was built in 1417. The construction was carried out by the best architects of that period – Ismayil Isfagani and Najmiddin Bukhari. However, the madrasah did not acquire its modern appearance with majolica coating until 1585 during the restoration work. Contemporaries remember that Ulugbek, on his first visit to the madrasah, gave expensive gifts to all students and teachers.

Originally, the educational institution built on Ulugbek’s behalf was intended to train 80 apprentices. Much attention was paid here to mathematical and astronomical instruction, the Arabic language and religion. According to historical data, up to 150 students studied here at the same time. They not only had accommodation, but also a decent scholarship.

The structure still looks very harmonious and balanced today. A rather austere and modest decoration does not prevent the building from being majestic and from being considered one of the main works of architecture of that time.

The medrese is a building of impressive size and rectangular shape. The façade of the main entrance is decorated with a large portal. The structure differs in its design from many similar buildings. According to tradition, in most madrasahs the widest central corridor leads to the courtyard. In the Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara this tradition is broken. The corridor starting from the doors is divided into two parts, the first of which leads to the mosque and the second to the study room. The entrance group of the educational institution was decorated with a carved extract from the Koran, which states that every true Muslim must strive for knowledge. This saying was a kind of motto of Ulugbek himself. Next to it there is another inscription saying that the blessing of God awaits those who have grasped the wisdom of the books.

The wise ruler is known throughout the world for his many scientific achievements in the field of astronomy. And the astral decoration of the madrasah reflects Ulugbek’s desire to understand the mysteries of the heavens. If you look at the patterns and ornaments on the walls of the building, you will see that they are used in various techniques – it is associated with numerous restorations of madrasahs.

Places of interest
Ulugbek Madrasa - Samarkand

The Ulugbek Medrese

The Ulugbek Medrese

The Ulugbek Medrese is the oldest Medrese on Registan Square and was built between 1417-1420 by the Temurid ruler and astronomer Ulugbek. The construction of this structure and later the observatory brought Samarkand fame as one of the most important scientific centres of the medieval Orient.

Ulugbek Medrese was built in the western part of Registan Square, some years later Ulugbek Khanaka was built in front of it and the northern side was occupied by a caravanserai. The last two buildings existed for about two centuries and then at the beginning of the XVII century the Medrese Sherdor and the Medrese Tilla-Kari appeared in their place.

The rectangular Medrese had four aywan and a square courtyard with deep niches around its perimeter leading to the rooms where the students lived. The back of the courtyard was occupied by a mosque and above the corner classrooms of the medresse there were four domes and four minarets at the corners of the building. The building faces the square with a majestic oriental portal with a high pointed arch, above which there is a mosaic panel with geometric ornamentation of coloured bricks, irrigation and carved ceramics.

The Ulugbek Medrese was one of the best spiritual universities of the Muslim Orient in the XV century. According to the legend the famous poet, scientist and philosopher Abdurakhman Jami studied there. Lectures on mathematics, geometry, logic, natural sciences, teachings on man and world view and theology were given by famous scientists of that time: Kazizade ar-Rumi, Jemshid Giyas ad-Din al-Kashi, al-Kushchi and Ulugbek himself.

Places of interest
Tilla Kori - Samarkand

Tilla Kori Madrasa

Tilla Kori Madrasa

The Tilla Kori Madrasa was built in the northern part of the square ten years after the Sherdor madrasa on the site of the 1420 caravanserai. The main façade of the square in relation to the building is symmetrical and consists of a central portal and two-storey front wings with arched niches and corner towers. The spacious courtyard is built around the perimeter with small living cells, hudjras. On the western side of the courtyard there is a mosque-domed building with two adjoining galleries on columns.

The Madrasa building is richly decorated with mosaics and majolica with geometric and plant ornaments. The interior decoration is richly gilded, which gave the Madrasa its name, meaning “decorated with gold”. In the gilded mihrab and minbar of the mosque, the surface of the walls and vaults with painted kundal is covered with rich gold.

Throughout its history, the Tilla Kori Madrasa has not only been a training centre for students, but also served as a Jome Mosque.

Places of interest
Handelspassage Abdulla-Khan

Tim Abdulla-Khan

Tim Abdulla-Khan

In the East, trade has always been considered a noble occupation. And in the noble Bukhara, bazaars buzzed and the doors of craft shops were opened hospitably along the streets. But in the XVI century huge covered trading domes were built in Bukhara. One of them, the Trade Dome – Tim Abdulla-Khan, named after its builder, a ruler from the Shaibanid dynasty, still exists today. The trade dome was built in 1577 to sell silk and wool goods. The mall is located on a market street that connects the domes of Toki Zargaron and Toki Tilpak-Furushon.

This huge, square-shaped building with several domes is located on one of the main market streets in the city. Its central dome rises above the octahedral base, between whose pillars lancet arches are thrown. Around the main room there is a gallery covered with many small domes on massive supports. The arched niches form the space of the shopping centre for 56 shopping arcades. All rooms of the dome are connected by a system of spacious vaulted enfilades. Through the window, which is cut in the main drum of the dome, mild light falls and shines in small domes.

An ingenious interior solution created a unique microclimate in the Tim Abdulla-Khan. Air circulation, semi-darkness and refreshing coolness welcomed customers on hot summer days. And it is not difficult to imagine the feelings of the travellers when, after a long journey through salt marshes and sand, their caravan entered the vaults of the hospitable Bukhara, where a well-deserved rest awaited them.

The trading dome Tim Abdulla-Khan was intended for the sale of silk, for which Bukhara was famous even before the Arab conquest. In the village of Zandana near Bukhara, silk patterned fabrics were woven, which were exported to the West under the name of Zandanechi by merchants along the Great Silk Road from Sogd. From the XVIth century onwards, velvet bakhmal was woven in Bukhara with an abrasive pattern of silk. And for several centuries the famous fabric – Khan Atlas, whose craftsmanship has been passed down from generation to generation, from father to son, has been woven from the shelves of the Bukhara bazaars.

The surviving trade buildings were only a small part of the Bukhara streets, which were densely built with shops and workshops in the Middle Ages. But even those that have survived from time to time provide an impressive picture of the historic city in the Orient, where overseas goods themselves served as the best decoration for the shops.

Places of interest

Toqi Telpak Furushon

Toqi Telpak Furushon

Toqi Telpak Furushon (in some sources – Taqi Telpakfurushon) is one of the preserved traditional indoor bazaars of Bukhara. It was built in 1570-1571 under Abdullah Khan II, one of the rulers of the Shaibanid dynasty. It was the Shaibanids who began to make Bukhara an important commercial centre, situated at the crossroads of many caravan routes. The symbol for the achievement of this goal were the trade domes that gathered traders from different parts of the world under their roofs.

The material from which the trade dome was built was ceramic tiles. This unusual structure is a kind of hexagon at the base. Such an urban design solution was very favourable in terms of compactness, as Telpak Furushon was built at a crossroads where five streets converged in one place. Its central part is an amazingly beautiful spherical dome with small openings cut through it. The dome is supported by six pylons, it has 12-sided lighting, tourists are especially interested in viewing the dome from inside.

The diameter of the main dome of Toqi Telpak Furushon is 14.5 metres.

In addition to the main dome, small domes with niches were built above the shopping mall. Around the main dome there were usually storage rooms, caravanserais for visiting merchants and warehouses for products for sale. The exit from the western passage of the Trade Dome leads to Mekhtar Ambar Street, where you can visit the ancient caravanserai of Kuleta, where travellers rested in ancient times. As a part of the historical part of Bukhara, the dome was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

In the XVI century Bukhara became famous as an important shopping centre and the bazaars on its streets began to turn into large markets. The peculiarity of this period was the placement of commercial shops in different streets according to the type of products sold. In order to create the most favourable conditions for trade and merchants travelling on the Great Silk Road, the construction of trade domes – multi-ventilated vaulted ceilings at crossroads and squares called “currents” was started. Merchants from India, the Russian Empire, Iran, China and many other countries came here. It can be said that the trade domes of medieval Bukhara were a prototype of modern shopping centres, but they differed in that in each of them a certain type of product could be bought.

At first the booksellers gathered under the dome of Telpak Furushon. For this reason, its original name was Kitab-Furushon, which literally means “the dome of the booksellers”. Under the domes of Telpak Furushon, the sale of all kinds of headgear for adults and children, men and women, then began: embroidered beads, headdresses made of gold or precious stones, solid Telpaks (fur hats), fur hats, unusual turbans, chuguras (caps made of fur and sheep’s wool) and other such things. They were bought by both locals and foreign visitors. This tradition has been preserved until today. Due to the fact that at one time the direction of trade under the dome was changed, its name was also changed.

The word “telpak” is a traditional headdress made of sheep wool. Toqi Telpak Furushon literally means “the dome of the traders of headwear”.

Today tourists can visit Toqi Telpak Furushon to see a building with a long history and buy various souvenirs, antiques, clothes, scarves made by local craftsmen. In this famous place of Bukhara you can still buy a variety of scarves and beautiful hats. You can negotiate with the sellers and lower the price, although it is not as high as the tourists write.

It is pleasant to walk along the colourful eastern trade rows after visiting the madrassas and mosques of the old town. Moreover, there is always a cool shade under the covered shopping arcades and there is always a light breeze blowing. Not far from the trade dome there is a forge where knives and other tools are made using old technology.

Places of interest

Trade dome Toqi Sarrafon

Trade dome Toqi Sarrafon

The medieval Bukhara was a great trading city, welcoming merchants from all parts of Central Asia, from Iran and India, from Russia and China. The trading status of Bukhara was reflected in the planning and development of the city. Large streets in the centre served as bazaars, each selling a particular type of product. Complex, multiply ventilated domed floors were built for their improvement in the squares and crossroads of the streets, known as “stream” – arches, vaults. Three such structures have been preserved: Toqi Zargaron (trade dome of the jewellers), Toqi Sarrafon (trade dome of the money changers) and Toqi Telpak Furushon (trade dome of the cap sellers).

The majestic trade dome Toqi Sarrafon is located at the intersection of several streets that connect the city centre with a medieval suburb (Registan and Rabat). The structure was named after the Sarrafs – the merchants who transformed it. Traditionally, the exchange of currencies of different states was carried out by Indians. This means that the dome can be considered one of the oldest “currency exchanges” in the East. The main part of the structure – a huge dome – stands on four large arches and on all sides this structure is surrounded by various buildings. The arches are interesting because they are executed in a unique architectural style. Their design is called “charzamin” and this type of finishing is typical for Bukhara. Of course, the modern dome does not gather currency experts, but an unimaginable number of traditional eastern souvenirs are collected here. Travellers will find original jewellery (necklaces, earrings, rings) as well as all kinds of kitchen utensils and appliances and even expensive jewellery, in addition to light-coloured carpets and patterned skullcaps.

Places of interest
Toki Telpak Furushon Buchara

Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron

Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron

The Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron (in some sources Taqi Zargaron) is the most extensive bazaar among the bazaars of Bukhara. It is located north of the other three famous dome bazaars in the city, near the Poi Kalon complex. This majestic architectural masterpiece was built between 1569 and 1570 under the rule of Abdullah Khan II of the Shaibanid dynasty.

The Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron became the first such bazaar in the city after Bukhara was awarded the honorary title of capital of the great state and became one of the important points on the Great Silk Road. The establishment of Bukhara as one of the most important administrative, commercial and craft cities of Central Asia contributed significantly to the prosperity of the dome bazaars. Their establishment made it possible not only to organise a wide range of trade, but also to relieve the central streets in order to make movement in the city as pleasant as possible. The Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron was built on the site of the Chorsu – the intersection of shopping streets and bazaars. Together with other monuments of Bukhara, the trading dome Toqi Zargaron has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as “Historical Centre of Bukhara”.

“Toqi” is the name of the domes of the covered bazaars, which were built at the intersection of several busiest streets. “Zargar” is translated as “jeweller”, so that the Toqi Zargaron dome was also called “Jeweller’s Trading Dome”.

The structure is executed in the style typical of Persian architecture. The dome is quite strongly stretched and the vertical edges of the structure protrude strongly forward, outwards. Around the central space under the dome there were shops of traders and workshops of local craftsmen. Small, overlapping domes were also built over galleries with benches and workshops, creating a multi-domed roof over the rows of merchants. The united galleries under the vault can be described as medieval corridors.

The diameter of the central dome of Toqi Zargaron is 14 metres.

The material used for the construction of the trading dome was ceramic bricks. Toqi Zargaron is, among other preserved covered bazaars of Bukhara, the most complex in terms of construction and arrangement. The space inside is organised in such a way that it remains cool even on hot summer days. No decorative elements were used in the construction, as the most important thing was a constructive and efficient arrangement. The traders’ shops extended from the dome to the Ulugbeg madrasah.

Within the walls of the building there is literally a jewellery kingdom. Once there were 36 workshops of craftsmen and jewellery stands in niches of galleries and pylons. Traditional oriental jewellery was made directly within the walls of the bazaar complex and then sold here.

Here one could buy earrings, necklaces, rings, luxurious headdresses made of movable parts. Traditional earrings from Bukhara consisted of a circle with a large diameter and pendants attached to it. Precious stones and enamel coating served as jewellery. Several different masters were usually involved in the production in different phases of work. The tools and knowledge of working with jewellery were passed on from father to son. It is assumed that gold, silver and copper coins were also minted here, among others for the Emirate of Bukhara.

To a much lesser extent candles and aromatic soap were sold here, which were even more appreciated than jewellery. Carpet merchants, caravanserais for traders and travellers, warehouses for objects were usually located near the dome.

Today, trade is conducted here as it was several hundred years ago. The Trading Dome Toqi Zargaron is a popular attraction. Tourists come here not only on excursions, but also to buy unique jewellery and other silverware made by local craftsmen. Other goods are also sold here: Souvenirs, clothes, tableware, antiques, carpets, books, paintings, coins, musical instruments. According to the travellers’ evaluations, the prices in the covered bazaar are acceptable. As in any market, it is customary to negotiate with sellers and to obtain discounts.

Places of interest

Ulugbek Observatory

Ulugbek Observatory

A suitable site for the construction of an observatory was selected in the north-east of Samarkand. Through the selection of famous astrologers a suitable lucky star was determined for Ulugbek Observatory.

The building was constructed as solidly as the foundation of power and the basis of greatness.

The presentation of the nine heavens and the image of the seven celestial circles with degrees, minutes, seconds and tenths of seconds, the celestial arc with the circles of the seven moving celestial bodies, the images of the moving stars, climatic zones, mountains, seas, deserts and everything connected with them were presented in the delightful drawings and depictions of the incomparable interior of the rooms of the elevated building.

This is what the historian Abd al-Razzaq wrote about this observatory in 1428-1429. The observatory was equipped with the best and most perfect instruments of the time.

It was a huge three-storey building, cylindrical in shape with a diameter of about 50 metres and a flat roof, which housed some astronomical instruments.

The plan of the building was quite complex: there were large halls, rooms, corridors, corridors connecting these rooms, etc. In the centre of the observatory was the main instrument – a magnificent marble sextant (possibly a quadrant) with a radius of 40.2 metres, mounted in the meridian plane.

Only the lower part of the instrument arch, divided into degrees, was preserved. The instrument is installed in a trench cut into the rock, about 2 metres wide and 11 metres deep. A part of it was lifted above the ground surface.

It consisted of two parallel stone arches lined with marble slabs of appropriate curvature. The Ulugbek Observatory determined the most important constant values in astronomy: ecliptic inclinations, equinoctial points, duration of the sidereal year and other values derived from observations of the Sun, the planets and the Moon.

Most probably Ulugbek made observations of stars with small armillary spheres, which have not been preserved. The huge size of the sextant, its successful construction and the unsurpassed skills of Samarkand astronomers ensured that the observations were highly accurate.

For example, the stellar year duration of Ulugbeg was determined in 365 days 6 hours 10 minutes 8 seconds. The actual value is 365 days 6 hours 9 minutes 6 seconds, i.e. Ulugbek was only mistaken by 62 seconds or 0.0002%!

The observatory’s most important work, the so-called New Astronomical Tables (Sidge and Jedi and Guragoni), contains a theoretical overview of astronomy and a catalogue of the positions of 1018 stars (published in Oxford in 1665).

Among Ulugbeg’s numerous observations, the table of geographical coordinates of 683 different settlements in the world is of great interest.

After the assassination of Ulugbek, the observatory, as the embodiment of his rule and enlightenment, was ruthlessly destroyed by religious fanatics. Already in the XVI century it was completely transformed into a heap of rubble. For a long time the exact location of the observatory remained unknown.

Only in 1908 Vyatkin managed to find its remains thanks to a document from the XVII century, which gave certain indications about the location of the observatory. During these excavations traces of a round wall in a brick and a part of the main tool were found.

No other astronomical instruments were found. In 1915 a vaulted ceiling was built over the excavated trench with part of the sextant to preserve the finds. The study of the observatory did not get a wide range until the Soviet period.

As a result of Sucharev’s excavations in 1941, and in particular the excavation of Shishkin in 1948, what was left of the once famous Arab observatory was opened to the public.

The poet Alisher Navoi wrote about Ulugbek
“All his conspecifics have been forgotten; who remembers them today?
But he, Ulugbeg, stretched out his hand to the sciences and achieved a lot”.

Next to the remains of the observatory there is a small museum with excerpts from the famous “Gurgan plates” – plates with information about the stars promoted by Ulugbek and his comrades-in-arms, engravings that testify to Ulugbek’s high authority among European scientists, a small collection of astronomical instruments where you can learn more about Ulugbek and the scientific methods he used.

Places of interest
Zindan in Buchara

Zindan in Bukhara

Zindan in Bukhara

“Zindan” in Persian means “prison”, “dungeon”, a pit for prisoners in Bukhara. The prison of the XVIII century was built on the north-western corner of the old Sharhistan.

Externally Zindan looked like a small fortress. Zindan consisted of several cells for debtors, individual cells and a six meter deep hole, the so-called black hole, where prisoners and food for them were lowered down on ropes. There were only two zindan (prisons) in Bukhara.

One of them was inside the Ark Fortress and political prisoners were held there.

The Persian word “zindan” means “underground, in the darkness”. Twice a month the prisoners were taken to Registan Square in front of the Ark, where the Emir decided which of the criminals were to be executed and which were to be pardoned.

Today in Zindan there are several rooms with dummies representing prisoners and also a torture chamber with instruments of torture. The museum’s exhibitions provide information about the court proceedings in the Emirate of Bukhara in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

On the territory of the prison there is a tomb of the most dignified prisoners “Kuchkar-Ata” (VIII century). Behind the Ark Fortress (from the north-east) there is a medieval prison building – “Zindan”.

In this high building, which resembles a fortress, there is a museum today. In the past the prison consisted of two parts. In the first part the prisoners were housed in cells, which were located in several courtyards.

In the second, the criminals were in deep pits where they were lowered with ropes. This is where the name “zindan” comes from, which in Persian means “underground, darkness.