In the centre of Bukhara there is a historic Mosque called Magoki Attori, which is unique in many ways as it has preserved the original building plan and decor. Scholars have determined that the mosque was built before Islam and was one of the earliest in Bukhara. On the construction site Magoki-Attori was the temple of the fire worshippers, a temple of the moon, so it was given the second name – Mosque Moh (Persian – Mah, Tajik – Moh – the Moon). Before the first synagogue was built, Jews worshipped in the same mosque as Muslims. Nearby was the Moon Market and there was a brisk trade in medicines and spices. During the celebration of Nowruz, a large number of figures of various deities of the Zoroastrian religion were displayed in this bazaar, representing a rich harvest and fertility.
In the last works of Narshakhi, the mosque built on the site of the Moon Temple is called “Magok”, meaning “in a pit”, so the locals considered it to be an underground mosque, from here and its name Magoki Attori.
After the introduction of Islam, the Temple of the Fire Worshippers was destroyed and a mosque was built in its place. Archaeological findings in the area have led scholars to conclude that the approximate date of construction of this structure is from the IX century.
In an attempt to reconstruct the original construction of the mosque, archaeologists found that it was built with six supporting columns and a massive dome of twelve. An arch with elaborate carving resting on two stone pillars was built for the main entrance. It was located in the long part of the building and was slightly off-centre.
Unfortunately, the original Magoki-Attori building was almost completely destroyed by fire at the end of the X century. Nowadays, only the remaining elements of the walls and fragments of the carved ganch can be seen. Two centuries later, the prayer house was rebuilt using the same construction plan. The new mosque existed for about three centuries and was destroyed during this time. All that remains of this structure is the south portal with its unique decoration.
In the construction of the Magoki Attori Mosque in Bukhara, the builders successfully combined brick patterns in the form of “arches” with glazed inserts and terracotta mosaics. Vertically arranged panels were massively covered with inscriptions in Arabic, as well as generously decorated with reliefs. The unusual shape of the patterns and the original play of shadows on them suggest a high level of artistry on the part of Bukhara architects of the time.
In 1547, when the mosque was rebuilt, the ground level around it grew so much that it was necessary to build a new entrance and make a descent in the form of a wide staircase.
At that time, the south portal was already 6 to 8 metres into the ground. In the 1920s, the portal was excavated, its destroyed upper and lateral parts were reinforced, and the façade was cleaned and partially restored.