Theme Week Uzbekistan – Bukhara

Friday, 24 April 2020 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  15 minutes

Poi Kalon Ensemble © flickr.com - Fulvio Spada/cc-by-sa-2.0

Poi Kalon Ensemble © flickr.com – Fulvio Spada/cc-by-sa-2.0

Bukhara is a city in Uzbekistan. Bukhara is rich in historical sites, with about 140 architectural monuments. The city served as the capital of the Samanid empire and Khanate of Bukhara and was the birthplace of Imam Bukhari. The nation’s fifth-largest city, it had a population of 247,644 as of 31 August 2016. But according to the Statistics of O’zStatQo’m Department the City is the second largest after Tashkent by number of people who migrate. Number of daily migrants is 4,752,000 as of 22nd April 2018. People have inhabited the region around Bukhara for at least five millennia, and the city has existed for half that time. The mother tongue of the majority of people of Bukhara is Tajik. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long served as a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. UNESCO has listed the historic center of Bukhara (which contains numerous mosques and madrasas) as a World Heritage Site.

  • Po-i-Kalyan Complex
    The title Po-i Kalan (meaning the “Grand Foundation”) belongs to the architectural complex located at the base of the great minaret Kalân.

    Kalyan minaret. More properly, Minâra-i Kalân, (Persian/Tajik for the “Grand Minaret”). Also known as the Tower of Death, as according to legend it is the site where criminals were executed by being thrown off the top for centuries. The minaret is the most famed part of the ensemble, and dominates over historical center of the city. The role of the minaret is largely for traditional and decorative purposes—its dimension exceeds the bounds of the main function of the minaret, which is to provide a vantage point from which the muezzin can call out people to prayer. For this purpose it was enough to ascend to a roof of mosque. This practice was common in initial years of Islam. The word “minaret” derives from the Arabic word “minara” (“lighthouse”, or more literally “a place where something burn”). The minarets of the region were possible adaptations of “fire-towers” or lighthouses of previous Zoroastrian eras. The architect, whose name was simply Bako, designed the minaret in the form of a circular-pillar brick tower, narrowing upwards. The diameter of the base is 9 meters (30 feet), while at the top it is 6 m (20 ft). The tower is 45.6 m (150 ft) high, and can be seen from vast distances over the flat plains of Central Asia. There is a brick spiral staircase that twists up inside around the pillar, leading to the landing in sixteen-arched rotunda and skylight, upon which is based a magnificently designed stalactite cornice (or “sharif”).

    Kalân Mosque (Masjid-i Kalân), arguably completed in 1514, is equal to the Bibi-Khanym Mosque in Samarkand in size. The mosque is able to accommodate twelve thousand people. Although Kalyan Mosque and Bibi-Khanym Mosque of Samarkand are of the same type of building, they are different in terms of art of building. Two hundred and eighty-eight monumental pylons serve as a support for the multi-domed roofing of the galleries encircling the courtyard of Kalyan Mosque. The longitudinal axis of the courtyard ends up with a portal to the main chamber (maksura) with a cruciform hall, topped with a massive blue cupola on a mosaic drum. The edifice keeps many architectural curiosities, for example, a hole in one of domes. Through this hole one can see foundation of Kalyan Minaret. Then moving back step by step, one can count all belts of brickwork of the minaret to the rotunda.

    Mir-i Arab Madrassah (1535–1536). The construction of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah (Miri Arab Madrasah) is ascribed to Sheikh Abdullah Yamani of Yemen—called Mir-i-Arab—the spiritual mentor of Ubaidullah-khan and his son Abdul-Aziz-khan. Ubaidullah-khan waged permanent successful war with Iran. At least three times his troops seized Herat. Each of such plundering raids on Iran was accompanied by capture of great many captives. They say that Ubaidullah-khan had invested money gained from redemption of more than three thousand Persian captives into construction of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah. Ubaidullah-khan was very religious. He had been nurtured in high respect for Islam in the spirit of Sufism. His father named him in honor of prominent sheikh of the 15th century Ubaidullah al-Ahrar (1404–1490), by origin from Tashkent Region. By the thirties of the 16th century the time, when sovereigns erected splendid mausoleums for themselves and for their relatives, was over. Khans of Shaibanid dynasty were standard-bearers of Koran traditions. The significance of religion was so great that even such famed khan as Ubaidullah was conveyed to earth close by his mentor in his madrasah. In the middle of the vault (gurhana) in Mir-i-Arab Madrasah is situated the wooden tomb of Ubaidullah-khan. At his head is wrapped in the moulds his mentor, Mir-i-Arab. Muhammad Kasim, mudarris (a senior teacher) of the madrasah (died in 1047 hijra) is also interred near by here. The portal of Miri Arab Madrasah is situated on one axis with the portal of the Kalyan Mosque. However, because of some lowering of the square to the east it was necessary to raise a little an edifice of the madrasah on a platform.
Ark fortress © RK/cc-by-sa-4.0 Ark fortress © Stomac/cc-by-sa-2.0-fr Bakha ad Din © Stanislav Kozlovskiy/cc-by-3.0 Carpet Market with Kalayan mosque in the background © LBM1948/cc-by-sa-4.0 Courtyard of Amulet_Bed-and-Breakfast, a 19th century Medressa © flickr.com - Adam Jones/cc-by-sa-2.0 Uzbekistan-Bukhara-Kalon_ Ensemble-Euyasik-cc-by-sa-3.0 Kalon mosque © flickr.com - Jean-Pierre Dalbéra/cc-by-2.0 Poi Kalon Ensemble © flickr.com - Fulvio Spada/cc-by-sa-2.0
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Courtyard of Amulet_Bed-and-Breakfast, a 19th century Medressa © flickr.com - Adam Jones/cc-by-sa-2.0
  • Lab-i Hauz Complex
    The Lab-i Hauz (meaning by the pond) Ensemble (1568–1622) is the name of the area surrounding one of the few remaining hauz, or pond, in the city of Bukhara. Several such ponds existed in Bukhara prior to Soviet rule. The ponds acted as the city’s principal source of water, but were also notorious for spreading disease, and thus were mostly filled in during the 1920s and 1930s by the Soviets. The Lab-i Hauz survived owing to its role as the centerpiece of an architectural ensemble dating back to the 16th to 17th centuries. The Lab-i Hauz ensemble consists of the 16th-century Kukeldash Madrasah, the largest in the city, along the north side of the pond. On the eastern and western sides of the pond are a 17th-century lodging-house for itinerant Sufis, and a 17th-century madrasah. There is also a metal sculpture of Nasruddin Hodja, the quick-witted and warm-hearted man, who forms the central character of many children’s folk stories in Central Asian, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, sitting atop his mule with one hand on his heart and the other with an ‘All OK’ sign above his head.
  • Bahoutdin Architectural Complex
    Bahoutdin Architectural Complex is a necropolis commemorating Shaykh Baha-ud-Din or Bohoutdin, the founder of Naqshbandi order. The complex includes the dahma (gravestone) of Bahoutdin, Khakim Kushbegi mosque, Muzaffarkan mosque, and Abdul-Lazizkhan khanqah. The site is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site tentative list on January 18, 2008.
  • Bukhara Fortress, the Ark
  • Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
    Chashma-Ayub, or Job‘s spring, is located near the Samani mausoleum. Its name is said to reflect a legend that states the prophet Job (“Ayub” in the Quran) visited this place and brought forth a spring of water by the blow of his staff on the ground. The water of this well is said to be exceptionally pure, and is regarded for its supposed “healing qualities.” The current edifice at the site was constructed during the reign of Timur, and features a Khwarazm-style conical dome that is otherwise uncommon in the region.
  • Ismail Samani mausoleum
    The Ismail Samani mausoleum (9th–10th centuries), is one of the most highly esteemed work of Central Asian architecture. It was built in the 9th century (between 892 and 943) as the resting-place of Ismail Samani—the founder of the Samanid dynasty, which was the last native Persian dynasty to rule the region in the 9th to 10th centuries, after the Samanids established virtual independence from the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad. The site is unique for its architectural style which combines both Zoroastrian and Islamic motifs. The building’s facade is covered in intricately decorated brick work, which features circular patterns reminiscent of the sun—a common image in Zoroastrian art from the region at that time which is reminiscent of the Zoroastrian god, Ahura Mazda, who is typically represented by fire and light. The building’s shape is cuboid, and reminiscent of the Ka’aba in Makkah, while the domed roof is a typical feature of mosque architecture. The syncretic style of the shrine is reflective of the 9th to 10th centuries—a time when the region still had large populations of Zoroastrians who had begun to convert to Islam around that time. The shrine is also regarded as one of the oldest monuments in the Bukhara region. At the time of Genghis Khan’s invasion, the shrine was said to have already been buried in mud from flooding. Thus, when the Mongol hordes reached Bukhara, the shrine was spared from their destruction. The mausoleum of Pakistan’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, known as the Mazar-e-Quaid in Karachi, was modeled after the shrine.
  • Bolo Haouz Mosque
    Built in 1712, on the opposite side of the citadel of Ark in Registan district, Bolo Haouz Mosque is inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list along with the other parts of the historic city. It served as a Friday mosque during the time when the emir of Bukhara was being subjugated under the Bolshevik Russian rule in 1920s.
  • Char Minar
    Char Minor (alternatively spelled Chor Minor, and also alternatively known as the Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul) is a building tucked away in a lane northeast of the Lyabi Hauz complex. The structure was built by Khalif Niyaz-kul, a wealthy Bukharan of Turkmen origin in the 19th century under the rule of the Janid dynasty. The four-towered structure is sometimes mistaken for a gate to the madras that once existed behind the structure; however, the Char-Minar is actually a complex of buildings with two functions, ritual and shelter. The main edifice is a mosque. In spite of its unusual outward shape, the building has a typical interior for a Central Asian mosque. Owing to the buildings cupola, the room has good acoustic properties and therefore takes on special significance of ‘dhikr-hana’—a place for ritualized ‘dhikr’ ceremonies of Sufi, the liturgy of which often include recitation, singing, and instrumental music. On either side of the central edifice are located dwelling rooms, some of which have collapsed, leaving only their foundations visible. Consequently, for full functioning of madrasah only of classroom and some utility rooms is lacking. However, it was common practice that so-called madrasahs had no lecture rooms or, even if they had, no lectures had been given in them. These madrasahs were employed as student hospices. Each of the four towers has different decorational motifs. Some say that elements of decoration reflect the four religions known to Central Asians. One can find elements reminiscent of a cross, a Christian fish motif, and a Buddhist praying-wheel, in addition to Zoroastrian and Islamic motifs. In 1995, due to an underground brook, one of the four towers collapsed and emergency assistance was applied for and granted by UNESCO under the World Heritage Fund. Although the collapse resulted in destabilizing the entire structure, the authorities were anxious to keep awareness of the disaster to a minimum. Without explanation the building disappeared from the list of sights and after hurried reconstruction of the tower “using non-traditional building material, such as poor quality cement and steel” Char Minar returned as one of the most popular sights of the city, yet the event has been kept secret ever since. On the esplanade to the right from Char-Minar is a pool, likely of the same age as the rest of the building complex. Char Minar is now surrounded mainly by small houses and shops along its perimeter.
  • Magok-i-Attari Mosque
    The former Magoki Attori mosque was constructed in the 9th century on the remains of what may have been an older Zoroastrian temple. The mosque was destroyed and rebuilt more than once, and the oldest part now remaining is the south façade, which dates from the 12th century—making it one of the oldest surviving structures in Bukhara, and one of few which survived the onslaught of Genghis Khan. Lower than the surrounding ground level, the mosque was excavated in 1935. It no longer functions as a mosque, but, rather, houses a carpet museum.
  • Mosque of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani
    In Bukhara there is a mosque which is said to be that of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani, the patron saint of Kashmiri Muslims in the Valley of Kashmir.

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on Uzbekistan.travel – Bukhara, LonelyPlanet.com – Bukhara, unesco.org – Historic Centre of Bukhara, Wikitravel Bukhara, Wikivoyage Bukhara and Wikipedia Bukhara. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.








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