Bukhara is one of Uzbekistan’s ancient cities, emerged on the sacred hill, a place of sacrifice gifts. Bukhara is a “star of Muslim world”, well-known with its 360 mosques, each on the every street. This city is 2500 years old and it reserves all peculiarities and pictures of Muslim Asia. It consists of narrow streets, green parks and gardens, historical and architectural monuments belong to the different epochs, but locate very close to each other. With its ancient history and its spectacular architecture, Bukhara is a natural focus for efforts to promote preservation of cultural heritage. Bukhara’s historically significant Jewish community flourished for many years before this century, making Bukhara an example of religious tolerance as well. The city’s most famous landmark, the Kalyan Minaret (dating back to 1127), is the greatest remnant of truly old Bukhara; Genghis Khan destroyed most of the city, but left the minaret standing, supposedly because he was struck by its beauty.
Historical monuments of Bukhara
Poi Kalon is the central ensemble of Bukhara. Poi-Kalyan means “the pedestal of the Great” (it means “the pedestal of Kalyan minaret”).
Kalan Minaret is a masterpiece of medieval architecture in Bukhara famous throughout Central Asia. It embodied to perfection the idea of the Central Asian minarets as a round tower with an inside spiral ladder, somewhat wider toward the bottom and topped by a clerestory aperture and a stalactite cornice. Half-way up its height one can read the name of the ruler, Arslan Khan, and the date, 1127. The Kalan is visible many miles from Bukhara. The Architectural ensemble Poi-Kalon includes the cathedral mosque Masjidi-Kalon (first half of the 15th century) with 288 dombs, built on the brick columns, the Miri-Arab Madrassah (1535-1536) – one of the best monuments of Bukhara, and Amir Alim Khan Madrassah (beginning of the 20th century).
Kalyan Mosque (early 16thc.)
Today’s Kalyan Mosque was built at the beginning of the 16th century, at the first Shaybanids. Since that time, except for Soviet time, it has operated as cathedral mosque of Bukhara.
The mosque replaced the old Qarakhanid cathedral mosque of the 12th century, which was built simultaneously with Kalyan Minaret. Kalyan Mosque is traditionally rectangular in layout and has four aivans. Aivan at the entrance has external portal fronting the Poi-Kalyan Square and internal portal overlooking the courtyard. Arched galleries with 288 domes go on perimeter of the court yard. They are based on 208 columns.
Miri-Arab Madrassah (16thc.)
Active Miri-Arab Madrassah is located opposite to Kaiyan Mosque. This is one of the most esteemed spiritual Islamic universities on the post-Soviet territory. It was constructed at the Shaybanids in the 16th century in account of trophies the nephew of Shaybani-khan, Ubaidallah-khan (died in 1539) took. Khan gave them to his teacher and head of Bukhara Muslims Miri-Arab (“Prince of Arabs”). The last came from Yemen and was a pupil of Khodja Akhrar. Madrassah has traditional layout-two floors of hudjras surround four-aivan courtyard.
Citadel of Ark
Ark This bulwark of Bukhara’s last emirs was built in the beginning of the 1st millennium. Since the 7th century, the Ark has been the heart of the feudal city with its palace, chancellery, prison, treasury, and shrine. The Registan Square emerged to the west of the Ark, and there feudal lords built thousands of fortified castles amidst lush gardens. Here, around the Ark, the city of Bukhara’s central square, called the Shakhristan, was laid out. The Rabad, the city of merchants, then grew up behind the Shakhristan’s walls. Today the Bukhara Museum stands within the Ark.
According to the last excavations, it was determined the citadel was on this place from 4 century BC. For many years of building and destruction, 20 meters height artificial hill was formed; its upper layers were built over in the time of last bokharan emirs. The wooden part of Ark building was burnt down during the fire of 1920. The general planning is being reestablished by historical documents.
To the south of entrance from the dalon, there is the most interesting of reserved monuments – throne-room of Bukharan emir, drawing room for ceremonies and festivals. It was vast, brick-paved yard surrounded by ayvans on well-proportioned wooden pillars from 3 sides. On the long axis yard in deep ayvan there is emir throne. This marble “takht” dated to 1669, under painted, wooden canopy on fretted marble pillars, was made by Nuratian masters.
In the past Registan Square was occupied by numerous beautiful buildings. Today there is only monument of medieval Bukhara – the Bolo-Hauz Ensemble. It is a classic sample of Central Asian mosque: the winter building of 1712, summer aivan of the early 20th century with ornamented ceiling and wooden columns, small minaret constructed in 1917 by usto Shirin and small basin.
The brightest feature of mosque is decor of aivan which columns are made from two trunks each and have stalactite capitals.
The Samanids Mausoleum
It is the first building in the Central Asia, built out of the burnt brick. The burial-vault was built by sultan Ismail Samani’s order at the end of the 9th and at the beginning of the 10th century. Ismail Samani, the head of the dynasty, commissioned the construction of the mausoleum above the tomb of his father, and he himself is buried here as well, together with his grandson Nasra. Mausoleum was built it the form of cube, covered by cupola. Regarding the mythology – cube is the symbol of steadiness, symbol of the Earth, the cupola is the symbol of the sky.
This combination is the symbol of the Universe. The mausoleum is considered to be the masterpiece of the medieval architecture. The monument is unique in many aspects. Here for the first time, such building materials as baked brick of standard format are held together with a special ganch-based solution, providing the required strength. As Bukhara at the time was a world center for science, the most precise mathematical calculations were applied. The level of precision and the intricacy of the structure and layout are simply stunning.
Architectual ensemble Lyabi-hauz is formed with three large monumental buildings: Kukeldash Madrassah in the north, khanaka and Nodir Divan-begi in the west and in the east. From the south the square was closed with Trade Street. The center of old Bukhara large ensemble became a reservoir. The name «Laybi-khauz» means «at reservoir». Lyabi-Hauz (lit. “shore of pool”) is very popular among travelers. It is the largest artificial reservoir of medieval Bukhara. It was installed around 1620 between khanaka and madrassah, constructed by the order of khan’s vizier Nadir Divan-beghi.
Central Asia’s largest madrassah, Kukeldash, its area 95 x 76 yards, was built in 1568-1569; it houses 130 ‘khudzhras’ (cells for living and learning). The madrassah’s originality stems from the arcades running all along the second floor of the flanking facades. This square, Lyabi-Khauz, is second in size only to the Registan.
Memorial complex of Naqshbandi
The Memorial Complex of Khoja Bakhautdin Naqshbandi is one of the most important Muslim shrines. Every self-respecting Muslim knows and reveres this name. The great theologian of the XIV century, founder of the Sufi Order “Naqshbandia” was buried 12 km from Bukhara in his native village of Kasri Orifon. Some time ago there was the pagan temple of the site of current tomb of Naqshbandi.
Memorial complex of Bahaaddin Naqshband had been forming for five centuries. The rectangular courtyard with the tomb of sheikh forms its center. Memorial mosques of the 19th century adjoin the courtyard. Modern aivan with wooden columns surrounds the courtyard on perimeter. Necropolis of the Shaybanid governors Iskander-khan (died in 1583) and his son Abduliah-khan II (died in 1598) is located at the entrance. The largest building is khanaka with huge dome on arches. Khanaka was named after Abdalaziz-khan (died in 1550) from Shaybanids who ordered to build it.
Sitorai Mokhi-Khossa (Emir’s Summer Palaceslate 19th c. – early 20th cc.)
The most beautiful of the monuments in the Bukhara countryside are the palaces of the last emirs, the Sitorai Mokhi-Khossa north of town. In the late 19th century, a palace was built in a huge garden, and construction of a harem, greenhouse, large water-reservoir and a second palace continued on the site until 1917.
The palace contains the wonderful interiors of the Waiting Room and the White Hall with their excellent murals and carved “ganch” (alabaster) on mirror-panels designed by the painter Khasandjan, master Shirin Murodov, and folk craftsmen of Uzbekistan who were sent to Petersburg and Yalta to study Russian architecture. Using Russian experience, local architects with usto Khodja Hafiz at the head built a rich building that had combined local Bukhara and European traditions. Its throne hall for royal receptions made a core of the palace.
After revolution of 1920, Sitorai-Mohi-Hosa was used for sessions of supreme state body of Bukhara National Republic (1920-1924) – all-Bukhara Kurultai.
Toki-Zargaron, Toki-Sarrafon, Toki-Tilpak-Furushon – shopping mall in Bukhara
Bazaars, important centers of urban life in the medieval East, were a system of roofed streets. Medieval Bukhara was a big business city receiving merchants from Central Asia, Iran and India, Russia and China. The trading status of Bukhara influenced its planning and architecture. Bukhara is divided into two unequal parts by a trading avenue which has cupolas at the crossing points. Today, one can see only three of the five original cupolas from the 16th century, namely: Toki Sarrafon (the Dome of Shroffs), Toki Tilpak-Furushon (the Dome of Milliners), and Toki-Zargaron (the Dome of Jewellers).
“Chor-minor” (“Four minarets”) is a name of unusual Madrassah of Caliph Niyazkul, built in 1807. Madrassah has a courtyard with one-storied hudjras, column aivan of summer mosque and reservoir faced with stones.
Original is the entrance – four-arch dome structure with four corner towers under blue domes. Three towers were used as utility rooms. The fourth has a stair going to the second floor into the dome hall of library.
Chor-Bakr is a country necropolis of sheikhs from Djuibar seyids. It is located in Sumitan village 5 km to the west from Bukhara. Djuibar seyids occupied the major state posts in Bukhara since theSamanids. Necropolis formed around the tomb of Abu-Baqr Sa’ad, the founder of the dynasty. It makes the oldest part of necropolis. The centrl architectural complex was formed in the second half of the 16th century at Abdullah-khan II and was connected with tombs of sheikh Khodja Muhammad Islam (died in 1563) and his son Khodja Abu Baqr Sa’ad (died 1589). Muhammad Islam was a successor of Mahdum-i Azam Kasani who headed “naqsh-bandyyah”.
The central part belongs to mosque, khanaka and madrassah. Front facades of mosque and khanaka have portals with arches, and side facades are formed by two circles of loggias. Their halls have domes on well-balanced drums. Crossed arches, penden-tives and stalactites decorate the interiors. The small minaret was built on its centrl axis in the 20th century.