Tashkent, the capital of sunny Uzbekistan, is an important industrial, scientific and cultural center of the Central Asia, with a population of more than two million. It is located on the foothills of the Tien Shan Mountains in the centre of the blooming oasis in the valley of the Chirchik River, tributary of the Syr Darya. In Uzbek, Tashkent means “the Stone Fortress”. From the ancient times Tashkent has been a crossroad of many trails and routes. At the dawn of modern era an offshoot of the main trade route of the Ancient World – the Great Silk Road – passed through Tashkent. For many centuries one could hear many different languages on its picturesque and noisy bazaars. The 2,000 year-old-city is a major exporter to Eastern Europe of silk, cotton and textiles, as well as oil, coal, copper, sulfur, rice and manufactured products such as television sets, automobiles and tractors.
Tashkent is famous as one of the world centers of science and culture. The city’s numerous institutions of higher education and research establishments include the university, founded in 1920, and various institutes of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, set up in 1943. Another notable institution is the Navoi Public Library. Tashkent has 20 museums and 9 theatres. The collection of the Uzbek Museum of Fine Arts would be honor to any capital city, while the items of traditional arts and national architecture displayed at the Museum of Applied Art of Uzbekistan.
Tashkent is among those cities, which are famous for their exceptionally valuable architectural heritage. The monuments of medieval architecture harmonize with the modern architectural constructions. This combination differentiates Tashkent from many other cities. The Tashkent fountains, intricate element of its architectural style, add to the uniqueness of the city.
Khazrati Imam Complex
The whole complex, which is now consists of ‘Barakhan’ madrasah, ‘Tilla Shaykh’ mosque, ‘Muyi Muborak’ madrasah, tomb of Kaffal Shashi, ‘Namozgah’ mosque, as well as newly built ‘Hazrat Imam’ mosque and the new administrative building of the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, was named Hazrat Imam (in the modern pronunciation of Hast Imam) on behalf of the Sheikh Kaffal Shashi.
Khazrati Imam Complex History
Abubakr Muhammad Kaffal Shashi – one of the first imams of the Muslim world, a native of Tashkent, a preacher and a distributor of Shafiism in Tashkent, a well-known Muslim scholar, connoisseur of Holy Qur’an, Hadith, Islamic law and lexicology.
In the 16th century, during the Sheybanid’s period, Tashkent became developed cultural, trade and craft center of Maverannahr. That time, the mausoleum of Kaffal Shashi was re-erected on the ruins of the old building, which was then one of the main shrines of the city. To the south has grown large, shady cemetery. In the mid-16th century, the complex consisted of the Kaffal Shashi mausoleum, and Barakhan madrasah that combines into a single complex of two mausoleums – Unnamed and Suyunij Khan. In 1579 a new mauseleum of Sheikh Babahodzhi was built in the area.
Barakhan Madrasah was built in the 16th century at the direction of Nauruz Ahmadhan. The Muslim Board of Uzbekistan functioned in the building from 1950 to 2007.
Muyi Muborak Madrasah was also built in the 16th century. It contains the hair of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw), for this reason the madrasah was named ‘Muyi Muborak’, ie ‘Sacred Hair’. Currently, the madrasa is a library of Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, where the Koran of Khalif Uthman, dated 7th century and rare manuscripts are kept.
Tomb of Kaffal Shashi was erected in honor of the Abu Bakr ibn Ali ibn Ismail al-Kaffal Al-Shashi. Primitive form of the tomb was not saved. Its current form was re-built by Ghulam Husayn in 1542. From the architectural point of view, the tomb Kaffal Shoshiy was erected in the form of khanaka (complex structures including cells, mosque, shrine, etc.).
Built in about 1865, it was considered one of the largest mosques in Tashkent, where the main holiday prayers (Eid Ramazan and Eid al-Adha) were conducted. Since 1971, there functioned the Tashkent Islamic Institute.
Hazrati Imam Mosque
Construction of a mosque done in the shortest time (four months) in 2007 on the initiative of President Islam Karimov. The mosque itself is a unique symbol of Tashkent architectural style: at the entrance to the mosque there is a terrace with twenty-carved columns of sandalwood. The mosque also has two large blue domes, the interior of which is decorated with gold leaf as in madrasah Tillakari in Samarkand.
Window openings of domes are designed so that the sun’s rays continuously penetrate inside the mosque from sunrise to sunset. At the entrance to the mosque there are erected two minarets of 53 meters in height.
Near the biggest bazaar of Chorsu there is a big architectural building of the 16th century Kukeldash Madrasah located at the border of the old and new part of the city. It was built in the second half of the 16th century in the time of Abdullakhan (1557-1598) under the leadership of Kulbobo Kukeldash who was a vizier (a minister), a scientist and a poet. As the result of the several earthquakes the facade, the second floor of the madrasah were crushed. After restoration, it still has preserved its original style and beauty. Madrasah Kukeldash is a active mosque, with a primary school, which teaches the foundations of Islam. About 200 students study here religious sciences, literature, history, mathematics etc.
Kukeldash madrasah is constructed very traditionally. Any Madrasah in the Muslim country usually has exactly this look. The facade of a building decorated with majolica and inscriptions a high smart arch entrance-Peshtak. Windows are supplied with sun-protection lattices – Pandjara, in patterns of ornaments we find twisted sacred for Moslems names of Allah and Muhammad prophet. Pass through Peshtak, the visitor gets into the court yard of the rectangular form surrounded with suites vaulted rooms – Hudjr, doors of which go inside. The courtyard often ends with a larger dome building – Darskhona (a room for lessons). Hudjrs served as habitation for students, and lessons, as a rule, were carried out in an open-air in a courtyard of madrasah, because the local climate allows doing it during the most part of year. Small turrets (Guldasta) in corners of a building are intended for Azanchi (or Muedzins) – the special attendants calling devout on a pray (Namaz) which should be made regularly through the certain time intervals.
Juma Mosque of Khodja Ahror Vali
Near to Kukeldash madrasah updated dome is visible. The main Friday mosque was constructed in middle of XV century. It has a name of the known public figure of Timurid epoch Hodzha Ahrar (1404-1490) – the main sheikh of powerful dervish of Nakshbandi institution. Because of earthquakes, the mosque was subject to numerous restorations. It is the third cathedral mosque in Uzbekistan surpassed only by two structures of this kind – the Bibi-Khanim Mosque in Samarkand and the Kalyan Mosque in Bukhara. The main Juma Mosque of Tashkent has by now been completely rebuilt, and now three domes instead of one crown the old city hill.
The Zangi-Ota Mausoleum is situated near Tashkent city, which was built at the end of the 14th century, in the burial place of Sheikh Al-Khodja. He was the follower of Khodja Ahmad Yassavy, who was the spiritual leader of all Turkic tribes in Central Asia. According to legends, the construction of this ensemble had begun by Amir Temur. The ensemble consists of three territories: a big garden, complex of buildings of the 14-19th centuries (mosque, madrasah, and minaret) and cemetery with Ambar-Bibi’s mausoleum. The mausoleum portal strong lines are impressive. The wonderful carved mosaics reflect simple beauty. Preserved fragments of mosaic inscriptions can be seen on the mausoleum wings. The white marble tombstone in Zangi-Ota mausoleum is unique with the stone carvings.
Museum of Applied Arts
The Museum of Applied Arts is housed in a traditional Uzbek house originally built by one of wealthy tsarist diplomat, scientist of oriental studies (Polovtsev). The house itself is the main attraction, as it was built using traditional decoration of the houses of 19th century in Uzbekistan with elements of wood carving, ganch (plaster carving), and wood painting. The collection is also worthwhile. Here you can see handicraft examples of Uzbek people of 19th century, such as carpets, rugs, copper dishes, embroidery, ceramics, jewellery, miniature paintings, silk production and etc. Omar Khayyam quotes frame two doorways: “The world is a great caravanserai with two doors: one entrance and one exit.
State History Museum of Uzbekistan
State History Museum of Uzbekistan is the oldest museum institution of Central Asia. It was established in 1876 as Turkestan public museum. Uzbek History Museum is located in the middle of the city near Independence Square, Sailgoh Street (Broadway), and Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre. It has a collection of historical artifacts of prehistoric period, buddism, zorastrism and modern culture as well. Among them the large bronze Saxon cauldron of V-IV centuries B.C., decorated by the statuettes of animals, or a magnificent sculpture image of Buddha of I century A.D., which was found in Surkhandarya region. Museum holds significant archaeological, ethnographic, numismatic collections, as well as sets of documents, historical relics and pieces of art.
Museum of History of Timurids
The Amir Temur Museum is Tashkent’s newest museum and has quite impressive structure with a brilliant blue ribbed dome and a rich decorated interior. The Museum has been constructed in the honour of the 660th anniversary of Amir Temur, famous statesman and general, a founder of a great empire Maverannahr, the borders of which were spread from the Mediterranean Sea up to the Great Wall of China, from the Caspian Sea up to the Persian Gulf. The collection mainly consists of ancient manuscripts, paintings and engraving of Temurid’s epoch. There are valuable documents, including correspondence of Amir Temur and his descendants with the European monarchs, artful miniatures, and copies of Amir Temur’s portraits painted by European artists of those times. Originals of those pieces are stored in the National Library of France.
During the 19th century Grand Duke Romanov (1850-1918), a first cousin of Alexander III of Russia was sent to Tashkent for some intrigue and deals involving the Russian Crown Jewels. He built a house for himself in the center of the city in 19th century. His mansion still survives in the centre of the city, just opposite of Independence Square. Once a museum it used to be a museum, but now it being used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a reception place of high ranked diplomats and delegates.
Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre is situated in the centre of the city opposite to the Tashkent Palace Hotel and near the Central Supermarket (Tsum).
The theatre was built in 1945-1947 by the architect Shusev, who was the author of the Lenin’s Mausoleum on the Red Square in Moscow. It is famous for its history of the construction, because hundreds of Japanese soldiers took active part in the construction. National artists of Uzbekistan Usta Shirin Muradov, A.Hudajbergenov, H.Boltaev have shown their skill in decoration works. According to the author of the project, each of the six side foyers has got an architectural decor typical of this or that province of Uzbekistan. The Tashkent hall, the Bukhara hall, the Khorezm hall , the Samarkand hall, the Ferghana hall, the Termez hall – they all have their own style and peculiarities. For instance, the masters chose and applied such a unique decor technique as carving on alabaster called “gunch” on top of the mirror surface. This element of decoration was for the first time used in the construction of the Bukhara Emir’ palace. The Khorezm hall is decorated with the carved panel of gunch reminding you of wood carving and typical of Khorezm. The theatre’s halls and foyer are decorated with mural paintings depicting scenes from Alisher Navoi’s poems and landscapes of Uzbekistan. They were created by artists Ch.Akhmarov, A.Tatevosyan and others.
Upon the completion of the theatre building a fountain was built in front of its portal as proposed by architect A.V. Schusev which was the finishing touch for creating an architectural ensemble that has become a wonderful addition to the city architectural ensemble of the capital.
Chorsu is a vast open-air market where you will find all the wares that dreams of Central Asia are made of. Carefully woven carpets sit next to glistening ceramics, which in turn are neighbours of shiny watermelons, plump raisins and apricots. Chorsu also has a large number of spice vendors. There are shoe stores and handicraft shops, stalls that sell traditional clothes. Here you can buy traditional Uzbek men’s cap duppa. You will also find many choykhana (tea café) where you can have hot tea and kebabs (shashlyk).
Tashkent TV Tower
Tashkent TV Tower is a 375 meter high tower. It is the highest construction in the Central Asia. The architectural design of the tower is a product of the team consisted of U.L. Semashko, N.G. Terziev-Tzarukova, engineers E.P. Morozova, and M.D. Musheeva. It is of a vertical cantilever structure, and is manufactured out of steel. There is an observation deck at the 97 meter level, where you can enjoy magnificent views of the city. There is also a rotating restaurant. The view from this restaurant provides a unique opportunity to understand the capital’s layout. On a clear day the visitors of the Tower can see the Western Tien Shan mountains.
At the heights of 100 meters and 220 meters the tower is girdled with 5 telecasting stations, radio broadcasting station and a meteorological station.
Independence Square and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Independence Square (formerly Cathedral Square) claims to be the largest city square in the former Soviet Union. Public buildings and curtains of perennial fountains surround this lovely expanse of the city. At the site of some of the fountains there once stood a beautiful Orthodox Church and bell tower demolished by the Soviets in the 1930s.
By the 1970s a statue of Lenin (the world’s tallest) stood in the square measuring over 100 feet and made entirely of granite. After independence a giant globe with a map of Uzbekistan on its face replaced the statue of Lenin. Independence Square is the place for the yearly, September 1st, Independence Day celebration, complete with fireworks, and Uzbek singers and dancers.