Bukhara named as “Bukhoroi Sharif” (“Noble Bukhara”), situated in the heart of Silk Road, is more than two thousand years old. It is one of the best examples of well preserved Islamic cities of Central Asia of the 10th to 17th centuries, with an urban fabric that has remained largely intact.
Bukhara was long an important economic and cultural center in Central Asia. The ancient city served as a major center of Islamic culture for many centuries and became a major cultural center of the Caliphate in the 8th century.
With the exception of a few important vestiges from before the Mongol invasions of Genghis Khan in 1220 and Temur in 1370, the old town bears witness to the urbanism and architecture of the Sheibani period of Uzbek rule, from the early 16th century onwards. The Ark citadel, rebuilt in the 16th century, has marked the civic center of the town since its earliest days to the present,
Important monuments that survive from early times include the famous Ismail Samanid Masoleum, impressive in its sober elegance and the best surviving example of 10th century architecture in the whole Muslim world. From the 11th century Karakhanid period comes the outstanding Poi-Kalyan minaret, a masterpiece of decoration in brick, along with most of the Magoki Attori mosque and the Chashma Ayub shrine. The Ulugbek medressah is a surviving contribution from Temurid. With the advent of the Sheibanids came some of the most celebrated buildings of Bukhara: the Poi-Kalyan complex, the Lyabi-Khauz ensemble, the Kosh Medressah and the Gaukushon Medressah. Later buildings from this phase of Bukhara´s history include monumental medressahs at important crossroads: Taki Sarrafon (Dome of the Moneychangers), Taki Telpak Furushan (Dome of the Headguard Sellers), Toqi Zargaron (Dome of jewelers), and Timi Abdullah Khan. In the early 17th century fine buildings were added, including a new great mosque, and the imposing Abdulaziz Khan medressah (1652).
However, the real importance of Bukhara lies not in its individual buildings but rather in its overall townscape, demonstrating the high and consistent level of urban planning and architecture that began with the Sheibanid dynasty.
Yet the city has witnessed some brutal executions; perhaps the most infamous were the killings of British officers Col. Charles Stoddart and Capt. Arthur Conolly in 1842. Victims of a misunderstanding between the Emir of Bukhara and the British government (which failed to supply its emissaries with the appropriate gifts and royal letters of introduction), the two were imprisoned in the Bug Pit at the Zindan (city jail), then forced to dig their own graves before their ceremonial beheading in front of the Ark (the Emir’s palace).
The Ark now houses a museum on the city’s history, and the Zindan is now a tourist attraction, showcasing such skin-crawling rooms as the Bug Pit, a torture chamber and the dungeons.
Bukhara, with its population of a quarter of a million, is a major tourist attraction for travelers following the old Silk Road. Celebrating its 2,500th anniversary in 1997, the city has been working hard to put its best old face forward. And though Bukhara’s mud-colored buildings are often a let-down to visitors who’ve just seen the dazzling mosaics of Samarkand, the city’s subdued desert hues and centuries-old buildings exude their own exotic air of ancient culture.
Sightseeing of Bukhara
One of the unique constructions of Bukhara is the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani. This is an outstanding monument of the world’s architecture, which attracts scholars, artists and tourists from all over the world. The legend says that the mausoleum of Samanids was erected by Ismail Samani, the founder of Samanid Dynasty, during 9-10 centuries. The mausoleum represents central building- a cube with a slightly upward sloping planes and a hemispherical dome. The researchers have linked the idea of its architectural forms with pre-Islamic art of building.
This building indicates the development of construction equipment and a high level of architectural art. It is worth noting that during this period such construction materials as high-quality fired bricks and mortar alabaster are beginning used. The forms of the mausoleum of Ismail Samani are compared with Zoroastrian temple of fire, with the architecture of the funeral constructions, with the forms Keshk-forts, and even with residential architecture.
The initial purpose of the Mausoleum was the tomb, which determined the building of single-stage square room with a three-tier structure of the interior: bushel, octagon dome and bowl.Four facades of the mausoleum are identical. Exterior and interior walls are decorated with patterned structures made of brick masonry. All this gives certain lightness to the mausoleum. The builders of the mausoleum were not planning to watch the sun, as the consequence there is a small number of windows in the gallery.
Keeping the traditions of pre Arabian times the mausoleum of Ismail Samani now appears in front of guests in excellent condition. In 1934 it was restored and cleared from the graves.Nowadays, we can see mausoleum which is perfectly preserved up to this days. Tourists from all over the world are getting acquainted with this unique monument with a brick platform, which surrounds it around.
Chashmai Ayub Masoleum
Next to Samanid’s Mausoleum, about ruins of an ancient city wall is located Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum. This mazar was constructed in the 12th century near a spring which is connected with a name of prophet Ayuba (Job). According to the legend, Ayub assumed the aspect of a wanderer in ancient times came to Bukhara to help people to extract water. He struck the earth with a staff and in that place was formed a spring with pure and healing water. Over a spring the mausoleum was constructed, it was entitled as Chashma-Ayub, or Job`s spring. People believe that water in a source has cohesive force
In the mausoleum Chashma-Ayub there is any burial. Considerably early and honored among them is a tomb of Hadis expert Hodzhi Hofiz Gunzhori, he died in 1022. Till today the main part of mazar remained in safety which was erected by order of Amir Timur in 1380.Timur brought in Movarounnakhr from the aggressive campaigns of the best architects and artists. The original building over a well with a sacred source was constructed by Khorezm masters. They on a high cylindrical drum built a double dome in the form of a cone which was characteristic for Khoresm.
Since then the mausoleum was reconstructed more than once. To already existing constructions were attached new over which domes were lifted. Nowadays Chashma-Ayub, takes the form of an oblong prism and represents multichamber mazar. Its internal rooms different in the size and forms are shaded.
Bolo Hauz Mosque
In Bukhara next to the fortress there is a central square Registan. In old times there were mosques, palaces, trading tents, offices other buildings. Today from this ensemble of constructions remained only the complex Bolo Hauz. Bolo-Hauz includes a mosque, a minaret, and also a pond – Hauz, it entitled a complex. The name of a pond means «a children's reservoir». This reservoir is one of the remained ponds of Bukhara.
The mosque Bolo-Hauz was erected at the beginning of the XVIII century. It is very magnificent and graceful mosque, it is decorated with 20 columns made of wood. The carved ceiling which is covered with picturesque paints of different flowers and shades leans on them. These columns are reflected in the pond and consequently a mosque still named as «a mosque with forty columns». Once this mosque was the main city mosque. On Friday pray there arrived the emir of Bukhara.
Next to the mosque is located a small minaret it was constructed in 1718. A spell ago it was similar to the Tower of Pisa, and was falling in a slowed-up way. When the tilt angle reached an intense point, the minaret was straightened. Today it appears before in the same look as three centuries ago.Currently the mosque continues to function and here nearly every day pass prayers.
Lyabi Hauz complex
Lyabi Hauz is the name of the territory. It surrounds one of the few surviving to the present day Bukhara ponds. Ensemble of Labi-House was built in Bukhara in XVII century. It comprises three buildings - a Kukeldash Medressah (1568-69), Nadir Devanbegi Hanaka and Nadir Devanbegi Medressah. The word “Kukeldash” means “milk brother”. Kukeldash Medressah was built in 1568 – 1569 by Kulbobo Kukeldash. Medressah is a rectangular construction. It includes a mosque, darskhana (a place for training) and 160 cells. Kukeldash is the largest madrassah in Bukhara. The architecture of the madrassah ignores the quality of construction works; one can see the haste, economy and incompleteness. The improper planning creates an impression of narrowness and clutter.
The design and domed overhead covers are the best in architecture of the madrassah - the walkways lead from the gate into the courtyard. The carved wooden doors of madrassah are also very beautiful. Nadir Devanbegi Hanaka is a large building with a multi-domed central hall, the sides of which have shallow niches. The main portal of the building has an unusual elongated shape. In addition, there are two sides of the main portal. The decoration of the main entrance of khanaka is quite conservative. Epigraphic ligature of the main portal decorates around the sides. The facade on both sides are crowned by stately towers. Nadir Devanbegi Hanaka was a center of cultural and religious life of Bukhara for many centuries.
In 1622 Nadir Devanbegi started construction of medressah. The images of fantastic birds, deer and human-sun were depicted in its design. Initially the building was constructed as a caravan-saray. However, at the opening ceremony Imam Kuli-khan announced that that the building will be used as madrassah. Therefore, Nadir Devanbegi changed the construction of the building. Balconies, portal and corner towers were attached to its facade. It should be noted that ensemble Lyabi-House is very interesting and charm of this receipt in conditions of southern city cannot be left without attention.
Kalyan Minaret is another architectural monument, without which it is impossible to imagine the silhouette of Bukhara. It was built from baked bricks with delightful embossing in 1127 during the reign of Arslankhan. Kalyan Minaret is presented in an unusual way, which many architects were trying to imitate and follow. It is built with great taste, which combines the rigor and grandeur, lightness and grace at the same time.
The Grand Minaret of Bukhara is one the tallest construction in the city. The height of this construction is about 46 meters; its foundation part is plunged into depth of 10 meters. The diameter on the base of the minaret is 9 meters. The minaret is presented in the form of a circular column. It is built from backed brick on the alabaster mortar. There is a spiral stone staircase with 104 steps inside the minaret. At the top, the building of minaret is topped by a cylindrical lantern. This attractive vertical line can be seen from any point of Bukhara.
Kalyan Minaret met and overcame many difficulties on his way. It stood in front of many earthquakes that destroyed many historical building in Uzbekistan. The secret of the stability of the minaret is in the construction of its foundation.
Kalyan Minaret is full of legends, according to which the monument has various purposes during different times. It also used to be a tower of the mosque, and the observation point, where people could keep an eye on exposure of enemies. Also, the minaret was a place of public capital punishment. Due to this, Kalyan Minaret was named "Tower of Death". Nowadays, the minaret is known in the world under this name.
Many people express admiration and interest looking at patterned brickwork. This reflects the national pattern and distinctive style, with ruggedness patterned relief. Kalyan Minaret had twelve ornamental belts with unique patterns; three of them have been preserved nowadays. Here you can see the date of minaret construction, which was in 1127, the name of the ruler of Bukhara Arslankhan and the name of the builder, Usto Barno.
Kalyan Mosque - is a unique construction of Bukhara, which is part of the architectural ensemble of Kalyan. Cathedral mosque during its time was actively involved in the life of the city. Thousands of Muslims everyday were coming to the mosque. However, sometimes the mosque could not resist the flow of the faithful, and the building periodically was collapsing, taking with destruction many lives. The mosque was built over and over again... In 1121 Arslankhan ordered to move to a mosque near to Minaret Kalyan. The architects have erected a mosque masterfully and harmoniously.
Kalyan Mosque has 7 entrances, once entered you can enjoy the originality and clarity of spatial solutions. The main entrance to the mosque is from east. There are several steps which will bring you to the yard of mosque. Following steps you can see the arches and mikhrab niche, which is turned towards Mekka. From the both sides it is likely guarded by two blue domes. The yard is surrounded by galleries, which consist of 288 domes.
The walls of the mosque are decorated by ornaments and mosaics. The words from Koran, the holy book of Muslims are written in gold emblazonment. The artistic decoration of the mosque can be compared to Ulugbek Medrassah that also keeps the traditions of the Timurid era. As we can see Kalyan Mosque is original and beautiful architectural composition of Bukhara, on its size it is second grand mosque after the Bibi-Hanum (Samarkand) in Central Asia. The area of the mosque is one hectare.
Nowadays Kalyan Mosque is cathedral mosque of Bukhara. People pray daily, on Fridays and during holidays.
Mir Arab Medressah
Mir-Arab Medressah - is one of the largest high spiritual educational establishments of Muslims. Construction of the madrassah started in XVI centuries and completed in 1535-36. It was built by Abdullah Yemenskiy. The madrassah was built on blood and tears as it was financed by funds received from Ubaydullah-khan from sales of more than 3,000 slaves.
The architecture of Mir-Arab Medressah is marked by its traditional layout. There is squared yard with 4 halls, surrounded by two floors and two domed halls. The rooms for students are well equipped with all necessary amenities. However, students complained that rooms were dark and crowded. The main facade of the medressah is framed with heavy towers, and in the center the portal with two-tier loggia is emphasized.
Several features of the interior of medressah deviate from the classic examples. On the right side from the main entrance to the mosque there is a room for classes, and tomb is located on the left side. The tomb looks festively. Cross-shaped hall is fenced by sails and wonderful stalactite. There is patterned dome as if it is freeze over the tomb. Many fascinating moments can be emphasized in décor of the medressah. These are complex patterns, and carved mosaic as well as colorful ornaments. Plenty of intertwined inscriptions, as well as inside of portals located on the longitudinal and transverse axes of the building are referred to beauty.
It should be noted that the famous mathematician, poet, astronomer, and social activist Ahmad Donish was working in this medressah. Mir-Arab Medressah exists for almost 4.5 centuries. Restorers of Bukhara from times to times revive it and cherish and try to preserve this architectural masterpiece.
The witness of 25 centuries history is the Great minaret Ark – the citadel, stands proudly in the center of Bukhara over the square of Registan of Bukhara. It is the oldest construction in Bukhara. It was elevated in 5th century A.D. At those times slaves were creating manually an artificial hill. Therefore, it was more than once destroyed and built again.
Ark was the Emir's residence. This castle was an evidence of the bloody wars and risings, as well as the works of great scientists, poets and philosophers. Rudaki, Ferdousi, Abu Ali Ibn Sina, Farabi, and later - Omar Khayyam were working here. A unique library was located in the Ark, where they could communicate and work.
In 1920 the Red Army destroyed the Ark. Thus, today 70% of the monument is disruption, several buildings have been preserved, which are used as museums nowadays.
Nowadays Ark – is a rise, reminding irregular rectangle, which is stretched from west to east. From the peak point of the Ark, you can see all the ancient parts of Bukhara. The set of building is located inside of the Ark citadel. For example, the mosque Childuhtaron (40 girls) is preserved and located in the East side of the Ark. The legend about 40 girls, tortured and thrown into the well, is connected with this mosque. Opposite to gates of the Ark there is Bolo House Mosque, in which Emir was praying.
At the peak of the entrance stairs of Ark, there is the Juma mosque that was built in the 17th century. Tall columns standing on the porch made from maple. There is a museum in mosque, where a collection of manuscripts and documents of the 19th and 20th centuries are presented.
The walls of Ark are storing the long history. This is an obvious book for builders and architects. Here, looking at type of masonry and building materials, you can learn how buildings were constructed at those times and to what criteria people were paying much attention. Ark – is historical monument, about rich history of which you can learn from documents and exhibits in the halls of local history museum.
Ulugbek Medressah is the embodimentof a new era in the life of the city and the memory of astronomer Mirzo Ulugbek. During that era, cultural and economic areas were developing.
The following aphorism was cut on the door of madrassah: "The pursuit of knowledge is the duty of every Muslim man and woman". Ulugbek wanted the medressah to be the home of education. Medressah was erected by best architects of that era: Ismail Isfagani and Nazhmetdin Bukhari.
Everyone who sees Ulugbek Medressah, will be surprised by severity and proportionality of its forms, as well as by harmony of elements compatibility. It is a fact, that majority of medressahs in Central Asia has started to be built like Ulugbek Medressah.
Ulugbek Medressah is represented as a rectangular building with a courtyard. The building has a main entrance, which is decorated by high portal. The corridor divides the entrance to medressah. At one end of the corridor there was a room for classes, and in another - a mosque.
Students could use library on the second floor of the building. The facade is presented in a two-tier arcade and has two wings. From both sides it is closed with towers - guldasta. The interior design is clear and well-structured: the yard is framed with two-storey galleries, where students lived.
Everything has been predetermined in design of the construction. For instance, there were galleries, where students lived. Decorations of the medressah were harmonically matching with an architecture of the building. The walls and arches almost were not decorated. Since Ulugbek was an astronomer, in facing of medressah you can see patterns of astral nature.
Students were studying Koran and getting acquainted with sciences in medressahs. This medressah has become the center of learning for many scientists, poets and thinkers of that time. Students studied at medressahs for about 15-20 years. Classes were held every day, except Thursdays and Fridays. Students could choose courses from every mudarris (teacher). Classes were held in more free form rather than strictly, where students could dispute with teachers.
However, as time passed, Ulugbek Medressah lost its positive quality of education. It has appeared as the church and everything was reduced to mindless memorization of the Koran dogmas.
Trade Domes & Bathhouses
There are domed constructions built at the crossroads of major highways in Bukhara. Nowadays, people assumed names based on sequenced numbers: the first, second and third dome. The third dome is called Toki Zargaron – the dome of jewelers. It consisted of 36 jewelry shops and stores.
If you go to south from that dome, there is market building on the left side. This building was erected during the epoch of Sheybanids – Tim Abdullakhan (1577). Tims – are closed passages, where people traded with silk and wool. It was opened from the early morning.
In the south side of Tim Abdullah there is Toki Telpakfurushon - is the dome where hats were sold. The third dome Toki Sarrofon is located over the channel Shahrud. This was the place for “money exchange”, where you could change coins of different countries. Much attention was paid to expensive commodities such as precious harness, furs and jewelry.
Initially, the walls of Toki Sarrafon were decorated by polished brick, at the end of XIX and beginning of XX century the wall were plastered. Nowadays, the restorers are covering the walls with polished bricks as it was done before.
In addition to bazaars there also were baths. Nowadays, such bathhouses as Khammomi Sarrofon and Khammomi Bozori-Kord are still functioning. These baths are presented in the form of underground constructions that has low domes and small upper windows. Without any doubts, these old baths are improving, but still the initial appearance is preserved. You can get into the bath directly from the street. Inside, you will see cloakroom and rest room, and further there are bath rooms. Bukharian bathhouses – are typical representatives of monuments of civil construction of XVI century in Bukhara. The engineering uniqueness of construction is considered as achievement of era.
Magoki Attor Mosque
In the center of Bukhara, near ensemble Lyabi-Hauz is located Magoki-Attor mosque is located that in translation means «a mosque in a hole» or «a deep mosque». The mosque found its name several centuries ago. At that time cultural layers hid underground the most part of constructions, and parishioners had to go down in a semi basement room.
In the early middle Ages there, behind Attaron's southern gate, there was a cult pagan center with the temple of fire worshippers. When Arabs grasped Bukhara based one of the first mosques on a place of this temple.
In the middle of the XVI century east portal was erected, and the southern main entrance in a mosque was almost underground. In 1930 archeologists restored a monument, subsequently that the southern portal was restored. The southern portal of a mosque decorates an ornament of a brick laying and an archaic ornament of a carved majolica. Restorers liberated a facade, it approximately went under the earth by 4.5 meters. Then the mosque was opened for observation main art sights.
There all variety of an architectural decor - carved bricks, figured layings from a shlifovanny brick, patterns and ornaments, terracotta plates. This portal of the XII century is considered as one of the most irreproachable works of Bukhara architecture. In old times in Magoki-Attor mosque prayed Muslims and Jews as by that time Jews hadn't the right to construct a synagogue in Bukhara. Nowaday Magoki-Attor is a museum of carpets.
Kosh Medressahs Ensemble
Kosh medressah Ensemble was built in the second half of XVI century. This massive construction can be seen from far away. The ensemble represents a new stage in the development of Central Asian architecture. It is still fascinating people with its harmony.
The reign of Abdullakhan (1557-98 years) is marked by considerable construction. During this period Kosh-madrassah, which constitutes of Modari-khan and Abdullakhan medressah was built. In 1568 Abdullakhan built a medressah Modari-Khan in honor of his mother. The building was built solidly, and it has survived to present days. There is no definite symmetry in this ensemble, as it is placed under the angle towards the road. The main faсade is decorated by multicolored mosaic, which makes up variety of geometric pictures. This is almost the only decoration of medressah. There is a rectangular yard with one hall inside the medressah. The yard is framed by two-tier set of decorative arches with loggia.
Based on the same principle 23 years after the construction of Modari-khan medressah, another medressah of Abdullakhan was built. The main entrance to medressah has high portal bordered by two-tier wings with loggia and entrance gallery on the upper floor. Medressah is ornamented by decorative facilities, that play in color during the sunlight and looks like one bright spot of color. Standard majolica tiles were used for medressah decoration. The doors of medressah cause a great interest. The doors are made from pieces of wood without tacks. There is a gallery with two passageways to yard in the lobby of medressah. There are mosque and darskhona in gallery. The mosque is turned at an angle to the main building.
There are 4 halls with high portals inside the yard. They are decorated by belts from brick mosaic. Behind the hall on the west side the premises were built. The premises were located around the yard. It should be noted that indoor yard – is innovation of medressah builders.
Chor Minor Mosque
Chor-Minor Mosque is located behind Lyabi-Hauz on the open square. "Chor-minor" means «four minarets». It is not accidentally, as four small minarets with blue domes are adjoined on corners of a square and rectangular building of the mosque. All minarets are different in a decor and a form.
According to the legend, art decorations of these towers present religious - philosophical understanding of the four world religions. Some an elements of decor remind a cross, the Christian fish and Buddhist prayful wheels.
The Chor Minor Mosque has well remained up to now. It was constructed for money of a rich Turkmen Caliph Niyazkul. Some sources say that the construction of the mosque dating from 1807. However, in accordance with archival documents this mosque was had already existed at the end of the 17th century.
At first sight it seems that a building is only gate of a lost mosque. However, during thorough examination it becomes clear that Chor-Minor is a whole complex which consists of buildings that have both residential and ritual purpose.
The main building with towers is a mosque. It has relatively simple interior. This mosque was intended for a daily fivefold prayings. The presence of a dome gives a hall sense of zikr-hona, i.e. places where Sufi conducted ritual ceremonies, which included: a recitation, singing, and instrumental music. A court yard located in front of a building where in its center is placed revetted with stone blocks, a small reservoir — hauz and on the each side to the madrasah are adjoined Hudjras.
Chor-Minor is a favourite place of Bukhara guests because of unusual architecture and general harmony ofmadrasah, and guides always show this architectural monument.
Sitorai Mohi Hosa Palace
Sitorai Mohi-Hosa Palace – is a summer residence palace of last Bukhara emirs, located about 4 km to the north of city. Construction of the palace began in the late of 19th century. When the Emir of Bukhara Abulahadkhan sent the best Bukharian architects to St. Petersburg and Yalta. There they learned and shared experience with Russian architects. Construction of the palace was led by usto Khoja Hafiz. The interior of the apartments of the building was a mixture of European architecture with the architecture of the palaces of Isfagan, and the noble houses of Bukhara.
There are also vulgar elements in the architecture of the palace. These include the throne room with a mezzanine and the blockage of its arches. New palace causes considerable interest. It was erected alongside with old, and includes several buildings. You can see here the triumphal arch in the entrance gate, and galleries surrounding the yard. Deep inside the garden there is a room of harem.
There are two marble lions lying at the entrance to the main building of the palace. It was made up by Nurata artists, however the sculptures did not look properly because the artists were not skilled enough.
Russian engineers were looking after the construction of the main body of the palace, where the private rooms of Amir were located. “White hall” and its subsequent reception are entirely the work by architects of Bukhara. These halls gathered the best what the architects of that time be proud of.
Nowadays, there is branch of Bukhara local history museum in Sitorai Mohi-Hosa Palace. Also, resort is located on the territory of the palace.
Chor Bakr Necropolis
The Chor-Bakr necropolis is located in the settlement Sumitan of the Bukhara area. It was formed on the basis of burials khoja Abu-Bakra Sajad and imams Abu-Bakra Ahmed, their activity refer up the time of Islam formation in Bukhara. Chor-Bakr is the city of burials. There in a big territory which is enclosed with high walls is located a family tomb of djuybar sheikhs of the Sufi Order "Naqshbandi".
The main constructions of a necropolis are included into the central complex which includes tekke, a mosque and a medressah. A minaret gives a scale to buildings. Khazira a narrow path conducts to the funeral family court yards. To brick fencings of the court yard entrance are adjoined portals - darvaza and ayvans of funeral mosques. Djuybar`s khodjas were keepers of esteemed burials - mazars. Well-known ancestors of djuybar khodjas dynasty was famous Islam Khodja (died in 1563) who took care of Abdullah Khan II (gov.1561-1598) since childhood of a future governor.
The major burial in this place is the grave of Khodja Abu Bakr Sad which for 20 years there had been an instructor of the governor of Bukhara Abdullah Khan II. After the death of Islam Khodja, Abdullah khan II, immortalized a name of the instructor, having constructed near his grave, a complex, namely a mosque, a tekke, a madrasah, a necropolis and a big beautiful garden. The necropolis is a place of pilgrimage of Muslims.