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The Guide to Bukhara. History and sights

By Dmitriy Page, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 14-April-2007

Table of contents

  1. Bukhara. From the history of the city
    - Origin
    - Pre-Islamic era
  2. Bukhara – the center of enlightenment in the East
  3. The fortified walls and gates
  4. The Ark
    - Design and architecture
    - History
    - Legend
  5. The Bolo-khauz Complex
  6. The Samanid Mausoleum
  7. The Chashma-iy-Ayub Mausoleum (Job's well)
    - The Bible story and the Legend
  8. The Kosh Madrasah Ensemble
  9. The architectural monuments of the 16th - 17th centuries
    - The Khoja Zain ad-Din Complex
    - The Balyand Mosque
    - The Khoja-Gaukushan Ensemble
    - The Faizabad Khanaka
    - The Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah
  10. The Poi Kalyan Complex
    - The Kalyan minaret
    - The Kalyan Mosque
       - Historical background
       - Peculiarity
    - The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah
  11. Traditional covered bazaars and bathhouses
    - Taq-i Zargaron
    - Tim Abdullakhan
    - Taq-i Telpaq Furushon
    - Taq-i Sarrafon
    - Bukhara bathhouses
  12. The Lyabi Khauz Ensemble
    - The Kukeldash Madrasah
    - Impact of Nadir Divan-begi
       - Historical background
       - The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah
       - The Khanaka of Nadir Divan-begi
       - The story
       - The pond
  13. The Magak-i Attari Mosque
  14. Chor-Minor
  15. The Namazgoh Mosque
  16. The Ulugh Beg Madrasah
  17. The Saif ed-Din al-Boharsi Mausoleum and the Bayan-Quli Khan Mausoleum
  18. The Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Complex
    - Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Naqshband
    - Developing of the Complex
    - Supplementary information
  19. Chor-Bakr
  20. Varakhsha
    - Historical significance of Varakhsha
    - Varakhsha excavations
    - The palace of Varakhsha
  21. The Sitora-I-Mohi-Hosa Palace
  22. Other sights out of Bukhara
    - The minaret in Vabkent
    - Ghujdawan
    - Rabat-i-Malik and the Malik sardoba
  23. Sources

Bukhara. From the history of the city

Bukhara is one of the oldest cities of Central Asia. Nevertheless, most of intact historic buildings in this city belong to period of the late Middle Ages. Only numerous archaeological excavations in the 20-th century revealed thick cultural layers with traces of ancient settlements in location of the present-day Bukhara.

In archaeological trenches at depth of 20 meters, archaeologists discovered the remnants of dwellings, public buildings, and fortifications. They evaluated age of these historical structures on basis of age of numerous archeological finds: ceramic pottery, fireplaces, coins with images and inscriptions, antique jewellery, artisans' tools, and the like. The most deep-seated layers, which belong to the period of the antiquity from the 3-d century B.C. until the 4-th century A.D., are also most thick. The upper layers belong to period from the 9-th century until the beginning of the 20-th century. This proves that Bukhara never changed its location but grew vertically over at least 2,500 years.

The region of Bukhara was for a long period a part of the Persian Empire. The origin of its inhabitants goes back to the period of Aryan immigration into the region. Iranian Soghdians inhabited the area and some centuries later the Persian language became dominant among them.

Encyclopedia Iranica mentions that the name Bukhara is possibly derived from the Soghdian "Buxarak" ("lucky place"). Another possible source of the name Bukhara may be from "Vihara", the Sanskrit word for monastery and may be linked to the pre-Islamic presence of Buddhism (especially strong at the time of the Kushan empire) originating from the Indian sub-continent.


Admittedly, the city was founded in 500 BC in the area now called the Ark. However, the Bukhara oasis had been inhabitated long before, since 3000 BC an advanced Bronze Age culture called the Sapalli Culture thrived at such sites as Varakhsha, Vardan, Paykend, and Ramitan. In 1500 BC a combination of factors: climatic drying, iron technology, and the arrival of Indo-Iraninan nomads triggered a population shift to the oasis from outlying areas. By 1000 BC, two groups, the Sapalli and Aryan people, had merged into a distinctive culture. Around 800 BC this new culture called Soghdian flourished in city-states along the Zaravshan Valley. By this time, three small fortified settlements at the place of present-day Bukhara had been built. By 500 BC these settlements had grown together and were enclosed by a wall, thus Bukhara has born.

Pre-Islamic era

Bukhara entered history in about 500 BC as vassal state in the Persian Empire. Later it passed into the hands of the Alexander the Great, the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire, the Greco-Bactrians, and the Kushan Empire.

During this time Bukhara functioned as a cult center for the worship of Sin (Nanna also called Suen) the god of the moon. The two chief seats of Sin's worship were Ur in the south and Harran to the north of Mesopotamia. The cult of Sin spread to other centers, and temples of the moon-god are found in all the large cities of Babylonia and Assyria. The moon-god is by excellence the god of nomadic peoples, since the moon is their guide and protector at night when they undertake their wanderings. Therefore, the cult most likely arose at the place of Bukhara from the very outset of the first settlements because of inter-nomadic connections.

Approximately once a lunar cycle, the inhabitants of the Zaravshan Valley exchanged their old idols of Sin for new ones. The trade festival took place in front of the Moon (Mokh) Temple. This festival was important in assuring the fertility of land on which all inhabitants of the delta of Zaravshan depended. Because of the trade festivals, Bukhara became a center of commerce.

As trade picked up along the Silk Road, the already prosperous city of Bukhara then became the logical choice for a market. The silk trade itself created a growth boom in the city, which ended around 350 BC. After the fall of the Kushan Empire Bukhara passed into the hands of Hua tribes from Mongolia and entered a steep decline.

In the period of the 6-th and 7-th centuries A.D. of feudal Sogdiana there was an active process of town formation, when ancient settlements surrounding Bukhara became the towns of Varakhsha, Vardanzi (Vardan), Ramish (Ramitan), Kermine, Paikend. Archaeological excavations of the 20-th century in Varakhsha discovered a palace of the Bukhar Khudas with exquisite mural paintings, purely comparable with the famous murals of 5th-8th century A.D. in Pendjikent (western Tajikistan).

All these towns had more or less similar structural pattern including ark - citadel, shakhristan – the city itself, and necropolis beyond the town limits with crypts. The purpose of these crypts was the accommodation of ceramic urns with the bones of the dead. Two crossing main streets divided the rectangular shakhristan into four sections. These streets led to gates opening out to four sides of the world. This traditional layout of plains cities reflected ancient eastern worldview, symbolizing structure of the Universe and order of things in nature and society.

Bukhara of the early feudal period also followed this pattern of development. It sprawled over an area of 40 hectares (98,8 acres). Since then in the north western (superior) section of Bukhara stands out the Ark - the palace fortress of local rulers - Bukhar Khudas. Beyond walls of the Ark and the shakhristan sprawled business quarters and artisan's areas - the rabad, with its residential neighborhoods of adobe-clay houses. Bukhara was one of main crossroads of ancient trade paths that linked China, Iran and India. The trade was a main factor, which stimulated the development of the rabad.

At the western gates of citadel were divans - state offices, and palaces of nobles. Christian temple stood at the eastern gates. Prior to the Arabic Invasion Bukhara was a stronghold for followers of persecuted religious movements within the theocratic Sassanian Empire, Manicheans and Nestorian Christianity.

When the Islamic armies arrived in 650 A.D., they found a multiethnic, multireligous and decentralized collection of petty feudal principalities. The lack of any central power meant that while the Arabs could gain an easy victory in battle or raiding they could never hold territory in central Asia. In fact Bukhara along with other cities in the Sogdian federation played the Caliphate against the Tang Empire. The Arabs did not truly conquer Bukhara until after the Battle of Talas in 751 A.D.. The vassalage of Bukhara from the Caliphate lasted even after the Samanid dynasty – the local dynasty of rulers - seized power in the region at the end of the 9th century.

Islam became the dominant religion at this time and remains the dominant religion to the present day. Until soviet times Bukhara was one of major cultural and religious centers of the Islamic world. Its honorable name was "The dome of Islam".

Bukhara – the center of enlightenment in the East

Many prominent people lived in Bukhara in the past. Most famous of them are: Abu Ali ibn Sina (980-1037) - physician and person of encyclopedic knowledge; Balyami and Narshakhi (10th century) - the outstanding historians; al-Utobi (11th century); Abu Abdullah Mukhammad ibn Akhmad al-Bukhari (died in 1021); Ismatallah Bukhari (1365-1426) - the illustrious poet; Mualan Abd al-Khakim (16 century) - the renowned physician; Karri Rakhmatallah Bukhari (died in 1893) - the specialist in study of literature; Mirza Abd al-Aziz Bukhari (the end the 18th century - the beginning of the 19th century) - the calligrapher.

At the third decade of the 16-th century Bukhara became a capital of Bukhara khanate, under the government of Shaibanid dynasty. The whole period when this dynasty was in power is about one century since the beginning of the 16-th century. Shaibanids carried out many reforms during this time. In particular they instituted a number of measures to better system of the public education. Each residential quarter (neighborhood and unit of local self-government also "mahalla") of Bukhara had a hedge-school. Prosperous families provided home education to their children. Children started elementary education from six years. After two years they could be taken to a madrasah. The course of education in a madrasah consisted of three steps in sevens years. Hence, whole course of education in madrasah lasted 21 years. The pupils studied theological sciences, arithmetic, jurisprudence, logic, music and poetry. Such way of education had a positive influence upon development and wide circulation of the Uzbek language, and also on development of literature, science, art and skills.

To that period of Bukhara history belong the new books on history and geography - such as "Khaft iklim" - "Seven Climates" by Amin Akhmed Razi, a native of Iran. Bukhara of the 16-th century was the centre of attraction for skilled craftsman of calligraphy and miniature-paintings, such experts were Sultan Ah Maskhadi, Makhmud ibn Iskhak ash-Shakhibi, the theoretician in calligraphy Dervish Mukhammad Buklian, Maulyan Makhmud Muzakhkhib and Jelaleddin Yusuf. Among famous poets and theologians who worked in Bukara of that time were Mushfiki, Nizami Muamaya, Muhammad Amin Zakhid. Maulan Abd-al Khakim was the most famous of many physicians who practiced in Bikhara and Khanate in the 16-th century.

At the time of government of Abd al-Aziz-khan (1533-1550) he established the library "having no equal" the world over. The prominent scholar Sultan Mirak Munshi worked there since 1540. The gifted calligrapher, Mir Abid Khusaini, well-wielded mast-a liq and raikham handwritings, the brilliant miniature-painter and master of encrustation was the librarian (kitabdar) of Bukhara library. This information is retained by Khasan Nisari in his biographic work ("tazkira") "Muzakhir al-Akhbab" - "Remembrance of friends".

In the 19-th century, Bukhara still played a significant role in regional cultural and religious life at the region. Russian secret messenger P. I. Demerzon testifies in his famous "Memorandum" (1834-35), "The madrasahs in Bukhara are famed throughout Turkistan. Students come here from Khiva, Kokand, Gissar and even from Samarkand and also from many Tatar regions ... There are about 60 madrasahs in Bukhara that are more or less successful." Demerzon arrived to Bukhara in 1834 under the guise of Tatar mullah Jafar, it enabled him to explore freely the city.

The fortified walls and gates

The real subjects of curiosity in Bukhara are fortified walls and gates. The section of the city wall with huge breaches in the brickwork is the good sample of fortification architecture. It is also an important element in the topography of the city, one that is closely associated with the history of Bukhara. Narshakhi - Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Narshakhi of Bukhara wrote the history of Bukhara and presented it to the Samanid ruler Nuh ibn Nasr in 943 A.D. (A.H. 332) - wrote that the first appearance of walls around the shakhristan in Bukhara dated back to the 8th century A.D. That was the time of the reign of the Tahirid - local ruling dynasty of governors under Arabs. The intensive development of the prospering city in the 9-th century was the reason of the new rampart construction (849-50), which embraced together the Ark citadel and the shakhristan. At the first decades of the 12th century, under the reign of Arslan-khan (1102-1130) of the Karakhanid dynasty, the walls were reinforced by adobe clay fortifications.

One more new rampart made of baked brick appeared around Bukhara in 1164-65 at the time of reign of Ma'sud Klich Tamgach-khan. In 1207-08 when Bukhara was a part of kingdom of Khorezmshakh Muhammad both ramparts were reconstructed. Then soon, in 1220 they were destroyed during the siege by Mongol hordes of Genghis-khan.

Al-Bakuvi - writer of the 15-th century - reports on two ramparts around Bukhara restored at the middle of the 13-th century. The external rampart encircled area of 5184 square km. The internal wall gathered round an area of 36 square km with Ark citadel at the center. The author stressed, "... and within this space there was no a single plot of waste land or ruined building."

Abd al-Aziz-khan I - the khan of Shaibanid dynasty - built new fortifications around the suburbs of Bukhara during the period from 1540 until 1549.

Researchers identified the names of eleven of city gates (five of which were in the extant area of the wall). Only two of them are intact now: Talipach gate in the north and Karakul gate in the south-west. The date of their building is the end of the 16th century. The Sheikh Djalal gate in the south recently went to ruin.

The Ark

The ancient fortress Ark  (Bukhara map) is the initial core of the city, the oldest monument in Bukhara and formerly residence of the local rulers. The first settlements appeared at this place at least at the 3d century B.C.

Design and architecture

Over the centuries, destroyed structures at the site of the Ark have formed an artificial hill 18 meters (59 feet) high. Last rulers of Bukhara have built up the top layer with constructions, part of which we can see today. On a plan the shape of the Ark looks like irregular rectangle (perimeter of the walls – 789,60 metres (863,52 yards); area – 3,96 hectares (9,79 acres)).

The gateway (the monumental entrance and doomed premises behind it - “darvazkhana”) of the Ark – rebuilt in the 18-th century, conceivably, by emir Shahmurad (1785 - 1800) - facing west to the Registan square in form of massive portal with gallery, fringed by double towers.

Inside the fortress leads the ascensional passage ("dalon"). Along the sides of the passage, the rooms for water and sand and prison cells are situated; twelve niches at the left and thirteen at the right of passage.

Some rooms on the left have the doors. These rooms formerly were prison cells ("obhona"). However, even under these cells there was dungeon ("qanahona") for most dangerous prisoners. The domed niche ("dalona") at half way along the passage, at the left, in pre-Islamic era was the worship place of Zurahustrian who used to put out a candle here in honor of Siavush. Here, under foundation, by the legend lie his remains.

Atop, opposite the passage dominates the gallery of the Grand mosque. It has a lay-out of big quarter mosque with one prayer room, framed with the portico on wooden pillars – a gallery (eivan/ iwan/ ivan,ivvan) over its three sides. The period of the Bukhara emirate under the government of emir Shahmurad (1785 - 1800) was the time of relative stability and prosperity. Emir Shahmurad nicknamed "sinless emir" carried out repairs of many of old structures in the Ark and built up new ones. Therefore, in all probability, the earlier building of Grand mosque on that place was rebuilt and reshaped during the government of emir Shahmurad. The building of Grand mosque has the signs of later reconstructions (made, admittedly, at the close of the 19-th century).

Once - must be under the government of emir Nasrulla (1826-1860) who had a nickname "butcher", "emir qassab" because of his cruelty - a big leathern lash, been hanged on one of the wall of Ark, emblematized emir's power.

Although, most buildings, especially wooden framework, perished in the fire in 1920, the complex still have many curiosities like extant Ulduhtaron Mosque, famous because of legend of 40 murdered girls, which were thrown into the well.


Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Narshakhi (899-960 A.D.) in his book "Tarikh-i Bukhara" -  "The history of Bukhara" - wrote: when Bidun Bukhar Khudah - Bukhara ruler - built the fortress, it immediately went to ruin. However hard he tried to restore, the fortress did not endure." This is the first written mentioning about the Ark (Kuhindis). When Bidun Bukhar Khudah took council with wise men, they gave him good advice to build the fortress on seven pillars situated like stars in the Great Bear constellation.


According to the Persian epic poem Shahnameh the city was founded by King Siavush son of Shah Kavakhous, one of the mythical Iranian Shahs of the Pishdak Dynasty. As the legend goes Siavush was accused of seducing his mother by the Vizers. To test his innocence he underwent trial by fire. After emerging unscathed from the flames he crossed the Oxus into Turan. The king of Samarkand Afrosiab, gave Siavash his daughter Ferganiza and a vassal kingdom in the Bukhara Oasis. There he built the Ark, and surrounding city. Some years later Siavash was again accused of seducing his father-in-law's wife. Afrasiab killed Siavash, and buried his head under the Haysellers Gate. In retaliation Shah Kavakhous attacked Turan killed Afrasiab, and took his son and daughter-in-law back to Persia.

Also they say that before Afrasiab gave Siavush his daughter he stipulated that pretender should be able to build a fortress on piece of land under an ox-hide. However Siavush was very ingenious. He slit ox-hide into slender ribbons then he joined ends together and inside this ring he later built the Ark.

The Bolo-khauz Complex

The Registan square to the west of the Ark in the past was the developed social center of the city with office blocks, palaces, mosques and commercial sections of bazaar. There was also hospital (dar ash-shifa) at the square, where, patients could receive potions (dori) and special food for treatment. The hospital had a lay-out similar to madrasahs. It had wards for bed-patients, the dispensary and the pharmacy. The hospital was also the training unit for physicians.

Opposite the Ark is situated the Bolo-khauz Complex (on Bukhara map Bolo Khauz Mosque) which is the only monument of the Registan square that survived through the years. In the water of the pond one can see a reflection of the colorfully painted eivan - a gallery with colonnade - and of the minaret. The earliest part of this complex is the pond ("khauz") called "Bolo-khauz" ("children's pond") - one of the few remaining ponds surviving in the city of Bukhara. Until the Soviet period there were many such ponds, which were the city's principal source of water, but they were notorious for spreading disease and were mostly cut off from water during the 1920s and 30s.

They say that Emir Shahmurad (1785 - 1800) built up the mosque for his in public prayers, for he loved to be closer to his people.

The Samanid Mausoleum

The Samanid mausoleum (on Bukhara map Samonid’s Mausoleum) is located not far away from the Ark citadel, in the Samanid Park on the site of an ancient cemetery. This mausoleum, one of the most esteemed sights of Central Asian architecture, was built in the 9th (10th) century (between 892 and 943) by Ismail Samani - the founder of the Samanid dynasty. This was the last Persian dynasty to rule in Central Asia, which held the city in the 9th and 10th centuries. Ismail Samani built up the mausoleum in honor of his father Achmed ibn Asad. Then the mausoleum became the family crypt: Ismail and, according to an inscription above the entrance to the mausoleum, his grandson were buried here.

The Chashma-iy-Ayub Mausoleum (Job's well)

Along the road leading from Samanid Park is situated another mausoleum - Chashma-iy-Ayub (Job's well) (on Bukhara map Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum). It is a compound structure, repeatedly reconstructed during the period from the 14th till the 19th centuries. The structure finally acquired the form of an elongated prism crowned with domes of various forms covering several premises. A double conical dome, resting on a cylindrical drum, marks location of the well.

The Bible story and the Legend

The Bible says: "There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and turned away from evil" (Job 1:1). Nobody knows where this land was; therefore, it is quite possible that Job lived in area of modern Bukhara city. The legend narrates that Job (Ayub) was walking over this place at the time of severe drought. As local people, dying from thirst, begged him of water, he struck the earth with his staff and instantly the healing water spring appeared. The antique well still gives pure and tasty water. The existence of the historical monument having connection with the Bible content is a definite proof of the prevalence of this Scripture in the area in the distant past.

The Kosh Madrasah Ensemble

In the same district, not far from the park is situated one of the most interesting ensembles of Bukhara - "Kosh-Madrasah" (on Bukhara map Kosh Madrasah Ensemble), which is typical of Bukhara. The word "Kosh" means "paired" because two structures of the ensemble face one another across a narrow street.

The sponsor of the Ensemble was Abdullah-khan II (1561-1598), the most successful khan of Shaibanid dynasty. In 974 A.H. (1566-67) he built up the Modari-khan Madrasah in memory of his mother (“Modari-khan” means “mother of khan”). The date of construction is inserted in majolica inscription above the main entrance. As to composition of structure, the madrasah has fairly standard layout including a dormitory, which consists of small cells (hudjras) around a courtyard, public halls of a mosque and lecture-rooms (darskhana) along both sides of front. The facade (peshtaq) of the madrasah has gorgeous appearance because of multicolor brick mosaic.

Date of construction of the Abdullah-khan Madrasah is between 1588-90 years. The madrasah has very colorful and festive look because of variety of decorative methods. Chilled colors of majolica slabs: blue, white and aquamarine are sparkling by the sunlight.

Unlike some madrasahs with blind wings of their fronts, the facades of the Modari-khan Madrasah and the Abdullah-khan Madrasah have arched doorways to the lecture-rooms from the street on ground floor and from loggias on second floor. The Abdullah-khan Madrasah is one of three greatest madrasahs in Bukhara after Kukeldash and Mir-i Arab.

The architectural monuments of the 16th - 17th centuries

Medieval Bukhara is a great phenomenon in architecture. The beginning of the 16th century was an epochal period of unstable authority of the pioneering khans of Shaibanid dynasty. The capital of young Shaibanid state - in period between 1533-1539 under the government of Ubaidullah-khan it became the Bukahara Khanate - was once and again transfered from Samarkand to Bukhara - from Bukhara to Tashkent - and back.

Nonetheless, this very time became an age of marvels of architectural ingenuity. In initial three decades of the 16-th century was finished the central ensemble of Po-i Kalyan (Pa-i kalyan). In the first half of the 16-th century were built wonderful quarter mosque Balyand and mosque-khanaka Khoja Zain ad-Din. The Baha-ud-Din Naqshband out-of-town complex was initiated at the same period.

The Khoja Zain ad-Din Complex

The Khoja Zain ad-Din Complex (on Bukhara map Khodja Zaynuddin Complex), is the characteristic ritual structure - mosque-khanaka - of the first half of the 16-th century. Such structures often consist of a few premises of various purposes (mosque itself, khanaka (var. khana-gah), often madrasah, graveyard - mazar - and the like). The Khoja Zain ad-Din mosque-khanaka is situated on the verge of one of the oldest intact ponds. The pond had the marble walls and the carved marble spillway in the form of open jaws of a dragon (adjarkho).

One of points of particular interest is the mazar - esteemed burial place - of Khoja Turk (now controversially considered as the burial place of Khoja Zayn ad-Din). It is made quite close to genuine tradition of the Koran. According to this tradition even highest rulers along with holy man must be buried in the open air instead of magnificent mausoleums. The headstone of Khoja Turk (sagana) is located in cramped courtyard (hazira) with the brick wall and the gate. The mazar is marked by two traditional poles (tug) with yak tails. Mausoleums of Bukhara were mainly built at the time of Timirid dynasty. Under the Shaibanid's reign the construction of mausoleums was illicit. The rulers, which appeared after the Shaibanid khans, have started to build mausoleums only at the close of the 17-th century.

The Balyand Mosque

An excellent example of a quarter ritual center is the Balyand Mosque (Bukhara map) in the western part of old Bukhara. The mosque belongs to the beginning of the 16-th century. It has a cube-shaped structure with adjoining colonnade. The Balyand Mosque is famous for its refined interior. Especially the paneling made of hexahedral glazed tiles painted with gold, which goes round the hall. The mosque took its name ("balyand" means "lofty") because of raised stone bed, on which rests the construction.

The Khoja-Gaukushan Ensemble

One of the major ensembles in the center Bukhara is Khoja-Gaukushan (on Bukhara map Gaukushon Complex). The madrasah was built in 1570 by order of Abdullah-khan II (1561-1598). He came to power with the help of Khoja Islam Juibariy - the powerful leader of local clan of Khoja(s). This clan - often identified as "Juibariya". Abdullah-khan was a disciple (murid) of Khoja Islam, therefore he always gave support to the clan. He built many religious and civil installations for them.

Gaukushan means "one who kills bulls" because earlier there was a slaughterhouse at that place. The Gaukushan Madrasah was erected at the bifurcation of streets, it explains its trapeziform. This, however, did not hinder the preservation of the traditional courtyard layout.

In 1598 Khoja Sa'ad - called "Khoja Kalon" -  "Great Khoja", the son of Khoja Islam - built new cathedral mosque, named "Khoja Mosque" or "Khoja Kalon Mosque", with tall minaret close to the Gaukushan Madrasah.

Juibariy Kalon Madrasah

This Madrasah is located in historical residential area of Bukhara - Khauz-i-nau (New Pond). Construction of the madrasah, which wears a famous name Juibariy Kalon (Great Juibar) (on Bukhara map Djuiboriy Kalon Madrasah), in Tadjik - Madrasayi Djuibor, according to a legend, was sponsored by Oi-posho-bibi - a blind (odjis) daughter of Djuibar ishan Khoja Sa'ad, nicknamed Khoja Kalon (Great Khoja). Read more ...

In front of the Madrasah there is a big khauz - Khauz-i-nau (New Pond). This khauz had an ill fame. They told, that it urges people to commit suicide (bong mesanad - "call"). Read more ...

The Faizabad Khanaka

In the former northeast outskirts of the old part of the city, is located one of the most noble-looking monument in Bukhara - the Faizabad Khanaka (Bukhara map), built in 1598-99. People of the mosque were inhabitants of residential quarter (neighborhood and unit of local self-government also "mahalla") called "Shohy Ahsy". The primary purpose of the mosque was to serve as a place for the five daily prayers (masjid-y panchvakty), as well as for "collective" prayers on Fridays (masjid-y jamihony). It was also a place for ritualized dhikr ceremonies of Sufi, the liturgy of which often include recitation, singing, instrumental music, dance, costumes, incense, meditation, ecstasy, and trance. The edifice also had facilities for temporary refuge of dervishes. Eshon(s) (spiritual leaders at the head of a Muslim community in Turkistan) of the mosque had high esteem over Bukhara. Therefore they had multitude of followers (murids).

The construction of the mosque was financed by famed Sufi Mavlano Poyanda-Muhammad Ahsy (Ahsyqety)-yj Fayzabody (died in 1601). He was the founder of Sufi centre known as Fayzabad. This clan of eshons, also known under the name Shohy Ahsy, retained an authority until Soviets came to power.

The edifice is made of baked bricks. Its layout is impressive and well balanced: the spacious central hall is flanked on both sides by vaulted galleries. The main portal's pylons, as well as the wall behind the mihrab ("mihrab" - an Arabic word for the niche in the wall of a mosque, indicating the direction of Mecca, toward which prayers are directed), contain three tiers of cells, which was giving temporary refuge to dervishes. The cap of the dome in an interior is decorated with an effective two-color ganch fretwork of local technique named "chaspak".

The Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah

Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah (1652-1662) (on Bukhara map Abdullaziskhan Madrasah) makes up an architectural ensemble with Ulugbek Madrasah but is more luxurious in its decor. The portal is distinguished for its height and rich exterior ornamentation. The complete range of building techniques of its time were applied in the courtyard and rooms, namely carved tile and brick mosaic, relief majolica, marble carving, alabaster murals and gilding.

As the legend tells, Abd al-Aziz-khan (1645-1680), the sixth khan of Ashtarkhanid (Janid) dynasty (established in 1599) was a follower (murid) of Khalifa Hudoydod, as well as of other famed eshon - Mavlano Sharif. Both eshons struggled for khan's favor. The khan himself had health problem. To his old age the disease made his body almost completely paralyzed. Therefore, it seems to be true, that he desperately needed of supernatural guidance. At least Khan's connection to Sufi Mavlano Sharif explains a choice for the place of the Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah construction, which though locates on territory of historical urban quarter Azizon, but nevertheless was constructed just at the northern border of quarter Mavlano Sharif. The tomb of Mavlano Sharif - the main relic of historical quarter - was inside mausoleum, built nearby mosque-khanaka. Mausoleum is kept safe.

Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah became the last structure of such scale in the Bukhara khanate. The wilting period for Bukhara ensued after the death of Abd al-Azis-khan. Nevermore Bukhara was so rich and stable to fulfill construction of such splendid structures as Abd al-Azis-khan Madrasah. For example, Madrasah of Tursunjon (1796-97) built up at the end of relatively stable period (1758-1800) under emirs Danyal-biy and his son Shahmurad looks very ascetic without exterior decoration.

The choice of decoration means exhibits a a tendency of release of pressure from religious bans of formal Islam. In terms of decoration the madrasah follows to such prominent precursors as Sher-Dor Madrasah in Samarkand and Nadir Divan-begi Madrasah in Bukhara. Instead of modest geometrical ornamental patterns here were used more complicated mythical elements such as phoenix birds and even dragonsns. The color palette of decoration includes chrome, which imparts luster to unusual appearance of madrasah.

The Poi Kalyan Complex

"Po-i-Kalyan" is a word-combination, which in Persian means "the foot of the Great". This title was given to architectural complex (on Bukhara map Poi Kalyan Complex), which is located at the foot of the great minaret Kalyan. The complex is unmatched in Bukhara, forming unique silhouette of its historical center. The place where the complex is located remembers a few completely ruined buildings in the past. In pre-Islamic era right here was located the central cathedral of fire-worshippers. Since 713 here, at the site south of the Ark, several edifices of main cathedral mosque were built then razed, restored after fires and wars, and moved from place to place. In 1127, the Karakhanid ruler Arslan-khan fulfilled a construction of most significant of past architecture ensembles at this place - the cathedral mosque with the minaret. Greatness of these structures was so amazing, that it made Genghis-khan to consider mosque mistakenly to be khans' palace. Nevertheless the building of mosque was not spared by the fire, and for many years after the conflagration it was laying in ruins. All that remained intact of former ensemble is the magnificent minaret Kalyan (Minara-yi-Kalyan).

The Kalyan minaret

The minaret is most famed part of the ensemble, which dominates over historical center of the city in form of a huge vertical pillar. 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. There were also cases when for this purpose Moslems used towers of Roman sanctuaries, belfries of Christian churches, "fire-towers" of fire-worshippers and other vertical structures. The word "minaret" descends to Arabic "manara" ("lighthouse", or more literally "a place where something burn"). Probably an idea of minarets of Islam was adopted from "fire-towers" or lighthouses of previous epochs. In some of the oldest mosques, such as the Great mosque of Damascus, minarets originally served as watchtowers illuminated by torches (hence the derivation of the word from the Arabic "nur", meaning "light").

The architect, whose name was simply Bako, entwined his name (as well as the date of construction and the name of Arslan-khan) with epigraphic ornaments of the Minaret. Local inhabitants believe that the architect was buried somewhere among houses of the neighboring residential quarter. Bako made a minaret in the form of a circular-pillar brick tower, narrowing upwards, of 9 meters (29.53 feet) diameter at the bottom, 6 meters (19.69 feet) overhead and 45.6 meters (149.61 feet) high. There is a brick spiral staircase that twists up inside around the pillar, leading to the landing in sixteen-arched rotunda - skylight, which based on a magnificent stalactite cornice (sharafa).

The Kalyan Mosque

Kalyan Mosque (1514) is equal with Bibi-khonym Mosque in Samarkand by the scale. The mosque is able to accommodate 12 thousand people.
Historical background
After the death of Shaibani-khan in 1510 the most of local rulers (emirs and sultans) recognized central government only partially. The capital of the Shaibanid state was in Samarkand. In 1512 the nephew of Shaibani-khan young prince Muizz ad-Din Abu-l Gazi Ubaidullah became sultan of Bukhara. He inherited the power from his father Mahmud-sultan, who was the cadet brother of Shaibani-khan and his faithful companion-in-arms. Till 1533 Ubaidullah-sultan was successful governor of Bukhara, when he was enthroned as a khan of whole Shaibanid state - khan of Maverannahr (Ma wara'u'n-nahr). In spite of this he refused to move his residence to Samarkand - the capital of the State. Moreover he later made Bukhare the capital of the Shaibanid state. After that the state governed by Ubaidullah (Ubaidulla) received new name - Bukhara khanate. Thus Ubaidullah-khan (gov. 1533-1539) became the first khan of Bukhara khanate. While Ubaidullah-khan was the khan of Maverannahr, his son Abdul-Aziz-khan was the khan of Bukhara. They considered Bukhara as their family lot. They were patriots of Bukhara, and therefore they constantly were anxious for success of the city.

The fact that governor of Bukhara in 1514 built such grand mosque, which could rival with the symbol of royal Samakand - the Bibi-khonim Mosque, shows a tendency to make eventually Bukhara the capital of the Shaibanid state. By the construction of Kalyan Mosque Ubaidullah-sultan started formation of new capital, rather than to fight for domination over Samarkand, which by the way has forever hostile feeling to Shaibanids.
Although Kalyan Mosque (Masjid-y kalyan) and Bibi-Khanym Mosque of Samarkand are of the same type of building, they are different in terms of art of building. 288 monumental pylons serve as a support for the multidomed 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.

The Mir-i-Arab Madrasah (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.

The war with Iran, heated up by ideas of holy war between two historical branches of Islam (Shi'as and Sunni), was considered as piety. Persian military man wore turbans with 12 red stripes in honor of 12 Shi'a Imams. Therefore, Turkic-speaking Sunnis gave them contemptuous nickname "kizilbashi" (red-headed).

Ubaidullah-khan was very religious. He had been nurtured in high respect for Islam in the spirit of Sifism. His father named him in honor of prominent sheikh of the 15-th century Ubaidullah al-Ahrar (1404-1490), by origin from Tashkent province.

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.

By the thirties of the 16-th 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.

Traditional covered bazaars and bathhouses

The intersections of main streets of medieval Bukhara served a purpose of trade, that caused a construction there of notable domed structurestaq(s) and tim(s). Passing by Po-i Kalyan northwardly one can reach a place of ancient four bazaars ("Chakhar suk" or "Chorsu"). There is situated the first of such structures, called Chorsu or Taq-i Zargaron ("zargaron" means "jeweler").

Taq-i Zargaron

According to Khafizi Tanysh, a chronicler of the 16-th century, in 1569-70 Taq-i Zargaron (on Bukhara map Toki Zargaron Trading Dome), the taq of jewelers, is the largest of all existing ancient shopping malls in Bukhara. Tag-i Zargaron once accommodated 36 shops and ateliers with all inventory.

Tim Abdullakhan

A cowded street encumbered with caravanserais and rows of stalls once led to the south from Taq-i Zargaron. The arcade Tim Abdullah-khan (1577) (on Bukhara map Tim Abdullakhan Trading Dome) became the dominating structure at that street in the epoch of Abdullah-khan II (1561-1598), the most successful khan of the Shaibanid dynasty.

Taq-i Telpaq Furushon

Shortly after Tim Abdullakhan the same street leads to southeast where it meets northern passageway of Taq-i Telpaq Furushon (on Bukhara map Toki Telpak Furushon Trading Dome). Besides this street four more streets at different angles reach the structure. Architects met a challenge by making passageways for each street between six radially placed pylons carrying a low cylindrical cupola (of 14.5 meters in diameter) with dodecahedral skylight. The galleries with niches and storerooms around the central hall are located on twelve inner 12 axes. Taq-i Telpaq Furushon was a shopping mall mainly of fur and other kind of head-dresses such as skullcaps embroidered with gold-thread and beads, fur-hats, and skillfully rolled turbans.

Western passageway of Taq-i Telpaq Furushon leads to Mekhtar Ambar street. The first building on the right that adjoins to the wall of Taq-i Telpaq Furushon is the ancient caravanserai Kuleta of the 16-th century. If to pass a little in front on the left, one can see the mosque named Kurpa of the first half of the 16-th century. Nearly at the end of this street on the right, there is another curiosity, the Madrasah of Mullo Tursunjon, which at the end of the 18-th century became fourth of greatest madrasahs in Bukhara after Kukeldash, Mir-i Arab and Abdullah-khan.

Taq-i Sarrafon

Taq-i Sarrafon (on Bukhara map Toki Sarrafon Trading Dome) was built at the end of the 16-th century at the place of historic market place beside the ancient aryk - an irrigation ditch - Shahrud. Now the water of Shahrud flows on the bottom of concrete channel. However, in the past it looked like muddy rivulet. Beside it, there was moneychangers' bazaar from time of ancient Bukhara. When Taq-i sarrafon was built they made it the center of usurious/currency businesses. There, also were stores with skullcaps embroidered with gold, snow-white turbans, earrings, pendants, expensive harness and crockery. Today's bargaining takes place in way that looks like the whole of it.

Foundation of Taq-i sarrafon unearthed during recent restoration lies almost two meters beneath the soil level.

Bukhara bathhouses

Near to Taq-i Sarrafon trading dome one can see the bathhouse of the same name. Bathhouses are not to be confused with special premises for ablution — they were available in many quarters of city. Ablutions, in the East, have always been important part of religious worship. Depending on facilities there were two types of such premises: tahorathona - a place for partial ablution, which, according to sharia law, should precede each prayer - and guslhona for complete ablution, which are ritual obligatory, for example after intimacy between husband and wife.

Independently of ablution, a visit to a bathhouse was considered a "must" as part of standard of well-being of the citizens in Bukhara. Therefore, bathhouses were an indispensable element of an urban public center. Particular significance was attached to medicinal and hygienic properties of baths have. As Abu Ali ibn Sina writes in his “Canon of Medical Science”, good baths must have a firm building, moderate temperature, bright light, pure air, roomy and attractively painted dressing room and pleasant water. The entrance of Taq-i Sarrafon bathhouse leads straight from a street into relatively spacious checkroom and lounge. Further from the lounge, a corridor leads to several semi-basement bathrooms - with dome-shaped roof - connected by narrow passages.

There is one more intact ancient bathhouse in the present-day Bukhara. It is Bozor-i Kord, near to Taq-i Telpaq Furushon.

Though in outward appearance the bathhouses look inexpressive - these semi-basement structures pressed into narrow space amongst trading buildings scarcely rise above the surface with their low domes - they are interesting from cultural, historical and architectural points of view as good preserved examples of the civic-building in Bukhara in the 16-th century.

The Lyabi Khauz Ensemble

The Labi Khauz (on Bukhara map Lyabi Khauz), i.e. "at the pond", is the title given to the area surrounding one of the few remaining Hauz or ponds surviving in the city of Bukhara. Until the Soviet period there were many such ponds, which were the city's principal source of water, but they were notorious for spreading disease and were mostly filled in during the 1920s and 30s. The Lyab-i Hauz survived because it is the centrepiece of a magnificent architectural ensemble, created during the 16th and 17th centuries, which has not been significantly changed since.

The ensemble comprises three monumental structures: Kukeldash Madrasah in the north, Khanaka (1619-20) in the west and Nadir divan-begi Madrasah (1622/23) (on Bukhara map Nodir Devan-Begi Madrasah) in the east. The small Qazi-e Kalyan Nasreddin madrasah (now demolished) was formerly located beside the Kukeldash Madrasah

The Kukeldash Madrasah (1568/69)

The word "kukeldash" literally means "foster-brother". In a hierarchy of power inherited from Genghis-khan this word designates one of the most important positions of khans' court. The sponsor of Kukeldash Madrasah was highly influential emir Kulbaba, who held a post of Kukeldash under several khans of the Shaibanid dynasty. It is historically proven, that emir Kulbaba Kukeldash gave help to Abdulla-khan II (1561-1598) - the most powerful khan of the Shaibanid dynasty - to come to power. According to the hallowed tradition of consecration of the khan inherited from Mongols - in the states that appeared after disintegration of the empire - each new khan ought to be lifted lying on the sheet of white felt. The power to strain the sheet from four corners had four men recognized as most influential figure in a commonwealth. Emir Kulbaba was one of four men who consecrated Abdulla-khan II. The title "khan" could be given only to "tore" - agnate lineal descendant of Genghis-khan.

The greatest in size (80 x 60 meters and over 130 hujras) among other madrasahs in Bukhara, Kukeldash Madrasah became a symbol of the steadfast state under Abdulla-khan. The madrasah also famed as splendid example of "white interior". The entrance gate is of particular interest, inlay fixtures are devoid of glue or nails. The main front is adorned with geometrical ornaments.

Impact of Nadir Divan-begi

Historical background
Divan-begi is a title that designated the post right after khan in the Bukhara khanate. Nadir Divan-begi held this position during the reign of Imam Quli-khan (1611-1642), the strongest khan of the Ashtarkhanid (Janid) dynasty (established in 1599). The rulers of Janid dynasty was alien to powerful Shaibanid feudal lords, therefore Imam Quli-khan hardly retained his power by force. The devotion to Islam tradition in the state under Janid dynasty was pale before the eagerness of the time of prominent Shaibanid khans. These two important peculiarities of the power were soon expressed in remarkable architecture tendency. In 1619 Yalantush-biy who virtually independently governed Samarkand had begun the construction of grand madrasah (Sher-Dor Madrasah). The rich colored finishing and the depiction of sun, tigers and antelopes tell of a pioneering approach to artistic expression, unique in the Islamic world.
The Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah (1622/23)
In three years Nadir Divan-begi followed Yalantush-biy by construction of his own revolutionary structure (Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah). Originally Nadir Divan-begi intended the building to be a caravanserai (not that it was allowed to portray human or animal figures on them either but it was marginally better than on a madrasah). But at the inauguration ceremony, Imam Quli-khan unexpectedly proclaimed the supposed caravanserai is to be a madrasah. So Nadir Divan-begi was obliged to rearrange the caravanserai, by adding on to the front the loggias and angular towers. He also constructed an additional storey with cells (hujras). At the same time the madrasah does not have a lecture room!

The entrance portal has depictions of 2 phoenix birds, 2 misshapen white deer and a "man-in-the-sun" face.
The Khanaka of Nadir Divan-begi (1619/20)
This Khanaka a rectangular edifice topped with a dome. The building has non-traditional narrow and prolate main portal along with two lateral entrances. The hall (dhikr-hana) has excellent acoustic properties. The inner walls of the hall are recessed with niches fringed with stucco moldings. The dwelling space occupies corners and lateral exterior walls of the building. The finishing of the main entrance gate is made quite conservatively, with an exception of some floral elements in ornamentation. The edges of the main portal are overworked with epigraphy ornaments. The main front of the khanaka is cornered with towers cut at a level of the walls.

The khanaka, owing to its location and size (side of the square hall is 11,2 m. - 36,75 ft.) in the course of centuries was the prominent cultural and religious centre of Bukhara.
The story
According to local story, when Nadir Divan-begi built the Khanaka, near the site of the building there, was a large holding, owned by an old Jewish widow. Nadir Divan-begi had decided that this site would be the perfect place for pond. However, the widow turned down his offer to buy the property. Then Nadir Divan-begi brought her before Imam Quli-khan in the hope that he would coerce her into selling. Imam Quli-khan ordered a congress of muftis to inquire into the question. However, these specialists in Muslim law decided that there was no legal way to purchase the property, other than with the widow's consent, since Jews had rights on a par with Muslims if they paid the Jizyah or poll tax on non-Muslims.

Therefore, Nadir Divan-begi had to build a small reservoir near the house of that stubborn Jewess. Nevertheless, he dug an aryk - an irrigation ditch - to his new pond in such a way that the water ran right near the Jewish widow's house, although it was more expensive. Soon the water began to undermine the foundations of the widow's house. When she came to Nadir Divan-begi for justice, he confirmed his readiness to buy her house for fair price. The widow rejected the money, laying down her own conditions instead. She promised give up her property if the Bukhara rulers would give to her another piece of land with permission to build a synagogue. In return for the widow’s holding Nadir Divan-begi gave her a plot of land, belonging to him, in residential area, which later was named the "Jewish quarter" (Mahalli Kuma).

Soon the first synagogue at Bukhara and a large pond, the last element of the complex, were built. People started to call it the "Lyab-i Hauz", which means "at the pond". The date of its construction is about 1620. However, folk memory retains another epithet - "Haus-i Bazur" i.e. "made with a force".
The pond
Today Lyab-i Hauz is a right-angled pond (46 x 36 meters), which stretches from the east to the west. Its edges have the form of the descending staircase made of massive blocks of yellowish limestone.

The Magak-i Attari Mosque

Before the Arab conquest there was a bazaar close by the site of the Magak-i Attari Mosque (on Bukhara map Magoki Attoron Mosque), i.e. the "Mosque in pit". It was a market for idols, potions and spices - attar (perfumes). Besides this, there, was formerly a Temple of the moon (Mokh) at this place.

During this time Bukhara functioned as a cult center for the worship of Sin the god of the moon. The two chief seats of Sin's worship were Ur in the south and Harran to the north of Mesopotamia. The cult of Sin spread to other centers, and temples of the moon-god are found in all the large cities of Babylonia and Assyria. The moon-god is by excellence the god of nomadic peoples, since the moon is their guide and protector at night when they undertake their wanderings. Therefore, the cult most likely arose at the place of Bukhara from the very outset of the first settlements because of inter-nomadic connections.

Approximately once a lunar cycle, the inhabitants of the Zaravshan Valley exchanged their old idols of Sin for new ones. The trade festival took place in front of the Moon (Mokh) Temple. This festival was important in assuring the fertility of land on which all inhabitants of the delta of Zaravshan depended. Because of the trade festivals, Bukhara became a center of commerce.

Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Narshakhi of Bukhara, who had completed his book in 943 A.D. (A.H. 332), mentions the mosque, which was built on the site of former Mokh Temple. He used the name "magok", i.e. "in a pit", because even then half of it was concealed from view by the rising soil level. Hence, the mosque, perhaps, is one of the earliest religious buildings of Islamic era in Bukhara. Choice of place for the mosque also proves this assumption, because Arab conquerors built their sanctuaries first of all at the places of prostrated cults. In Bukhara, it had taken place at least once more; the very first cathedral mosque was built at the place of destroyed temple of fire-worshippers. There is opinion that the Kalyan Mosque was afterwards built exactly at that place.

Before the construction of the first synagogue in the 17-th century Jews had shared a place in the Magak-i Attari Mosque with Muslims. Some say that Jews and Muslims worshipped alongside each other in the same place at the same time. Other sources insist that Jews worshipped after Muslims. This perhaps explains the Bukharan Jewish custom of saying "Shalom Aleyhim" ("Peace be with you") after morning prayer. This custom is lacking amongst European Jews.

Abdul-Aziz-khan I (gov. 1533-1550) had made thorough repairs of the mosque in 1549. New eastern upper portal was built, because the ancient southern portal remained under the ground. Now released the southern portal represents genuine masterpiece of early Islamic architecture in Bukhara.


Chor-Minor (also the Madrasah of Khalif Niyaz-kul) is situated on an esplanade down the road a bit to northeast from Labi-hauz. Chor-Minor i.e. "four minarets" (on Bukhara map Chor Minor Madrasah) it is well-preserved structure built by Khalif Niyaz-kul - rich inhabitant of Bukhara, Turkmen by origin. The date of construction 1807 often indicated is not precise, because archival documents keep data, which prove, that in Bukhara at the close of the 17-th century there was a residential area (quarter) Khalif Niyaz-kul named after madrasah of the same name.

Design of Chor-Minor is such unusual that it is just flat-out confusing. Therefore, some consider the structure with four towers as a gate to lost madrasah behind. However, on closer examination one can see that Chor-Minor (even in the state that it got up to our days) is all-sufficient complex of buildings that have at least two destinations - ritual and dwelling.

Main edifice cornered with towers is a mosque. In spite of its unusual outward shape, the mosque has quite customary interior. The primary purpose of the mosque was to serve as a place for the five daily prayers (masjid-y panchvakty). Owing to cupola the room has good acoustic properties, therefore it takes on special significance of dhikr-hana hall, a place for ritualized dhikr ceremonies of Sufi, the liturgy of which often include recitation, singing, and instrumental music.

On either side of a central edifice are located dwelling rooms. Some of them collapsed, only basement remained. Consequently, for full functioning of madrasah only of classroom and some utility rooms is lacking. However, there is no intimation that they ever existed, only guesswork. If to suppose that madrasah was not such huge that extant buildings were only a front of it; intact solid structures can be madrasah in itself for 15-20 students.

On the esplanade to the right from Chor-Minor is a pool, most likely of the same age with the complex of buildings.

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. For example the Goziyon hurd (Small Goziyon) madrasah and even the Nadir Divan-Begi Madrasah (which has no lecture room). In the 19-th century at the quarter Garibia, there was a mosque. There was also a row of dwelling rooms for students near by to this mosque, which (the row) was called the Gabria madrasah. At the quarter Miraqon, there was a khanaka. Khanaka in itself is a hospice for dervishes. However, because there lived students, it was called madrasah. At the quarter Sesu, near to ancient mosque there was hospice composed of only seven hujras (dwelling rooms). The hospice also was called madrasah. The same situation was at the quarter Volida-honi-shahid.

Each of four towers (minarets) has different shape. Some say that elements of decoration reflect religious-philosophical purport of four world religions. At least, one can easily find some elements are reminiscent of cross, Christian fish and Buddhist praying-wheel.

The Namazgoh Mosque

Namazgoh (on Bukhara map Namazgokh Mosque) is one of the oldest constructions of Bukhara in the South of present-day city. The first known Namazgoh at this place was developed in the 9-th century, during the reign of the Samanid dynasty. One of the characters of this time is stabilization of the power under Islam ideology. Because of it, Bukhara became one of the major Islamic centers on the East. It was the time of general construction of ritual buildings (mosques, namazgohs), educational institutions (madrasahs) and other structures peculiar to usages of new religion such as khanaka, minaret and so on.

The word "Namaz" derives from two Sanskrit roots "Nama" and "Yajna" meaning bowing and worshipping. In Persian it is loan-word from Arabic word "Salah". Salah, also salat, namaz, solat, solah, solaat, solaah, salaat, namaaz, shalat and other spellings refer to the five daily ritual prayers in Islam.

The word "Namazgoh" (Namazgah) has the same meaning with the Arabic word “Musalla”, which comes from the root word “Salah”. Salah means “prayer” - Musalla literally means, “prayer performed”. Thus, words Namazgoh and Musalla refer to a place where Namaz can be performed as it is performed in the Sacred Mosque. The musalla may be an area, room or prayer rug used by Muslim people to provide for themselves a clean space to pray.

Known as musalla or festival mosques, namazgohs are open-air mosques capable of accommodating large crowds or camping armies and were often built outside cities, or along major roads.

Existent structure of the Namazgoh of Bukhara was originally constructed in 1119 under Qarakhanid ruler Alp Arslan Khan Mukhammad. Then the namazgoh was significantly modified in three subsequent stages. The first stage, dating to the 12th century is a baked brick qibla wall, approximately 38 meters long. It consists of a central mihrab niche flanked by a blind arch on either side. The broad forecourt is thought to have been partially fenced in, to demarcate sacred territory. The space immediately in front of the mihrab may have been roofed, as seen in similar structures in Merv and Nissa.

The second stage consisted of the addition of geometric brick and terracotta decoration during the 13th century under Mongol Il-Khanid rulers. Timurid reign in the 15th century added decorative bands made of glazed tile. Astrakhanid rulers in the 17th century commissioned the final and the most extensive modifications. A new facade with a three-bay portico, centered about a pishtaq or a projecting portal was attached to the original qibla wall, raised on a stone plinth. A brick minbar - in Islam, the pulpit from which the sermon (khutbah) is delivered - perhaps replacing a wooden predecessor was added to the northern corner of the portico facing the congregation.

There is an octagonal hauz, or stepped lake made of hewn stone, to the north east of the qibla that was possibly used for ablutions. The namazgoh is made of baked brick, terracotta and ganch, or alabaster panels, resulting in a predominantly monochromatic ochre composition. The incised terracotta panels, especially in the interior, bear traces of polychromatic decoration. The pishtaq is lined with blue ceramic bands with kufic calligraphy. Its tympanum is filled with interlocking stars and hexagons in blue ceramic.

The structure had extensive damages to its plinth and roof, caused by water seepage, now it is under reconstruction. Since nowadays it is within the city the namazgoh has lost its ritual significance what has resulted in its disuse and neglect. Today other significant out-of-town religious centers (such as the Bakha ad-Din Nahshbandi Ensemble or Kasim-shaikh mausoleum in Kermine) play a role of namazgoh in Bukhara province.

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah

The Ulugh Beg Madrasah (1417+) (on Bukhara map Ulugbek Madrasah) is the only structure of such scale in Bukhara, which remained from the epoch of the Timuride dynasty.

Ulugh Beg (Chaghatay/Persian: الغبیگ‎ - also Uluğ Bey, Ulugh Bek, Ulug Bek and Ulugbek) (March 22, 1394 - October 27, 1449), born Muhammad Taragai ibn Shakhrukh ibn Timur Gurgan. Ulugh Beg, meaning "Great Ruler" or "Patriarch Ruler" was the grandson of Timur and the son of Shakhrukh. Ulugh Beg was born in Sultaniyeh in Iran. He showed an aptitude for scientific pursuits from an early age. His father and grandfather attracted scholars to Samarkand, and Ulugh Beg took full advantage of this. With Timur's death, and the accession of Ulugh Beg's father to much of the Timurid Empire, Ulugh Beg settled in Samarkand which had been Timur's capital. After Shah Rukh moved the capital to Herat (in modern Afghanistan), sixteen-year-old Ulugh Beg became the governor in Samarkand in 1409. In 1411 he became a sovereign of the whole Mavarannahr khanate.

The teenaged ruler set out to turn the city into an intellectual center for the empire. In 1417-1420 he built the madrasa ("university" or "institute") on Registan Square in Samarkand, and invited numerous Islamic astronomers and mathematicians to study there. In addition to the madrasah in Samarkand Ulugh Beg also built the same institution in Bukhara, supposed to be a real center of the enlightenment in the area. The construction of the Ulugh Beg Madrasah in Bukhara was also initiated in 1417. His own particular interests concentrated on astronomy, and in 1428 he built an enormous observatory in Samarkand.

Interestingly, he was very strongly devoted to the search for truth and accuracy, to the point of using his position of power to advance a false idea, then chastizing people who agreed with him out of deference to his rank and power.

His father, Shakhrukh, died in 1447 and passed control of his kingdom to Ulugh Beg, which drew him away from his scientific pursuits. Ulugh Beg's politics were not up to his science and, after his father's death, he was unable to retain power despite being an only son. Ulugh Beg was assassinated in 1449 under the orders of his son, Abdul Latif, who was himself murdered a year later.

The life of Ulugh Beg paralleled the life of another prominent figure of the 15-th century - Sheikh Uboydullo Khodja Ahror (1404-1490). Sheikh Uboydullo Khodja Ahror was born in Bogiston village near to Tashkent. Uboydullo Ahror was quite young man when he became a head of the Sufi order Naqshbandiyya. He noticeably improved doctrine, and in the middle of the 15th c. he became a leader of Muslim clergy of all the State that was inherited from Timur, where during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Naqshabandiya was the dominant Sufi order. Using his important position Khoja Ahrar became powerful political broker. There is opinion that Khodja Ahror opposed the secular education in madrasahs. After Ulgh Begh's death he moved his residency from Tashkent to Samarkand (in 1451), where in the rest of his life he had enormous influence in spiritual and temporal power. Ulugh Beg's death and the strengthening of the clergy power in the state put an end to the astronomical work at Samarkand.

Perhaps the madrasah of Ulugh Beg in Bukhara built almost at the same time with his madrasah in Samarkand is the witness of inceptive confrontation between Ulugh Beg and religious opposition of Nakshbandiya, whose center was in Bukhara. At least an inscription entwined with astral elements of decor, which predominates in ornamental finishing of the main entrance of the madrasah, throws down a challenge. It says: "Pursuit of knowledge is the duty of each follower of Islam, man and woman". They say there was another inscription, lost in renovation in the 16-th century, "Let the doors of God's blessing will open over a circle of peoples, versed in the book wisdom".

The architects of the Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara were best professionals of that time, Nadjmetdin Bukhari and Ismail Isfagani.

The Saif ed-Din al-Boharsi Mausoleum and the Bayan-Quli Khan Mausoleum

In the settlement, called Fathabad, to the east from medieval Bukhara, in the past was vast religious complex. The initial core of the complex was the grave of Saif ed-Din al-Boharsi (1190-1261) - very popular poet, sheikh, and theologian - who lived in thirteenth century. The followers of the sheikh al-Boharsi have built up at this area of rabad (rabad - an outskirt) many dormitories (khanakas) for dervishes, who lived there on donations of the Kubravi Sufi order members. The Fathabad settlement later had joined the city.

The Chagatay ruler Bayan-Quli Khan had expressed a wish to be interred near by respected burial place of al-Boharsi, and it is there that he is buried. In 1358, the Mausoleum of Bayan-Quli Khan  had appeared there. The extant mausoleum of Saif ed-Din Boharsi dates from the end of 14-ht century.

The Saif ed-Din al-Boharsi Mausoleum (on Bukhara map Saifuddin Bukharzi Mauzoleum) together with the Bayan-Quli Khan Mausoleum (on Bukhara map Buyan Kulikhan Mausoleum) are an admirable architectural ensemble. However, these monuments make even more great interest because of their religious-historical and cultural importance.

The Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Complex

The Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Complex (on Bukhara map Bakhauddin Ensemble) is situated at the place of the former center of Sufi order (tariqa) Naqshbandi (Naqshbandiyya). This order is one of the major Sufi orders of Islam. Formed in 1380, the order is considered by some to be a "sober" order known for its silent dhikr (remembrance of God) rather than the vocalized forms of dhikr common in other orders.

The Naqshbandi order is also notable as it is the only Sufi order to trace its spiritual lineage (silsilah) to Muhammad through Abu Bakr, the first caliph. In contrast, most other tariqas trace their lineage Ali ibn Abu Talib, Muhammad's cousin, son-in-law, and fourth caliph.

The word Naqshbandi نقشبندی is Persian, taken from the name of the founder of the order, Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Bukhari. Some have said that the translation means "Way of the Chain" or "Golden Chain", and others consider Naqshbandiyya means to "tie the Naqsh very well". “The "Naqsh" is the perfect engraving of Allah's Name in the heart of the murid. As they say the designation of the Naqshbandi Golden Chain has changed from century to century. From the time of Abu Bakr as-Siddiq to the time of Bayazid al-Bistami it was called as-Siddiqiyya. From the time of Bayazid to the time of Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani it was called at-Tayfuriyya. From the time of Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani to the time of Sheikh Naqshband it was called the Khwajaganiyya. From the time of Sheikh Naqshband through the time of Ubaidullah al-Ahrar and Ahmad Faruqi, it was called Naqshbandiyya.

Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Naqshband

Muhammad Bahauddan Uways al-Bukhari, known as Sheikh Naqshband, the Imam of the Naqshbandi Tariqa, was born in the year 1317 A.D. in the village of Qasr al-carifan (Qasr-i-Arifon), located at the present time at the Kagan district near to Bukhara. After finishing of first course of religious education, at the age of 18, he became a fellow of the Shaikh Muhammad Baba as-Samasi, who was an authority in hadith ( The Arabic word hadith is a narration about the life of the Prophet or what he approved - as opposed to his life itself, which is the Sunnah) in Central Asia. After the latter's death, he followed Shaikh Amir Kulal who continued and perfected his training in the external and the internal knowledge.

The students of Shaikh Amir Kulal used to make dhikr aloud when sitting together in association, and silent dhikr when alone. Sheikh Naqshband, however, although he never criticized nor objected to the loud dhikr, preferred the silent dhikr. Concerning this he says, "There are two methods of dhikr; one is silent and one is loud. I chose the silent one because it is stronger and therefore more preferable." The silent dhikr thus became the distinguishing feature of the Naqshbandiyya among other tariqas.

Sheikh Naqshband performed Hajj (Pilgrimage) three times, after which he resided in Merv and Bukhara. Towards the end of his life he went back to settle in his native place of Qasr al-carifan. His teachings became far-famed. Visitors from far and wide came to see him and to seek his advice. They received teaching in his school and mosque, a complex which at one time accommodated more than five thousand people. This school became the largest Islamic center of learning in Central Asia and still exists in our days. It was recently renovated and reopened after surviving seventy years of soviet rule.

When Sheikh Naqshband died (in 1389) he was buried in his garden as he requested.

Developing of the Complex

The succeeding Khans of Bukhara took care of his school and mosque. By the 16th century, the Baha-ud-Din Naqshband Complex acquired characteristic features of a necropolis combined with the ritual/educational complex. In 1544 Abdul Aziz-khan I had rearranged a burial place of Sheikh Naqsband by building dakhma platform above sheikh's grave with a carved marble fence. At the same time and at the short distance from dakhma was built the biggest ever khanaka (42,5x38 m.).

To the other sights of the complex belong the Mosque of Muzaffar-khan - approx. the thirties of the 16-th century - and the Mosque of Khakim Kushbegi with small madrasah and minaret. Another curiosity is the picturesque arched saqqakhana. The saqqakhana (literally, the water-carrier's house) in oriental tradition can be a little building or niche in a wall, or even just a shelf containing a tap or fountain or jug, usually set behind an iron grille. Passersby can not only quench their thirst but also ask for fulfillment of pious requests after leaving a small votive gift. There as also large pool with lifeless ritual mulberry-tree ashore. Many famous people belonging to the Bukhara history are buried here at the territory of vast necropolis to the west from dakhma.

Supplementary information

The respected in all Islam World, Sheikh Baha-ud-Din Naqshband is arguably considered as the one whose life by some way was connected to the life of Timur (1336 - 1405) - the 14-th century warlord, conqueror of much of Western and central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire (1370-1405) in Central Asia. It is said that in his youth, Sheikh Baha-ud-Din was a weaver working on silks, with gold embroidery; therefore he is considered as arts' patron. Visiting of his tomb is believed a very pious act. They believe that baraka (Baraka (or Barakah) is a term referring to a sense of divine presence, charisma, wisdom, and/or blessing) of Baha-ud-Din Naqshband still rests on his grave. Before Islam the village was a center of so-called "Red Rose" pagan cult.


Chor-Bakr (16-th - 17-th c.c.) (on Bukhara map Chor Bakr) is a necropolis in Sumitan settlement near to Bukhara. It has developed around the graves of Khodja Abu Bakr Sa'd and Imam Abu Bakr Ahmed, whose activity dates from the time of Islam dissemination in Bukhara. Their descendants - khojas of Juibar - were the keepers of esteemed burial places - mazars. (Khoja or Khwaja, a Persian word literally meaning "master", was used in Central Asia as a title of the descendants of the earliest four successors (righteous caliphs) of Mohammad (Abu-Bakr, Omar, Osmon and Ali). The khoja(s) often played, or aspired to play, ruling roles in Muslim community in Turkistan).

In the 16-th century famous Khoja Islam Juibariy (died in 1563 AD) virtually founded a powerful dynasty called the Juibar khojas. Abdullah-khan II (gov. 1561-1598) was a disciple (murid) of Khoja Islam from his youth, he then came to power with the help of Khoja Islam, therefore Abdullah-khan always gave support to the clan. He built many religious and civil installations for them.

When Abdullah-khan became firmly established in Bukhara, he issued an edict on inclusion in a southwest part of the city of settlement Sumitan in order to protect the graves of Khoja Abu Bakr Sa'd and imam Abu Bakr Ahmed as well as other property of Juibar khojas. Around the graves Abdullah-khan constructed a complex of structures, which is mostly intact up to now. New sections of city wall together with gate called Darvaza-nau «New Gate» were built there. Later on, the completion up of all complex took much time.

The central complex consists of the khanaka, mosque and madrasah. The minaret stresses a large scale of main buildings. A narrow path sunk into the ground leads to a group of funeral family yards - hazira with entrance gates and eivans of memorial mosques. The architect of "Khoja Kalon Mosque" of the Khodja Gaukushan Ensemble also has been buried in Chor-Bakr.


Varakhsha (locates at a distance of 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the west from Bukhara; area – 100 ha (247 a); cultural layers – about 10 m. (33 ft.); most flourished in the period of the 7-th and 8-th centuries A.D.; collapsed in the 11-th century) is the site of ancient settlement with former residence of Bukhar Khudas - the rulers of Bukhara in time before Arab invasion. Among other reasons for decline and following collapse of Varakhsha is often assigned an irrigative dehydration of the area.

Historical significance of Varakhsha

Apart from the political and religious significance connected to its residence status, well-fortified Varakhsha was an important military outpost on the western border of the oasis. It was also a considerable trade center situated on the road between Bukhara and Khoresm and in the contact zone between the nomads and sedentary population. Varakhsha was also a major center of crafts. This statement is supported by the discovery of the traces of industrial quarters in Varakhsha's environs. In addition to it Varakhsha was the center of a large agricultural area "irrigated by the twelve canals".

Varakhsha played the important role in local history during the dramatic period of the Arab conquests. At that time, the old Bukhara ruling family moved the royal court to Varakhsha, thus turning it into the scene of many tragic events of their dynastic history.

Varakhsha excavations

The large-scale archeological investigations of ancient cultures of the area started in the second half of the 1930s. Soviet archaeologist Vasilii Shishkin became the real discoverer of Varakhsha in 1937. Once on the site, Shishkin noticed the outlines of rooms on the surface of the elevation to the east of the citadel. This looked promising, and the first excavation spot was set there. One of the rooms turned out to be filled with the fragments of ornamental and figurative decorative stucco in early (what was then considered Sasanian) style. This find became a true archaeological sensation. That is how the palace of Varakhsha became the very first Sogdian monumental edifice to undergo archaeological excavations.

The palace of Varakhsha

The palace is the only archaeologically known Sogdian architectural structure, which has a written history. Indeed, in the Tarikh-i Bukhara composed in 332 AH/943-4 A.D. by Muhammad ibn al-Narshakhi there is a special passage devoted to this building. According to Narshakhi it was built “more than a thousand years ago”. “This palace had been destroyed and abandoned for many years when Khnk Khudah restored it. It again fell into ruins, and again Bunyat b. Toghshada, Bukhar Khudah, rebuilt it in Islamic times and made his court there till he was killed in it. [Narshaki - Frye 1954, pp. 17-18]

The original building of the palace dates to the reign of Khunak (689-709 A.D.). The first remodeling took place during the reign of Toghshada and the paintings on the blue background (the Eastern Hall and an early layer of paintings in the Red Hall) most likely belong to the period of his “apostasy” around 719. The new paintings of the Red Hall belong to the later part of Toghshada’s reign, which ended in 738 A.D.. The fourth stage in the history of the building was connected to the enthronement of his son Qutaiba b. Toghshada (738-753 A.D.). Finally, Buniyat b. Toghshada (753-782) was responsible for the major reconstruction of the palace and the first stucco decoration. He was assassinated for his supporting of Mukanna’s anti-Arabic insurrection (70-80 of the 8-th c.)

The content and genre characteristics of the Varakhsha paintings as well as their fate reflect the political instability of the time and the dubious position in which the rulers of Bukhara found themselves. Bukhar Khudas had to balance between their own pretension to rule over the Bukharan oasis and the overwhelming power of the Arabs. This position required a sophisticated maneuvering between the old national and religious traditions on the one hand and the attempt to present themselves to Arabs as pious converts to Islam on the other.

The Sitora-I-Mohi-Hosa Palace

The summer-palace of Bukhara emir Sitora-I-Mohi-Hosa (from Persian "House of the Moon and the Star") is located at a distance of 4 kilometers (2,5 miles) to the north from Bukhara (on Bukhara map Sitora-i-Mohi-Khosa). The construction of the palace began at the end of the 19-th century, when the best artisans sent by the order of the Bukhara emir Ahadhan to St. Petersburg and Yalta for studying of experience of Russian architects had returned from Russia. Therefore, architecture of the ensemble is a mix of the elements typical for European architecture with ornate interior design of Isfahan palaces and the centuries-old experience of local construction traditions.

Most interesting is the New Palace, which consists of several noteworthy structures, such as a triumphal arch of entrance gates with expressionless mosaic finishing; galleries with straight pylon, around the yard; a section of European architecture with a greenhouse in front of a big pond (1917-1918) and rooms of emir's harem in the heart of the garden.

The main section of the palace consists of several waiting rooms and emir's private apartments. The most famous room of this section is the White Hall. The construction of the hall took 2 years (1912-1914). The group of 25-30 skilled workman, under the direction of the storied artisan - Usto Shirin Muradov had made amazing finishing sparkling with glaringly whiteness of gulganch (carved stucco), which covered walls and ceiling.

Far earlier of the construction of the palace this place was famous for pure and cool air. They say that even uncooked meat could remain unspoilt in fresh air for 11 days. That explains choice of the place for emir's summer mansion-house.

Other sights out of Bukhara

The minaret in Vabkent

The minaret in Vabkent is one of the most refined works of local architecture. The date of the beginning of its construction (1196-97) is visible in the form of Kufic inscription in the lower decorative belt round the trunk of the minaret. The inscription also mentions the name of Burkhan-ad-Din Ayud-al-Aziz II, who probably ordered the construction. In the upper decorative belt it is written in the form of Divani inscription that the minaret was completed in 595 A.H., i.e. in 1198-99.


Ghujdawan - a district administrative centre along the road to Samarkand - is famous first of all as a native place of Abdul Khaliq al-Ghujdawani, the founder of Sufi order (tarica) called Khwajaganiyya the predecessor of Naqshbandiyya. Together with Ahmad Yasavi young Abdul Khaliq Ghujdawani was one of four successors of Yusuf ibn al-Husayn al-Hamadani (the prominent Sufi master of his time). Al-Ghujdawani has died in about 1220 when he was 95. In 1433, to the west of al-Ghujdawani's mazar, by order of Ulugh Beg, was built the latest of three his madrasahs.

Rabat-i-Malik and the Malik sardoba

On the roadside in the Malik Steppe, one can see the portal of the 12th century, which leads to the ruins of the fortress Rabat-i-Malik -"Prince's rabat". The word "rabat" means "castle", or "fortress". It refers to the fortified settlements and places of rest along caravan routes. During the heyday of the Silk Road, travelers and merchants gathered within the walls of this fortress on the road from Samarkand to Bukhara. The remainders of finishing - carved stucco, figured ornamental brickwork and unglazed carved ceramics - give food for reflection about the lost beauty.

The inhabitants of the rabat took water from the Malik sardoba, a gigantic underground brick tank covered with a dome. Water to sardoba, by passing through subterranean canal - "kiaryz", comes from Zaravshan River.


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- Malik sardoba
- Malik Steppe

         Associated with ClimberCA International Consortium