From the history of the city.
By L. Mankovskaya
(Abbreviated edition).


Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. Most of the historic buildings in this romantic Eastern city, which attracts tourists from all over the world, belong to period of the late Middle Ages. Nevertheless, numerous archaeological excavations have revealed thick cultural layers, i.e. traces of ancient settlements in locations providing favorable conditions of life. Hence, Bukhara never changed its location but grew vertically. In archaeological trenches at a depth of 20 metres the remnants of dwellings, public buildings, and fortifications have been discovered. The age of these historical constructions have been evaluated on the basis of the artifacts associated with them: ceramic pottery, fireplaces, coins bearing images and inscriptions, antique jewellery, tools of artisan, i.e. everything that is associated with the activities and culture of human society. The most deep-seated layers, which belong to the period of antiquity from the 3d century B.C. till the 4th century A.D., are also most thick. The upper layers belong the period of the city from the 9th century till the beginning of the 20th centuries. This proves that Bukhara is at least 2,500 years old, just like Samarkand.

In the ancient past the Bukhara oasis was a part of Soghdiana a vast region of Central Asia, which had been conquered by Alexander the Great. After seizing Samarkand, Alexander had set forward his army into the depth of the Bukhara oasis.

In the period of the 6th and 7th centuries of feudal Sogdiana there was marked an active process of town formation, when ancient settlements surrounding Bukhara became the towns of Varakhsha, Vardanzi, Ramish (Ramitan), Kermine, Paikend. Archaeological excavations in Varakhsha have discovered a palace of the Bukharkhudats with exquisite mural paintings that is in no way worse in comparison with the famous murals of Pendjikent.

All these towns had more or less a similar structural pattern: the ark (citadel), the shakhristan - well-planned residential core, and a necropolis beyond the town limits where crypts were built to accommodate ceramic urns with the bones of the dead. Bukhara of the early feudal period also followed this pattern of development. It sprawled over an area of 40 hectares (98,8 acres).

The rectangular shakhristan was cut into four sections by two crossing main streets which led to gates opening out on all four sides of the world. This traditional layout of lowland cities reflected the ancient world outlook principles of the East. It symbolized the structure of the Universe and reflected the cosmogony in the order of things in nature and society.

In the north western section of the city (considered to be a place of honour) rose the Ark — the palace fortress of the Bukharkhudats. Beyond the walls of the Ark and the shakhristan sprawled the business quarters and artisan's areas - the rabad with its residential neighborhoods of adobe-clay houses. The rabad was stimulated in its growth by the development of caravan trade: Bukhara was on the crossroads of ancient trade routes linking up China, Iran and India. At the western gates of the citadel were the divans - the state offices, and the palaces of the nobles. At the eastern gates stood a Christian church.

Such was Bukhara at the time of its conquest by the Arab caliphate. Finally it happened in 708, though incursions, diplomatic talks, siege and battles have begun already in 673 A.D. The country's vassalage from the caliphate was not destroyed, even after power in the region was taken over by the Samanides - a local dynasty of rulers - in the end of the 9th century. The Samanides minted coins bearing the names of the ruling caliphs and paid taxes to the caliphate treasury irrespective of their almost complete political and economic independence. At the turn of the century Bukhara has developed into a major cultural and religious center of the Islamic world. It became known as the "dome of Islam", although the city was the asylum of numerous religions and cults.

Indeed, in the place-name of Bukhara it's quite possibly reflected the former location here of pre-Islamic temples such as Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Manicheans, Christian's churches and pagan temples. According to one of the versions the name of the city is derived from "vihara", which means Buddhist monastery, Haflzi Tanish, a sixteenth-century annalist of Bukhara wrote that the word 'Bukhara' is derived from "bukhar", which amidst the Zoroastrian means "source of knowledge". Also the Uigur and Chinese heathens named their pagan temples "Bukhar". The real name of the city was Lumdjikat.

And so, the true subjects of curiosity in Bukhara are fortified walls and gates. A section of the city wall with huge breaches in the brickwork constitutes a unique monument of Uzbekistan's fortification architecture. It is also an important element in the historical topography of the city, one that is closely associated with the history of Bukhara. Narshakhi, the tenth-century author of "History of Bukhara" wrote that the first walls around the shakhristan in Bukhara had been built in the 8th century, during the reign of the Tahirids, who was the Arab satraps. The territory of the prospering city grew and in 849-50 A.D. new walls were erected to encompass the Ark citadel and the shakhristan. Towards the 12th century, under the reign of Arslan-khan of the Karakhanid dynasty, the walls were reinforced by adobe clay fortifications (1102-1130). Another wall of baked brick was built around Bukhara in 1164-65 under the reign of Ma'sud Klich Tamgach-khan. Both ramparts were renewed in 1207-08 under Khorezrnshakh Muhammed. However, in 1220 they were destroyed during the invasion of the Mongol hordes of Ghenghiz-khan.

Then ensued a period of stagnation and the territory of Bukhara shrank. There are ancient manuscripts that testify the city's revival towards the middle of the 13th century. At this moment were constructed two large Madrasahs - Masudiye and Khaniye. Al-Bakuvi (a fifteenth-century author) reports on two fortification rings around Bukhara: the external one embracing area of 5184 square km and the internal one circling the Ark citadel on an area of 36 square km. The author stresses, "... and within this space there is not a single plot of waste land or ruined building."

The next ring of fortifications surrounded the suburbs in the period from 1540 to 1549 under Abd al-Aziz-khan the first.

Researchers identify the names of eleven of the city gates (five of which were located in the extant area of the wall). Only two of them that was built towards the close of the 16th century are intact now: Talipach gate in the north and Karakul gate in the south-west. The Sheikh Djalal gate in the south has disappeared only recently.

As already mentioned, the oldest monument in Bukhara — the Ark citadel and residence of the local rulers — dates back to the 3d century B.C.

Over the centuries, construction and destruction at the site of the Ark have accumulated an artificial hill 18 meters high. The top layer was built up by the last emirs of Bukhara. The fortifications were built up layer after layer one on top of the other till they developed into motley facing of the hill. There are few surviving buildings in the Ark since most of the wooden framework structures burnt out in a fire in 1920. The overall layout has been restored on the basis of historical documents.

The first of the structures that has survived to this day are the gates of the Ark which face west and open out on the Registan square. The gates were built in the 18th century in the form of a massive portal fringed by double towers.

Just opposite the corridor outlet into the Ark raises the roofed gallery of the grand mosque. It has a layout of a big quarter mosque in which the main prayer hall with four columns supporting the roof is surrounded on three sides by a roofed gallery (aivan). The decor displays typical features of the turn of the century.

The Registan square to the west of the Ark developed into the city's social center during the pre-Arab period. Up to the I3th century, the square was built up with administrative buildings and palaces of the nobles. Later, the square was turned into a bazaar: at the entrance to the square sprawled Rasta-iy-tirgaron - rows of stand where gunsmiths sold their ware; in the center of the square rose Toki Ord Furushon arcade and a domed structure where head-dresses were sold. And all around was the noisy and colorful eastern market. Close to the entrance of the Ark were the arsenal, the office of the kushbegi (military chief), the Poyanda grand mosque, the quarter mosques of various guilds and also the madrasah Bozori Gusfand belonging to the butchers' guild. Also there was the dar ash-shifa (hospital), where, according to ancient sources, patients were given potions and special food for treatment.

The hospital was built with a layout similar to that of a Madrasahs. It also had wards, a dispensary and a pharmacy and was used for training physicians.

Opposite the Ark is situated the Bolo-khauz complex (on the map of Bukhara Bolo Khauz Mosque) of the 18th century which is the only monument of the Registan that survived intact. The colorfully painted gallery with the colonnade coupled with the minaret is reflected in the water of the pond.

At a short distance from the Registan, in a park laid out on the site of an ancient cemetery, stands the pearl of Central Asian architecture — the Samanid mausoleum (9th century) (on Bukhara map Samonid’s Mausoleum) which was the family crypt of a local dynasty that had established a state in Maverannahr practically non-dependent on the caliphate. The mausoleum has been stripped of a two-meter high layer of sediments and fully restored. It is now open for observation from all sides as was initially planned by the builders. The monument marks a new era in the development of Central Asian architecture, which was revived after the Arab conquest of the region. It is quite obvious that on this ancient land there continued to develop an ancient tradition but in a new quality: baked brick construction technology, the construction and artistic potentials of brickwork, the means of architectural expressiveness are all accredited to our time, although they display traditional features dating back to the pre-Islamic culture.

Along the road leading from the park stands another mausoleum — Chashma-iy-Ayub (Job's well) (on Bukhara map Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum). It is a complicated monument, one which was repeatedly reconstructed during the period from the 14th to the 19th centuries and which has developed the form of an elongated prism crowned with domes of various forms covering a wide range of premises. A double conical dome, which resting on a cylindrical drum above the well, highlights the silhouette of the building.

In the same district, not far from the park, stands one of the most attractive ensembles, "Kosh-Madrasah" (on Bukhara map Kosh Madrasah Ensemble), which are typical of Bukhara. The word "Kosh" means "double" and, indeed, these two educational institutions face one another across a narrow street. The first of them is Modari-khan Madrasah (on Bukhara map Modarikhan Madrasah) that was put up by Abdullakhan II (Abdulla-khan) on his mother's behalf. The date of erection 974 hijra (1566-67) is inscribed with majolica in verse above the entrance. As to composition it is a standard educational institution with a hostel for students and instructors around the courtyard, public halls of the mosque and lecture-rooms - darskhana - along both sides of portal in the interior of the building. The main front is richly faced with multicolor brick mosaic. The second building of Abdullakhan Madrasah (on Bukhara map Abdullakhan Madrasah) was erected in 1588-90 and is an outstanding piece of medieval architecture.

Medieval Bukhara is a phenomenal occurrence in architecture. In the 16th-17th centuries the creative development of earlier systems of architecture continued, despite the economic depression, incessant rivalry among the feudal lords, gradual breaking of Central Asia's broad contacts with other regions in the times of the great discoveries in the West. The turn of the 16th century was a restless period of unstable authority of the first Uzbek monarchs and transfer of the capital alternately from Samarkand to Bukhara and back. None the less, even then, the genuine masterpieces of architecture came into being in acknowledgement that the creative spirit of the builders was still alive. The city was enriched with Mir-i Arab Madrasah, the central ensemble of Po-i Kalyan (Pa-i kalyan) of the 1530s and the wonderful quarter mosques of Khodja Zain ad-Din and Balyand. The out-of-town ensemble of Bakha ad-Din was initiated at that very time.

There was a galaxy of professionals in Bukhara in the 16th century. Science and poetry were accessible to "the third estate" - artisans and petty traders, whose stalls often served as a scene of public debates, which is described in medieval literature such as Vasifi's reminiscences. New books on history and geography - such as "Khaft iklim" - "Seven Climates" by Amin Akhmed Razi, a native of Iran - came out, the art of calligraphy and miniature-painting was developed, whose masters were Sultan Ah Maskhadi, Makhmud ibn Iskhak ash-Shakhibi, a theoretician in calligraphy Dervish Mukhammad Buklian, Maulyan Makhmud Muzakhkhib, Jelaleddin Yusuf. The works of the poets and theologians Mushfiki, Nizami Muamaya, Muhammad Amin Zakhid were to enjoyed wide popularity; the name of Maulan Abd-al Khakim, a physician, was also well known.

The names of other scholars and cultural workers of previous and posterior epochs still linger in the minds of the generations. An encyclopaedist and physician Abu Ali ibn Sina (980-1037), the outstanding historians Balyami and Narshakln (10th century), al Utobi (11th century), Abu Abdullah Mukhammad ibn Akhmad al-Bukhari (died in 1021), the poet Ismatallah Bukhari (1365-1426), the specialist in study of literature Karri Rakhmatallah Buklian (died in 1893), the calligrapher mirza Abd al-Aziz Bukhari (the end the 18th century - the beginning of the 19th century) among them.

The Khodja Zain ad-Din complex (on Bukhara map Khoja Zaynuddin Complex), one of the pearls of Bukhara, is concealed amidst of residential district. It was built in the first half of the 16th century on the brink of the oldest remaining ponds. The pond had the marble walls. A carved marble spillway in the form of open jaws of a dragon (adjarkho), ornamentally enchased with an epigraph, was arranged south-easterly beside the staircase.

One of the major ensembles in the center of the city is Khodja-Gaukushan (on the map of Bukhara Gaukushon). Gaukushan means "one who kills bulls". In the 16th century there was a slaughter-house at that place. The Gaukushan Madrasah was erected in 1570 at the bifurcation of streets, that explains its trapeziform. This, however, did not hinder the preservation of the traditional courtyard lay-out. In 1598 Juibar Sheikh Khodja Kalon built a mosque for Friday prayers, a Dzhuma mosque that was named "the Khodja Mosque".

Po-i-Kalyan (on Bukhara map Poi Kalyan Complex) or "the foot of the Great" is sited at the foot of the great minaret Kalyan at the approach of the commercial street to the main crossroads of Shahristan. It became the central ensemble of Bukhara and formed its unique silhouette. This is a historical place. Since 713 the structures of the main cathedral mosque to the south of the Ark were built in the traditional style. They were razed, restored after fires and wars, and moved from place to place. One of these structures was constructed in 1121 by the Karakhanid ruler Arshan-khan and then burnt out during the seizure of Bukhara by Ghenghiz-khan. All that remained of the 12th century ensemble was the magnificent minaret that was erected before the main facade of Arslan-khan mosque in 1127.

The dominant of the ensemble is the Kalyan Minaret (Minara-yi-Kalyan) that rises above the city in the form of a huge vertical pillar. Its magnificence exceeds the bounds of its practical function: in order to call upon believers to offer prayers, it was enough to ascend to the roof of mosque. This practice was common in the initial years of Islam. Later, the towers of Roman sanctuaries, the belfries of Christian churches, Zoroastrian "fire towers" and other vertical structures, whose diverse forms appeared among different peoples long before Islam, were used for this purpose. The word "minaret" comes of the Arabic "minora" that designates a place where something is burnt.

An inscription in turquoise majolica under the cornice of the skylight of Kalyan Minaret testifies that it was erected in 1127. Half-way to follow the minaret's trunk upward one can read the name of Arslan-khan. The name of Bako, the master who built the minaret, has also been found. Local inhabitants believe that the master 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. The construction of Minaret was characteristic for Mavara-al-Nahr. There is a brick spiral staircase that twists up inside around the pillar and leads to the landing in sixteen-arched rotunda - skylight, which is based on a magnificent stalactite cornice (sharafa).

Kalyan Mosque (Maedjid-i kalyan) is equal with Bibi-khonym Mosque in Samarkand in height. Although they are of the same type of building, they are absolutely different in terms of art of building. 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 maksura, a portal and cupola building with a cruciform hall above which towers a massive blue cupola on a mosaic drum.

The construction of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah (on Bukhara map Miri Arab Madrasah) is ascribed to Sheikh Abdullah Yamani of Yemen, the spiritual mentor of early Shaybanids. In the construction of the Madrasah he invested the wealth of Abdullah-khan (1512-1533).

In 19th century Bukhara has retained the significance of regional cultural center, as Demezon testified in 1833-34. He wrote, "The Madrasahs in Bukhara are famed throughout Turkestan. 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."

According to a 10th century description the library was a structure with many chambers: an entrance-hall led to a long arched hall connected with smaller premises where cupboards with books stood along the walls. A catalogue, attendants and study rooms were also accommodated there; in other rooms there were works of various fields of science.

It is known that a library was built in Bukhara in 1540-50, "having no equal" the world over. The librarian was Mir Abid Khusaini, a splendid calligrapher, a brilliant miniature-painter and master of encrustation. This information contained in the anthology of Khasan Nisari named "Muzakhir al-Akhbab".

Passing through Po-i Kalyan, the former thoroughfare leads us to an ancient crossroads of the main highways of medieval Shahristan where the traditional four bazaars (Chakhar suk) met and joined in a domed structure that was named Chorsu after the crossroads. According to Khafizi Tanysh, a 16th century chronicler, in 1569-70 the largest of all existing arcades in Bukhara - Taq-i Zargaron (on Bukhara map Toki Zargaron Trading Dome), the cupola of jewelers, was built on the site of ancient Chorsu Bukhara that was a magnificent building in its way.

A busy trade by-street, cramped with caravanserais and rows of stalls, led to the south from Taq-i Zargaron. These structures did not survive the time. The only one of them, that exists today, is the arcade Tim Abdullakhan.

At Taq-i Telpaq Furushon (on Bukhara map Toki Telpak Furushon Trading Dome) it was possible to purchase luxurious headgears: skull-caps embroidered with gold-thread and beads, fur-hats, and turbans skillfully rolled up. Five streets at different angles reached the building. Architects solved this complex problem by making way for the street between six radially dispersing pylons carrying a low cylindrical cupola (of 14.5 meters in diameter) with dodecahedral skylight. The gallery with niches and storerooms around the hall were erected on 12 axes.

Western passage of Taq-i Telpaq Furushon opens to the street Mekhtar Ambar. The first building on the right that adjoins to the wall of Taq-i Telpaq Furushon is the ancient caravanserai Kuleta 16th century. A little in front on the left, stands out the Kurpa Mosque in its unrenewed grace. Nearly at the end of this street on the right there is another unrepaired brilliant, the Madrasah of Mullo Tursunjon.

The shroffs (money-changers) effected their usurious and currency transactions under the shadow of Taq-i sarrafon (on Bukhara map Toki Sarrafon Trading Dome).

The baths of the sarrafon, next door with the trading dome, an indispensable item of an urban public center, were sited next to the passage. Exceptional importance was attached to the medicinal and hygienic properties of baths. As Ibn Sina in his "Canon of Medical Science" has described, good baths must have a firm building, moderate temperature, bright light, pure air, roomy and attractively painted dressing-room and pleasant water.

The largest pond became the main element of another ensemble in the center of Bukhara - Labi khauz (on Bukhara map Lyabi Khauz), i.e. "at the pond". The right-angled pond (46 x 36 meters), stretched from the east to the west, is buried in the verdure of century-old trees. Its edges, arranged in the form of the descending staircase, are made of massive blocks of yellowish limestone.

The ensemble comprises three monumental structures: Kukeldash Madrasah (Bukhara map) in the north, Khanaka (Bukhara map) in the west and Nadir divan-begi Madrasah (on Bukhara map Nodir Devan-Begi Madrasah) in the east.

Kukeldash Madrasah (1568-69) is the biggest in Bukhara (80 x 60 meters). Kulbala Kukeldash is the name of Khan's foster-brother who was the builder of this structure.

Nadir divan-begl Madrasah (1622-23) was initially erected as a caravanserai. 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, the portal (Iwan) and angular towers. He also constructed an additional storey with cells.

Nadir divan-begi Khanaka (1619-20), located opposite the Nadir divan-begl Madrasah on the western side of Lyab-i khauz, is reflected in its water. The Khanaka is a massive multi-cellular structure with a domed square hall in the center, 11.2 meters on side, with low niches along the sides. There are cells at the corners of the building.

Before the Arab conquest there was a bazaar on the site of the Magak-i attari. It was a market for idols, potions and spices - attar (perfumes) and other goods. Besides this, there was formerly a Temple of the Moon (Mokh) close to this place. Narshakhi named the mosque, which was built on the site of former temple, "magok", i.e. "in a pit", because even then half of it was concealed from view by the rising soil level.

A fine example of a quarter center is the Balyand mosque (on Bukhara map Baland Mosque) in the western part of the city, which was built at the beginning of the 16th century. It is a cube-shaped structure with a colonnade at the corner, and a refined interior. A paneling of hexahedral glazed tiles painted with gold, goes round the hall.

On an esplanade that is situated down the road a piece to north-east from Labi-hauz, stands out an unusual monument "Chor-Minor" (Bukhara map), which means, "four minarets". It is the only intact part of former large Madrasah built by a rich Turkmen, Khalif Niyaz-kul.

In the outskirts of the old part of the city, to the northeast of Chor-Minor, is located one of the most noble-looking monument in Bukhara - the Faizabad khana-gah (on Bukhara map Faizabad Khanaka) (dervishes' former hostel built in 1598-99). 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, contain three tiers of cells, which was giving temporary refuge to dervishes.

In the South of today's city, you find the Namazgokh mosque (Bukhara map). Formerly situated out of town, the mosque was designed for holiday worships twice a year.

In the suburbs of Fathabad, towards the east from the medieval urban node, there are remnants of a once grandiose ritual ensemble, which was built around the grave of a popular Sufi sheikh, poet and theologian Saif ed-Din Bokharzi (on the map of Bukhara Saifuddin Bukharzi Mauzoleum), who lived in between 1190-1262. A whole quarter was formerly occupied by khana-gahs, hostels for the poor and the sick where they were kept on the money donated by rich philanthropists. Next to this sacred shrine, the Buyan-Kuli-Khan mausoleum (on Bukhara map Buyan Kulikhan Mausoleum) was built in 1358. At the end of the 14th century the Said ed-Din mausoleum was erected on the site of the ancient burial vault. They form a unique ensemble.

Bakha ad-Din is a ritual ensemble (on Bukhara map Bakhauddin Ensemble), built in the former centre of the dervishes' Order Nahshbandiya. Its spiritual guide, Sheikh Bakha ad-Din was conveyed to earth in 1389 near Kasri-Arifon settlement (now the Kagan district in the Bukhara region).
Toward the 16th century the Bakha ad-Din ensemble has acquired characteristic features of a necropolis combined with a ritual place. In 1544 Khan Abdul Aziz the Second built a burial vault -"dakhma" - above the Sheikh's grave, with a carved marble fence, and at a distance - the biggest ever khana-gah..

The Chor-Bakr (on the map of Bukhara Chor Bakr) necropolis in Sumitan settlement of Bukhara district was formed around the grave of Abu Bakr Sa'd - the "descendant of the prophet" and the forefather of the Djuibar Sufi sheikhs. Sumitan settlement became the centre of the dervishes' Order of Khodjagons, loyal towards the Khan's authority.

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 inscribed in the form of Kufic inscription in the lower decorative belt that goes round the trunk of the minaret. The inscription also mentions the name of Burkhan-ad-Din Ayud-al-Aziz the Second, who probably ordered the construction. In the upper decorative belt it is written by way of Divani inscription that the minaret was completed in 595, i.e. in 1198-99.

Along the road to Samarkand, in Ghijduvan, a district administrative centre, there are also remnants of historical buildings: the Ulughbeg Madrasah and Abd-al-Khalyk Ghijduvani mazar, which bolong to the 15th and 16th centuries. This settlement was the native place of the founder of the dervishes' Order of Khodjagons, a Sufi sheikh, who played a progressive role in his lifetime and was buried there in 1179-80. In 1433, to the west of Abd-al-Khalyk's grave, was built the latest of the three Ulughbeg Madrasahs, of which only the front part has survived to this day.

Not far from the road in the Malik Steppe, one can see the portal of the 12th century, formerly leaded into the "Rabat Malik"-"Prince's rabat" - rabat means artisan's outskirts. The surviving decor - carved stucco, figured ornamental brickwork and unglazed carved ceramics - give an inkling of the lost beauty. Rabat was built in the 12th century, next to a settlement that stood near an ancient caravan road between Samarkand and Bukhara.

The inhabitants of the settlement and the rabat took water from the Malik sardoba, a gigantic brick tank buried in the ground, and covered with an archaic terraced dome. The reservoir was filled with water from the Zerafshan river. It came along a subterranean canal - "kiaryz". One still can reach water by walking down a ramp.

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