Historical monuments of Bukhara
  • Ark fortress (11th- 20thcc.) >>>
  • Bala-Hauz ensemble (early 18th- 20thcc.) >>> 
  • Mausoleum of the Samanids (9th-1Othcc.) >>> 
  • Chasma-Ayub Mazar (1380 or 1385) >>> 
  • Madrasseh of Abdulla-khan (1596-98) >>> 
  • Madrasseh of Madariy-khan (1556-57)
  • Balyand Mosque - (early 16thc.) >>>
  • Gaukushon Ensemble (Mosque, Minaret, Madrasseh) (16thc.) >>>
  • Hanaka of Zainutdin-Hadji (1555) >>> 
  • Pai-Kalyan Ensemble (12th-14thcc.) >>>
  • Kukeldash Madrasseh (1568-69) >>>
  • Hanaka of Nadira-Divan-bigi (1620)
  • Madrasse of Nadira-Divan-bigi (1620)
  • Madrasseh of Ulugbek (1417)  >>>
  • Madrasseh of Abdulaziz-khan (1652)
  • Bala-Hauz Mosque (1712) >>>
  • Mausoleum of Saifetdin Boharziy (late 13th-14thcc.)
  • Mausoleum of Buyan Kulikhan (late 14thc., 15th or 16thc.)
  • The out-of-town Mosque Namazgoh (12th- 16thcc.) >>>
  • Hanaka Faizabad (1598-99) >>> 
  • Chor-Minor Madrasseh (1807) >>>
  • The Jubariy Sheikhs' family cemetery Chor-Bakr (1563) >>>
  • 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 Jalal gate in the south recently went to ruin.

    The Ark

    The ancient fortress Ark 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.

    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-hauz Complex  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 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). 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", 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 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 Nagshband out-of-town complex was initiated at the same period.

    The Khoja Zain ad-Din Complex

    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 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 . 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.

    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, 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) 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 Hudoyod, 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 is 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 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 dragons. 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, 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, 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)  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. 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 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.

    More on other Bukhara historical monuments read here >>>