With a vivid surviving old town, over 140 architectual
masterpieces from the Middle ages Bukhara is one of the
most authentic cities of post-Soviet Central Asia and
lets its visitor wander in time to the days when it was
one of the greatest cities on the planet.
Conquered by Alexander the Great and controlled by the
Kushans and Samanids it was part of the so-called Golden
Road, the meeting point of the northern and southern branches
of the Great Silk Road, and a great center of commerce,
religion and culture. In Sanskrit, Bukhara means "Monastery",
and in the Islamic world it is still remembered as "The
noble and glorious stronghold of faith".
After Samarkand's luminous mosaics, Bukhara's universal
brown is a pleasure for the human eye. Stop to take a
cup of refreshing green tea in one of the numerous teahouses
spread all over the ancient town, bend over a chess board
with some of the elders in the shade of ancient mulberry
trees or Mausolea or watch a traditional puppet show in
an ancient caravansaray.
The centre of Old Bukhara, Labi-hauz is a 17th century
plaza built around a pool fed directly from the city's
canal. From here professional water carriers would carry
water in leather bags to wealthy clients. The plaza is
shaded by ancient mulberry trees and one of the most characteristic
spots about Bukhara.
To the east of Labi Khauz lies Nadir Divanbeghi Medressa,
(the Grand Vizir), originally built as a caravansaray
on the order of Abdul Aziz Khan's treasury minister in
1630 and immediately refunctioned as a Medressa.
To the north is Kukeldash Medressa built by Abdullah
II, and at the time of its construction the largest school
in Central Asia, (60x80 m) and linked to Kulbaba Kukeldash.
Magok-i-Attari Mosque nearby has been known since
the 10th century and was earlier home to buddhist and
South of Labi Khauz is the city's former Jewish quarter,
demonstrating the once high econmical importance of Bukhara's
Jews inhabiting the city since 12th or 13th century. Bukharan
Jews are non-Hebrew speaking and their culture has been
fading with mass emigration. Only one out of once at least
seven synagogues remains.
Taqis - Covered Bazaars
The Taqis - the typical trading domes of the Bukharan
bazaars are the main vaulted and domed bazaars on the
city's once busy road intersections, each monopolising
a separate trade. Three of the initial five Taqis remain
and have been restored - Taqi-Sarrafon - the Moneychangers,
Taqi-Telpak Furshon - the cap-makers and Taqi-Zaragon
- the Jewellers.
Nearby Taqi-Sarrafon in the former herb & spice Market
area is Central Asia's oldest surviving Mosque Maghoki-Attar,
a mix of the original 12th century facade and 16th century
reconstruction built on top of earlier Buddhist and Zoroastrian
temples. Until 16th century the Bukharan Jews are said
to have been able to use the building in the evenings
as their synagogue.
To the north of Taqi-Telpak Furshon is a men's bathhouse
and the arcades Tim Abdullah Khan - an early form of a
department store. There were two more caravansarai destroyed
by the Bolsheviks nearby, one of them for Hindu traders.
Nearby Taqi-Zaragon is Ulughbek Medressa, Central Asia's
oldest Medressa, built by the ruler in 1417 parallel to
the one at Samarkand's Registan. Closeby are Abdul Aziz
Khan and Nadir Divanbegi Medressas dating back to the
17th century Astrakhanid rulers.
Kalan / Kalan Minaret
The religios heart of Holy Bukhara, Poi Kalan or Pedestal
of the Great, with its minaret is one of Bukhara's finest
landmarks. The minaret dates back as far as 1127 and was
built by Karakhan ruler Arslan Khan. A masterpiece of
early islamic architecture it stands 47 m above the ground,
with its foundations 10 m deep, coushioned on reed stacks
as earthquake protection. The 14 ornamental bands demonstrate
the first use of glazed blue tiles soon to become Central
Asias colour under Timur. The Emir was not only used as
the beacon and watchtower but also by the notorious Bukharan
Emirs to push infedel prisoners to their deaths. The Minaret
is one of the few structures spared by an obviously impressed
The Kalan Mosque was rebuilt in the 16th centure and is
Bukhara's Jummi Mosque built to accommodate the entire
male population for the Friday prayer, up to 10,000 men.
Used as a warehouse in Soviet times it was reopened as
a Mosque in 1991. The roof consists of 288 small domes.
Opposite is Mir-i-Arab Medressa was Central Asia's only
functioning Mosque under Soviet Rule and in combination
with Kalan Mosque is again functioning as a Koran school
for 250 scholars. The Medressa is named afer a 16th century
Yemenite Naqshbani Sheikh related to Shaybanid Khan Ubaidullah
who both are buried under the northern dome. The mosque
can not be visited by non-Muslims.
Nearby Emir Alim Khan Medressa was built by the last Emir
towards the end of his rule in 1914 and is now used as
a children's library.
The Registan Square was once a place filled with life
serving as the main market, public square and execution
ground. To its side lies the walled Royal Fortress, the
Ark, home to Bukhara's rulers from its early days. The
majority of the building now lies in ruins, remaining
are some of the former Royal quarters, the Reception &
Coronation court and a 17th century Juma Mosque. Most
of the current state of the building is thanks to a 1920
shelling by the Bolsheviks.
Arabs had built the first Mosque on the grounds of a burned
Zoroastrian Temple in 713 AD and the current shape of
the building mainly dates back from the Uzbek Shaybanids
starting in the 16th century. The last Emir to be crowned
in the Coronation court was Alim Khan in 1910. The last
2 Emirs actually preferred the Summer Residence to the
crumbling Residential Chambers.
Behind the Ark is Zindon - the infamous bug pit jail where
famous prisoners such as Stoddart & Conolly were held.
Best remaining part of Registan square is Bolo Hauz Mosque
dating back from 1718 - the official place of worship
of the last Emirs. The brightly painted 'aivan' porch,
supported by 20 columns of walnut, elm and poplar dates
back from 1917 and is an excellent demonstration of Bukharan
Ismail Samani Mausoleum
One of the oldest monuments, Ismail Samani Mausoleum was
built during the Samanid era and completed about 905.
The tomb is said to contain the remains of the founder
of the dynasty, his father Ahmed and further family members.
Dating back to early Islamic times and spared by Jenghiz
Khan the building displays Zoroastrian symbols and excellent
At the end of the local bazaar nearby lies the Chasma
Ayub Mausoleum, the 'Spring of Job' from the 12th century.
The legend associates the spring with the prophet who
is said to have opened the source with his staff.
Behind the Samani Park are the remains of the Shaybanid
town walls, part of a total 2km broken ring and a reconstructed
gate called Talli Pach.
1807 Chor Minor ('Five Minarats') is one of Bukhara's
most charming buildings built by a Turkoman merchant Khalif
Niyazkul. The 'Minarets' are actually just decorative
towers of the once gate house to a former Medressa.
Fayzulla Khujayev House
The house of the man who helped the Bolsheviks to plot
against the last Emir and briefly President of the Bukhara
People's Republic. A fine restored traditional merchant's
house with elegant frescoes, ghanch, lattice-work and
ceiling beams that was temporarily in use as a museum.
Bukhara is the terminus of a train service which extends
to Samarkand (six hours), Tashkent (12 hours) and Nukus
(20 hours). There's also a weekly train which goes to
Almaty in Kazakstan. Tashkent is also accessible by bus
or air (two hours).
to continue to Khiva!