Bukhara - Medieval Center of Islamic Education



Bukhara – “Vihar” from Sanskrit, meaning Monastery, known among locals as Bukhoro-i-Sharif – Noble Bukhara, one of the oldest and prominent cities in Central Asia with history over 2500 years. Located on the Silk Road, the city has long been a center of trade, scholarship, culture, and religion. The historic center of Bukhara, which contains numerous mosques and madrassas, has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Persian-speaking Tajiks constitute the largest element of the city's population. The city has long had a mixed population including Jews and other ethnic minorities.Bukhara is truly of the most living old cities where you can feel and experience all from the past, old streets, caravanserais, chaikhanas, bazaars, shops, workshops, khammams, minarets, madrassah, mosques, mausoleums, and of course public places where you get the complete understanding of life. For the centuries Bukhara was the capital of the large State of people speaking in different languages of the East, and Tajik as the common language. As a result still today we can find tajik as commonly spoken language in the town. Monuments of particular interest include the famous tomb of Ismail Samani, a masterpiece of 10th-century Muslim architecture, and a large number of 17th-century madrasas. The historic part of the city, which is in effect an open-air museum, combines the city's long history in a single ensemble. Before the Arab conquest Bukhara was one of the largest cities of central Asia, owing its prosperity to its site on a rich oasis and at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. It became a major cultural center of the Caliphate of Baghdad in 709. In 892 Emir Ismail ibn Ahmad (892-907) created an independent state and chose Bukhara as the capital of the powerful Samanid kingdom. There followed a period of great economic and cultural growth, when the city grew enormously in size, especially under the rule of the Karakhanids from the 11th century onwards. In 1220 the city was sacked by the Mongol horde of Genghis Khan (1220) and was not to recover until the second half of the 13th century. In 1370 it became part of the great Timurid Empire, whose capital was at Samarkand. Bukhara was still the second city and building was renewed.The late 15th century saw much feudal strife in the declining Timurid lands, with the result that Bukhara was occupied by Uzbek nomadic tribesmen led by Shaybani Khan, under whose dynasty it became the center of the Uzbek state. The Bukhara khanate was assiduous in promoting economic and cultural development in its territory, and the city was the main beneficiary of the new construction that ensued. In the centuries that followed the death of Abdullah Khan in 1598 there was a succession of short-lived dynasties and from the late 17th century the resulting weakness led to continual raids and pillage by neighboring rulers. It was not until 1753 that Bukhara became the capital of a new Mangit dynasty that was to survive until 1920. During this period the city was a major trade staging post for the whole of central Asia. In 1848 it had no fewer than 38 caravanserais, 6 trading domes, 16 public baths, and 45 bazaars. The earliest monuments include the 10th century Ismail Samani Tomb, the decorated brick minaret of Poi-Kalon from the 11th century, along with the Magoki Mosque and the Chasma Ayub Shrine. The Timurid period is represented only by the Ulugbek Madrassah. The most celebrated buildings date from the Sheybibanid period - the Poi-Kalon Ensemble, the Lyabi Khauz Ensemble, the Kosh Madrassah consisting of Modari Khan madrassah and Abdulla Khan Madrassah. Later important structures for the trade appeared, such as Toki Sarrafon – Dome of the Money Changers, Toki Telpak Furushon – Dome of the Headdress Seller, Toki Zargaron – Dome of Jewelers, and Tim-Abdullah-Khan. However, the real importance of Bukhara lies not in its individual buildings but rather in its overall level of urban planning and architecture, which began centuries ago. 


-          Ark Citadel
-          Bolo-Khauz Complex
-          Ismail Samani Mausoleum
-          Chashma Ayub Mausoleum
-          Kalon Minaret
-          Kalon Mosque
-          Mir – Arab Madrasah
-          Ulugbek Madrasah
-          Abdul Aziz khan Madrasah
-          Chor-Minor
-          Lyabi – Khauz Ensemble
-          Nadir Divanbegi Madrasah
-          Nadir Divanbegi Khanaka
-          Kukeldash Madrasah
-          Magoki-Attori Mosque
-          Toki Sarrofon
-          Toki Telpak Furushon
-          Toki Zargaron
-          Tim Abdulla Khan
-          Bozori Kord Hammam
-          Modari Khan Madrasah
-          Abdulla Khan Madrasah
-          Chor-Bakr Necropolis
-          Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace
-          Ensemble of Khoja-Gaukushon
-          Fayzabad Khanaka
-          House Museum of Fayzulla Khodjaev
-          Khanaka of Khodja Zaynuddin

The Ark Citadel 

The central Square of Bukhara – Registan in located to the south of the old city area. The main construction on the square is a massive fortress – Ark, The citadel of the last rulers of Bukhara Emirate. But it’s origin goes back to the 4th century B.C. In plan it resembles a modified rectangle, a little elongated from the west to the east. The perimeter of the external walls is 789.6 meters (2,591 ft), the area enclosed being 3.96 hectares (9.8 acres). The height of the walls varies from 16 to 20 meters (52 to 66 ft).The ceremonial entrance into the citadel is architecturally framed by two 18th Century towers. During the history of existence of the city, the Ark was repeatedly destroyed, but it was invariably restored by the new ruler. In the 16 century under the Shaybanids, the citadel was restored to the form in which it has come down to us. All the buildings on the territory of the Ark were built for the most part from the 17th to the 20th centuries. When the soldiers of Genghis Khan took Bukhara, the inhabitants of the city found refuge in the Ark, but the conquerors smashed the defenders and ransacked the fortress. In the middle Ages great scholars such as Rudakiy, Ferdousiy, Avicenna, Farabiy, and later Omar Khayyám visited the Ark. And Here also was kept a great library, of which Avicenna wrote: “I found in this library such books, about which I had not known and which I had never before seen in my life. I read them, and I came to know each scientist and each science. Before me lay gates of inspiration into great depths of knowledge which I had not surmised to exist”. The  library was destroyed following one of the conquests of Bukhara. The Ark was greatly damaged by the Bolsheviks during the brief siege of Bukhara in 1920 under the command of Mikhail Frunze. Frunze ordered to bomb the Ark by aircraft, which left a large part of the structure in ruins. Same time the whole town was bombed and burgled for few days. Today the Ark is the local Museum of archaeology, history and ethnography holding most of the object from the local area.   

Kalon Minaret


Kalon in Tajik means "great" and when the mosque was built the minaret (tower) was probably of the tallest building in Central Asia. It is 47 meters tall and is supported by one km-deep foundations padded with reeds to make it earthquake-proof.The Kalyan Minaret was erected in 1127 by the order of Arslan khan, the ruler from Karakhanids dynasty. According to records of the time, the builders made an error in its construction, and it soon collapsed. When the remnants were cleared away, Arslan-khan ordered that a new minaret, stronger and more beautiful, the likes of which hadn’t been ever seen in all of the Muslim East, be built. The Kalian Minaret, built of burnt brick and plaster mortar, rises to a height of forty-six meters above the ground. The minaret is decorated with 14 parallel bands none of which are repeated. During the repairs in 1924, the minaret was faced with glazed bricks where the frieze had been. At the present time, the lower part of the minaret has been restored and the layers of dirt accumulated over the ages cleaned off. The inside of of the minaret is hollow. It is possible to go  up the minaret via a special foot bridge. Throughout the eight centuries of its existence, it served as a watch tower and a lighthouse for trade caravans. The guard-post for observers to notify the city of approaching danger remains in place. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the minaret acquired an unsavory reputation and was known as a “tower of death”: the condemned were hurled to their deaths from this tower upon the Emir's order. Today this outstanding work of architecture, the perfect architectural forms of which have long served as an example for similar works in the Muslim East, still remains the tallest minaret in the Muslim East.  

Kalon Mosque 


Next to the Kalon Minaret of Bukhara another outstanding construction attracts thousands of visitors of Bukhara - The Djuma Masjid or Kalon Mosque – The Big Mosque of Bukhara, with the territory of 1,5 hectares which can house 10,000 worshippers. Its roof looks flat but actually consists of 288 domes. The mosque stands on the place of the ancient mosque from the 12th century, which was burnt down by the Mongol Horde under Genghis Khan. The layout of the Kalon Mosque is traditional: a rectangular courtyard with a tall and large room on the west side. The square has deeply recessed niches on the transverse axis and a mikhrab on the main axis.  The decor of the mosque is constrained, composed primarily of glazed tiles and bricks that form knots, and is concentrated mainly on the main facade and the mikhrab. Interestingly, however, beyond this facade archaeological research has revealed an earlier decor, composed of six sided tiles and a mosaic border.  

Mir - Arab Madrassah



Bukhoro-i Sharif - Noble Bukhara is a title of the city not just because of the hundred holy sites in and around it, but same time for being the center of Islamic Education in Medieval Times in Muslim World. There are hundreds of Madrassah around Bukhara from different periods and different rulers left to us. But among them for sure one is the most impressive and the Grande is The Mir Arab Madrasah, which stands opposite Kalon Mosque in the historic center of Bukhara. Founded in the 16th century, the Islamic school features two distinctive blue domes and other tile work. Mir Arab Madrasa was a working Islamic school from the 16th century until it was closed down in 1920 and it was reopened by Stalin in 1944 in an effort to gain Muslim favor for his war effort.The two luminous blue domes of the madrasa are beautifully tiled and stand out against the mostly brown architecture around it. The planning of madrassah is general for the constructions of that period, with ground floor used as classrooms and first floor as dormitory. The students studied and lived in the same building, so it was a complete University of those days. Today it is again open for the boys who want to learn Islam and Koran. 

Lyabi Khauz Ensemble


The heart of old city in Bukhara is truly – Lyabi Khauz Ensemble. Which is the square consisting of several monuments concentrated around the Khauz – Pool. Lyabi-khauz is translated from Persian “Near the pool”, the monuments such as: Kukeldash Madrassah – the largest Madrassah of the city, Nadir Divan Begi Madrasah and Khanaka, and the main part is Pool itself.
According to the old legend, for a long time Knan’s adviser Nodir Divan Begi could not buy a place for planned construction, where a house of alone widow woman was living. Then powerful advisor ordered to build a channel under women's house, and the water began to wash away walls, unhappy women had to sell the place. The Khauz secretly was called «khauz of violence» among the local. 


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