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Bukhara - The Holy City

All those people who happened to visit Bukhara, most likely paid attention to the strange "shaggy hats" on the top of minarets. These are storks` nests. And the white bird of hope can serve as a city's symbol, symbol of its firmness and stability. More than once throughout its history this rich city suffered the invasions of various enemies. The most devastating invasion was that of Mongols. But each time Bukhara revived; and which is more, it always revived on the same place as if keeping loyalty to its roots.

Over centuries the city was a fertile oasis in the valley of the river Zerafshan on the Great Silk Road, the leading center of science and culture. And foundation of the city goes into the remote ages. In 1997 on UNESCO decision, the whole cultural world celebrated its 2500 jubilee. The legend connects appearance of the city with the name of one of the deity of Zoroastrian pantheon - Siyavush. The most ancient part of Bukhara is its citadel - Ark, where archaeologists excavated the finds dating back to the 3rd century B.C. This is a twenty meters high artificial mound, where the emir`s palace, his harem, treasury, arsenal and casemates for criminals were located. The palace housed throne hall, in the center of which there was a marble throne of the emir. In the upper gallery there was a music pavilion where the court musicians used to play makoms twenty-four hours a day.

In immediate proximity to the Ark there was a palace mosque Jami and the picturesque complex of the Bolo-Hauz mosque with a luxurious polystyle aiwan that together with the minaret reflected in the waters of the pool.

The whole territory of Bukhara including Ark was surrounded with an impressive outer wall that had eleven gates that have been partly preserved to our times. The minarets, portals and domes of the mosques, madrassahs, crests of caravan-sarays and trade buildings towered over the flat gray roofs of one and two storied houses. And today, the city boasts more than one hundred and forty buildings of medieval architecture attracting people from all over the world. There were more than one hundred madrassahs alone, and figure of the student boy hurrying to his classes, most likely was the most typical in the streets of the city.

One of the oldest monuments of Bukhara is Ismail Samani mausoleum built at the beginning of the 10th century by the founder of the Samanid dynasty. The mausoleum is a perfect brick cube covered with the hemisphere cupola. The Samanids mausoleum is the first building in Central Asian architecture built of fired bricks; moreover, brick is used both as a construction and a decorative element. The building is made of the figure bricks, which cover the walls with a peculiar ornament.

The main vertical line of the city is the Kalon Minaret built in 1127. This is a perfect architectural construction, a colossus, 47 meters towering over the city. Slightly narrowing to the top, the round tower of this tallest in Uzbekistan minaret from below to the top is trimmed with a relief design of the colored bricks. The ornamented bands ringing the minaret emphasize its size and upward direction. At the same time, the diversity and the rhythm of ornamental motives enrich a rather simple and clear architectural form. They say that architect, Bako by name, having put a foundation of the tower on ganch and camel milk, left the city for two years in order to escape the premature start of the construction works. However that may be, for almost one thousand years the minaret has not contracted a millimetre. The peculiarity of the medieval Bukhara architecture became a creation of ensembles consisting of two monumental buildings separated with a street or a square and facing each other. On the basis of this principle, the central ensemble of the city - Poi Kalon square - "At the foot of the Great" - was built. Vaulted gallery connects the minaret with a grandiose Friday mosque Masjidi-Kalyan. Opposite the mosque, at the beginning of the 16th century there was built Miri-Arab madrassah, which is still functioning. The courtyard portals of the building are well proportioned and are beautifully decorated with mosaics. The dome structure with its openings to let the daylight in, gives the interior a particular artistic expressiveness.

During the day the shifting daylight changes the pattern of decoration. None of the architectural monuments of the world uses such a technique of decor. The architectural forms of Ismail Samanimausoleum - the first known mausoleum in the Islamic world - have their symbolic explanations: the cube symbolizes the earth, its dome is a symbol of the heavens, and their harmonic unity represents the universe.
One of the main places of interest of Bukhara is undoubtedly the Ulugbek's madrassah. Ulugbek was Temur's grandson and a prominent scientist of his time. His credo "It is the sacred duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek after knowledge" is written with an Arabic script above the entrance to the madrassah.
Opposite to it there is Abdulaziz-khan madrassah which impresses with richness of decor. Similar ensemble is formed by kos-madrassahs of Modari-khan and Abdullah-khan, both madrassahs being built one opposite the other in the narrow street.

During its history the city was reconstructed many times. The buildings that have survived after numerous wars and upheavals impress a lot. Here is a Magoki-Attari mosque, which is located on the site of the earlier Zoroastrian temple. And in the 12th century there was built a mosque here and people used to come to this mosque to celebrate main Muslim holidays - Kurban-hait and Ramazan.

Chasma-Ayub mazar also dates back to the 12th century. According to the legend, biblical prophet Ayub was once passing this waterless part of Bukhara, stabbed the ground with his stick and instantly there appeared a source with clear healing water. In the 15th century Khorezmian masters brought by Temur after his military campaigns to Khorezm built over a well a building with a conical dome on the high drum - a typical form for Khoremian architecture. In comparison with this construction Chor-Minor madrassah is a relatively new building since it was built in the 17th century. The building has four squat minarets and blue glazed domes, which bring the madrassah a peculiar silhouette.

It is typical of the East to use artificial pools - hauzes - not only for practical application but also to decorate the city. In Bukhara there functioned more than eighty comfortable pools like this. The most famous one is Lyabi-Hauz. This unique complex consists of a big pool trimmed with slabs. It is surrounded with several buildings: Kukeldash madrassah - the biggest madrassah in Central Asia, khanaka (old house for dervishes) and Nodir Divan Begi madrassah. For centuries the Lyabi Haus provided the city with drinking water from Shakhrud canal, and today Lyabi Haus is one of the favorite places where local people as well as numerous tourists like to relax in the shade of age-old trees.

Having been a big capital city, Bukhara was famous not only for its mosques and madrassahs, mausoleums and mazars but also for its caravan-sarays, baths and multidomed market buildings. There have been preserved and are still used as shopping malls Taki-Zargaron ("the Dome of Jewelers"), Telpak-Furushon ("The dome of Hat sellers") and Taki-Saraffon ("Money exchangers bazaar"). The names themselves testify to the initial usage of these buildings.

At the beginning of the 20th century in the suburbs of the city for emir himself there was built a summer palace Sitorai-Mohi-Hosa. One of its buildings, so-called Old Palace, was built on the project of Khodji Khafiz architect. The hall for ceremonies where the throne of emir was once located impresses a lot. But of most interest is the New Palace. Its White hall and the foyer are decorated with paintings and the intricate ganch-carving made by local masters from Bukhara Usto Shirin Muradov and Rasim Khaitov.

In the Middle Ages Bukhara was a holy city for all the Muslims of Central Asia not only from the religious point of view but also from the aesthetical esteem. Bukhara was considered to be a place of glory; it nurtured the famous people of that period of time. The author of the second most important Islamic book after Koran- the book of authentic khadiths "Al-jami as sahih" was Imam Al-Bukhari. Abu Ali Ibn Sino (Avicenna) was born in a small village near Bukhara and started his career in the holy city. The respected in the Islamic world sheikh Bahauddin Nakshbandi, the founder of the sufi order used to work as chaser in Bukhara. A pilgrimage to the holy tomb of the sheikh gave the same status as Hajii to Mecca. Even nowadays Mausoleum of Nakshbandi is revered as the main holy place of the city.

Bukhara gave the world such eminent people as historian Narshakhi, poets Rudaki and Dakiki: Even the favorite personage of the local folklore Khodja Nasreddin was also from Bukhara. His wise jokes are countless.

The centuries-old activity of Muslim scientists, thinkers, architects, poets endowed the city with such titles as "Dome of faith", "Noble Bukhara", "Blessed city". It seems that Bukhara really deserves all these names.




   
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