On the road of the Great Silk Road, the beautiful city of Bukhara rises from the sandy hills – one of the most ancient cities, whose age exceeds twenty-five centuries. Bukhara is located in the south of Uzbekistan and it is the administrative center of the Bukhara region. It is important for tourists to understand that Bukhara is perhaps the only city in Uzbekistan that has not changed its location. The city was destroyed and rebuilt, but never gave up an inch of its land. Now Bukhara is the sea of blue domes of mosques and minarets, madrasahs decorated with beautiful arabesques, wide squares, bazaars, and a multinational people.
It is generally accepted that Bukhara is 2500 years old, but it is greatly underestimated. Due to the groundwater that is below twenty meters under Bukhara, it is impossible to determine the true epoch of the city’s appearance. In the meantime, we know that in the 5th century BC there was already a large settlement with fortress and a moat. At that time, the territory of modern Bukhara belonged to the ancient Sogd empire, along with Samarkand. When Alexander the Great conquered the Sogdian state, Bukhara was also invaded. The Greeks rebuilt the city, but the locals did not want to live under the power of the invaders. After the Greeks, a lot of kings ruled in Bukhara, the city developed and by the arrival of the Arab conquerors, it was an important strategic object. At that time Bukhara already had a Christian church, which was converted by the Arabs into a mosque. With the coming of the Arabs to power in Bukhara, Islam spread, and the city became one of the centers of spirituality.
A real cultural heyday came during the reign of the Persian dynasty of the Samanids in the 9th century AD. Emir Ismail Samani transformed Bukhara to the capital of his state. From that moment, the city began to grow over with palaces, states, and educational institutions. The city has become a center of science and culture not only in the Asian region but throughout the world. Tourists visiting Bukhara should know that Ibn Sina, known throughout the world as Avicenna, worked here. From the memoirs of the legendary doctor, we know that a huge library of scientific papers from all over the world was collected in Bukhara, and there was also a medical institute.
When the power of the Samanid dynasty went to an end, Bukhara lost its status of the capital. But the real decline came with the Mongols of Genghis Khan, who left behind only the ruins of cities. The Mongols treated Bukhara more generously, and after a devastating war took the city into the Chagatai ulus. By the 13th century, Mongol rulers began to convert to Islam and rebuilt the city. The famous traveler Marco Polo came here and called Bukhara “a city of great dignity”. People still did not want to live under the yoke of the invaders and repeatedly raised riots and liberation movements.
When Amir Timur came to power, the city was the center of crafts and trade. Although the former greatness achieved during the Samanids did not remain, Bukhara still had great significance. Bukhara, the “dome of Islam”, attracted scientists and writers. Besides, the Timurids considered Bukhara the second capital after Samarkand.
Bukhara acquired its modern appearance during the reign of the Uzbek dynasties, which also considered Bukhara a religious capital. In comparison with colorful Samarkand, modern Tashkent, and ancient Khiva, Bukhara still stands out for the level of its culture. There are many places for tourists to visit, and usually, tours to Bukhara are quite long.
The Poi-Kalyan architectural complex, which is located on the Registan, the central square, can be called the heart of Bukhara. The complex includes the Kalyan minaret, the Kalyan mosque, and the Miri Arab madrasah. The center of the whole complex and the very first building is the Kalyan minaret, the construction of which was completed in 1127. Kalyan, which means “big” from Tajik, is one of the tallest buildings in Bukhara, its height is almost 46,5 meters, and its diameter is almost 10 meters. The minaret has a conical shape with a lantern at the top. The minaret is decorated with arabesques and geometric patterns. Throughout its existence, the minaret has not been rebuilt even once.
The minaret served to gather Muslims for Friday prayers in the Kalyan Mosque – the “Great Mosque”. Before the construction of Bibi Khanym in Samarkand, the Kalyan Mosque was the largest Friday mosque and could accommodate up to 12,000 prayers. The mosque has blue domes, and the walls are decorated with geometric patterns and glazed bricks. It should be said that the mosque is still functioning now, being the central mosque of Bukhara.
Opposite the Kalyan mosque is the Miri Arab madrasah, in which future theologians are still studying. In total, the madrasah has 114 rooms for students around a large courtyard. The madrasah is divided into two parts: the first one serves as a small mosque and a lecture hall for students, and the second one is a place for the tombs of the emirs who ruled in the 16th century and their relatives. The decoration of the madrasah is made in the same style as the entire architectural set, only a little more restrained in the use of glaze.
The most ancient monument of Bukhara is the Ark fortress. It is built on a twenty-meter high embankment and covers an area of more than 4 hectares. Its construction was theoretically started in the 5th century BC by order of the mythical hero Siyavush. The Ark was built as a fortress and was rebuilt several times: the walls became thicker, observation towers and loopholes were added, additional fortifications were erected. The fortress was a small town where up to 3000 people lived at the same time. The fortress housed the residence of the ruling family, state institutions, houses of the nobility, and military leaders. Now Ark is the Bukhara State Architectural and Art Museum, where the entire rich history of Bukhara is exhibited.
There are dozens of places for tourists in Bukhara that are definitely worth attention. Among them: the Labi-Khauz ensemble, the Kukeldash madrasah, the Ulugbek madrasah, the Bahauddin Naqshbandi mausoleum, the Divan-Begi madrasah, old bazaars, miraculously preserved to this day, and even the Bukhara zindan – a structure used as a prison during the reign of the Bukhara emirs. Even this list does not convey some of the attractions open to tourists in Bukhara. Bukhara is a magnificent city, where each wall keeps its own history, and the land whispers legends in forgotten languages.