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Kokand

Kokand is one of the oldest cities in Central Asia, located in the Fergana Valley. The city arose in a fertile area in the Fergana Valley, in the east of modern Uzbekistan. The city is focused on tourism and tourists can get to Kokand along a picturesque mountain road from Tashkent, passing through a unique 20-kilometer tunnel. The first mention of Kokand in historical sources dates back to the 10th century, however, when archaeological excavations were carried out on the territory of the city, scientists found cultural layers with relics dating back to the 1st century AD. It can be assumed that Kokand was formed in the II century BC and was part of the ancient and little-known Central Asian state of Dayuan. It is often mistakenly believed that Dayuan is another name for another state of Sogd, but this opinion is not popular. As part of Dayuan, Kokand rather had the status of a suburb, and its inhabitants were mainly engaged in agriculture.

Although Kokand was one of the cities on the Great Silk Road and crafts and arts developed on its territory, it was not of great importance compared to other larger cities of Central Asia, Fergana, Tashkent, Samarkand, and others. Besides, along with other cities, Kokand was repeatedly destroyed by invaders. First, Kokand was destroyed by the Huns, in the IV century it was captured by the Turkic tribes. Then, in the 8th century, the Arabs invaded the Fergana Valley, and in the 13th century, Kokand finally fell under the assault of the Mongol army under the leadership of Genghis Khan. After the devastating raid of the Mongols, life in Kokand stopped for two hundred years. In the 16th century, the newly rebuilt city was forcibly annexed to the Bukhara Khanate and was part of it for the next two centuries. The city reached its prosperity only in the 18th century when the Kokand Khanate was born as a result of liberation movements. Since then, Kokand has been actively rebuilt, and most of the architectural monuments that tourists visit in Kokand date back to this period.

The most outstanding monument of antiquity in Kokand is the Khudayarkhan Palace or the Kokand Urda. Its name refers to the last Kokand emir Khudayarkhan, who put an end to internal strife and was the patron saint of culture and art. It so happened that all the emirs built palaces for themselves larger and more luxurious than the previous one, and Khudayarkhan was no exception. His palace was the seventh in a row and it is an example of the splendor of the traditional architecture of the Middle East. The palace has seven courtyards and 120 rooms for various needs. All rooms without exception, as well as interior and exterior walls, are lavishly decorated with majolica and arabesques. There are traditional elements of decor made of wood and stucco. It must be said that the territory of the palace occupies as much as four hectares and members of the ruling family lived on its territory, as well as state institutions and a magnificent palace hall. Now the palace houses the Kokand Museum of Local Lore, open to foreign and local tourists.

Continuing the tour of Kokand, tourists must visit another large building of the 18th century, the Norbutabiy Madrasah. Today it functions and students study there. Norbutabiy madrasah is the largest in Kokand and is distinguished by its design. The fact is that Bukhara architects worked on its creation, which was reflected in the appearance of the building. The madrasah turned out to be somewhat angular, but monumental, which especially emphasizes the restraint in the decorations. A massive portal leads to the madrasah, behind which there is a square courtyard. As is customary in such educational institutions, the madrasah has two main premises: a small mosque for students and a hall for lectures.

Kokand, like other cities of the Fergana Valley, was a city with a developed culture of Islam. Therefore, the Jami ensemble, which was chosen by tourists in Kokand, has survived to us. The architectural complex consists of the Jami mosque and madrasah. A legend is connected with the mosque, which says that when it was necessary to establish the cornerstone in the foundation of the future mosque, no one wanted to take on such responsibility. According to tradition, the first brick should be laid by an exceptionally pious person, and then the current Kokand emir Umarkhan assumed this important obligation. When the mosque was completed, the fame of its beauty spread throughout the country, and Umarkhan received the nickname “Worthy of Paradise”. The Jami Mosque stands out for its huge aivan, standing on a hundred carved wooden columns made of especially durable elmwood. And the entire ceiling, divided into square segments, is hand-painted with very beautiful floral and geometric patterns. Such a painting differs greatly from the ornaments of medieval Uzbek architecture in its beauty and execution, and analogs of such patterns can be found in oriental carpets. There is a small museum of applied arts on the territory of the mosque.

There are other interesting places in Kokand for a tourist visiting Uzbekistan. There are many mausoleums and madrasahs, museums and old bazaars. Also, the International Festival of Folk Applied Arts will be held in Kokand from 2019.