Present days Bukhara is a medium-sized (pop. 273,000) regional center 600 kilometers from Tashkent, and this is absolutely not typical characteristic for the city with such a rich history: not even for centuries, but for millennia, Bukhara was the city No.1 in Central Asia (it is not for nothing that one of its names is Great Bukhariya!), only in some periods of time pushed down to a second place by Samarkand: the rivalry between the two centers of Sogd-Mavveranakhr-Turkestan is akin to the rivalry between the two Russian capitals, only the history of it ten times longer. If Samarkand was called the Rome of the East, then Bukhara is more like Eastern Athens, the city of merchants, masters, poets, scholars and saints, which left a mark in the history the whole of humanity.
There will be 8 chapters about Bukhara plus several chapters about the satellite-town Kagan. In the first part, traditionally, the general overview of Bukhara's history, color, people and countless local crafts.
Surroundings of Bukhara amaze with the number of ancient settlements, which looks like everywhere else such as clay cakes. The name of Bukhara originally belonged to all this huge oasis in the lower reaches of Zerafshan, and originates either from the Sanskrit "vihara" ("abode") or from the Sogdian "Bukharak" ("a good place"), in both meanings this is "a place to live." A developed civilization exists here for about two and a half thousand years, that started as a union of city-states with rural districts along the Great Silk Road:
The current Bukhara was at first only one of those small city-states and was then called Numizhket, whilst the center of Bukhariya was located to the south-west of the present city on the edge of the desert in Paikend and Varakhsha. The latter served as a residence of the Sogdian rulers called Bukhar Khudats, which ruled the city of Bukhara from an unknown date to the reign of the Samanid ruler Isma'il ibn Ahmad, who incorporated Bukhara into the Samanid state. In the remains of their grand palace archaeologists dug up several unique frescoes - the most famous depicting the royal hunting for cheetahs, now stored in the Hermitage. Another fresco of the 6th century with just an image of cheetah is displayed in the Bukhara’s Ark Museum:
But the real center of Bukhariya, the country of merchants, not warriors, most of its history was Paikend, known to the chroniclers of those years as the Copper City, and according to one version "Avesta" was recorded for the first time in its Fire Temple. Its position was really unique: near the mouth of Zerafshan, where converged the ways to the west from China (Zerafshan) and India (Amu Darya). Archeologists found remnants of unique fortifications unique for Central Asia, and even in the Muslim period Paikend built a minaret much larger than Bukhara's Kalyan ... alas, now all this has become a clay, here are some fragments of the glorious past that kept now in all the Bukhara museums:
Of course, like all the centers of Central Asian civilization, Bukhariya was seized from time to time: in the 5th and 6th centuries it was the Ephtalites (known also as "white Huns", at that time the Nestorians, the ancestors of the present Pashtuns); in 567 the Turks, that has several bloody uprisings against them; and in 709 - the Arabs under the command of the legendary Kuteiba ibn Muslim. But even warriors of the Caliphate who the subjugated half-world were amazed by the wealth of the Copper City, the luxury of the seized prey and the amount of ransoms that the people offered for themselves. The Arabs came here for a reason: from the 6th century the Bukhar Khudat rulers of Numizhket fought for power with the rulers of Vardan, and Bukhar Khudat Tugshada appealed for help to Kuteiba in exchange for converting to Islam. Although the last Bukhar Khudat was executed by the Arab governor in 783 for supporting another uprising, all the other princes lost their influence even earlier, and somewhere in the 8th century the Muslim Numyzhket as the only district under the reign of Bukhar Khudat dynasty began to be called Bukhara. For a time the city co-existed with Paikend, but as was often the case, it was not wars that perished the city, but the nature - by the 11th century, as the population grew, Zarafshan river was depleted by numerous irrigation ditches and stopped reaching the Amu Darya, so life moved higher along the river, and Bukhara became the only center of the oasis.
The heart of Bukhara under all the rulers was the Ark - a fortified hill in the center of the city, not really know whether it was an artificial or a natural hill (according to legend, it was built by the holy hero Siyavush), or simply a cultural layer grown over centuries. The Ark here is similar in significance to what the Kremlin in Moscow, the Tower in London, the Forbidden City in Beijing, moreover - none of those capitals had the fortress as a center for so long, whilst in Bukhara it lost this role only in the twentieth century. Ark, the center of the power of Bukhar Khudats, Vali, Khans, Emirs and their military power, existed as if outside the trading city, hanging high above it. In the Ark museums three previous photos were also shot:
The peak of Bukhara history was the turn of millennia, when the whole Persian culture experienced its Renaissance. The caliphate by that time was weakened and the real power on its periphery was in the hands of local Muslim dynasties that formally remained the vassals of caliphate: for example, in the years 821-73 Bukhara was ruled by the Tahirids, the first Muslim rulers of Iran. In Samarkand, about the same time, grew the power of the Samanids, another Persian dynasty, that laid foundation to the history of present day Tajiks. In 875, Nasr ibn Ahmad was appointed governor of Samarkand, soon after he rebelled against caliph and proclaimed his empire, the first independent Muslim state in Central Asia, that also included the territories of Maveranahr and Khorasan on all sides of the Amu Darya. In 892, his brother Ismail Samani moved the capital to Bukhara starting its golden age that could not be interrupted even by the fall of the Samanids, who were ousted in 999 by the Turks of Karakhanid. Moreover, it was during this period that such luminaries of Eastern thought passed through Bukhara as the "king of doctors" Avicenna (980-1037, born near Bukhara, was the court doctor of the Samanids, then Khorezmshahs and finally the rulers of Isfahan), the founder of Persian poetry Rudaki (was the court poet of the Samanids at the beginning of the 10th century), the famous Persian poet, astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam (he lived in Bukhara in 1068-78, aged from 20 to 30 years) and many others whose fame faded for a thousand years and whose names are now known only to specialists.
Mausoleum of the Samanids (892-907) - the oldest building in Bukhara, and even the whole of Uzbekistan:
Magoki-Atari mosque is also belived to be built in Samanid era, although it was rebuilt many times in the 10-15 centuries, and as I understand, since that time there was only a side portal left. According to legend, the Samanid mausoleum was built on the site of the Zoroastrian temple of the Sun, and the Magoki-Atari mosque is in place of the Temple of the Moon, and it is true that it has the older foundation under:
Although with the fall of Samanid empire Bukhara lost the role of the capital for half a millennium, it still remained the center of Central Asian trade and thought. The power of the Karakhanids lasted until 1206, then Bukhara was captured by Khorezm and in 1220 Central Asia experienced its local End of the World - Genghis Khan and his hordes engulfed the region.
It should be noted that Mongols regarded Muslims as their worst enemy, and the peak of the Mongol wars was the destruction of Baghdad by Khulagu in the 1270s. Genghis Khan drowned Central Asia in blood in a way that Rus (except for the first strike to Ryazan) could not imagine it the worst dream: most of the cities were completely destroyed and rebuilt later from scratch on new location, like the same Samarkand. Bukhara, however, had an amazing gift to negotiate - in the 8th century with the Arabs, and in the 13th century with the Mongols. Only Ark showed Resistance to Genghis Khan, for which it was robbed and all its residents slaughtered. According to legend, Genghis Khan made a speech here in Namazgokh mosque (1119-20), built for the festive services in the open air. The stunner of the universe said then: "If it weren't your sins, would the Heaven send you such a misfortune as I?".
There are even less pre-Mongol buildings preserved in Central Asia than in Russia (even though the former was clearly much more developed before the invasion), and in Bukhara there are only 4 of them left - the three shown above, first of all - the Great Minaret Kalyan (1127) with a height of either 45, or 48 meters. Such giant minarets, the lighthouses of Islam, covering the entire city with their azan call for the prayer, were built exactly in those times (later, it seems, the cities became too large and the small minarets in the mahallas turned out to be more practical). Kalyan is the real axis of Bukhara, its centre, it is visible practically from all corners of the city, even Soviet avenues were built in a way to have it in perspective.
... One of those who showed me Bukhara was a man named Sultan-Haji, where Hajo means he made hadj to Mecca. According to him, Bukhara is known and honored in the entire Islamic world, including even those who never heard of Uzbekistan as a country. Bukhara was the first Muslim city of Central Asia, from where the Islam spread all over the region, but even this is not the the main thing about the city. Mentioning the secular history of Bukhara, I did not mention Muhammad al-Bukhari, who lived in the 8th century (that is, before the Samanids, at the very end of Caliphate rule in Central Asia), who created the Saheeh, the second by importance book of Sunni Muslims after the Koran. Actually, the Sunnah is a collection of hadiths, sacred stories about the life of the Prophet, following whose life path is the duty of the orthodox Sunni (unlike the Shiite, for which this is rather a recommendation). The first centuries hadiths were passed verbally, attempts to record them were also made before Muhammad of Bukhara, but al-Bukhari interviewed more than a thousand sheikhs, worked over 800,000 (!) hadiths, selected from them 7,275 the most reliable (since each hadith had a "genealogy" - a chain through which it was passed down from generation to generation), and among the six canonical collections his "Saheeh" became the first and the largest one.
The third contribution of Bukhara to Islamic civilization was Sufism, the mystical trend in Islam, and Bukhara was certainly not its homeland, even in Central Asia, but in the 13-15 centuries it became one of its world centers. Sufism in this semi-pagan region became well established, absorbing local traditions, and from the 12 Tariqats (if very simplistically, it is a Muslim analogue of Christian religious orders), three were established here: Khwarezmian Kubravia, steppe Yasaviya and Bukharian Naqshbandiya, which from the 15th century was almost the most influential branch of Sufism, strongly influencing Central Asia, India, Turkey and the Caucasus. In Bukhara and its environs there are Seven Pirs (sacred places) - if I remember correctly, it's Bukhara, Khulyal, Bahauddin, Chor Bakr, Gijduvan, Shafirkan and Romitan. Bahauddin - that's the name of Naqshbandi himself - this is the place of his mausoleum, and Kulyal (in the photo below) is the resting place of his teacher. Pay attention to the pole with a triangular flag - all pirs have similar ones:
The formation of Bukharian Sufism fell on hard times of endless Chingizid internecine strife and anti-Mongol uprisings. In Timurid empire Bukhara remained the spiritual and commercial capital, but it was still in the shadow of Samarkand with its great construction sites for the glory of Tamerlane. But in the 16th century the last Timurid Babur fled to India and revived his dynasty there as the Great Moguls, whilst Samarkand was occupied by the Uzbek-chingizid Mahmud Sheibani, whose nephew Ubaidullah in 1533 transferred the capital to Bukhara, from that time once again Bukhara became the main city of Turkestan. The Sheibanids did not rule for long, the peak of their power was under Abdallahan II, but all his descendants died in conspiracies and wars, and in 1601 the Astrakhan dynasty took power in Bukhara, which contributed to the rise of Bukhara Khanate. Of the three Uzbek khanates, it was the most Iranized (even the official language was Persian), the most theocratic, but - the most populous and richest. In 1753, the Ashtarkhanids line of dynasty also finished: Muhammad Rahim-biy from the Mangyt tribe, the protege of the Persian Nadir Shah, who in fact got Bukhara into the vasal, performed a palace coup in a very delicate manner, firstly taking the throne as atalyk (regent), and from 1756 as the official ruler, but not as a Khan (since he was not Chingizid), but as the Emir. And the final of the Bukhara emirate's history is the war with Russia, the loss of Samarkand and the recognition of the tsarist protectorate, and finally the destruction by the Bolsheviks, headed by Mikhail Frunze. Frunze became the third foreigner in history (after Kuteiba and Genghis Khan), who conquered Bukhara.
And the current 'significance' of Bukhara among other cities of Uzbekistan, sharing the 5th place with miserable Nukus, is perhaps the smallest in its entire history.
Now let's talk about what was left out of this history, as its continuity gave birth to an impressive material culture, where architecture is just the tip of the iceberg. I must say that the architecture of different parts of Central Asia is similar but at the same time differs in a way as the medieval architecture of Kiev, Vladimir, Pskov and Novgorod. The most characteristic monuments of Bukhara, as well as everywhere in Central Asia are madrassas, the most popular Bukhara ensemble (although it is found not only here) is a kosh, when two buildings are facing each other in the same line. Also pay attention to the guldasts - the corner towers without completions. Less obvious is the difference in proportions, which in Central Asian architecture was measured basing on the width of the main portal: in Bukhara it was usually equal to half the height and 1/5 of the width of the building.
Another feature: in other places, the entrance through the portal usually leads directly to the courtyard, if there is the foyer it would be on the sides, but here on the contrary - the entrance rests against a wall that curves around the curved galleries on both sides. Here to the right is the exit to the street, and ahead and behind are the inways:
And of course, ornaments made of glazed tiles, and if I applied the epithet "dancing" to Samarkand tiles, then in Bukhara it would be rather "sparkling" to the extent that you can hear crackle of fireworks in the ears ... and they say you cannot portray people and animals in Islam... However, it was portrayed here, probably because of the proximity of Persia, where this prohibition did not take root and where Shiism prevailed.
In ordinary houses it was carved wooden doors that had stricken me most. Saman and raw bricks are short-lived, for this reason you will not find houses older than the end of the 19th century in all of Central Asia, but rebuilding their house owners always kept its wooden "skeleton". Therefore, the doors are often older than the walls: according to local people, they can be 300-400 years old (more often about 200), and their patterns seem to continue the tradition of pre-Mongol architecture, in which they carved in stone:
Here is another Bukharian "schtick", which I have not seen in other cities - genderwise knockig bells: the wooden tap of the ring on the door is addressed to women in the house, the metal tap of a stick-clapper is for men. And yes, this is really a swastika, in the East it's an ancient and not a tarnished symbol.
Samples of wood carvings, including grating and aso - the stick of the traveling Sufi:
And in general, Bukhara simply amazes with the abundance of its folk crafts, which can be appreciated not only in museums, but also in souvenir shops. It took me a while to realise that what is shown here at this stall is actually a cheap run-of-the-mill, which comes to Bukhara mainly from India. However, even in this fact you can find something - because from time immemorial Bukharian merchants headed for Indian goods. But often just looking at the same stuff at souvenir shops you can notice small differences left by the living hand - especially this concerns forging, chasing, carving. I'll try to tell you about what you can expect to see here that was produced locally in Bukhara itself:
For example, a miniature is an art that continues Persian traditions, it was here by Mahmud Sheibani from Herat, the "second capital" of the Timurids, which he sought to conquer and did it, but ruled only for 3 years before dying in his war. There was a large number of miniaturists, the most outstanding were Shaikh-Zad, Mahmud Muzakhhib and Abdullah. The Bukhara miniature style was laconic, due to the enlargement of details, the reduction in the number of characters and the symmetrical composition (from here). With the end of the Sheibanid era, the Bukhara miniature fell into decay and was reborn in our time, I do not know how close to the original. One of the favorite subjects is the "caravan":
In the background of this photo and on the three previous pictures you can see miniatures and painted caskets - their ancient tradition was revived with the support of the present techniques, based on Russian Palekh, but with oriental plots:
Characteristic pencil cases, with which Bukhara is simply littered. Somewhere painted, somewhere carved - just plenty of them. Not sure about their history, but in principle the people of Bukhara were educated even by medieval standards, so it should not be surprising:
Here it seems simply antiques, but the books are reminiscent of local calligraphy (which Samarkand was more famous for). The open book is printed with the Persian calligraphic font Nestallik, which is impossible to print; therefore, such books are handwritten and reproduced by lithography - they say, that was the way how the printing business of Pakistan operated before the computer era, and in India there is still one newspaper that is issued with completely handwritten text.
In the spice shop they sell chikichi ("seals" with pins for making patterns in the bread) and boxes of dried pumpkin that can be worn on the belt, and stuff, for example, with nasvay (local people are used to it and consider just as a strong tobacco, not a drug):
They also sell in Bukhara silk (usually Indian) and Ikat from the Ferghana Valley, but there has never been any special production of fabrics. Bukhara fabric is first of all suzane, embroidered covers of cotton and silk in different combinations. They are sewed throughout Uzbekistan, with their own styles in Samarkand and Urgut, Kashkadarya, Surkhandarya with Baysun, but the white "Bukhara suzane" with vegetative ornaments and red "rosettes" can not be confused with anything, except perhaps the suzane of neighboring Nurata. Moreover, their own schools within the Bukhara tradition have neighboring towns like Vabkent, Gizhduvan, Shafirkan and others.
Dolls in Bukhara folk fabrics. Also, by the way, the ancient tradition, which they are trying to revive:
In general, when we say "The one from Bukhara" we should imagine "a man in a gown". Now they are worn only in the remote mountain villages of Kashkadarya and Surkhandarya over their shirts and trousers. Dressing gowns of wealthy Bukharians can be found now only in museums:
Here is Bukhara footwear from Ichig (high boots) to slippers:
And since there were a lot of nobles in the city, who even in the most difficult times drowned in luxury, and rich merchants who traded from Europe to China, tailors and shoemakers sometimes created works of art:
One of the symbols of Bukhara is the golden sewing that existed there from time immemorial: the oldest objects date back to the 15th century, but even in the frescoes of Paikend and Varakhsha there are pictures of people in gold embroidered clothes. An old noble Uzbek in gilded skullcaps, boots and a silk gown is very recognizable image.
This thing is at the junction of the two arts, made by blacksmiths for the sewers - cunningly curved scissors-birds for cutting lacework.
Probably, this is my favorite thing from the traditional Bukhara, and nowhere else in Uzbekistan you will find such things:
There are a lot of forge shops on the streets of Bukhara and the best pchaks (typical local knives) after the ones produced in Uighur are knives made in Bukhara and Tashkent. They are less known than the Uighur one simply because there are much less of them produced.
Metal dishes, whether large plates or kumgany (jugs with spouts for ablution) - are produced by chasers:
In general, there were about 40 different kinds of metal work specialists, among them even physicians who treated people with silver water or touches of hot metal.
And, of course, jewelers - in the ancient city of the nobility they have a rich tradition. There were various types of jewelry: "Tilla-kosh" (crown of the bride), "mohitillo" and "kadzhak" (temporal pendants), "zebi-gardan" and "nosi-gardan" (breast jewelry), earrings "barg" (petal), "kundalsoz", "halka" and others, bracelets decorated with slotted openwork carving with floral ornament, belts with silver buckles and much more. The main feature is metal laces everywhere:
But the most typical stuff from "Bukhara" is ceramics and carpets, to which even museums are dedicated. Ceramics occupies the old khanaka (sufic monastery) of Nadir-Divanbegi (1619-20), with the facade overlooking to Lyabi-Hauz. To produce ceramics for Buharians was always very honourable, because even Kulyal, the teacher of Bahauddin Naqshbandi at the turn of 13-14 centuries, was a potter. Bukhara ceramics came literally "from the darkness of centuries" - here are some plates from Paikend:
Cups, bowls and lamps of pre-Mongol times. From a similar lamp Alladdin was calling the genie, and given that he was from China, and in those times China was not the country of Han, but its Turkic oikumene (from nomadic Khitan), the descendants of Alladdin may well be among Uzbeks, Tajiks and Uighurs.
Here is a new time - in the background a plate, on the front - clay toys. This is most likely the toys of the famous Khamro Rakhimova from the Gijduvan village of Uba. They are considered canonical, their origin goes back to Zoroastrianism and шы related to Navruz celebrations. Now the only one who makes them is her student Kubaro Babaeva or Kubaro-opa, as everyone calls her. She too come from the same village, is very old now, but regularly comes to Tashkent for exhibitions. By the way, clay toys were always made only by women or old people, who already had difficulty turning the potter's wheel. And it is on these toys that one can see the influence of early Islam: this is when one can notice cuts under the toy's neck that symbolize an already lifeless creature, thus bypassing the Islamic ban on the depiction of living beings.
The current Bukhara ceramics is first of all the one produced in Gijduvan, by Narzullaev dynasty, and its canonical examples look like this:
Although the streets of Bukhara are just overwhelmed with a variety of ceramics, most of which comes from Fergana (Rishtan), where it is produced massively and most cheaply. These plates themselves are from Rishtan, but the Bukhara's feature is their frequent massive sale centres that can occupy half-street:
As for the Bukhara carpets, there is a museum in the ancient mosque of Magoki-Atari. Bukhara and Samarkand make carpets in absolute different manner, and even more - the Bukhara carpet with warm color range and geometric ornaments is more known to the world as a Turkmen carpet. Who exactly made it first - Bukharans or Turkmens - argue on both sides of the border:
Honestly, I did not learn enough to differ all the carpet schools, but I can definitely recognize the Kyrgyz carpet on the floor, which I knew from Kochkork. According to the museum info, in Uzbekistan Bukhara carpets are characteristic mainly for Kashkadarya and Surkhandarya
Samarkand and Persian carpets are dominated with floral ornament instead of geometric patterns:
And here, it seems, are actually Turkmen carpets, or, according to the local classification - Bukhara style carpets from Turkmenistan:
They trade carpets throughout the city. My companions told me a dialogue with the shopkeeper:
- Hey, brother, buy a carpet!
- And how am I supposed to take it home?!
- That's nothing, brother! You just buy it, and we will take care to deliver it for free anywhere in the world!
The geometric figures of people and animals are also a feature of Bukhara carpets.
Handicrafts are complemented by a decent gastronomy. Bukhara and Samarkand are competing for the title of not only the handicraft but also the culinary capital of Uzbekistan, but from my little experience that I had here, I would certainly give preference to Bukhara. In the center of the city there are many cafes and restaurants with lush "eastern" interiors:
But Sultan-Hajji took us to the smaller places on the outskirts of the city, where he is known and respected (that is, they will not serve him smth bad!), and where the cuisine is much better than in these "palaces" of the Old Town. The decor of such establishments is rather spartan with oilcloth tablecloths and laminated menus. Sultan-Haji also showed us the kitchens - here for example, a 19-century Kazan with an inscription along the rim:
The tea is served in porcelain teapots with characteristic "cotton" pattern, it is usually accompanied by Uzbek suzma (viscous sour cream) and Bukhara pilaf. In principle, there are plenty of combinations and Bukhara pilaf is considered to be the most elaborate and complex, and very hearty: however tasty it was I still could not finish this plate:
The main impression of Bukhara gastronomy was Khalisa. This is meat, which is laid in the evening in the cauldron and is stewed until morning or until noon, and as the result you literally get a meat porridge. Local people also eat it with sugar, but for me vegetables were enough:
And, of course, oriental sweets, found in other cities, but if they are called "Uzbek sweets" in Russia, then in Uzbekistan they call they "Bukhara sweets". Unlike the sticky and moist Turkish ones, the local sweets are all dry, hard, sometimes friable and can be stored for a long time. The way of their preparation in different cities can differ: the same halva in Bukhara looks more like candies, whilst in Samarkand it is more like fudge.
Even the Siberian cat is actually slightly upgraded Bukhara cat. After all, Bukhara was very active in trading with the Siberian Khanate and even tried to master it: the same Kuchum was a Sheibanid protege, the kinsman of Abdallah Khan II, whose rejection by Siberian Tatars gave one of the reasons to send Yermak there. The Bukharians brought with them cats that got even bigger and fluffier in their new homeland, but in Bukhara itself the breed disappeared during the Civil War - its golden fund, a hundred cats of the emir, fled from the burned Ark and lived their own lives alone in the homes of ordinary Bukharians. Something remotely similar, but sick and shabby I met in Khiva:
But they managed to preserve their own human breed: for 1,500 years it did not become Turkic, only Sogdians (whose language of the Iranian group was very remotely similar to the Ossetian one) was replaced by Persians who, with the adoption of Shiism in Persia, became Tajiks. But I will not be surprised if in the veins of many Bukharans to this day still flows Sogdian blood with the Turkic, Persian, Arab admixture. Unlike Samarkand, standing at the border of Tajikistan, Bukhara was and remains an "island" - even in the nearest villages the people speak Uzbek. The authorities officially record the local Tajiks as "Persian-speaking Uzbeks", but they do not consider themselves to be either Uzbeks or Tajiks. Bukharan conside it a nationality itself, community of place is stronger here than the community of the nation. Below are the photos of Bukharans and numerous guests of the ancient city:
The unique atmosphere of Bukhara drowns you. It is somehow very soft, warm, even sweet, so unlike the clever and cunning Tashkent, the formidable Samarkand and the gloomy-mystical Khorezm.