About Uzbekistan

Bukhara. Trading Domes
12 April 2018

We continue exploring Bukhara along the so called Big Diagonal of Bukhara - so I call its five main ensembles standing along the road from the foot of the Ark to Samarkand. In the last part we examined Lyabi-hauz and Chor-Minor, and now we will head to four Trading domes, that I partially showed in the first part while covering Bukhara crafts.

... For Europe of the 19th century covered markets and passages were quite a big achievement; in Russian cities covered markets began to replace open air bazaars only at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. While in Asia with its summer heat and unbearable winter winds, they have been a prose of life for centuries, and this is the main Asian paradox: hopelessly lagging behind Europe in some areas (first of all, social organization, industry and the army), in others Asia even in the era of colonization was centuries ahead. The huge trade domes with steady stone vaults, which extinguished the summer heat and kept the warmth from the breath of the people inside in winter months existed in many Turkestan cities, they clearly inspired dome-shaped indoor markets of many Soviet cities, primarily the Tashkent Chorsu, but only in Bukhara there are as many as four medieval (16th century) domes and their size is impressive even today. The first on our way is the dome of Sarrafon looks directly at Lyabi-hauz. On the right is nearly constructivist sidewall of the Russian-Asian bank built at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries:

Under the dome. Sarrafon is the smallest and most richly decorated of four domes: in translation its name means "The dome of money changers". Nowadays there are mainly souvenir stalls inside:

Pay attention to the mosaics - above is genuine one in dilapidated condition, and below is restored one. Specialists say that restoration works in Uzbekistan (including the Soviet Union times) are terrible and all this is lost irrevocably, but honestly speaking, my knowledge is not enough to judge. So, I just admire:

Sarrafon overhangs the crossroads, and you can leave the dome to all four sides. We go south (to the left of the dome is Nogai caravanserai, the mosque of Magoki-Atari is visible in the passage) ...

... and find ourselves in less touristy part of Old Bukhara, neglected, dusty and very quiet. The Big Diagonal is not wide at all:

If you go further there would be the most colorful Jewish quarter. Another "Russian house" (these type of houses in the mahallas were usually built by the Jews, more loyal to Russia than the Muslims) and the facade of the half-destroyed either the madrasah or the caravan-saray:

Let's look through the gap in the gate:

Opposite is once a luxurious and now abandoned house of some rich merchant with a peculiar local appearance: Russian architecture and oriental layout with the facade inward. It is not the only one like that here:

But let's return for a while back under Sarrafon, two other exits lead to the same square. From Lyabi-hauz one can an impressive trading house of Savva Morozov (1912), a textile tycoon from Orekhovo-Zuyev near Moscow, who was purchasing cotton in Turkestan and possibly was selling a ready textile here. Today, Morozov's office is occupied by an art museum, and next to it the rather interesting madrassa of Gaukushon with a minaret similar to a small Kalyan ...

Between Sarrafon and the next dome there is a large nameless square, most of which is excavated for several pre-Mongolian buildings. For example, there was a bath of XII century. Sarrafon and adjoining Nogai caravanserai (1720-21) can be seen in the distance. The Nogais here were called the Crimean Tatars, that is, this caravan-shed could be called Crimean: caravanserai were not only hotels for merchants, but also trade courtyards, where the guests themselves traded goods brought from far away.

Another similar building on the other side of the square. As already mentioned, there are so many antiquities in Bukhara that I could not find information for all of them:

But the main thing in this square is that pre-Mongolian buildings are not only in the form of foundations. In some photos above, you might have noticed the second-oldest building of Bukhara and its oldest Mosque of Magoki-Atari, also known as the Mosque in the pit, because during the thousand years of its existence it went down into the cultural layers by 4.5 meters. At the heart of it is the building of as early as the 10th century, its present appearance the mosque received in the 15th century, but its oldest visible part is the lateral portal of the 12th century. Alas, I forgot to take a bigger picture of its décor:

A view from the entrance to the Russian-Asian Bank and the Sarrafon Dome. The Bukhara carpet with a geometric ornament below is no accident, the mosque is occupied now by the Carpet Museum, which I showed in the first part:

Traditionally, the Magoki-Atari belonged to moscatels sellers (household chemistry, or rather, what was used in those days), and, accordingly one can translate its name as a terrible "Pitch of Moscatel sellers". Its other name is Mokh, that is, the Moon: under its floor is an ancient foundation, which is usually identified with the Zoroastrian Temple of the Moon, built in those days when the name Bukhara meant the entire oasis, and the city itself was called Numizhket.

Stairs to the main portal, that is, to the ground level. Prior to the appearance in Bukhara of the first synagogues in the 17th century, Bukhara Jews prayed here - by one version, they separated from Muslims and they prayed in different corners, and by the other - they were coming here at different times. It is said that Bukharan Jews have the custom to end the divine service with the words "Shalom-Alejhem" ("Peace to you!"), addressed to the owners of the temple. We have to agree, that it is impossible to even imagine in the churches of Europe of the same centuries.

But now it's just a museum. Apart from me the place was inspected by a very pompous Italian with a "Lonely Planet" guidebook, and the elderly caretaker complained to me that the Italian Prime Minister had ordered from him and received a carpet a couple of years ago and had not yet sent money! What kind of prime minister he was talking about I will not mention here - what if it was just old man's talkie-talkie...

The view of the Moon Mosque from the other side, this is already the 15th century that seems a new building comparing to the oldest part. In the background is the hotel stylized as a madrassa, if I am not mistaken this is "Asia Hotel".

Next to it is the next Telpak-Furushon dome ("Caps and Jewelry"), behind which is the mighty top of Kalyan minaret (1127). As you can see, this is one of the few places in the Old Town, where public transport operates:

In the neighborhood is another half-underground mosque of Magoki-Kurpa ("Pit of blankets" named after the quarter where they were sewed). It was built in 1637, that is, it could not have deeper cultural layers than the rest of the city, therefore, most likely it was planned from the very start to be built like Moscatel Mosque. Like the Russian churches, Magoki-Kurpa has two-stories: a semi-underground winter room and a summer hall open to refreshing winds:

To the right of the last photo the trading dome is hugged by the Kuleta caravanserai of the 16th Century, now occupied by the blacksmith's museum:

In the distance there is a huge, but obscure madrassah of Mullah-Tursunjon, also built in the 16th century. This is the same huge western piece of Bukhara center that I missed to explore:

Interestingly, in the 19th century there was a number of Indian caravanserais, an integral part of Bukhara, whose life and customs were rather impressively described by Tajik writer Sadriddin Ayni. The Hindus fled here from their over-crowded and eternally hungry homeland, especially actively when there were Englishmen, and here Russians. Mostly they were Muslims or converted themselves once comig here, but they lived not according to Shariah law, they drank hemp vodka and were engaged in the most despicable business in Bukhara, that even Jews were avoiding - usury.

It would seem that none of the Indian caravansarays has survived, and even if it was preserved, it is unlikely to have kept the Indian color. In the Soviet era, the Indians dissolved among the local people, but even according to the 1989 census in Uzbekistan there were about 800 representatives of Indo-Pakistani people:

And now let's go to Telpac Furushon. It is crossed at different angles by 5 streets, so do not even try to understand how it is arranged. To the left are the gates of the Kulet caravanserai:

Another name for the dome is Kitab-Furushon ("Books and Jewelery"), since before the jewelry sellers it was occupied by booksellers. Now, like Sarrafon dome, it does not have a clear specialization, and they sell everything from fabrics to jewelry in its labyrinths.

On the sides are dead ends, and the suzanne's ornament seems like a live jungle:

My favorite Bukhara scissors. From my first arrival they started to make them not just in the shape of the bird, but also in the shape of Kalyan minaret:

The most exotic thing from the things I have seen here is the falcon stand:

Under the central dome. I didn't even try to count how many domes it has:

In plan Telpac Furushon reminds a key without a latch - further in the course of our movement is a long gallery, a kind of medieval arcade:

that turns into the improvised pedestrian street with countless souvenir shops. The dome in the background belongs not to the market, but to the enormous medieval (by default, everything in Bukhara of the 16th century) bath Bazari-Kord.

You can go inside and check that is still serves its original purpose and for the tourists a visit there will cost about $10-15 per person. There are separate hours for women, men and individual.

They don't actually provide a service just to see a working hammam. From the stone rooms you can feel a wet heat and hear voices:

Just opposite the bath is the smithy-museum, not the only one in Bukhara, but the most beautiful:

Here work the most famous in Bukhara blacksmith family of Kamalov - the father Shokir with a certificate from UNESCO and his son Shavkiddin. But we did not meet them here, and just made a couple of shots of empty smithy:

The same street but just a hundred years ago - not so much has changed in fact:

Around this moment I felt myself not very well - I woke up early in the train, was exploring the town for half a day under the afternoon sun, ate just one samsa in the morning ... in short, I was exhausted and seeing the cafe, I immediately entered there - it seems, it was not even a hall, but an indoor courtyard with carpets and suzanne on the walls:

I ordered three kinds of tea that was served with free sweets and spend the whole hour until all three kettles had dried up. I felt much better after that:

A view from the threshold of a cafe on a dry fountain, an example of modern architecture in Bukhara (by the way, in my opinion quite pleasant!) and the side dome of the bath:

Another fairly nice new building, and in front is the last and greatest Zargaron dome:

But first let's go to the second last, the most unusual of the four the dome of Abdallahan (1577):

It is unusual for many reasons. First, it's not toki (like three others), but tim: if other three were essentially just a part of the street covered with vaults, then here this is a detached building, at least a covered courtyard. Secondly, the only dome named not by specialty, but in honor of the Khan under which it was built. It is also the only dome that specializes in one area - in the past and now it is a dome of carpets and fabrics:

In my opinion, the most interesting of the four domes met me with the frightening lack of people and the smell of an abandoned building. Only under the central vault was a man who was taking care of everything:

And one girl worked on a carpet machine in total silence:

On the floor were traditional Bukhara Suzana. On a bright background, with obligatory floral rosaces of red and burgundy colors, with colorful, very complex (sometimes even asymmetrical) vegetative ornaments, in which the Bukhara people "encrypted" the figures of animals and even people up to Adam and Eve, that served as averters - everything meant something and protected the owner.

In one of the dome's alleyways I came across a fixed loom, which probably is used to show tourists "how the carpets are made." Still, the tourist has a terrific group instinct, it was enough to make the dome impassable, to make it secluded:

At the entrance - a whole basket of silk cocoons:

And from the Abdallahan tim it is a very short walk to Zargaron (1586-87), "The Dome of Jewelers". The largest of the four domes, it is located in the geometric center of the Old Bukhra, wedging between the two ensembles that we will cover in the next chapter - in this photo behind it there is Poi-Kalyan square with the huge Miri-Arab madrassah, and behind it are some of the most beautiful in Bukhara kosh-madrasah of Ulughbek and Abdulaziz Khan.

But we will leave them to explore later. Inside, Zarzagron seems to be considerably smaller than the Telpac-Furushon, since it is much simpler: less sideways, but the central vault is grandiose:

In the corner suzane, textile and robes are sold.

The main impression of Zargaron I had was this musician and seller of musical instruments, whose name I forgot. But he really loves music and his goods, because despite warning him that I am not going buy anything, he played me on a dozen different musical instruments. I did not recognize all the instruments and unfortunately don not remember their names as well.

Here, it seems,  gijak- a three-string instrument with a bow in the form of a bow:

This is more like a dutar, the most common in the Middle East two-string instrument:

And this is just a tar, an Azerbaijani and Armenian musical instrument, impressive not only with sound, but also with a look:

The most mysterious for me here was this piece of wind-instrument, semi-flute-semi-bagpipe:

And this is of course as well - something with a lamb horn.

In any case, the music sounded very beautiful under a huge stone vault. But it's time to go further. The last look at the bubbled with a small domes roof:

The next chapter is about already mentioned Kosh Madrassah and the Poi-Kalyan square on the different sides of the last dome.

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Did you know?

Uzbekistan is one of only two countries in the world to be ‘double landlocked’ (landlocked and totally surrounded by other landlocked countries). Liechtenstein is double landlocked by 2 countries whilst Uzbekistan is surrounded by 5!

Did you know that Uzbekistan lies in the very heart of Eurasia, the coordinates for Uzbekistan are 41.0000° N, 69.0000°

Uzbekistan is home to the Muruntan gold mine, one of the largest open pit gold mines in the world! The country has 4th largest reserves of gold in the world after South Africa, USA and Russia

Uzbekistan is the world capital of melons. They have in excess of 150 different varieties, which form a staple part of the local diet, served fresh in the summer and eaten dried through the winter.

It is Uzbek tradition that the most respected guest be seated farthest from the house’s entrance.

Tashkent’s metro features chandeliers, marble pillars and ceilings, granite, and engraved metal. It has been called one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.

The Uzbek master chef is able to cook in just one caldron enough plov to serve a thousand men.

When you are a host to someone, it is your duty to fill their cups with for the whole time they are with you.  What you must not do, however, is to fill their cup more than half-full.  If you do that as a mistake, say it is a mistake immediately.  Doing it means you want them to leave.  Wow!  Amazing, right?

To Uzbeks, respect means a whole lot.  For this reason they love it if, even as foreigners, you endeavour to add the respectful suffix opa after a woman's name; and aka after a man's.  Example: Linda-opa and David-aka.  You could also use hon and jon respectively.

Having been an historic crossroads for centuries as part of various ancient empires, Uzbekistan’s food is very eclectic. It has its roots in Iranian, Arab, Indian, Russian and Chinese cuisine.

Though identified with the Persia, the Zoroastrism probably originated in Bactria or Sogdiana. Many distinguished scholars share an opinion that Zoroastrianism had originated in the ancient Khorezm. Indeed, today in the world there were found 63 Zoroastrian monuments, including those in Iran, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thirty-eight of them are in Uzbekistan, whereas 17 of these monuments are located in Khorezm.

One of Islam's most sacred relics - the world's oldest Koran that was compiled in Medina by Othman, the third caliph or Muslim leader, is kept in Tashkent. It was completed in the year 651, only 19 years after Muhammad's death. 

Tashkent is the only megapolis in the world where public transport is totally comprised of Mercedes buses. And due to low urban air polution it is one of the few cities where one can still see the stars in the sky.

You would be surprised to know that modern TV was born in Tashkent. No joke! The picture of moving objects was transmitted by radio first time in the world in Tashkent on 26 of July 1928 by inventors B.P. Grabovsky and I.F. Belansky.

Uzbekistan is the only country in the world all of whose neighbours have their names ending in STAN. This is also the only country in Central Asia that borders all of the countries of this region

Uzbeks are the third populous Turkik ethnicity in the world after Turks and Azeris (leaving both in Azerbaijan and Iran)

Did you know that there was silk money in Khiva? Super interesting right? Of course, but the best part of having silk money was that it could be sewn into your clothing.

Famous Islamic physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna in the Latin world) who was born near Bukhara was the one of the first people to advocate using women’s hair as suture material – about 1400 years ago.

Uzbekistan has a long and bloody history. The most notorious leader of Uzbekistan was Timur (or Tamerlane) who claimed descent from Genghis Khan. His military campaigns have been credited for wiping out some 5% of the world’s population at the time.

If you have thought that some of the Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan resembles that from Northern India, then that is because Timur’s great great great Grandson, Babur Beg, was the founder of the Moghul Empire that ruled much of India for almost four centuries! Babur’s great great Grandson was Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal.

Uzbekistan was once a rum producig country. There is still a real arboretum in Denau (city near Termez on the border with Afghanistan), grown from a selection station that studied the prospects of plant growing in the unusual for the Soviet Union subtropical climate of Surkhandarya region: only here in the whole of the USSR sugar cane was grown and even rum was produced!

Uzbekistan has been ranked one of the safest countries in the world, according to a new global poll. The annual Gallup Global Law and Order asked if people felt safe walking at night and whether they had been victims of crime. The survey placed Uzbekistan 5th out of 135 countries, while the UK was 21st and the US 35th. Top five safest countries:

  • Singapore
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Finland
  • Uzbekistan
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