About Uzbekistan

Bukhara. From madrasah to madrassas by back streets
03 May 2018
Bukhara. From madrasah to madrassas by back streets

This part will show you one very interesting and almost unknown area to tourists, a western "sector" of the round Old City with numerous and little-known madrassas, mausoleums and mosques in typical Bukhara alleys of gray clay. In essence, this is a real Old Bukhara, not destroyed by Frunze artillery and mass tourism, and in contrast to the well-preserved Jewish quarter, these Mahallas have always been purely Muslim.

I was staying in 'Rustem and Zuhra' hotel that stands on the ancient Shahrirud canal ("Urban stream") just couple of steps away from the green Lyabi-hauz, and from here can be seen Tak-i-Sarrafon, one of the four trading domes of the 16th century, under which used to sit lenders and money exchangers. Behind it is an extensive square with ruins of baths surrounded by caravanserais: on the right is a Nogai caravanserai, the Nogai here were called the Crimean Tatars. Some kind of "Russian caravanserai" was the Trading House of Savva Morozov (1912), a textile tycoon from Moscow region, who bought cotton in the Bukhara emirate and sold here ready textile produced in Russian factories. Now the house is occupied by an art museum, where I never went. The street from the photo below, leaving straight out of Taki-Sarafon:

The back of Morozov's house and one of the caravanserais - there are three of them here with facades facing the other side: Ahmadjon, Futkullojon and Ulugbek-Takifurush, all the 18th century. From under them runs Shahrud channel, in spring time it still has some water but by the autumn it turns into a stinking ditch.

On the different sides of the canal is Gaukushon complex, that can be translated as Slaughterhouse - this ugly but important business was run in the neighborhood mahalla. To the left is madrassah (1570) with remnants of tiles:

On the right is a mosque (1598) with a 20-meter minaret:

I must say that there were few minarets in Bukhara - the Old City was covered by the sound of azan from the grand Kalyan, this "beacon of Islam" of the pre-Mongol era, which was part of the Grand Mosque complex. Gaukushon Minaret was built, I suppose, because the slaughterhouse is a noisy place and azan from Kalyan was not heard there. However, the Small Minaret (as residents of Bukhara call it) is very similar to Kalyan, even adorned with brick ornaments (mostly forgotten in the post-Mongolian Turkestan), that sometimes confuse tourists seeking their way out of the maze of narrow clay alleyways where it is easier to get lost than in the forest.

Madressa Gaukushon from the rear side, we are heading to the street between madrassa and Morozov house, where there is some old building can be seen - maybe a bath where the residents of Slaughterhouse district used to wash off blood, or maybe another madrasah or caravan-saray:

A congestion on a narrow street, a pair of trolleys with logs and beams, which several Bukhara men pushed manually, prevent the car from passing. To give a way, they had to disassemble this entire structure:

Once the main streets in this area leading southwest from the center, it is rather long even by Bukhara standards and wider than Juybar street:

A distant portal, as well as visible mighty guldast-towers belong to one of Bukhara's largest madrassas, Goziyon (1730-34), translated as "Fighters for Faith." Known since the 15th century, it was the center of all that little area between Ark and the Jewish Quarter:

In front of madrassah is crowded, but dusty and neglected. Dilapidated aivan, not touched by the Soviet restorers, is still beautiful:

Details closer:

The Medrese is essentially abandoned and is used by the residents of the surrounding mahalla for some of their needs. The main gate was locked, and a small workshop was found in the neighborhood, where the men were glad to give us tea, but decided not to take picture. Remember this place, we will come back here:

From the backyard of Goziyon is a short walk to the Jewish Bazaar through this place:

The semi-abandoned building with a high dome looks like rather khanaka than the madrasah, and above it the Pir pole, which in the Bukhara oasis marks the most important shrines of Sufism - at first glance I realized that this is something serious:

In the shadows of the dilapidated courtyard behind the carved doors the keeper slept so peacefully that I didn't dare to wake him up. The passerby who greeted me by the gates said the name of this place - Turki-Jandy, and I remembered that this was the name of the street I was passing along towards a synagogue, and Yandex provided more details on the history of this place. Abu Nasr Ahmad from Janda, a Turkmen colony on the banks of the Syr Darya, that was the under the Samanid empire rule, lived here in the 11th century. It is known that during his life Turkmen from Janda had a great authority and was making miracles, and almost immediately after his death pilgrims flocked to his grave - not so many Muslim saints were then among the nomadic Turks. The building was built in pre-Mongolian times, but its final look it got in the 17th century (although +/- 200 years deviation is not uncommon for Central Asia). It was one of the most important shrines of Bukhara even under the emirs, but in the twentieth century its fame somehow inexplicably faded away.

A little bit further is the miniature madrassah of Khusaini of the 18th century with unusually beautiful brick patterns, as in pre-Mongol times:

Having looked inside, I saw the gloomy courtyard of "old housing" that is so common for the post-Soviet countries - I have seen such in monasteries and castles, in workers' barracks and warehouses, but it has emerged that such things happen also in the madrassas:

The street I was walking by is called Namazgoh, and after a couple of kilometers it will lead to the pre-Mongol Namazgoh Mosque, from which Genghis Khan at one time pronounced the victor's speech to Bukhara residents who stood on their knees. But there I was last year, and this time I was heading to a much closer location. On the way is a luxurious clay mansion, where probably some successful merchant lived:

Outside is a dull gray clay, but unlike many other houses at this one can see the edges of carved Aivan:

At the very edge of the Old Town, between the mahallas on the one side and some garages and warehouses on the other, we turned to the left and bumped up against the locked gate of what I was looking for - the museum of Faizulla Khojayev. The son of rich merchant Khojayev was a local revolutionary, first of all as a Young Bukharian  (like Young Turks or Young Afgans, who were supporters of secular modernization and democracy in their Muslim country), after the October Revolution as a communist, and even the only leader ("the chairman of the council of national nazirs") of Bukhara People's Soviet Republic in the 1920s-24s. Khojayev was shot in 1937, and in 1965 he was rehabilitated, and apparently at the same time a museum was created in his home. After the collapse of the USSR, like many "Leninist" museums it replaced the profile from the revolutionary to the general historical: now it is just the home of the rich Bukhara merchant. At my last visit I accidentally found not a museum but a beautifully preserved mansion of merchant Giyoz Puschy, but here I was not lucky - although it was the middle of the day, the museum met me with a locked gate, and in the closest store I was told what's the matter - all went to cotton collection, in autumn this is a widespread event in Uzbekistan. The museum is in the background to the right, and to the left is a very posh restaurant:

Through the courtyards you can see a clearly "Nicholas II" era building, to which we have never found approaches - it could be a bank or a trading house, a hospital or school. And even without Khodjayev and Frunze the days of the Bukhara emirate were numbered, on the eve of the revolution it was turning into a backyard Bukhara region of Russian empire, and even the last emir, having come to terms with the inevitable, had already built a palace in St. Petersburg, but had to end his days in Kabul.

About the new city of Bukhara, also very colorful, I have a separate post (where there is some info about Namazgoh mosque), but now we will return to the clay debris of Bukhara lanes and alleys:

This is basically the same area south of Lyabi-hauz, where I took most of the pictures from previous post about the Jewish Quarter. Bukhara Mahallas are contrasting the ones in Samarkand: In Samarkand there are a lot of modern buildings and much livelier, whilst in Bukhara is a dead quiet but terrifically whole architectural environment.

And all sorts of small antiquities. For example, the little madrassas of Eshoni-pir of the 18th century:

Opposite is the dark dolon, more like a hole:

It leads into a very narrow courtyard, ending in a dead end.

The door with gender-wise doorbell differentiation - a metal knocker is for men, and the ring knock against the wooden door is for women. In Central Asia this is characteristic of Bukhara only, I have not seen such thing in other cities, but they say this is very usual in Iran. And the door itself can be at least a few centuries old - clay houses are short-lived, but their wooden "skeletons" with doors, ceilings, columns and beams can survive many "generations" of surrounding walls.

Closer to the edge of this maze you come across newly built houses. But still most of the buildings here do not stand out against antiquity.

Behind these alleys on both sides of Juibar Street, there are still some madrassas and khanakas, which I did not reach - for example, the medieval madrasah of Walid Abdul-Aziz with a blue dome and carved columns, or the female madrassah of Juibari Kolon, or lost in the depths of clay alleys Khalifa-Hudaidod khanaqa, where the blind people were reading the Qur'an. But for now we come back to Goziyon-madrasah, from which a man from the same workshop led us through the blocks of modern mansions and cottages to Balyand mosque near Samanid park:

At first glance, Balyand mosque justifies its name - in translation it means 'High':

But to appreciate its beauty and value one can only being inside - built on the turn of the 15th-16th centuries, it has beautifully preserved its decoration, many elements of which all five centuries of their history did not know the restoration:

And although the wooden ceiling has since faded ...

...ancient tiles are shining as new - the secret of ceramics that is not fading away from time was lost in the 18th and 19th centuries and has not been resolved until now.

The last by the time and the least known of the Timurid buildings, the High Mosque was my main omission in Bukhara last year.

The area from this post is an incorrect triangle, and its peaks are Khoja-Gaukushon in the east, Khodjayev Museum in the south and the High Mosque in the north. From the mosque we went back to the beginning of the walk, obviously not in a straight line. We passed through crowded by tourists Samanid Park and Ark Citadel, where even in the ordinary shop with fruits and drinks they use stuffed animals to attract visitors (Europeans, however, should be rather scared of that?).

A residential house, maybe built in the times of the Bukhara People's Soviet Republic (some of its administrative buildings are still near the park of Samanids):

Picturesque gateway:

But the smell in it immediately reminded about Bukhara's pre-revolutionary nickname from foreign merchants - "Abu-hara", which means "Father of impurities" - there were big problems then with the sewer system in the city inherited from the more developed ancestors. Everything turned out to be more prosaic here - there is a toilet in the yard.

On the other side of the street alleyways were inviting again

At the the picture above, looks at each other the Dostum-Chorgosi Mosque (1585) with Kashkadarya like carved columns ...

... Rakhmankul madrassah (1794-95), one of the last building in Bukhara with the blue tiles of the portal:

Madrasa Hoja-Zainutdin, built in the 16th century by an ancient hauz, that was drained under the Soviets. Sometimes it is called Hoja-Türk, or the Holy Turk, and it reminds us of the fact that in Bukhara for centuries spoken Persian.

A view from Poi-Kalyan where this street would take us in a couple of blocks, but I kept the course towards Khoja-Gaukushon, and the restorers of madrassah, whose white clothes are visible in its dark door in the photo above, advised us to turn to the lane opposite the façade:

Lanes in this part of Bukhara are extremely colorful:

We came to the huge, but unpresentable Mullo Tursunjon madrassas, again built in the 16th century:

It stands on an unusually wide Muhtar-Anbar street, the other end finishing in the trading dome of Tak-i-Furushon, through which it would be possible to reach the other end of the square with the Tak-i-Sarrafon and Morozov's house:

Another lane past something like a mausoleum ...

brought us again to Shahrud Canal, behind which was some mosque of the 19th century:

and from here is a short walk to Gaukushon and to the hotel by Lyabi-hauz:

Not far from the hotel on the other side is the round square with is a fire station, where they had drill in broad daylight. The ladder sticks above all neighboring buildings except for the minaret Kalyan.

In total, we have shown 8 madrassas and 4 mosques in this part, but agree, it seems that there were thirty or forty of them... For those who managed to scroll down all this is a small bonus near the famous Chor Minor mosque:

When I saw the birds in the hanging birdcage, I thought that it was quails, but it turned out to be a partridge,  or how they call them locally kekliks.

In the next part we will go deeper into the desert...

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