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Bukhara: Samanid Park and exterior walls
15 April 2018
Bukhara: Samanid Park and exterior walls

Here we have finally reached the end of the Big Diagonal of Bukhara, as I call the chain of ensembles (that we covered in previous chapters) intersecting the Old Town: Lyabi House, the Four Trading Domes, the Poy-Kalyan Square by the Great Minaret, the khan's Ark Citadel. The last "link" of the diagonal is the Samanid Park, which was laid out in Soviet times at the site of Bukhara Registan destroyed by the artillery fire of Mikhail Frunze and the ancient cemetery, from which left the oldest mausoleums in Bukhara, including the Samanid mausoleum, considered to be the most ancient building of Central Asia. Here we will also cover the Soviet architecture of the Bukhara People's Republic and about the external defense of Bukhara, the largest fragment of which is still kept behind the park.

First of all, let's look at Bukhara Registan - as has been mentioned before this is not the name of its own, but the general name of the main squares of all Central Asian cities. But Registan in Bukhara, as well as in Tashkent, was not preserved, though it was quite interesting, since it was located at the foot of the Ark forming one architectural ensemble. All what is left is The Registan Gate, on the sides of which there was the Dar-ah-Shif hospital and the Payand madrasah. What was where exactly I do not know; the hospital was built in the form of a madrassah with khujra-cells and to some extent it was "madrassah for the doctors". Perhaps the only medieval hospital in the post-Soviet countries is the most valuable monument of Bukhara from the lost in the twentieth century:

Registan, as usual, had its own Respon Bazaar where even the fifth Tirgaron Trading Dome stood, that is, Armourer Dome. Unfortunately, no photos of it have survived. And if in Tashkent they sometimes call as Registan the square by Kukeldash madrassa and Juma Mosque, then in Bukhara the ersatz-registan is Poy-Kalian square.

And that's how looks now the real Bukhara registan - the same gate of Ark in the distance, on the left Shukhov Tower (1927-29), whose water tank was burnt in 1979, leaving a place for the observation deck, while minaret and pond ...

... belong to Bolo-Hauz mosque, in the translation "Children's Pond". It was a namazgoh-mosque for open-air worship - it is facing this mosque people are praying on the second photo above, and the emir himself with his senior officials is on the top site of the Registan Gate:

The carved aivan and a low minaret were built in 1917, becoming probably the last architectural monument of the Bukhara emirate.

Under Alim Khan, who took the throne in 1910 after having education in St. Petersburg, there were generally few buildings built, but his style is very recognizable - the undeveloped school of the Bukhara Art Nouveau:


On the side it is visible that the mosque itself is much older - its main building was built in 1712, under the Astrakhan dynasty:

The observation platform on the Shukhov Tower was closed but you could go at least under it to hyperbole structures "in perspective" that are very impressive:

Meanwhile, the destruction of Registan and the assault of Bukhara in 1920 cleared the place for the first construction sites of a new socialist city, which was a capital city at that time. To the north of the Bolo Hauz facing the Ark stands this building of Stalin period: this is now a college, but originally it theoretically could be the city administration or the first building of Bukhara University founded as the Bukhara Higher School of Pedagogics named after Faizulla Khojayev in 1930:

Three apparently prewar buildings are located south of Bolo-Hauz, between the mosque and the entrance to the Samanid Park. The closest one is the Bukhara Musical Drama and Comedy Theater named after Sadriddin Ayni, which opened in 1930. Judging by the name, at least from the beginning it was mainly Tajik:

The building in any case is very unusual and does not fit into any of the styles of the Soviet architecture of those times. Some national motives instead of Soviet constructivism:

In the neighborhood there are a couple of clearly constructivist buildings in which I suspected the administrative district of the Bukhara Soviet People's Republic. However, it became part of the USSR and split in 1924, so these buildings could only have been just designed at that time. Today they are occupied by those state bodies, which it is better not to photograph:

And although tourists go by crowds past them, it seems to their first photos on the Internet. Yes, not antiquity - but also Bukhara:

Another clearly pre-revolutionary building stands a bit further, opposite the southern walls of Ark. Now it's a school, and it was built, according to the watchman, before the 1917 revolution as a Russian embassy, perhaps as early as the 1870s, until the New Bukhara grown up along the railway, where you can find similar buildings of the beginning of the 20th century -  with the railway station and the garrison it was clearly safer for the embassy to be based there.

There is something more traditional here - in the foreground is the modest Avlono-Asir madrassah of the 18th century, and a bit further another kosh madrassa of Abdallahan (on the right) and Madari Khan (left), both built in the times of Sheibanids:

Madari-khan Madrasa (1566-67) is smaller and older, and its facade is slightly inclined against the yard, which, however, is noticeable only from the air:

Abdallahan Medrese (1588) is much larger, but somehow boring. Abdallahan II, the most powerful of the Sheibanids, who even attempted to colonize Siberia and "put" Kuchum Khan there, built both of these madrassahs, and devoted the second one to his mother ("Modari-khan" - "The Mother of the Khan").

But in general, Bukhara's architecture is beautiful, but rather monotonous, and looking these madrassahs one after another during one day makes them less impressive as it could be. The yard of Modari Khan madrassah:

So let's go better to Samanid Park, laid out in the 1930s around the artificial Pioneer lake as the Kirov Park. The lake is the dam on the Shakhruh channel, which is a real river where children even catch fish:

View from the park to kosh madrassa:

And aivan in photo above belongs to the Square of Memory with the Grieving mother monument for those who died in the war

As in other cities of Uzbekistan, the park is very popular among local people, most of whom don't even know that it was laid out on the cemetery's territory:

Two ancient mausoleums remind about the cemetery. Closer to the entrance is Chashma Ayub mausoleum with well-marked seals of epochs on the wall. The rear side with the deepest "waterline" of the cultural layer cleared by the Soviets was still pre-Mongolian, the front side with a characteristic small dome was added in the 16th century, and the middle was built in 1378-79 by Tamerlane's orders by captive craftsmen from Khorezm, which built a conic dome characteristic of their homeland over the grave of the theologian Hodji-Hafiza Gunzori (1022).

The popular name is translated as "The Spring of Job", and according to the legend, the Biblical saint, passing (apparently coming back from the mineral springs of Jalal-Abad, where he was healed according to the local legend) through Bukhara during a great drought, prayed for water that came from under the earth where he struck with his staff. There is still a water source in Chashma Ayub, and a fairly interesting Bukhara Water Supply Museum, but I was not lucky as the museum was already closed.

The museum is small, has not a lot of exhibits and the most interesting there is a map of baths and hauzes (ponds), that counted dozens in the old Bukhara, but most of them were dried by Soviets for reasons of hygiene. Only Lyabi-hauz and Bolo-hauz left:

But the main thing is the source itself, or rather a well with a very unusual taste of water. There is a stone next to it with the print of Job foot, and in the hall with a tomb of Gunzori is very beautiful and, apparently, a very old carved window.

Opposite is the memorial of Muhammad al-Bukhari (2001). I wrote about this great theologian many times, but will repeat here again: he created the "Sahih", the second important book of Sunni Muslims after the Qur'an. As a matter of fact, the Sunnah is a collection of hadiths, sacred legends about the life of the Prophet, following his life example is the duty of any faithful Sunni (as opposed to Shiite, for whom it is rather a recommendation). During the first centuries hadiths were passed verbally, there were attempts to record them before Muhammad Bukhari, but it was him who realised the task with an unprecedented scale: he interviewed more than a thousand sheikhs, worked over 800,000 (!) hadiths, selected from them 7275 most reliable (since each hadith had a "genealogy" - a chain that was passed from generation to generation), and among the six canonical collections of his "Sahih" became the first and largest. Its main memorial is located near Samarkand, near the grave, where the theologian was buried in 870, and here in his homeland is just his monument and a small museum. The main part of it is a book opened to the Muslim half-moon, each cell is a stack of bricks, and each brick symbolizes one of the hadiths:

A little bit further is the main attraction of this park, a small and very ancient mausoleum of Samanids on the shore of the hauz, built at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries. The oldest, from a generally accepted point of view (at the level of hypotheses there are some older constructions), building of Uzbekistan and the only one of its kind survived from the empire of the Samanids:

The Samanids trace their origin to Saman Hudat (small feudal lord) Asad of Balkh, through whom they had their ancestry from Bahram Chubin, the Persian king-usurper of the 6th century, who began as a king's bodyguard and in 590 seized power but was holding it for only about a year. Before that, he became famous for victory over the Turks who came from the north, and after having lost the throne he fled to them, and there was a certain symbolism in it - the Turkic-Persian Yin-Yang of Central Asia. The first Samanids in 819 became the governors of the most important cities of Transoxiana for their help in suppressing the anti-Arab uprising of the Sogdian Rafi ibn Leys, but the Caliphate was by that time weak, its power over the vassals was becoming more and more nominal, and when in 875 Samanid Nasr Ibn Ahmad became the governor of Samarqand, he simply ceased to obey the Khalif - so even the gaining of Samanidian independence has no clear date. In the year 892, Ismail Samani transferred the capital to Bukhara, and in the year 900 he defeated the Arab army in Balkh, so that the caliph himself expressed his respect, and it was under Ismail when the empire of Samanids reached the peak of power - the territory of which included Transoxiana, Khorasan, Sistan and Tabaristan, that is the large part of the present-day Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Southern Kazakhstan, the west of Kyrgyzstan, north and east of Iran and south of Pakistan. It was the first independent Islamic state in Central Asia, and it was Samanidia where the Persian Renaissance originated at the turn of the 1-2 millenniums: it is associated with the life of poets Rudaki (the founder of Persian poetry) and Ferdowsi (author of the epic 'Shahname'), the childhood and youth of Avicenna - these are only the most famous of the names, and then the "Renaissance" came to Western Iran and Khorezm.

The current Tajikistan traces its origing to Samanadiya. But the power of Samanid empire was short lived, only about a century: in 999, its northern part, including the present-day Uzbekistan, was captured by the Turkic Muslims of the Karakhanids who came from East Turkestan, and their empire with the capitals in Kashgar, Uzgen and Balasagun, although not so culturally developed, turned out to be much more lasting. It is with Karakhanids associated most of the pre-Mongolian buildings of Central Asia north of the Amu Darya, including the other three monuments of Bukhara - the familiar Minaret Kalyan, the Mosque of Magoki-Atari and Namazgoh mosque. But both empires had a common feature of style - the most complicated ornaments from terrakotta and figured masonry of bricks. The Samanid mausoleum itself looks a little different than Karakhanid buildings:

It is believed that the mausoleum was built in 892-907, but this is based on the fact that Ismayil Samani himself rested in it. There are three graves in it, one of them belonging to the son of Ismail, the other two are not identified, and if Ahmad ibn Ismail was buried there first - then the mausoleum could be built in the 940's, but not later by any hypothesis. There is another version that the mausoleum stands on the site of the Zoroastrian Temple of the Sun, as well as the Mosque of Magoki-Atari on the site of the supposedly temple of the Moon:

Inside, the same brick ornaments. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the mausoleum was almost completely drowned in the cultural layers, and some specialists criticized the quality of restoration up to the word "destroyed". As with other monuments, I am not a specialist and not ready either to refute or confirm that. From my amateur point of view, the differences between what was before the restoration and after are not so noticeable. To me personally mausoleum was one of the most beautiful structures in Central Asia:

Behind the mausoleum you can reach the shore of the Pioneer lake, where it is very beautiful at sunset - on the shore they make shish kebabs and Samsa. Such lakes were dug in Uzbek cities by all population from Komsomol members to the prisoners, and for the desert region inhabitants they seemed like big seas:

And behind the pond there are remains of fortifications:

Including Talipach Gate:

... In the Middle Ages, Bukhara consisted of two fortresses - the Khan's Ark and the "people's" Shahristan, the regular quadrangle covering the places that we mentioned in the chapter about Poi-Kalyan and the second half of the chapter about the Trading Domes. Outside, by that time, numerous suburbs grew, and with the transfer of the capital to Bukhara in 1532, the Sheibanids took care of the construction of a new defensive wall in the 1541-50, using a rather interesting method: every resident of Bukhara was obliged to spend some time every year (I do not remember exactly, but somewhere from week to month) to work on this construction. Due to numerous villages that existed by that time the walls turned out to be winding and of irregular shapes, but up to the beginning of the twentieth century they covered most of the old Bukhara. The length of the walls reached 9 kilometers (it is larger than the external fortifications of Pskov and Smolensk), but since then only two small pieces have remained. In essence, this is a soft-clay wall with water removal logs sticking out of 10 meters high and up to 4 meters thick:

It looks very impressive:

Talipach gate is the only one surviving from the 11 former gates. Notice how the height of the wall varies on various sides (the right side is a replica) and on the Shukhov's tower the Chashma Ayub dome behind:

The distant part of the preserved wall:

Outside is the local Dehkan-Bazaar for the locals rather than for tourists

In 2010, the authorities decided to recreate other gates of Bukhara (thanks, not the walls!), and I photographed their replicas mainly from the car. On the street encircling Old Bukhara from the north and apparently passing on the site of the former wall is a replica of Hazrat-Imam gate, named after a huge and very honored cemetery, the view of which I showed from the Ark in the previous part:

In the eastern part of the city, I do not remember exactly where - either Sallokhana or Samarkand gate. Samarkand gate was considered to be the most lively and busy:

In the south of the Old Bukhara, a replica of the Sheikh-Jalal gate, which stood until the beginning of the 20th century and was considered the most beautiful:

Near is one of the most unusual madrassahs in Bukhara called Arabon and dated by the 18th century:

And finally, in the southwest is the Karakul gate, which some call to be genuine, although it does not look like to be original. They were also called Darvozayi-Hadji, that is, the Hajj Gate - pilgrims to Mecca were leaving and returning to Bukhara from here:

A further piece of the fortress wall is attached to them along the Mohammed Iqbal Street, behind which (which I did not know when I got here) there is a large Orthodox cemetery hidden:

Far in the distance minaret Kalyan seen:

But before we go outside the walls to the New Town, we'll have a walk around the old town. In the next part - more about the Jewish quarter and in general about the atmosphere of the Old Bukhara.

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