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Emir's summer palace: Sitorai Mohi Khosa
28 May 2018
Emir's summer palace: Sitorai Mohi Khosa

Having explored in the last part with the outskirts of Bukhara, we will now go to the most famous landmark outside the Old Town - Emir's summer palace called Sitorai-Mohi-Khosa, which means "A Star Similar to the Moon". This is no longer a formidable citadel, like the Ark, but the usual estate with a park and outbuildings. It was built at the beginning of the twentieth century both local masters and Russian engineers, and I think that if the emirate existed for at least another twenty years - this palace would have become the "manifesto of Bukhara modern", that never happened in reality.

... In the travel guides Mohi-Khosa (also called like "Moon-like") is usually mentioned falls in the chapter about "Neighborhoods of Bukhara" - indeed, it is located on the very edge of the city, at the exit to Gijduvan and Navoi, but nevertheless it has regular and rather frequent public transport service. The turn to the palace is a little bit before this arch over the highway, the current city gate of Bukhara:

The summer residence, that every self-respecting ruler should have, was founded in 1822 by the emir of Nasrullah, the father of Emir Muzzafar, who became famous for his cruelty and lost wars, under whom Bukhara became a protectorate of Russia. According to legend, choosing a place for the palace from several variants, the emir people put a carcass of freshly killed sheep on each of them and chose the one where it last remained fresh - meaning there was the best wind rose. But since the time of Nasrullah, nothing has been preserved here, the present ensemble is entirely related to the era of the Russian Empire:

Before the actual gates you will come across the so-called Old Palace, whose modest look reminds a house of some servants and guards. But its Russian architecture is slightly reminiscent of the buildings of Kagan, where another palace of the penultimate Emir Abdul-Ahad Khan stays next to the railway station, during his reign Russia began actively penetrating into the Bukhara emirate. However, his main residence, and not only the summer one, was Kermin (now Navoi), so maybe it was something like an en route palace:

And everything that is located behind the gates were built by the last emir Alim Khan in 1910-17, and according to legend, the residence acquired its present name in honor of the prematurely died and therefore beloved emir's wife Sitora. Numerous Bukhara builders were assisted by Russian engineers Sakovich and Margulis, at Russian factories were produced mirrors, chandeliers and pipes. But for example, the front door is typically local, and the entire Mohi-Hosa is completed in such kind of combinations:

Behind the first gate is a small square, on the opposite corner of which one can find another gate that is even more modest. This, as I understand it, was Salom hana - A Welcome Hall, a meeting place for guests and delegations. Behind the second gate started a secluded shady garden. Pay attention to the white wall on the right ...

... that's how it looks on the other side. The Gate Pavilion had at least two exits, of which only the direct one is now open, and the white wall itself belongs to the back of the aivan, which apparently served as an ordinary veranda:

All this is part of the Emir's Reception Rooms - a white П-shaped palace. Something like that could have been built in the same years by a Russian or European rich man "of oriental tastes" ... but here we have a stylization not of the West to the East, but of the East to the West. The palace was not residential, but ceremonial and therefore is located closer to the entrance:

The other side of the palace with another, this time the glazed veranda and the gates have wonderful creation which are not a mythical beast but curiosity: they say that after three years of training in St. Petersburg, the Emir returned impressed from local stone lions, which in the northern capital of Russia, as we know, "more than the inhabitants", and ordered the same for himself from the local stonemasons. But local masters had never seen a lion neither alive nor in stone, and sculpted something between pig and dog, which apparently did not confuse the ruler - another such lion guarded the cellar of the former treasury in the Ark. Now they are guarding not the entrance, but the exit - tourists get to the palace through an inconspicuous door at the corner from the photo above:

But the main attraction of Mohi-Hosa are interiors, where the fusion of Russian and Bukhara style reaches its apogee. The entrance behind that door:

At closer look

And with the unusual for these region European furniture:

To the right, in the "horizontal crossbar" of the П-shaped building is the main White Hall, considered the most beautiful interior of the Mohi-Khosa. Honestly, I was not impressed by it, and even the first mirrors in Bukhara interiors, above which they put carved ganch, are not very noticeable:

I was more impressed by the interiors of the premises, located on the left from the hall:

Especially that decoration there, including the first stained glass in Turkestan, was put on top of the mirrors:

I do not know if these rooms had names, but the most impressive hall is this one looking like nave of some Byzantine basilica, rebuilt by the Ottomans into the mosque:

Numerous showcases belong to the museum, which occupies Mokhi-Khosa since 1927. It is believed that the emir managed to take out his treasure from Bukhara by a hundred camels, but along the way some of the guards raised a riot trying to seize the wealth, and only the commander of the caravan Toksobo Kallapush and four loyal sarbazes survived in the ensuing battle. There were too few of them to take care of the caravan, so they decided to buty the wealth in a cave somewhere in the Gissar spurs on the territory of present-day Turkmenistan, and at night Kallapush killed the sleeping soldiers and returned to the emir alone. Emir, after listening to Toksobo in private, ordered to behead him, thereby remaining the only one who knew the secret of hidden treasures. But the Soviet government came "seriously and for a long time," and hiding from the Red Army in Afghanistan, emir could no longer take advantage of the secret and took the secret to the grave. They look for treasures to this day, like the Amber Room or the Library of Ivan the Terrible, but most likely this is just another bloody oriental legend, and either there was no evacuation of the treasure at all, or it was found and stolen long ago.

Figurines - surprisingly it not Tamerlan and not Iskander, but Ermak, who prevented Alim Khan's longtime predecessor, Sheibanid Abdullahan, from colonizing Siberia - after all, Kuchum was the kinsman of the latter usurper for Siberian Tatars.

Against the backdrop of the emir's portraits there is a glass refrigerator cabinet: ice was laid in its upper part, and cold melted water flowed down the pipes in the corners. The emir (or the one who gave him this thing) did not take into account only one thing: there is nowhere to get ice in the summer Bukhara:

It is easy to imagine some duke or Russian merchant who would decorate his interior with a picture of a caravan going to the sunset or Japanese beauties with red circles on their cheeks ... so why should not the amir decorate his interior with such a plot? I heard, by the way, that he himself liked to drink, as many of his predecessors - thanks to the Jewish quarter wine was available in Bukhara from time immemorial.

Two shots on different sides of the same wall. Pay attention, how many stars in the ornaments with different number of rays, personifying the name of the estate:

On the glassed verandah Chinese and Japanese porcelain, and it really was the Emir's collection of the turn of the 19-20 centuries. If the legend about the hidden treasures is correct, then the vases most likely stayed here, because they would not survive the road:

Sideways from the ceremonial palace is the Guest, or simply the Octagonal pavilion, which emir built in case of visit to Turkestan by Nicholas II. He, however, did not reach the place neither under Alim Khan nor under Abdul-Ahad, who built the palace in Kagan for that case.

At the pavilion the interiors are even more luxurious starting from the portal, and here also the distinctive print of Art Nouveau is noticeable:

Here, too, there is an exposition, but not of emir's things, but of caftans and gold embroidery, partially shown among Bukhara handicrafts in the first part:

In the center of the pavilion there is an octagonal room, that amazes by the abundance of gold and which was intended for negotiations between the emir and noble guests:

It seems to me, or in the Central Asian architecture there is really special, much more than in Europe, attention to the ceilings?


All this is in the middle of the garden. In Asia, by the way, long before Europe, they learned to organize regular parks, the most common type of which since the 8th and up to the Timurids time was chorbag ("four gardens") with two alleys along the irrigation ditches at right angle. The present garden, frankly speaking, is rather mediocre, and the lost tourist here is awaited by souvenirs sellers:

Once there were Birun (theater), Heyvorathona (a menagerie) ... but even now from the former splendor huge peacocks are left, supposedly the descendants of birds of the emir. In total there are three dozen of them with a clear leader named Pasha, who even pushes the peacocks back into the gates, if they go beyond the palace.

I didn’t not manage to shoot them in flight, or rather gliding - a heavy bird with a huge tail in the air is very impressive. But they willingly fluffed up their tails:

Peacock chick is also looking good when it rustles the feathers on the neck:

They fluff the tails mostly in the spring, when they have a mating season. They also nastily yell at this time, and to be honest, I hardly imagine how His Majesty Emir could withstand this. Peacock screams are well imitated by local kids in Uzbek remote places when they see foreigners: "Hallow, Hallow!"

Peacock in all its glory:

The other side of the peacock: 

It is a couple of hundred meters from the "guest" part of the estate to Harem through the garden - in this case this word (from Arabic "haram" - "forbidden") means that part of the palace that the emir kept for himself and where it was strictly forbidden to enter for strangers.

This is Emir's house, where he and his women lived - on the first floor wives, and on the second concubines:

It is now the water in the Sitorai Hauz (Old Pond) is green and muddy, but in those days it was as clear as a tear, and wives and concubines bathed there. Considering that the emir was the only man entering this part of the estate, the imagination immediately draws nude figures in the water ... but no, according to the Muslim canons, a woman should not be exposed even in front of her husband. However, whether these canons were observed here - the history not mentioned, because there was no one to trace it, and the emir returned to his native Turkestan from decadent Petersburg. According to some rumors, they were bathing totally naked, and this was the point - the Emir was throwing an apple to the concubine he liked most as a sign that he wanted to spend the night with her ... but even without clothes some managed to bring an apple with them. On the shore of the pond there is a carved arbor, judging by the crescents it served as a summer mosque, and it seems that this is the only wooden (and not wooden-clay) mosque in Uzbekistan:

The replica of the throne and the portrait of the emir - perhaps the most famous photograph of Prokudin-Gorsky, at least in his Central Asian cycle. They say that Emir was a sucker for concubines, and sometimes his people kidnapped beautiful girls simply on the streets, not even giving the chance to say good-bye to their relatives or simply letting them know that they were alive. They told us how Emir felt pity for one of these girls and let her go, but later changed his mind (worrying that her relatives could report such lawlessness to Russians) and sent murderers to her house. These were trivial things here: comparing to the same Nasrullah and most of the predecessors, Alim Khan still looked like a good and enlightened ruler.

The blind back wall of the harem faces the "guest" part of the palace, and the gallery faces the pond:

Emir thought he was building a palace for himself, but in fact he was building a museum for Soviet power. In the harem now, embroidery and ceramics:

From the interior the best preserved are the so called Dutch stoves with completely non-Asian tiles.

They say that now they periodically arrange costumed performances for tourists with the bathing of concubines dressed in robes (hence, by the summer the pond is cleaned) with apple throwing ceremony. The pond is very close to the private housing quarters and industrial zone. In the distance, the tall buildings of the sanatorium "Sitorai Mohi-Khosa" (1962). Somewhere in the estate there was the first power station in the Emirate of Bukhara. An unusual old tree near the pond - a maklyura (Osage orange), or Adam's apple with very interesting fruits:

The far part of the garden, including the rear gate, is clearly abandoned, and I did not find a hole in the fence to photo it from the facade:

Here I should write something like sic transit gloria mundi, although in Persian there probably is a similar wisdom:

From the road, further the turn to Mohi-Khosa, one can see Soviet, or might be newly-build, but very beautiful gates:

In the next part, we will leave Uzbekistan for a short time - I will tell about the heritage of the last emir in Russia.

Finally - the view from the train window to the salty lake of Tudakul, a natural reservoir on one of Zerafshan's arms 25 kilometers from Bukhara, where the residents of the nearest cities are resting now:

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