Bukhara Travel Guide

Bukhara is one of the most ancient cities of Central Asia. An old legend says that blessed light descends from heaven to all the Muslim cities, but only through Bukhara does this light go back up. The city occupies a favorable geographic position on the crossroads of the caravan roads leading to Afghanistan, Persia, India and Russia. A rich trading city and former capital of the Samanid state and Uzbek dynasties, Bukhara had become the very place where authentic masterpieces of Muslim architecture including numerous mausoleums, mosques and madrassahs were erected. Today, more than 150 architectural monuments are located in Bukhara, and trace the development of arts and crafts in Central Asia.

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Main points of interest in Bukhara

PoikalonPoi-Kalyan Ensemble. The Poi-Kalyan ensemble is one of the largest squares in the city. It is located between the Kalyan mosque and the Miri-Arab Madrassah.  The famous minaret of Kalyan stands between these two majestic buildings.

Kalyan minaret. The Kalyan minaret was built under the reign of Karakhanid khan Arslankhan. kalyanIt is the highest construction in old Bukhara (46.5 m). The minaret has a massive round post built of burned bricks. It also has 12 decorative belts, each of which is painted with a distinctive design. The minaret preserved two of these belts with the following inscriptions: “date of construction – 1127, name of donator – the ruler of Bukhara Arslankhan, and the name of the builder – usto (master) Barno (whose grave is located nearby)”. This minaret served as a place for all Muslims to call for festivities or for Friday prayer in the mosque which is located at the foot of the minaret.

ismailsamaniIsmail Samani Mausoleum. The Ismail Samani Mausoleum is by right referred to as “the pearl of the East”. This amazing creation more than a thousand years old, attracts all the visitors of Bukhara. The Ismail Samani Mausoleum is the second mausoleum in the Muslim world. It subjugates by its refinement and elegance of its design.

Ark – the ancient fortress. The hypothetical age of this city citadel is about 2 000 years. It was erected on anArk artificial hill with an area of 4,2 hectares and a height ranging from 16 to 20 meters. The fortress was the residence of all Bukharan rulers. All of the constructions in this citadel were made between the 16th –20th centuries, the time of the reign of Uzbek dynasties.

SpecialsLyabi-Hauz Ensemble. This architectural ensemble is located in the very heart of the old city and attracts everybody including visitors and city dwellers. Everyone who wants a taste of traditional tea and relax in the shadows of an old mulberry tree, will want to frequent this place. Most notable are the voluminous compositions of the ensemble adorned with three buildings: the Kukeldash mausoleum, the Nodira Divan-begi madrassah and the Nodira Divan-begi khanaka.

Sitorai-Mokhi-Hosa. The father of the last Bukhara emir, Ahmad-khan built Sitorai-Mokhi-Hosa, one of thesitoraimokhihosa best out-of-town palaces of the Bukhara emirs, which was built in the 19th century.  This residence is located in a park with a total area of 6.7 hectares.

naqshbandBahauddin Nakshband Mausoleum. The Bahauddin Nakshband mausoleum is a cult ensemble developed in the former center of Nakshband’s dervish. The head of this mausoleum, Shah Bahauddin Nakshband, died in 1389 and was buried at the Kasri Arifon settlement near Bukhara. The Shah’s burial was done as a ground sepulcher called a dahma, with a marble-carved fence atop. The building of the khanaka is one of the most famous. Situated 12 km from Bukhara city, this sacred Islamic place undoubtedly inspires many people.

Nodira Divan-begi madrassah. Initially this madrassah was to be constructed as a caravan-sarai. NDBAt the solemn opening ceremony Imamkuli-khan unexpectedly proclaimed this structure to be a Madrassah. As for Nodira-Divan-Begi, it had to be reconstructed into a caravan-sarai by building a lodge for its principal façade, portals and angled towers. A two-story hudjra was added to the construction. Many historical sources report that Nodir-Divan-Begi was a high-ranking dignitary and vizier. As well as being the uncle of Imamkuli-khan, he also possessed great power and authority in Bukhara.

sarafonTaki-Sarrafan trading dome. The Taki-Sarrafan trading dome got its name due to the fact that sarrafs (money-changers) operated under this dome. Usually Hindus would exchange the currencies of foreign countries at this dome. Under the canopy of the Taki-Sarrafan dome, currency operations were handled through money-changers called (shroffs). Being an urban public center, in ancient times public baths called sarrafans were also located here. The domed ceiling was supported by four strong arches that cross in the center (the public bath had always been an indispensable item of the urban social center). A public road covered with vaults in a typical design for Bukharan architecture called “charzamin”, is located under arches.

Taki-Zargaron trading dome. In 1569-1570, the Taki-Zargaron trading dome is the largest among zargaronpreserved trading domes of Bukhara. The dome of jewelers was erected on the ancient site of Chorsu. This magnificent structure contained more than thirty shops of merchants and jewelry craftsmen. The extensive dome with meridian ribs cut through by 16 arched apertures, rises in an octagonal shape. Various jewelry items had been manufactured and sold here presently and throughout ancient times.

furushonTilpak-Furushan trading dome. In the Tilpak-Furushan trading dome, one can buy luxurious headwear, golden-sewn and bead-embroidered skullcaps, fur caps and complicated turbans. Five streets with different angles lead to this building. The gallery with niches, pantries and warehouses was built on 12 axes. The structure is hexagonal in shape and towards the right a crown is formed with a central dome and window openings cut into the crown.  The Tilpak-Furushan dome was also referred to as Kitab Furushan, as books had been sold here in ancient times.

Tim of Abdullah-khan. An animated trading street with caravanserais and rows of tents, this is all what is abdullakhanTimleft from the gallery of Tim of Abdullah-khanTim of Abdullah-khan dome is an extensive closed facility that is used for the wholesale of silken and woolen fabrics. The facility has numerous square posts and a multi-domed building.

hammamPublic baths of Bukhara (Hammams). The famous public baths of Bukhara have existed for eight centuries. The baths begin with a special changing room. From this room, one further ventures to the soap room, which has niches for washing. Three narrow passages lead to the steam room, with a cool area in the hall for bathing. First one should take a steam, sweat in the cooler bathing area and then relax. A massage is an obligatory procedure that follows. Those who have tried the Bukharan bath come back for more. There were numerous public baths in Bukhara and some of them such as the Hammomi Sarrofon and Hammomi Bazori-Kord are still functioning. These semi-underground structures squeeze themselves into trading rows at the market; their low domes hardly rising above the market place. Though old public baths are now improved, they still preserve their past appearance both inside and out. The source of steam in such baths comes from a huge steam-boiler (cauldron) built in into the wall of the bathhouse. The steam produced from the boiling water flows through an outlet placed 1,5 meters from the floor. From ancient times until now, oriental people have preserved bathing traditions. Before a wedding ceremony, one would take a special ritual bath. However, even in everyday life, bathing has found various applications. Special bathing procedures were used to cure a number of diseases. The greatest healer, Avicenna with the help of bath cured paralysis, weak digestion, headaches form a hangover, migraines, insomnia, melancholy and even increased the libido. A visit to a hammam (public bath) will be one of the most memorable events of your travel to Bukhara. You will dive into the world of ancient traditions and experience the “real Bukhara”. These traditions can drive you far the everyday souvenir shops, sightseeing, guides and tours, while giving you a taste of the real life of Bukhara dwellers that is inseparably linked with the rich history of this city.

talipachTalipach Gate. Talipach Gate is one of the two ancient extant gates in Bukhara. It is located in the northern part of the city. The fortified city wall hasn’t survived and the remains of the gate stands out in the middle of built-up residential area. The gate is close to Chashma-Ayub mausoleum where pilgrims commemorate prophet Ayub (biblical prophet Job). Next to the mausoleum there is a local bazaar.

chorbakrChor-Bakr necropolis. The necropolis is located on the territory of Sumitan settlement, close to Bukhara (approximately 8 km along the road leading to the west). In the past the settlement  gave sanctuary to the Khojagon sect of sufic dervishes who supported the khan’s power. The complex includes the family tombs of sheikhs Juybar Seyids. Necropolis is a large architectural complex, which is included in the UNESCO. “Chor-Bakr” means “Four brothers” but abroad it is called “The city of the Dead”.

Buyan-Quli Khan mausoleum. This mausoleum was constructed in 1358 for the descendent of Genghiskhan buyankuli- the Chagatay ruler Bayan-Quli Khan. Buyan-Quli Khan mausoleum stands next to respected burial place of Saif ad-Din Boharzi.

saifaddinSaif ad-Dim Bokharzi mausoleum. Saif ad-Dim Bokharzi mausoleum is a part of once large memorial complex that appeared around the grave of a popular sheikh, poet and theologian Saif ad-Dim Bokharzi who lived in 1190-1262.  The complex is located to the east from medieval Bukhara in Fatkhabad suburbs. The whole quarter of the settlement was occupied by khanaka where the poor and the sick could live on money donated by wealthy philanthropists. Next to the revered burial vault, in 1358 there was constructed Buyan-Quli Khan mausoleum, whereas in late 14th century a mausoleum was raised over the ancient tomb.

Chashma Ayub mausoleum. “The spring of Ayub (Job)” is a commemorative complex in the centre of chashmaayubBukhara and comprises a mausoleum and a sacred spring. At present the complex houses Museum of water Supply. The mausoleum was repeatedly reconstructed within the 14th-19th centuries.  The terracotta plaque next to the spring states that mausoleum was constructed in 1379-1380 on the orders of Temur by architects repartriated from Khorezm in the wake of Temur’s campaign. The complex consists of four chambers elongated on east-west axis and each chamber is topped with a dome. The western chamber was the first one to be built and served as burial vault, whereas other premises were added in later period.

koshKosh-madrassah. Kosh-madrassah architectural complex, built in the 16th century by order of Abdullakhan, is to the west from historic core of Bukhara. Two madrassahs form a typical for Central Asia architecture kosh complex when two buildings were located on the same line with their facades opposing each other, thus the name ‘kosh’ which means ‘coupled’. The smaller madrassah – Midari-khan madrassah, which means “Khan’s mother”, was built in 947 of the Muslim Calendar (1566-1567). The construction date is indicated in majolica decoration on the entrance portal of the madrassah. The second mardassah – Abdullakhan madrassah, built in 1588-1590, is one of the most outstanding monuments of Central Asian medieval architecture with varied lay-out of its interior premises.

Hojja Gaukushon ensemble. This is one of Bukhara biggest medieval architectural complexes. Alongside hojaGaukushonwith other ancient constructions of Bukhara, Hojja Gaukushon ensemble is inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage List. The name of the ensemble originates from its location: ‘Gaukushon’ means ‘one who kills bulls’, as the ensemble was built on the site of an old slaughterhouse. The ensemble comprises a madrassah and Friday mosque with tall wide-based Hojja Kalon minaret, in size being second only to Kalyan Minaret. Gaukushon madrassah was built in 1570 during the reign of Uzbek ruler Abdullakhan II and had a traditional layout. The trapezoid form of the madrassah was dictated by its location on the junction of city streets. In 1598 to the north of the madrassah there was built Friday mosque which later was called ‘Hojja Mosque’. The construction of the ensemble was funded by Juybara sheikh nicknamed ‘Hojja Kalon’ (‘’Great sheikh’) and buried in Chor Bakr family necropolis.

mullotursunjonMullo Tursunjon madrassah. Similar to many historical building of Bukhara, this madrassah was constructed in the 16th century.  Originally it served its intended purpose, that is was a religious school. At present this is a historical monument inscribed in UNESCO World Heritage List.

Kukeldash madrassah. The madrassah  is a part of Lyabi-Hauz complex and was constructed  during the rule kukeldashof Abdullakhan II. Its construction is linked to a noble statesman and well-known sponsor of many civic projects Kulbaba Kukeldash. Today the madrassah houses  the museum devoted to Central Asian writers Sadriddin Aini and Jalol Ikromi.

validaiVolidoi Abdull Azizkhan madrassah. The madrassah was constructed within two centuries – from the 15th to the 17th century. It is linked with the name of Abdul Azizkhan (1647-1680) who constructed his own high religious school in later period named after him – Abdul azizkhan madrassah. In the 18th -19th centuries  Volidoi Abdull Azizkhan madrassah was part of Bukhara education system and was used as religious school. Nowadays, this is a monument of architecture and is under UNESCO protection.

Goziyon Madrassah. A 17th-century one-storey building designed in line with local Bukhara architecture gozienis rather small compared to other madrassahs. The façade of the building is made in the form of an arch containing plasterwork and ornamental decoration. The brick-built structure of the madrassah has symmetrical layout. Of great interest is the carved marble decoration of the ceiling.

faizabadFaizabad khanaka. Dervish hostel in Faizabad surburbs of Bukhara  was constructed in the 16th century by sufi Mavlon Poiyanda-Mukhamad Akhsi Faizobodi.  The big hall of the khanaka is topped with a dome sitting on pendentives. Flanking the hall are hujra cells for dwellers, which are arranged as one-storey domed gallery. There are some more cells in the corners of the main hall pillars and behind the mekhrab.

Khalifa Khudoidod complex. Khalifa Khudoidod complex – a khanaka in the old part of Bukhara- is the khalifaKhudoid18th-century  historical monument. It is located in the city quarter bearing the same name (Khalifa Khudoidod) and populated by saddlemakers, tanners and weavers. Besides khanaka the complex also comprises the hostel for blind reciters of Koran. The complex was presumably constructed by religious figure Khalifa Khudoidod, a native of Urgench. This character was mentioned only in oral traditions. It is quite probable that he was identified with sheikh Khudoyberdi who lived in Balkh and died in 1841. The name of the sheikh was mentioned in some written documents during his lifetime. Khalifa Khudoidod mosque, madrassah and tahorat-hona (chamber for ablution) were first mentioned in 1797 diploma which assigned the  complex to Chorbogi Boki-Mukhammad-khon quarter – the old name of  Khalifa Khudoidod quarter.

khojaZainiddinHojja Zainuddin khanaka. This architectural complex is located in the city centre, amid residential neighbourhood, close to Ark citadel and Mullo Tursunjon madrassah. The complex consists of a khanaka and adjoining hauz water supply.The khanaka was constructed in the 16th century and in later period was used as neighbourhood  community mosque. The interior decoration is diverse: mosaic panelling on the lower part of the walls and paintwork adorning  the upper part of the walls, pendentives and the dome. The ceiling of the open gallery is richly decorated with paintwork and incrustation. The western niche of khanaka houses sheikh Zainuddin mazar. Outside khanaka there is Bukhara’s earliest water pool – hauz water supply. In the 19th century it was revetted with  stone plates.

Khalif Niyazkul madrassah. Khalif Niyazkul madrassah, also known as Chor-Minor, was built by a khalifNiyazkulrich Bukhara merchant – Khalif Khudoid in 1807. The madrassah was designed as a rectangular yard surrounded by two-storey hujra-cells, a mosque with a wooden 9-pillar ayvan and a pool. The distinctive feature of the madrassah is its gatehouse in the form of a domed cubical building with four towers reminiscent of minarets with sky-blue domes.  These towers gave the name to the structure- Chor minor (‘Four minarets’). The ground floor hall provided access to the first floor which accommodated a library and utility rooms.

namazgohNamazgokh. Namazgokh, a site for prayers during  the Muslim holidays of  Kurban-bairam and Ramazan-bairam, is in the south-west of Bukhara. The huge mihrab wall is richly decorated with alabaster fretwork and mosaics inlaid in the form of geometrical patterns and Arabic inscriptions.

The Karakum desert. In spring the vast territory of the Karakum desert, except for sand dunes areas karakumwhich occupy 5 % of the Karakum desert, is covered with a bright carpet of ephemeral plants which wither away already at the beginning of May. The vegetation is represented by sand sedge, acacia , locoweed, and saxaul. In the Karakum desert there could be found goitered gazelles, desert foxes, wolves, sand cats, various  rodents, lizards, snakes, Solpugida, scorpions, desert tortoises. The desert provides pastures for breeding sheep and camels.

kamoliddinBekhzodKamoliddin Behzod Fine Arts Museum. Kamoliddin Behzod Fine Arts Museum was set up in 1982 and was housed in the building of the former Central Asian bank (1912). The museum houses two permanent expositions dedicated to fine arts of Bukhara and history of jewellery. “Paintings and drawings of Bukhara artists” exposition is formed on the basis of a rich collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures of the museum’s reserves. Among the most evocative works are those by Russian painters who lived in Central Asia in late19th-early 20th centuries: P. Benkov, M. Kurzin, V. Vilkovir. Also displayed are the miniatures by the 19-th century scholar, artist, philosopher, and calligrapher Akhmad Donish, as well as the works by modern miniature painter Sadriddin Pochaev, who was awarded an honorary title of National artist of Uzbekistan. The exposition also presents the works of 1980s-1990s native Bukhara painters: B. Salomov, A. Barnayev, M. Abdullayev, N. Babayev, Z. Saidjanov, B. Gulov, and K. Norkhurozov.  Inspired by the very atmosphere of the ancient city with its rich history and peculiar artistic culture, the artists have developed the old traditions and created original national art and sculpture school of Uzbekistan. The “Ancient Jewelry Art of Bukhara” exhibition was set up in 1994 and features unique works by ancient jewelers: gold plate with image of a goddess and gold earrings (1st century BC-2nd century AD), silver amulets (19th-20th centuries), jewelry, and silver and golden royal tableware inlaid with precious stones. Fine Arts Museum also houses a research centre studying ancient Arabic manuscripts with graphic designs. Formed in 1990 the centre deals with the issues of research and classification of Central Asia written legacy. The museum reserves number 3454 unique manuscripts of the 16th-20th centuries written in Arabic, Persian, and Old Uzbek. The written legacy is represented by various documents on law, finance and economics of Central Asian  500-year history.

Folklore show in Nodir Divon-Begi madrassah. Today Nodir Divon-Begi madrassah attracts thousands FolkinNDBof tourists and visitors. The popularity of the madeassah can be explained not only by the splendour of its architecture and amusing story of its creation, but also  by the open-air folklore performances  the madrassah courtyard hosts. During such performances one can enjoy the cultural heritage of the Uzbek people in its integrity, including national music, dancing and cuisine. Here one can immerse in the ambience of tenderly preserved  national traditions.

goldGold embroidery factory. Bukhara’s embroiderers are well-known for their mastery in decorating the clothes with gold needlework. Gold embroidery is widely used in adornment of national festive garments and in decoration of various accessories which attract the attention of the most pernickety women of fashion. A visit to one of the factories of gold embroidery will become truly among the most memorable.

Karakul dressing workshop. Bukhara is famous for its specialists in dressing karakul and karakulkarakulcha (astrakhan fur). The visitors to the one of Karakul workshops have an opportunity to see the big collections of fells and even purchase the products of the workshop made of  traditional as well as rare sort of karakul.

SilkTeaSilk Road Spices teahouse. This unique teahouse offers the most remarkable sorts of tea, new peculiar blends of tea, ancient recipes of blends of healing herbal teas. Conveniently located, the teahouse features a beautifully decorated spacious lounge full of sweet-scented tantalizing aroma. The menu includes various tea blends with spices and healing herbs, green tea,  tea with saffron, black tea, Bukhara national sweets- halvah, kandalat and navvat, as well as ginger tea and coffee with cardamom.

Art-café. After wonderful stroll along the winding streets of fabulous Bukhara nothing is more pleasant than artcafeto relax in a cozy cool place with amazing décor, panoramic views of ancient Bukhara and savory dishes of local cuisine. Art-café is the place which naturally blends into the amazing atmosphere of the ancient city. Convenient location and a ground floor souvenir shop add to the memorable moments of your visit to this place.

vobkentVabkent. Vabkent is the centre of Vabkent region in Bukhara province. Apparently, Vabkent was founded before Central Asia was invaded by the Arabs. The settlement flourished under Karakhanids. It was at this period that impressive minaret was constructed in 1196-1198. During the rule of Temurids and Sheibanids Vabkent housed the state mint.

Gijduvon. The archeological findings testify to the fact that the territory of modern Gijduvon was  the site of Gijduvanan ancient settlement long before the Arabic invasion. The first written record of Gijduvon settlement dates back to the 10th century. At that time Vabkent was one of the trade centres of the region and was part of Samanid kingdom.The settlement became extremely popular thanks to  a 12th – century local Sufic master Abdukhalik Gijduvoni. Up to the 15th century  Gijduvon rivaled Tavavis settlement which was founded in early Middle Ages. However, in the later period Gijduvon developed into a town whereas Tavavis lost its significance. Starting from the 16th century Gijduvon became a fortress-city  and experienced many combats.

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