After visiting Samarqand, we continued to Bukhara, Khiva, and Tashkent. Here are some of the lovely historical sites I saw:
Bukhara has been considered a sacred place for some time. The name relates to the Sanskrit word for shrine. Imam Bukhari was born there, although he died and is buried near Samarqand. The city experienced a golden age during the Samanid Empire (819-1005), although much of their architecture was destroyed during the Mongol invasions in the 1200s. From the 16th century it was the capital of the Bukhara khanate until the last Amir was dethroned in 1920 by the Red Army. Here are some of the holy and historic sites:
- There is an ancient well associated with Prophet Ayub (as).
- Samanid Mausoleum built in 943, one of the oldest surviving domed mausoleums in the Islamic world.
- The oldest mosque is the Magoki-Attari, built atop a Zoroastrian temple. Before the first synagogue was built in Bukhara, Jews prayed alongside with Muslims here. It was buried during the Mongol invasion and excavated in modern times and is no longer an active house of worship.
- Kalyan Minaret, built in the 12th century. There are 109 steps to climb to the top.
- The 15th century Ulugh Beg madrasa, on which there is an inscription that reads, “aspiration to knowledge is the duty of each Muslim man and woman”
- Madrasa of Nadir Divan Beghi, which depicts birds flying to the sun, symbolizing aspiration for spiritual knowledge
- Mir-i-Arab Madrasa—built in 1535, it was the only functioning madrasa in Soviet Central Asia and it is still active today.
- Bolo Hauz mosque, completed in 1712
- Chor-Minor mosque, completed in 1807, although no longer active
- Ark—first built around the year 1000, it got its modern shape during the Manghit dynasty, which took control of Bukhara in the late 18th century
We visited a small museum and workshop to learn about the history of puppetry in Bukhara.
Khiva was perhaps the most beautiful place I visited in Uzbekistan. The inner city is known as Ichan-Qala or internal fortress and is bounded by a large wall. Above you can see that wall as well as the tomb of Pahlavan-Mahmud, who died in 1326 and so lived through severe years of Mongol rule. A Sufi teacher, poet, and wrestler, he apparently, “trained his students’ spirit through the art of wrestling”
Above you can see the Kalta-minor or short minaret (meant to be the tallest minaret in Central Asia but construction stopped due to political instability) and the 18th century Djuma-Mosque (which was originally a Zoroastrian temple, it has 212 carved wooden columns, some dating back to the 6th century).