In the 9th and 10th century, Bukhara was the capital of the Samanid state as well as a leader in religious and cultural affairs. One of its famous residents that would have an impact on the development of medieval theology and philosophy was Avicenna, that is Ibn Sini. He is thought to be one of the figures in Raphael’s painting of the philosophers in the Vatican Palace.
Although the old center has developed in such a way to attract tourists, the center remains an architectural maze of madrassas, Islamic theological schools and minarets, mosques, caravanserai and covered markets and the royal palace. These remants of the old city give an impression of the vitality of the city on the silk road.
Genghis Khan in 1220 destroyed the city and in 1370 it fell under the domination of Timur Samarkand.
In the morning I set out to enjoy the Mir Arab Madrassa and mosque from the 16th century.
Although most of the madrassas today are markets and hotels, this one is a functioning school. The tile work and double domes are striking.
The minaret built in 1127 was one of the tallest structures in central Asia at a height of 47 meters. Genhgis Kahn spared it. Notice the beautiful oramental brick work with blue tiles that would soon dominate Islamic art of Central Asia. Next to the minaret is a mosque built after Genghis Khan destroyed the earlier one. The Soviets turned it into a warehouse however in 1991 it became a functioning mosque.
These are doors to a caravanserai, that is a hotel for merchants and their carsvan animals and goods for trade
The Ismail Samani mausoleum is the oldest monument in the city. It was covered with dirt so it escaped the destruction of Genghis Kahn.
This is the Chashma Ayub mausoleum built over a spring. The legend is that Job struck his staff on the gtound and a spring appeared. There is so much religious folklore which creates many places of pilgrimage.
From the market:
This morning we began our 7 hour journey through the desert.
In the days of Marco Polo this journey from Khiva to Bukhara would have taken two weeks. They would be able to journey 30 kilometers a day. Every 30 days there was a caravanserai where the merchants could find shelter and re-provision as well as barter goods. Their camels and other animals would find food and water and rest as well. They journeyed through the night to avoid the intense heat of the desert and would navigate by the stars. As we drove through the desert, I imagined caravans of 300 camels on the horizon making the journey on this commercial highway laden with carpets, spices, jewels and other precious goods in transport from east to west and west to east.
There was a very strong and prosperous Jewish community in Bukhara; in fact there are two synagogues. After the independence from the USSR many of the Jewish people sold their private residences which then were turned into boutique hotels like the hotel where I am staying. The interior courtyard has such charm. This hotel must have been a beautiful private residence.
This building was a 16th century Madrassah that is a Muslim school of theological study. The Madrassah in the city today are museums like this one.
Prayer niche in the direction of Mecca
The entrance of this 16th century caravanserai gives way to a courtyard that once housed the caravan animals in the center courtyard; and the hotel rooms are artisan workshops.
Most of the old markets of the 15th and 16th century are restored and are shops of many artisans selling their goods and carpets and silks and souvenirs to travelers.
The colorful tile work on the 15th and 16th century Islamic theological schools make beautiful restaurants. One of the most impressive is now a restaurant that overlooks a large plaza with a pool that reflects the evening light.
Although there are tourists the night is alive with locals and their families with many children enjoying their city.