This photo was taken in the morning from our hotel window in Bukhara. On the left, the Kalon Minaret, and on the right the Mir-i-Arab Medressa with its luminous blue domes.


Bukhara was Central Asia’s cultural heart in the 9th and 10th c. Later on, it succumbed to Chingghis Khan then later flourished as a vast market place and religious center.


During the Great Game in the 19th c. (the struggle between Russia and England to control Central Asia) Bukhara had a number of depraved rulers.


The most famous was Nasrullah Khan who ascended to the throne in 1826 by killing off his brothers and 28 other relatives.


He is famous for holding two British officers (Stoddard and Conolly) in dungeons and vermin-infested pits for years. On 24 June 1842 Colonel Stoddard and Captain Conolly were marched out of their dungeon cell before a huge crowd in front of the Ark (fortified Citadel), made to dig their own graves and, to the sound of drums and reed pipes from atop the fortress walls, were beheaded. The background for this website shows a picture of Nasrullah.







Another morning view from our hotel.


On the left side of the picture in the city wall is the Ark; on the right the Kalon Mosque.









We drove from Khiva to Bukhara, a full day’s drive. On one of our stops we encountered this herd of goats and sheep.


The guys loved our photographing their animals.








The sheep were freshly shorn. The goats had strange horns (see below).


The white sheep in the center foreground of the picture below has a large tail that consists largely of fat; they’re referred to as “fat-tailed” sheep. This is the most sought after and expensive part of the sheep. They don’t have much fat in their diets. The tail is more apparent in the below photo.




In the background of the photo on the left is the river Amu-Darya, called the Oxus river in antiquity. The historical importance of the Oxus can hardly be overstated.


The region east of the Oxus (roughly bounded by another great river, the Syr-Darya, called Jaxartes in antiquity) was called Transoxiana in antiquity.


The Arabs called Transoxiana “the land between the rivers.” If their language were Greek that would be “Mesopotamia.”  Transoxiana played a similar, albeit not quite as important, role as Mesopotamia as a melting pint of cultures and origin of arts, science and religion.



Nomadic yurts.







The photo on the left shows the Kalon minaret from the court yard of the Kalon mosque.


 The minaret was built in 1127 and is 140 ft tall. It has a 30 ft deep foundation including reeds stacked underneath in an early form of earth quake proofing. It never needed anything but cosmetic repairs. Chingghis Khan was so impressed that he didn’t touch it even though he destroyed the adjacent mosque. Today’s Kalon mosque dates from the 16th c.


The minaret was also used for executions. The victims were hurled from the summit…


As usual, we climbed it.




Kalon Minaret. The 14 ornamental bands include the first use of blue tile that became widespread in Central Asia under Timur.


Some of the photos on this website were taken from those windows (e.g., the one below).!







We climbed the Kalon minaret and had a picture taken of us with the Kalon mosque (left) and the infamous Ark (center). We never miss an opportunity to climb a minaret (most of our group didn’t climb).


It’s usually quite dark inside on the old and uneven circular stairways which is the reason we carried LED headlamps (just below Yvonne’s scarf).













The Kalon mosque and the Ark in the far background. The Kalon mosque is one of the largest in Central Asia and can accommodate 10,000 people.






The entrance to the minaret is from the roof of the Kalon mosque.


The Mir-i-Arab Medressa on left is a working seminary that dates from the 16th c.













Entrance gate to Kalon mosque.















Kalon mosque.











Entrance gate to the Mir-i-Arab Medressa.



Ramp to the Ark.


In this area the British officers, Stoddard and Conolly, were forced to dig their graves before being beheaded. The musicians played on the platform above.




The Bolo-Hauz mosque dates from 1718.




The Bolo-Hauz mosque was being readied for a Ramadan prayer service.




Clocks indicating the prescribed prayer times for the day are frequently displayed outside the mosques. It’s now unusual that the clocks aren’t digital.



The Ulugh Beg medressa was built in 1417 and is Central Asia’s oldest and became the model for many others.



Ulugh Beg medressa.



Central Asia is paradise for textile lovers.


Besides all the famous carpets, especially noteworthy are suzanis and ikats. Suzani means needlework (suzan is Persian for needle) and the distinctive ikat weave with wave-like stripes produced by tie-dying the warp threads so that the pattern is in the warp.


The display in the shop on the left has samples of all of them; in the photo below at left they are mostly suzanis.


Bottom right shows a display of colorful local hats.




The beautiful Nadir Divanbegi Medressa was built as a caravanserai but the Khan thought it was a medressa and it became one in 1622.


This may explain the unusual iconography showing animals (a no-no in orthodox Islam) and a sun-face reminiscent of pre-Islamic religions.



The Ismail Samani mausoleum dates from the 10th c. and is one of the most elegant structures in Central Asia.


It was built for Ismail Samani, the founder of the Samanid dynasty. The delicate baked terracotta brickwork changes appearance throughout the day as the shadows shift.



Even inside of the Ismail Samani mausoleum the sunrays interact with the incredible brick work.



Mysticism arose in all major religions during the time of our Middle Ages.


The primary idea in mysticism is to seek knowledge of god through direct personal experience (e.g. Tantra in Buddhism, Kabala in Judaism, mysticism in Christianity and Sufism in Islam).


There were manifestations of Sufism in all branches of Islam.  In the 14th c. Bakhautdin Naqshband founded the most influential of many ancient Sufi orders in Central Asia.


His mausoleum is part of the 16th c. complex shown on the left




His tomb is a simple 6 ft high marble block in a courtyard (center bottom of the picture on the right).


We noticed the pole with the horse tail blowing in the wind. We found this shamanistic symbol in quite a few other places in Central Asia, especially in Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia and Tibet. When we asked what it symbolized, nobody admitted to knowing.





A row of beautiful wooden pillars in the Bakhautdin Naqshband mausoleum complex.



A courtyard in the Bakhautdin Naqshband mausoleum complex.




The end