Tuesday, June 12, 2018

BUKHARA, UZBEKISTAN: THE GRAND MOSQUE

Our final stop in Uzbekistan was Bukhara, another monument-filled ancient city. Certainly of the five Stans we visited, Uzbekistan is the one with the most to see, at least as far as historical sites. By the time we left, we were on mosque and madrasa overload. Anyway, Bukhara is about 2,500 years old and was the main city of the region for almost 2,000 years. It was the center that preceded Samarkand.

Bukhara means "monk's house" or "monastery." When it was founded, Islam had not yet been established. Instead, the city had an abundance of Buddhists, then Zoroastrians. It was the religious center of Central Asia. Today it has a population of about 250,000 people who are mostly Muslims.

We were met at the train station by a group of performers called "The Strong Men of Bukhara."  One of the men was lifting 100-pound weights:

Now he is holding 300 pounds in his teeth and 200 in his hands:

That's 350 pounds on his back:

I assume the youngsters are there for show. We only saw the guy in red lifting.

We really loved the performances at all the train stations on our Silk Road journey. They are a nice welcome and a fun introduction to the city.

Our first stop was Po-i-Kalyan, aka "The Grand Mosque," one of the oldest and largest mosques in Central Asia. It is actually a complex that includes a madrasa and a famous minaret.

 Really, the walls aren't caving in; it just looks like they are:

Individual shots of the two entrances that face each other (see the photo above):

From further away, two turquoise domes can be seen behind one of the entrances. One is the mosque, and one is a burial chamber:

This entrance is a bit more austere (I think it is the madrasa), but beautiful in its simple repetition of lines and curves:

The Great Minaret, also known as "the Tower of Death," is the iconic piece at this complex. According to legend, those criminals who received the death penalty were thrown off the top, or more likely out of the window, of this 150-foot-tall structure:

What we really enjoyed in the main courtyard were the locals, who seemed honored when asked to pose for a picture:

Classic photo bomb by John:

 Even the men got in on the act:

 The closer you look, the more you see:

 Speaking of looking and seeing, I think Islamic architecture is particularly good with doors and passageways. The view through the door is always something beautiful:

And repeating arches in passageways give extra depth:
 

One of the two main entrances leads to the Mir Arab Madrasa, located in another section of the same complex. Anytime I want to giggle at the English translations, I remind myself that I know ZERO Arabic:

Construction on the madrasa was started in 1530 and completed in 1536


On the mosque side, a sign announces the five times for prayer. I'm not sure why there are ten clocks. Starting and ending time? Summer and winter time?

Another huge courtyard inside the complex provides lots of space for prayer. In fact, this mosque and yard has room for 10,000:


The entrance to the mosque is just behind this hexagonal ablution structure:

It's always nice to have proof that we were there:


 For whatever reason, I only have a couple of pictures of the simple interior. Maybe it just didn't "wow" me like so many others, but the mihrab, carved minbar, and aqua tiles are still remarkable:

Hexagonal honeycomb tiling echoes the ablution fountain outside (Cleaning ladies are everywhere):

The golden view across the square as we exited the mosque:

2 comments:

  1. Awesome pictures, those strong men remind me when I come back from the store and I don't feel like making an extra trip back to the car to carry bags.

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  2. I was looking at these pictures and could not remember being there - until the last picture and it all came into context. I'm so glad you are methodically chronicling this. It is tough to piece together, made more so by time.

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