Zukhro Travel Adventures, Tour operator in Central Asia

  • Abdullakhan Madrassah


    The Kosh-Madrassah complex consists of two madrassahs. Twenty-three years after the completion of Modari-Khan Madrassah in 1590 there was built Abdullakhan Madrassah. Its facade virtually resembles facade of Modari-Khan Madrassah standing across the street; only its huge peshtak portal towers over the surrounding structures. The portal and the corner guldasta towers are richly decorated with intricate geometrical patterns, the loggias are bordered with a wide patterned band, accentuating horizontal and vertical divisions of the wall. But what really distinguishes Abdullakhan Madrassah among other similar structures in Central Asia is the extremely complex and varied lay-out of its interior premises.

    The fretted doors lead into an entrance hall with a mosque on the right and a classroom on the left, whereas two passages open to the yard. The mosque layout is inconsistent with the axis of the whole construction: it is turned at an angle thus letting the mikhrab prayer niche be directed precisely westward. Still remaining is the covering of the mosque and the classroom with intersecting arches, stalactite filled pendentives, and the dome decorated with rather complex star-shaped girih geometrical pattern.

    Two-storied gallery of hujra cells and service premises surround the yard with four ayvan platforms. The northern ayvan has an adjoining extension with eight small rooms, sticking out beyond the facade line. Through a door in the western ayvan, opposite the main entrance, you can get into the most noteworthy part of Abdullakhan Madrassah. It is a system of cranked passages that lead into a large octahedral hall surrounded by 20 hujra cells arranged in two tiers. The dome looks soaring on the dodecahedral drum with window openings. This hall is known as Fanusi Abdullakhan (‘Abdullakhan’s Lantern’).

    The great skills of the unknown medieval architect are vividly demonstrated in the soft and even lighting, the large amount of air so refreshing in hot summers, the way this hall is connected with the other parts of the madrassah… Structural parts gradually transform into ornamental decoration thus imparting originality to this wonderful structure and strengthening its impressiveness.

    Abdullakhan Madrassah is one of the most outstanding monuments of Central Asian medieval architecture in which the daring attempt to deviate from canonical schemes gave rise to new architectural forms.

  • Abdullakhan Tim


    In Asia trade has always been considered a respectable occupation. In Noble Bukhara there were always busy bazaars and the doors of the shops lining the streets stood invitingly open. Yet in the 16th century they also started to build in the town huge roofed shopping passages. Such a passage was called tim. One of them still exists. It is Abdullakhan Tim, named after its constructor, a ruler from the Sheibanids dynasty.

    This large structure with a number of domes is square in plan. It is located on one of the main trade roads. Its central dome is placed on an octahedral base whose abutments are joined by lancet arches. Around the main hall there runs a gallery spanned by many smaller domes on strong supports. Vaulted niches divide the space into 56 shopping sections. All of them are connected by spacious vaulted enfilade. Soft light comes in through small windows cut in the drum of the principal dome and light apertures in smaller domes.

    The original design of the interior created a peculiar microclimate in Abdullakhan Tim. On hot summer days the customers could enjoy refreshing air, shade and beneficial coolness. So it is easy to imagine how great the travelers felt being inside the construction after their long caravan journeys across salt marshes and sands. Under the domes of hospitable Bukhara they could finally have a deserved rest.

    Abdullakhan Tim was used for carrying out trade in silk, which Bukhara had been famous for even before Arabian conquest. In the village of Zandana near Bukhara they made the patterned silk zandanachi, which was exported along the Great Silk Road from Sogd to the western territories. In the 16th century Bukhara masters began making the silk velvet bahmal with abr patterns. For several centuries the shopboards of local tradesmen have caught the visitor’s eyes with the famous locally made khan-atlas fabric. The secret and technology of its production have been passed down from father to son.

    The remaining ancient shopping structures made only a small part of the Bukhara streets which in the Middle Ages were densely built-up by shops and artisans’ workrooms. But even the structures which time has spared are able to create an impressive image of an ancient Asian town, whose bazaars crammed with various local goods and goods from overseas.

  • Abu Ali Ibn Sino Memorial Museum


    In the environs of Bukhara, there are many towns and villages whose age exceeds a thousand years. The village of Afshona located at a distance of a few kilometers from Bukhara is no exception. It is known that in 980 in this village, in the family of a tax collector, there was born a boy named Abu Ali Ibn Sino. The boy soon became a great scholar famous in both Asia and Europe where he is most commonly known by his Latinized name Avicenna. Today Afshona features the museum dedicated to the great scholar and philosopher.

    Like many famous personalities of the European Renaissance, Ibn Sino was known for his encyclopaedic knowledge. There seemed to be no field of science or arts which he did not make researches in, which he did not contribute to with his inventions. He wrote over 300 works, including the most famous The Book of Healing and The Canon of Medicine. The latter was extremely popular in both the East and the West. Suffice it to say that only in Latin it ran into 36 editions.

    His large treatise The Book of Knowledge covered such topics as logic, rhetoric, mathematics, physics, astronomy, and metaphysics. Avicenna was also a famous poet and an expert in music. He developed the basics of music theory, defined musical tones and rhythms. Ibn Sino dealt not only with ‘pure science’ in its medieval understanding; he also engaged in practical application of his knowledge. For example, he invented a number of surgical instruments.

    The exhibits of the Abu Ali ibn Sino Memorial Museum in Afshona will give you an insight into his life and activities, as well as the times he lived in, those of the reign of the Samanids. The museum displays a collection of archeological artifacts of the 10th and 11th centuries, home utensils, a number of medical instruments that were reconstructed after descriptions and drawings in Avicenna’s works, photocopies of his manuscripts. One of the rooms features natural-size figure scene of Ibn Sino healing the vizier Ibn Mansur.

    The building of the museum is part of an architectural complex which also includes a Medical college, a conference hall and sports facility. In front of the museum there was laid out a garden, where many medicinal herbs the great doctor used in his practice are planted. The museum also has a video hall, a tea parlor and a souvenir shop.

    Today, Ibn Sino’s works and activities invariably arouse interest of many people around the world.

  • Akshi-Bobo Bastion and Kurnysh-Khan's Palace


    Over the ancient Khiva’s Kunya-Ark Citadel, on the fortification adobe wall with two semi-turrets, rises a two-tier ayvan- a pavilion-like structure. It is called Akshi-Bobo (‘An Old Man in Love’) or, sometimes, Akshih Bobo (‘White Sheikh’). Now it is hard to guess what gave rise to these names. Somehow or other, the names make one think that high behind the cogged walls a recluse was taking shelter. However, it is obvious that this structure on the turret, called in Khorezm chardara keshk, was designed for a lookout and was a sort of a bastion.

    It is really a wonderful vantage point which gives a clear view of the whole territory of ancient Khiva – the city from an oriental fairytale. A number of minarets cut through the skyline, the domes of numerous mausoleums and mosques tower over flat roofs of dwelling houses, peshtak portals of madrassahs with their bright blue glazed tilework rise over shady loggias, cogged fortification walls alternate with great portals of town’s gates. Inside the labyrinth of narrow streets there loom khan’s palaces, surrounded by small yards with richly decorated ayvan pavilions.

    Close to Akshi-Bobo Bastion stands Kurnysh-Khan’s Palace, built in 1806. This khan’s mansion-house was used for official receptions. Its traditional Oriental architectural style and richly decorated interiors attract tourists from many countries.

    In the center of the palace is a yard with a two-pillar ayvan. The walls of the ayvan have retained their rich decoration of carved mosaics with intricate geometrical and vegetal patterns. There used to be a special entrance from the yard to the throne hall with a splendid wooden throne, which has not survived, though. There is written evidence that the throne was decorated with silver plates containing engraved medallion with intricate patterns interlaced with quotes from the Koran and good wishes for the ruler against a red background. Besides the throne hall, the palace had a treasury and a library with a collection of rare manuscripts in Arabic.

  • Ancient Settlement of Paykend


    In Bukhara oasis today there are about 300 sites of ancient settlements and mounds, all covering up the remains of vanished towns and villages. Many of them are still waiting for their explorers, while some others, such as Varakhsha, Vardana and Paykend have been excavated and well studied, turning out to be real monuments to ancient civilizations.

    At a distance of 60 kilometers southwest of Bukhara lie the ruins of the town of Paykend, which had been flourishing within fifteen centuries till the sands of the Kyzylkum Desert swallowed it up. This town was a large Silk Road center of crafts and trade. Under a layer of sand archeologists found the remains of a town dating to the 6th – 3rd centuries BC. The oldest structure here was the citadel, towering over the town. Strong 30-meter-thick outer walls with turrets surrounded the citadel. Paykend was founded in the floodplain of the Zerafshan River as a fortress on the border with Iran. In the citadel the archeologists found the remains of a fire temple. It was probably the temple Ferdowsi wrote about in his ‘Shahnameh’ This epic says that legendary Khosrov built a fire temple in Paykend and in that very temple there was kept the holy Zoroastrian book Avesta written in gold.

    At the beginning of our era the fortifications were repeatedly reconstructed. The evidence to that are the changed shapes of embrasures in the towers. There survived outer walls and ten double-deck Sogdian watchtowers. In the 5th century Paykend became a ruler’s residence with a palace and a new city wall surrounding a large shahristan residential area. The remains of the residential area clearly show a regular layout. Archeologists excavated a house of a rich townsman. It consists of a main hall with pillars and paintings imaging a god-worshipping procession, as well as utility rooms and living chambers.

    Later the famous historian Narshahi wrote: ‘Paykend was reputed as a town. All his residents were merchants who traded with China and the Levant. That is why they were very rich. All the kings who came to this region made Paykend their residence’. However, it was not only transit trade but also export of the goods manufactured in the town itself that ensured its prosperity. In the ruins of the town there were found glassblowing and pottery shops with almost intact ceramic jugs and bowls, as well as various bronze articles and evidence of bronze smelting industry. Coins of Tan’s China and Sassanid Iran, as well as Arabian felses, found during the excavations, prove the town’s trading connections with other countries.

    In 706 Kuteiba ibn Muslim, the governor of the Umayyads in Khorasan, crossed the Amudarya River and headed for Paykend. On learning it, the town’s residents reinforced the fortifications and got ready to the siege. Arabs managed to capture the town only after they undermined the fortification wall. The traces of such undermining are still visible on the site. Historical sources say that Kuteiba seized a lot of trophies here; among them were golden and silver containers and a silver idol. Plunder, fire and destruction accompanied Arabian capture of Paykend. They destroyed the fire temple and the palace, of which only ruins of the walls and the colonnade remained. Almost all the defenders of the town were slaughtered. The survived civilians were taken prisoners. But soon Paykend’s merchants returned from abroad, ransomed their wives and children and reconstructed the town.

    In the 8th century new Islamic culture came to take place of Sogdian civilisation. Soon Paykend became a new religious center. Written sources say that Paykend had a central mosque. Next to the mosque there evidently was a minaret whose base, discovered during the excavation works, was eleven metres in diameter – larger than the diameter of the famous minaret Kalyan. The remains of another mosque have been excavated at the intersection of two town’s streets. Certain differences from pre-Islamic architecture can be traced in the townsfolk’s new dwelling houses: now they had bathrooms, toilets and washbasins. The homes of the rich were decorated with patterned plastered panels with paintings. Archeologists also found a drugstore, probably the first ever in Central Asia. Alongside with glass jars for bloodletting and a small bowl with wax residues they found two documents in Arabic, with a list of names and the date: June 30, 790. In the craftsmen quarters there were found little bronze perfume jugs, lamps, two-lid box, a lot of glassware and glazed ceramic dishes. One of the jugs was decorated with a touching inscription in Arabic, ‘Eat and drink as you please’.

    There were also excavated the ruins of two large rabat areas built in the 8th – 9th centuries. Here were caravanserais with lodgings for merchants and large fenced yards for camels.

    Early in the 11th century the Zerafshan River changed its course and its water stopped reaching the town. Early next century Bukhara’s ruler Arslankhan of the Karakhanid dynasty tried to build a canal to supply the town with water. But man’s struggle with the moving sands of the desert was not successful and soon people had to leave the town.

    Paykend has been researched for a few decades already. During the excavations over 5000 valuable artifacts have been found so far. They are exhibited in the historical museum of Paykend, located nearby. Yet the ruins of the town still retain many secrets of its centuries-old history.


  • Bahouddin Naqshbandi Complex


    In the suburbs of Bukhara there stands an architectural memorial to the great Sufi, hermit, and saint Sheikh Bahouddin Naqshbandi, who made an invaluable contribution to the formation and development of Central Asian progressive thought.

    Nakhsbandi was born to a family of a weaver in a small village near Bukhara in 1318. Early in life he excelled at weaving of patterned silk fabrics. So it was not without reason that in later period he was regarded the patron saint of handicraftsmen. Among his teachers and spiritual tutors were such outstanding personalities as Hajji Samosi and Shamsiddin Mir Kulol, Amir Temur’s confessor. Having developed his own doctrine, Bahouddin Naqshbandi founded the Sufi order Naqshbandiya.

    The basic principle of Naqshbandi’s teaching was the necessity of following the example of the Prophet and his associates. The priority of the order was the realization of faqr, that is ‘voluntary poverty’ principle. They believed that man had to content himself with only what he earned with his hands through work. This would give man independence and freedom of thought and actions. “Seclusion from society, traveling about the motherland, outwardly with people, inwardly with God” was the motto of Naqshbandia order. Sheikh Naqshbandi himself led a very modest life: slept on a plain mat in the summer and on straw in the winter. In order to subsist, he grew wheat and Asian golden haricot beans on a small patch of land. One of his precepts was ‘Let Allah be in you soul, let you hands be in work’.

    After Bahouddin Naqshbandi died in 1389, numerous pilgrims began visiting his grave, as he was worshipped not only in Bukhara but also in the whole Islamic world. Triple pilgrimage to his tomb is treated as equal to a small hajj to Mecca. Even the location for his mausoleum was chosen not by accident. It was the place of an ancient pagan temple dedicated to the festival of Red Rose, as ancient as Navruz, Persian New Year.

    In 1544 Emir Abdulaziz built a dakhma platform with carved marble fence over the grave of the saint, and next to it an enormous khanaqa (Sufi hospice). In later period, to the west of the mausoleum there appeared a large necropolis of Bukhara emirs. Every ruler tried his best to adorn his place of eternal rest. Thus, years after, next to the dakhma there appeared richly decorated Muzaffarkhan Mosque and Khakim Kushbegi Mosque with a small minaret and a madrassah. These buildings formed a yard with a hauz (pool) reflecting the picturesque chartak structure with a dome and four arches. At the beginning of the 21st century the complex was restored and repaired. New arches and turquoise domes were built in traditional national style and there were installed carved gates and pillars. It is noteworthy that while constructing the new ayvan terrace there were discovered the foundations of a similar original construction.

    Naqshbandi is believed to ward off troubles. The wall of his mausoleum has a special wish stone called Sangi Murod. It is slightly sloping where pilgrims touch it.

    Bahouddin Naqshbandi Complex is one of Bukhara’s most beautiful architectural sights. It welcomes pilgrims and guests alike with a unique atmosphere of serenity and seclusion.

  • Bolo-Khauz Mosque


    To the west of Ark Citadel, long before Bukhara was conquered by the Arabs, there had emerged a busy city center – Registan square. In the 17th century the area on the approaches to the square used to be occupied by rows of market shops.

    One of the caravan roads, connecting Bukhara and Khorezm, led to the square from Dashtak city gates. Thus here the merchants did a brisk trade in cereals, fabrics, weapons, head garments, cattle, fruits, paper and ink. Around the square there clustered caravanserais and rich merchants’ houses. The square also accommodated Dorul Shifo madrassah for training doctors, and a hospital.

    These buildings haven’t survived to the present time except for the neighborhood Bolo-Hauz Mosque, which stands across from Ark. It was built in 1721 with money donated by rich Bukhara residents. It was originally an oblong domed mosque with a mikhrab niche indicating the direction of Mecca. In the early 20th century an ayvan terrace was attached to its façade with two tiers of loggias. This ayvan is a real masterpiece of Uzbek traditional applied art. The roof of the ayvan is supported by two rows of elegant pillars. Each pillar consists of several tree trunks joined together with metal rings. The tops of the two central columns, which indicate the entrance to the mosque, are connected with an elegant double arch. The lower teardrop-shaped part of either column resting on a base is decorated with beautiful carvings. Especially impressive are the large stalactite-like chapiters of the columns.

    The arched loggias and the ceiling of the ayvan are decorated with splendid paintings. The panels of the coffered ceiling are covered with unique decorative geometric patterns of amazing artistry. The centuries-long Bukhara tradition of mosque decoration undoubtedly had its proper continuation in Bolo-Hauz.

    In 1917 the famous Bukhara architect Usto Shirin Muradov built a small minaret by the large pool in front of the mosque. Its decorative brickworks, glazed tile ornamental belts and the top lantern-like rotunda with 8 arched openings remind those of Kalyan Minaret, its elder and larger ‘brother’.

    The faithful pray and listen to imams’ sermons not only inside the winter premises of the mosque but also on the ayvan and next to the hauz (pool) which reflects the blue sky.

  • Bukhara - Ferghana

    Bukhara - Ferghana

    Bukhara (BHK) - Ferghana (FEG)

    S M T W T F S 14:40 16:35 1h 55m HY 025 I14

    Ferghana (FEG) - Bukhara (BHK)

    S M T W T F S 17:15 19:20 2h 05m HY 026 I14

    Note: Bukhara - Ferghana - Bukhara flights schedule is subject to change without notice.
  • Chor-Bakr Necropolis


    According to one of Bukhara ancient popular beliefs, if within one day a person manages to make pilgrimages to four mazars (graves) of the saints named Bakr, any wish of his will come true. That is why Chor-Bakr necropolis, which means ‘four Bakrs’, is so popular in the Islamic world. The necropolis grew around the much revered tomb of Abu Bakr Sayed in the village of Sumitan near Bukhara.

    The origin of the cult burial site in Sumitan dates back to the time of the Samanids. Saint Abu Bakr Sayed was a descendant of Prophet Muhammad, and an ancestor of Sheikh Hajji Islam Jubayri also known as Hajji Kalyan (‘Hajji the Great’). During the rule of the Uzbek Sheybanid dynasty Sumitan was handed over to Jubayri sheiks, whose influence on Bukhara’s political and cultural life was very strong. Eventually, Chor Bakr became the burial ground of Jubayris’ family. Within couple of centuries there appeared many fenced spaces with darvaza (gates) containing dakhma burial chambers and sagana tombs. In 1560 – 1563 Bukhara ruler Abdullakhan ordered to build a mosque, a madrassah and a khanaga (hospice for pilgrims) as a tribute to the powerful sheikhs.

    The three buildings were constructed in the center of the necropolis, at the crossroads of its alleys. On the open side of the square formed by the three buildings a smaller copy of Kalyan Minaret was erected in the early 20th century. To the north of the necropolis there was laid out a chorbog (garden). There were planted poplars, planes, junipers, willows, peach-trees, apple-trees, pear-trees, grapevines, and roses. The five-kilometre-long road leading from the city gates up to the necropolis was lined by irrigation ditches with trees on their banks, so that during his journeys to Chor-Bakr Abdullakhan could enjoy the shade of the alley.

    All three buildings make up a harmonious architectural complex. The mosque and khanaqa have large arched portals. The sides of the buildings facing the yard have two tiers of loggias, which is not typical of these types of structures. The façade of the madrassah at the end of the yard has loggias, too. Huge domes span the main halls of the mosque and khanaga. Inside the halls the intersections of the arches and net-like pendentives support elegant windowed drums crowned with cupolas with decorative stalactites.

    Peace and serenity of Chor-Bakr, one of the most impressive and picturesque Central Asian architectural complexes, involuntarily remind people of perishable nature of earthly pleasures and the eternity of the Universe.

  • Chor-Minor Madrassah


    Among the large number of Bukhara’s monuments Chor-Minor Madrassah stands out for its extraordinary design. Its four minarets, standing very close to each other; look from afar like buds of mysterious azure flowers. At closer survey they appear to be tall and strong towers, illusively “pressing” a domed cubical building. The entrance to the madrassah has a tall portal. Similar portal once decorated the exit to the courtyard of the madrassah. Inside Chor-Minor there is a writing in Persian, carved in two-color gunch-stucco; it shows the time the construction of the building was completed in the year of the Hijjra 1222 (1807 by modern calendar). In Central Asia the architectural principles of a madrassah construction were developed as far back as the Middle Ages, and up to the 20th century the local architects had stuck to these directives. However, the principles were broken during the construction of Chor-Minor Madrassah, for the constructors had to comply with the wishes and instructions of Caliph Niyazkul, who financed the project.

    Niyazkul-Bek was a rich Bukhara merchant, coming from a Turkmen clan. He traded in horses and carpets and visited many countries. Most often he had to visit India. During his travels he always met his fellow countrymen from Bukhara and Turkmen tribe mates. A man of an inquiring mind, he was not only interested in bazaars but also in the local rarities and sights of the places he went to. Thus, in Hyderabad he was deeply impressed by the grand Charminar Triumphal Arch, a cube with four tall minarets; in Agra he admired Taj Mahal Mausoleum, whose dome was reflecting in the nearby pool, and whose entrance was decorated with four towers.

    On return to Bukhara, Niyazkul-Bek invited architects and astronomers and offered them to build a madrassah in accordance with his sketches and on condition they would comply with two demands of his. The first demand was to build the madrasah on the Great Silk Road so that Turkmen caravans of the merchants from Merv, Kesh, Karakul and Alat could easily find the way to the building where they could find shelter and relax. The second was to make every visitor of the madrassah understand that the people who lived in different parts of the world had only one sky above and stood equal before God, the One and Only.

    Although Chor-Minor is called a ‘madrassah’ in guidebooks, in reality it is only a chartak- main entrance to the madrassah, whereas the rest of the complex has not survived. However, we can envision the initial appearance of the madrassah thanks to descriptions made by the contemporaries as well as to archeological research. Under the dome there was a hexahedral hall with four exits, facing east, west, north and south. The four minarets symbolize not only four directions but also four dynasties of Bukhara rulers: the Samanids, Karakhanids, Sheibanids and Mangyts. Right under the dome and over the hall is a library with open loggias; from the library one can get inside the minarets.

    In the middle of the round-cornered rectangular yard surrounded by two-storied hujra-cells there was a pool paved with marble stairs. In the eastern part of the yard there was a mosque with a wooden 9-pillar ayvan. In the north an inn with stables adjoined the building of the madrassah.

    Today Chor-Minor madrassah is surrounded by modern apartment houses. But it towers over them as if reminding the people the old Niyazkul-Bek’s maxim: ‘Everybody stands equal before God”.


  • Flight tickets

    Uzbekistan Airways - Uzbek Airlines

    Uzbekistan AirwaysThe national airline "Uzbekiston Havo Yullari" connects major cities of the country with the capital. Check out domestic flights and request ticket booking. Also, the page provides Uzbekistan Airways international flight schedules mainly made from and to Tashkent; some Russian cities are connected with other cities of Uzbekistan too.

    Uzbekistan Airways Local Flights

    Andijan (AZN) Bukhara (BHK) Fergana (FEG), (BHK) Fergana (FEG)
    Karshi (KSQ) Namangan (NMA) Navoi (NVI) Nukus (NCU)
    Samarkand (SKD) Termez (TMJ) Urgench (UGC)  
  • Islam-Hojja Minaret


    Islam Hojja Madrassah and Minaret is a peculiar architectural complex. The madrassah features a large domed hall and 42 hujras (rooms for students). Next to the madrassah there stands Uzbekistan’s highest minaret. The history preserved the name of its architect – Usto Khudaibergen Hojji.

    Islam Hojja Minaret is a huge brick tower, circular in section. Being 56 metres in height, it surpasses the Kalyan minaret in Bukhara. The perimeter of its base is almost 12 metres. The minaret considerably tapers to the top, which makes it look slender and strong. The minaret tower is crowned with open-work lantern with graceful cornice and a small dome with golden top. The minaret trunk is beautifully decorated with ornamental white and blue glazed ceramic bands alternating with figured setting of polished bricks. Islam Hojja Minaret is a matter of pride for Khiva citizens. It dominates Khiva and is visible everywhere in the ancient city, making it difficult for a tourist to be lost.

    Those who fancy panoramic views from the top of the minaret will have to clamber 175 steps of steep winding staircase, from time to time helping themselves with both hands and feet. But all these efforts will seem really rewarding once you are atop of the minaret: a breathtaking panorama of oriental city from a fairy tale, green cotton fields practically approaching the walls of the ancient city, and in the distance, a row of sandy dunes dimly shimmering in the torrid haze. Around the minaret there are numerous detached flat-roofed adobe houses, a labyrinth of narrow winding streets, the towers of the minarets and the domes of the mosques sparkling in the sunshine, meandering chain of the ancient city outer wall.

    The construction of the madrassah and the minaret was completed in 1910 and it became the last large-scale architectural complex of Khiva khans.

  • Juma Mosque and its Minaret


    The main Friday-prayer Juma Mosque stands out among numerous Khiva’s mosques as having a design distinct from other Central Asian structures of its kind. Contrary to the tradition, it has no high portals, entrance arches and domes. It’s a one-story building surrounded by a solid blank wall with three doors. This design can be explained by the fact that during its construction in the early 18th century, the architects tried to carefully preserve the design characteristics of the former structure – the ancient mosque of the 10th century.

    The main entrance of the mosque faces the only straight Khiva’s street, which runs from Kunya-Ark Citadel. The entrance has a fretted wooden door, whose age exceeds 700 years. Its archaic patterns, quite different from the intricate vegetal patterns which by the 18th century were brought to perfection, can serve a good example of the medieval Khorezmian craftsmen’s mastership.

    The real treasure of Juma Mosque is its praying hall, which is 45x55 meters in area. Its beam ceiling is supported by 212 pillars whose height varies from four to five meters. They also vary in form and decoration. It might be said that this hall is a kind of museum of Khiva’s wood works of the 10th – 18th century. Twenty-five of the pillars were made not later than in the 10th century. Another several tens of them can be dated to the 11th – 14th centuries due to their decoration style and Arabic calligraphy. The pillars of the 16th century, judging from the inscriptions on them, were decorated with flat relief patterns imitating the style of the earlier masters.

    Juma Mosque “inherited” some of its pillars from the earlier Friday-prayer mosque on whose site Juma Mosque was built. Some were brought from battlefields as trophies. Every pillar is remarkable not only for its fine carvings and richness of ornament but also for its harmonious proportions and original design of the lower part made in the form of a jug with blooming shoots of a flower.

    In the centre of the southern wall there is a mikhrab niche. Through the openings in the ceiling, light gets into the semi-dark hall creating a unique interplay of light and shadow and highlighting various parts of pillars: a column shaft, its head or its base.

    Simultaneously with the construction of Juma Mosque next to it there was built a minaret. Though not being Khiva’s tallest minaret, it is the city’s earliest construction of such type. Its tapering brick trunk has seven narrow belts made of small turquoise bricks. The minaret is topped with a stalactite belt with a small blue dome. Juma Mosque and its minaret can serve a landmark of the old town’s center Ichan-Kala and the best start for the sight seeing of Khiva.

  • Kalta-Minor Minaret


    In Khiva there are up to 50 mosques and almost as many minarets. These towers, creating a fanciful and scenic townscape, seem to step to the modern life directly from the Middle Ages. The most extraordinary among them, at least in respect of its shape, is Kalta-Minor minaret, which means “short tower”

    In the middle of the 19th century ambitious ruler Mukhammad-Aminkhan conceived the idea of building the biggest madrassah with adjoining minaret which had to become the tallest tower not only in Khiva but also in the whole Central Asia. It had to achieve 70 metres in height. It must be said that by that time many minarets had exceeded the dimensions practical for such kind of constructions. In like manner the new tower was intended to show the might and eminence of the Khiva khan. But the minaret remained incomplete. The local legend says that emir of Bukhara, having heard about the ‘tallest’ minaret planned for Khiva, secretly made a deal with the architect to construct another giant minaret in Bukhara. When the khan of Khiva learnt about this treachery of the court architect, he commanded the architect be thrown from the minaret. For fear of being executed, no-one ever dared to complete the minaret.

    From historical data, however, it is known that in 1855 Makhammad-Aminkhan started military campaign against the nomadic tribes, but his army was defeated and the ruler himself withdrew from the battlefield and never returned to his estate. By this time the construction of the madrassah had been completed. As to the minaret it was only 26 metres high with 14.2 metres in diameter at its base. It was decided to stop the works for the time being; but eventually they stopped forever.

    Mukhammad-Aminkhan’s successor was short of money to sponsor the construction of the minaret and the project ended prematurely. Thus the minaret was renamed Kalta-Minor, meaning ‘short’ tower. But the citizens got used to the unusual silhouette of the minaret. The best craftsmen decorated the huge short-cut cone with blue-and-green glazed tiles. In the middle the minaret is intersected with three wide ornamental bands. The selection of decorative patterns makes the minaret look a completed structure – an original creation of ancient architects. Kalta-Minor minaret has become the symbol of Khiva and one of its main landmarks.

  • Kalyan Minaret


    On approaching Bukhara, travelers can see far in the distance Kalayn Minaret, towering over hardly noticeable buildings of Bukhara. In the Middle Ages the caravans that traveled hundreds of miles along the Great Silk Road used the minaret as a landmark, which is natural enough as the word ‘minaret’ is derived from Arabic minora, meaning ‘lighthouse’. In wartime, from the top of the minaret the guards watched the movements of the enemies in the vicinity of the town.

    Right after Islam was established in Bukhara in 713, there was built a mosque and a minaret at the foot of the fortress. Early in the 12th century, during the rule of Arslankhan of the Karakhanids Dynasty, the mosque was relocated to urban area, at a distance from the fortress, the old minaret was taken apart, and instead a new minaret was erected opposite the southern flank of shakhristan. The minaret had to reflect the greatness of the town and the piety of its ruler. However, this new ‘beautifully made’ minaret collapsed shortly after: it fell on the main mosque and almost completely destroyed it. The decision was made then to build a mosque and a minaret not to be excelled by any others what so ever.

    In 1127 the architect Bako laid foundations of the minaret for which he used bricks and mortar made of gunch-plaster mixed with camel milk. Then he left the town and returned only two years later, when the foundations had become as hard as stone. On these foundations he built the minaret later called Kalyan, which means ‘Great’. Made of baked bricks, this giant is about 47 meters tall with a base going underground at the depth of 10 meters. The strong, slightly tapered body of the minaret is topped with a cylindrical rotunda gallery having 16 arched windows. At its socle the minaret is 9 metres in diameter, while the diameter of its upper part at the base of the rotunda is 6 meters. The lower part of the rotunda is decorated with stalactites. Originally the height of the minaret was 50 meters; on the rotunda there was another section, of which only the central rod remains.

    All over the surface the minaret is covered with ornamental bands of brickwork and turquoise glazed tilework. One of the lower bands contains the inscription with the year of the completion of the construction and the name of Arslankhan, Bukhara’s ruler. The upper frieze, which was lost during the restoration works, had the name of the architect Bako. The local people can show you his grave among the houses of the nearby mahalla-neighborhood. The minaret doorway is at a height of 5 meters. An arched bridge from the roof of Kalayn Mosque leads to this doorway. Inside the minaret there is a steep winding staircase with 105 stone steps leading to the rotunda. From the top you can have a marvelous view of old Bukhara townscape. In the past four azanchi-muezzins used to call for the five-time prayers; their voices could be heard in the very distant quarters of the town.

    Together with Friday-prayer Kalyan Mosque and Miri-Arab Madrassah, built nearby, the minaret outlines the central square of Old Bukhara. The square is called Poi Kalyan, which means ‘The Foot of the Great One’.

    The grand minaret has been standing there for almost nine centuries. Neither natural nor political disasters have been able to shake it. In various times in the past it was used as a watchtower and a lighthouse. It was also used for capital punishment, which was why the local people called it ‘Death Tower’.

    The harmony of forms, exquisite ornamental geometrical patterns of the brickwork and majolica on the body of the minaret make it really bewitching. The legendary Kalyan Minaret is an outstanding architectural monument, a striking example of medieval Oriental engineering; its silhouette has for a long time been the symbol of Blessed Bukhara.

  • Kalyan Mosque


    Friday-prayer Kalyan Mosque is one of the ancient buildings of Poi-Kalyan Square. The chief mosque of any Muslim town is not just a temple but is also a public life center. But Bukhara’s chief Friday-prayer mosque, which was built after Islam had been established in the town, had really no luck. It was repeatedly relocated, a couple of times its roof collapsed, killing the praying people inside. Only when during the rule of the Karakhanides it was built next to Kalyan Minaret, the mosque seemed to have taken its proper place destined by Allah himself. The mosque then got the name Kalyan, after the minaret.

    Early in the 16th century on the site of the old ramshackle mosque they began to build a new mosque. Of the 12th-century construction there remained only the lower parts of the walls made of bow bricks. It was the second, after Bibi-Khanum, largest mosque in Movarounnahr: it could accommodate 12000 people. The mastery of the architects is particularly amazing. The building has seven doorways to freely let in a large number of people. Each of the four sides of the mosque has a huge portal. The main of them, facing east, has very rich ornamental decoration. Below its arch you can see the inscription in Arabic characters with the date Kalyan Mosque was constructed: 1514. The portal stands on an elevation; several stairs inside lead to a large courtyard. On the opposite wall, under a huge peshtak, is mikhrab niche, facing Mecca. The ornamental mosaic in the mikhrab still bears the name of the master: Bayazid al Purani. Two large blue domes indicate the location of the praying niche.

    In the courtyard of the mosque Bukhara architect Usto Shirin Murodov built an octahedral pavilion in 1915. It stands over the grave of one of the first imams of the mosque. Along the perimeter of the courtyard there are deep galleries covered with 288 little domes supported by 208 strong pillars. The colonnade makes the courtyard look even larger and creates the feeling of solemn piety. One of the domes of the gallery has an opening, through which Kalyan Minaret can be clearly seen. While looking through it and taking a step after a step, one can count all the bands of the decorative brickwork of the minaret and finally see its rotunda. On the other hand, standing with your back to the mikhrab, straight ahead one can see the huge peshtak of Miri Arab Madrassah, rising from behind the opposite portal of the mosque. Thus in a peculiar way three main buildings make an architectural ensemble of Poi Kalyan Square.


  • Khazrat-Imam Mausoleum


    Next to the memorial complex of Dorus-Saodat there stands one more monumental construction of the Temurids’ time – Khazrat-Imam Mausoleum. Imam Muhammad Ben Khusein Sheybani nicknamed Khazrat (Saint) Imam Baghdadi lived in Iraq in the 13th – beginning of the 14th century and after death he was buried in the city of Ray. In 1384 Amir Temur seized the city without meeting any resistance on the part of its residents and most likely he took the mortal remains of the imam to Shakhrisabz, though this fact has not been testified by historical documents so far. Nevertheless, the north-western burial vault is referred to by local people as Mausoleum of Hazrat-Imam – “the Great Imam”.

    Apparently on the site of Khazrat-Imam Mausoleum there once was a building, subsequently destroyed, in whose thick corner pylons the mausoleum was built in. Conical forms of tent-like dome, the base and other architectural elements evidence the participation of architects from Khoresm in the construction of the Mausoleum. The main portal decorated with huge pylon is oriented westward to face the Dorut-Tillavat ensemble. The pylon is covered with mosaics of glazed bricks. The most remarkable peculiarity of the Mausoleum is its top consisting of three domes. The inner dome covered with ganch stalactites serves a decorative function. Above this dome there is a load-bearing structural dome supported by the arched pendentives. The third tent-like dome resting on the faceted drum rises to a height of 27 metres. The eastern part of the mausoleum still bear clear traces of two-storey extentions and walls – the ruins of a construction that has not survived.

    Through the door in the eastern niche one can enter the inside of the mausoleum. In this small but rather high hall there is a tombstome – sagana. A niche for praying – mihrab is set in the western wall.

    The northern façade decorated with multicoloured majolica faces the spacious yard where in the later period, in the mid-19th century, there was constructed Khazrat-Imam domed mosque right against the mausoleum. From here the entrance at the corner leads to zeiratkhona (commemoration room). To the northern wall of the mausoleum there was built on a high polychromic avian with carved wooden coloums. Today this is an active mosque to conduct prayer service, and prayers are offered up for the peace of the souls of great ancestors buried in this mausoleum.


  • Kibla Tozabog – Khiva Khan's summer residence


    In Khiva time has spared about 50 ancient madrassahs and just a few khans’ palaces. All of them are of certain interest to tourists since they vividly show the architectural tendencies characteristic of Khorezm over several centuries. It was Khan Muhammad Rakhim II, «a poet on the throne», known in Uzbek Literature as Firuz, who initiated the construction of Kibla Tozabog summer residence with its orchards and flower gardens.

    The complex is an amazing combination of traditional Khiva architecture that took shape in the Middle Ages, and new Europeanized architectural techniques. A typical hauli country estate of a rich Khiva resident became the prototype of Kibla Tozabog. Such an estate looks like a small fort. Even today these hauli estates can be found in the suburbs of Khiva and Urgench. Their architecture developed many centuries ago and was intended for protecting the residents from numerous brigands as well as from the scorching sun. The castellated wall of a hauli usually has an adobe turret at each of the four corners and a turret on either side of the gate. Inside there is a large yard with fruit trees and grapevines, and several dwelling structures.

    Kibla Tozabog has a castellated wall, too. The wall is made of pakhsa adobe blocks. It has semicircular buttress turrets resembling watchtowers of ancient fortified settlements. The entrance passage which leads to the residence is blocked by huge gate decorated with carvings. Inside a visitor is met by the greenery of the lawns and leaf rustling of century-old trees.

    The palace had a few ceremonial reception halls, living rooms, and a treasury. Following the local traditions the façade of the one-storey palace has ayvan terraces and deep loggias with tympanums and small side towers. Along the perimeter of the palace runs blue mosaic belt; it goes round the towers and fills the tympanums. As though conflicting with oriental architectural traditions, the walls of the palace have tall windows, positioned at the height of 50 centimeters from the floor. In the ceremonial halls of the palace Khiva’s traditional carvings and patterned paintings commingle with chandeliers and fireplaces. Such a loyalty to new architectural ideas is characteristic of Khiva’s estates of the late 19th – early 20th centuries. It also testifies to the policy Khan Muhammad Rakhim II, an enlightened monarch, pursued: to get closer to the West while preserving local traditions.

    Kibla Tozabog became a paradise-like place thanks to its well-groomed gardens, shady ayvan structures, where it is pleasantly cool even in hot summer days, and comfortable dwelling structures. Today it accommodates a health center where one can nicely spend weekend and taste the dishes of Khorezmian cuisine: pilaf, mampar, and the exquisite dish of the khans - tukhum-barak.

  • Kok-Gumbaz Mosque


    In 1435 in Dorut-Tillavat that stands opposite Shamsiddin Kulol Mausoleum there was constructed Kok-Gumbaz Mosque – the biggest cathedral Friday mosque in Shakhrisabz. The inscription on the portal announces that themosque was constructed by Ulugbek on behalf of his father Shakhruh.

    Kok-Gumbaz Mosque was built on the foundation of pre-Mongol construction. It is interesting that while building the mosque the architects adhered to the original layout of the ancient construction. Adjacent to the mosque there once were summer galleries. Of them survived are the bases of square pylons that supported arches overlapped with numerous small domes. Thick pylons of the eastern portal were decorated with ornamental patterns, whereas its tympanum (semi-circular decorative wall surface over an entrance) was covered with mosaic girikh star pattern typical of Ulugbek’s times. On the portal there survived an inscription in Arabic script: “This cathedral mosque on elevation is the most splendid… it has a big dome. This dome stands out in Shakhrisabz as blue sky above the green city”. In the pylons of the main portal there were built winding stairs leading to the roof. The tower-guldasta resembling a small minaret flanks the buttresses of the pylons. Its lower part is faced with marble whereas its top is crowned by a capital covered with majolica. The northern and southern facades have open passageways which lerad inside the mosque.

    The building of the mosque is crowned by a huge dome covered with blue ceramic tiles. Hence the name of the mosque – Kok Gumbaz which means “Blue Dome” A Kufic inscription containing the ayats (verses) from Qur’anic sura “Victory”. Above this inscription there runs a blue band with terracotta ornaments against which another inscription is laid with white glazed tiles: “Sovereignty belongs to Allah, wealth belongs to Allah”.

    The internal space of Kok-Gumbaz Mosque is nearly square in its layout and has four deep niches carefully oriented to the cardinal points. A mihrab (indication of the direction of Mecca) is set in the western niche filled with ganch stalactites. The whole wall surface was covered with ganch stucco and painted with intricate dark and light blue ornaments. For centuries, Kok-Gumbaz Mosque was the principal cathedral mosque of Shakhrisabz. As early as Ulugbek’s time, to the east from the mosque there appeared a mazar (cemertery) where were buried the nobility and clergy from Barlas clan which the Temurids belonged to. Here, on the marble tombs one can find the names of military leaders who took part in the campaigns of Shakhruh and Ulugbek.


  • Kunya-Ark Citadel


    Kunya-Ark Citadel (‘Old Citadel’) abuts on Khiva’s fortification wall next to Ata-Darvoza gate. The citadel is the oldest remaining khan’s residence in Khiva. It occupies a large area by the western wall of Ichan-Kala (‘Inner Town’). The citadel was built in 1686 by order of Arang-Khan. It accommodated various fortifications, a gunpowder factory, an arsenal, a khan’s palace, a court and some other structures.

    The citadel was built not on a blank piece of land; it evidently stands on the ruins of earlier structures. The archeological excavations carried out on the territory of the citadel revealed a block of dwelling houses and craftsmen’s shops with remains of ceramics and coins of the 13th – 15th centuries. Kunya-Ark complex was built up within a few centuries, and was completed by the mid-19th century. Around its small yards, connected to each other, there are a lot of administrative and dwelling houses. In front of Kunya-Ark is a square where khan’s troops used to train and parade. The square also served as a place of execution. The citadel was surrounded by fortification walls with a tower gate surrounded the citadel. To the left of the gate there was guardroom, stables, storage facilities, and repair shops. A long narrow corridor led inside the citadel right from the gate...

    What survived to the present day are the domed building of the mint and winter and summer mosques. Among the fine painted patterns on the ceiling and relief majolica on the walls of the summer mosque there are the names of its chief constructors: masters Ibadullah and Abdullah. The khan’s palace was situated in the northern part of Kunya-Ark. Of the former splendour there remained only kurinish-khona – a large hall for official receptions built under Allakuli-Khan. It is rather a yard than a hall, shut off the rest of the palace by an adobe wall. Once there stood a throne on a tall roofed ayvan platform. The wooden pillars on marble pedestals are decorated with carvings, whereas the wall and the ceiling have majolica with elegant decorative patterns. Kurinish-khona also had khan’s treasury and a library with a collection of rare manuscripts.

    Later, in the second half of the 19th century, when Muhammad Rakhim-Khan became the lord of Kunya-Ark, next to the palace there appeared a harem. The harem was a two-story building with an inner yard and a pool. For khan’s wives and concubines there were a lot of richly decorated chambers and living rooms in the harem.

    Behind the cogged walls of Kunya-Ark, shutting it off the rest of the world, for centuries the city lived its ordinary life of an Oriental town with minarets, mosques and madrassahs. It was only in the 20th century that the gate of Old Citadel was opened to the world.