It’s been about two months since I left Uzbekistan, but I can’t think of a place I’ve been that I’ve expected so little from that offered so much. As a Trinidadian, the idea of vast mosque complexes, rugged terrain and amazing food would be something that I would expect in the much more well known Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran etc … but not Uzbekistan. As for Bukhara, it’s one of the holiest places of Islam and was one of the key stops along the Silk Route. In the Middle Ages, when the region was at its zenith, scholars travelled from all over the Islamic world to study here, including two giants of Persian culture, Ibn Sina and Firdausi. Once you’re in Bukhara, there is so much to do and see, that making a decision on where to go can lead to mental paralysis.
Thankfully, I brought along a list of all major sights in the city. There are a lot of mausoleums, mosques and madrassahs. In fact, there are so many, that you’ll have to spend two full days wandering around, if you wanted to see everything. In the end, I condensed my list into the following high level sights.
- Poi-Kalyan complex comprising of the Kalyan Minaret, Mir-i-Arab Madrassah and Kalyan Mosque
- Ark Fortress
- Mausoleums (4) :Naqshbandi, Boharzi, Chashma Ayub, Samanid,
- Madrassahs (6) : Chor Minor, Ulugbek, Djuiboriy Kalon, Gozien, Ensemble of Kosh-Madrassah, Labi-Hauz Ensemble
- Mosques (3) : Namazgokh, Balyand, Magoki-Attari
- Necropolis Chor-Bakr
- Gate Talipach
- Trading domes
- Sitorai Mohi-Khosa
- Ensemble of Khoja Gaukushan
- Khanqah Faizabad
Starting your time wandering around, I’d recommend that you visit the Poi-Kalyan complex per my list. There is a lot to see and if you’re a photographer, you’re going to spend a couple hours trying shoot from the different vantage points.
This isn’t going to be your typical Poi Kalyan photoblog … So once you’re at Poi Kalyan, then you’re going to see the Kalyan Minaret, which is one of the most famous sights of Bukhara. It towers over everything in the city – which is amazing since it was built in 1127AD (It is still the tallest minaret in East Asia!). In fact, when some random guy named Genghis Khan (I think he’s famous or something like that) passed through the city in 1220 – it was the only thing left standing. Local legend says that Genghis Khan was so awe struck with the exquisiteness of the tower that he specifically forbade its destruction. Here’s some facts about the Minaret – don’t say I didn’t provide some knowledge …
- Made of of burnt brick with plaster mortar
- Height of 45.6 metres
- Base diameter of of 9 meters which tapers to 6 meters.
- It is topped with sixteen-arched skylight rotunda and its entire height is decorated with 14 parallel bands none of which are repeated.
- The tower has a brick spiral staircase built around the central pillar and provides access to the rotunda.
After wandering around the Kalyan Minaret, you can also walk into the Amir Alim Khan Madrassah. It’s just a fantastic structure – the colours and detail make it impossible to take a poor photograph. It’s best to photograph in the afternoon, as the light will be at your back. This madrassah is still a working school, so unless you can chat with the guards at the door, you won’t be allowed in … doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures of all the detailing.
Inside the main portal of the Kalyan Mosque, it’s quite spartan and bare. Walking around, you will get some great vantage points of the entire complex and you can do a shadow/silhouette shot like the one I took below.
Once you walk out of the complex, you can wander over to the main wall to capture the city.