Bukhara Tourist Attractions


Bukhara (also spelled Bukhoro, Buxoro, Buchara, Bokhara, Buhara) is over 2,500 years old and seems to be emanating the breath of history. According to the Iranian Encyclopedia, the name of the city came from the Sogdian for ‘lucky place’; it is also said to derive from the Sanskrit for ‘temple’. Bukhara is one of the world’s seven holy cities of Islam. It was a large religious center in the Middle Ages, with over 350 mosques and 80 madrasahs (Islamic colleges), many of which survive. All the streets in Bukhara lead to the central historic complex Lyab-i Hauz (also spelled Lyab-i Khauz, Lyabi Khauz, Lyabi Hauz), where besides magnificent architectural monuments by a hauz pond a number of cozy restaurants and teahouses are located. Among the numerous attractions in Bukhara stand out the famous Kalyan Minaret (also Minorai Kalon, Minara-i Kalan), the impressive ancient Ark Fortress, functioning medieval bathhouses and domed shopping arcades. There over 140 architectural monuments in the city!

Lyab-I Hauz Architectural Ensemble

Lyab-i Hauz Ensemble (also spelled Lyab-i Khauz, Lyabi Hauz, Lyabi Khauz) is probably the most popular Bukhara tourist attraction, often used as a rest stop, thanks to its grandness, tranquility and old age. Lyab-i Hauz is located in the southeast shakhristan (the part of the city within the city walls but outside the citadel) near the main Bukhara trade street. Built in the 16th - 17th centuries, Lyab-i Hauz Ensemble is still one of the major Bukhara squares. It has a large artificial pond with Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah, Nadir Divan-Beghi Khanaka, both built in 1622, and Kukeldash Madrasah built in 1568 on the three sides of it. Lyab-i Hauz means ‘by a pond’.

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Nadir Divan-Beghi Architectural Ensemble

Nadir Divan-Beghi Madrasah was built in 1622. It is located in the eastern part of the Lyab-i Hauz Square. The vizier had initially planned and constructed the building as a caravanserai but Imam Quli-Khan unexpectedly called it a madrasah at the opening ceremony. That was why they had to build on the portal, façade side towers, loggias, and the second floor with hujra cells for students to stay in. The main feature of the madrasah is its absence of a classroom; they just did not build it on. The portal is decorated with two mosaic pictures of the mythical flying creature Simorgh (also spelled simurgh, simurg, simoorg or simourv) holding fallow deer with its claws and heading towards the sun.

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Po-i-Kalyan Complex

The architectural complex Po-i-Kalyan (also Poi Kalyan) is the central Bukhara tourist attraction located in the main Registan Square. Po-i-Kalyan, ‘the foot of the great’, consists of three structures built in the 12th - 16th centuries: Kalyan Minaret, Kalyan Mosque and Mir-i Arab Madrasah. Kalyan Minaret, the symbol of the city, is the oldest of them. It is almost 9 centuries old, and it has never been restored. Built of fired bricks only, it was erected in 1127 by order of Arslan-Khan of the Karakhanids (also spelled Qarakhanids). The minaret is 46.5 meters in height; its diameter at the base is 9 meters.

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Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah

Built in 1652, a few centuries later than Ulugh-Beg Madrasah (built in 1417), Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah, which stands across from it, is an integral part of Bukhara’s most outstanding architectural ensemble. Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah marks the remarkable progress of medieval Central Asian architecture; it shows us how amazingly high the skills of Central Asian architects, builders and artists were at the time. Abdulaziz-Khan Madrasah is often compared with Ulugh-Beg Madrasah, since they are a duet of completely different structures of different times. Ulugh-Beg Madrasah, built during the reign of the Timurid dynasty, is moderate in size and decoration, while its counterpart is grand and ornate.

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Kukeldash Madrasah

In Bukhara, near the famous historical complex Lyab-i Hauz, the well-known architectural monument Kukeldash Madrasah is located (built in 1568 - 1569). It is the largest Bukhara madrasah and one of the largest ones in Central Asia. It was built during the reign of Abdullah-Khan II and was funded by Bukhara governor Kulbab who ruled the city under several khans and managed to maintain good relations with all of them. For his close relationship with the khans the governor was given the title Kukeldash, which was one of the highest standings in the khan’s court and meant ‘a milk brother’. Later the madrasah was named after him.

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Ulugbek Madrasah

Ulugbek (also spelled Ulugh Beg, Ulughbeg, Ulugh-Beg), Tamerlane’s grandson, was an enlightened and intellectual ruler. He was very much concerned with development of science in his large kingdom. Besides the well-known madrasah in the Registan Square in Samarkand and the madrasah in Gijduvan (Uzbek: G"ijduvon; also spelled Gizhduvan), he ordered that one be built in conservative and strict Bukhara, the Islamic capital of Central Asia, in the hope the city would become a center of science and education as well. Ulugbek Madrasah in Bukhara was for a long time followed as an example by builders of Islamic schools in other Central Asian cities.

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The Ark Fortress

The Ark Fortress is one of the most interesting Bukhara historic buildings. Its foundations were laid in the 4th - 3rd centuries BCE. The fortress has been, of course, several times destroyed and rebuilt. Until 1920 it had served as Bukhara rulers’ residence. The fortress stands on an artificial hill of up to 20 meters in height. The approximate area of the site is 4.2 hectares. The architects of the fortress planned to make it polygonal. According to legend, the base of the fortress had seven pillars set up as to the locations of the Great Bear brightest stars. The say the builders succeeded in constructing the walls of the fortress only when they put the base pillars in this order.

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Chashmah-Ayyub Mausoleum

Chashmah-Ayyub Mausoleum (also spelled Chashma-Ayub) is a cult historic building with a sacred spring in the center of Bukhara. It was named after the saint Ayyub, known as Job in the Bible. According to legend, the people who lived where Bukhara grew afterwards were dying of thirst, for water had left the area. When they saw Job wandering there, they asked him to help. Job hit the ground with his staff, thus opening a spring with clean and healing water. The local people still believe the spring water is healing.

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Ismail Samani Mausoleum

Ismail Samani Mausoleum (also the Samanid Mausoleum), one of the oldest Bukhara historic buildings, is located at the site of an ancient cemetery in Samanid Park near the Registan Square. They believe it was built at the end of the 10th century. Ismail Samani was the founder of the Samanid dynasty, which ruled from 875 to 999. There is evidence proving that he built the mausoleum for Ahmad ibn Assad, his father. The mausoleum became a family sepulcher later where Ismail Samani himself was buried, and so was his grandson. Besides its beauty, the mausoleum is famous for being the oldest Islamic architectural monument in Central Asia.

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Bukhara Domed Shopping Arcades

In the 16th с the Shaybanid dynasty came to power in Central Asia. They conquered Bukhara and designated it as their capital. Since then the city began flourishing, with a lot of construction projects initiated. The taki domed shopping arcades built in those times became the symbol of Bukhara and its significance as a Silk Road city. The arcades were built at busy crossroads and were means of controlled and convenient trade. An arcade had a large dome with shopping stalls and handicraftsmen’s shops. Today only four of those domed arcades survive and function.

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Chor-Minor Madrasah

Chor-Minor Madrasah (‘madrasah of four minarets’) is located in the northeast of Bukhara. The four minarets of the madrasah symbolize the four cardinal points. The madrasah features elegant and nontraditional shapes; it is not large and yet looks grand. It was built in 1807 at the instigation of a rich Turkmen merchant, a horse and carpet trader Caliph Niyazkul-Beg. According to historical records, after visiting The Taj Mahal in India Caliph Niyazkul-Beg developed a strong desire to build something like this fascinating building back in his kingdom.

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Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace

Located at a distance of 4 km from Bukhara to the north, Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace was the countryside residence of Bukhara emirs just a short time ago. In comparison with the rest of Bukhara, the climate in the palace is different: it is never hot there on even the hottest days. Such effect was reached thanks to the ancient method of locating the sites for important buildings. They put sheep carcasses at the likely construction sites and opted for the one whose carcass had least decomposed. The foundations of the palace were laid by order of Akhad-Khan late in the 19th c, but the construction of the main part of it was completed during the reign of the next khan, Muzaffar-Khan.

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Bolo Hauz Complex

Registan - a central city square - was a typical part of all the Central Asian cities. Bukhara had its Registan, too; it was located across from The Ark Fortress. There were a lot of public buildings in the square: mosques and trade chambers; an administrative office and a hospital. However, only one of Registan structures has survived into the present. It is Bolo Hauz Complex. Its construction began in the 17th сentury at the instigation of the Bukhara emir Shahmurad. He wanted to show his people he was not different from an ordinary man and decided to build a public mosque he himself was going to visit for Friday prayers.

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Baha-ud-din Naqshband Complex

At a distance of 12 km from Bukhara there is a memorial complex of the Islamic saint Baha-ud-Din Naqshband (also spelled Bakhautdin Nakshbandi), the famous Asian philosopher and Sufi. The complex is a Muslim shrine where pilgrims from all the parts of the Islamic world come. Once the village Kasri Orifon was located at the site of the complex. It was famous for its pagan holidays and ancient customs… Baha-ud-Din Naqshband lived in 1318 - 1389. He founded a Sufi order, which was later named Naqshbandi (also spelled Naqshbandiyyah, Naksibendi, Naksbandi, Nakshbandi) after him.

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Hajji Zainuddin Complex

Bukhara was famous for its architectural masterpieces throughout world as long ago as the Middle Ages. One of them is the architectural complex of Hajji Zainuddin dating from the 16th c, located in a residential area in the center of Bukhara. The complex consists of a khanaka (also spelled khanqah, khaniqah, khanqa, khaneqa, khanegah or khaneqah) Sufi hospice and monastery, and a hauz pond. Hajji Zainuddin khanaka is also a mosque. In its central building with a dome they prayed, held Sufi religious ceremonies and even sang to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

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Medieval Hammam Bathhouses

The medieval hammam bath complexes are a special Bukhara attraction. They were built in the 16th с and became an integral part of the cultural and architectural panorama of the city. Visiting bathhouses was the favorite leisure activity of people in all the cities in Central Asia and beyond. The famous Central Asian historian Narshakhi who lived in the 10th с wrote in his book Narshakhi’s Notes that going to bathhouses was a custom. According to him, a few bath facilities functioned in Bukhara in his time already, Hammam Khan (‘khan’s bathhouse’) was the most popular of them. By the mid-19th с there were 16 bathhouses in Bukhara, and Tashkent and Samarkand had about 10 each.

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Chor-Bakr Memorial Complex

The unique Chor-Bakr Memorial Complex (‘memorial complex of four brothers’) is located at a distance of five kilometers southwest of Bukhara in the village of Sumitan. They began building it during the reign of the Samanids as long ago as the 16th c. It is also called Town of the Dead, and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The village of Sumitan was given as a property domain to Juybari sheikhs during the reign of the first Uzbek Shaybanid dynasty. The first and the main grave the necropolis of the complex began to grow was Abu Bakr Saad’s, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

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Khodja-Gaukushan Architectural Ensemble

Khodja-Gaukushan is one of the largest architectural ensembles of old Bukhara, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The name of the ensemble is quite interesting; it means ‘killing bulls’ because of its location: it stands on the site that had been a butchery before it was constructed. The ensemble in Gaukushan Square was built upon an initiative of the Djuybar sheikh Khodja Saad nicknamed Khodja Kalon who the first part of the name of the ensemble came after. The ensemble consists of a madrasah and a mosque with a minaret tower which is behind only Kalyan Minaret in height.

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Talipach Gate

Although Talipach Gate served as a tax collection spot a long time ago, and numerous caravans from the north have long since entered Bukhara through it, it is still one of the main Bukhara symbols. Talipach Gate is the surviving Bukhara northern gate, which was built in the 16th с as part of the city’s fortifications during the reign of Abdullah-Khan I. The defensive walls that connected the 11 Bukhara gates do not survive. Talipach Gate are now located in the very middle of the city, among residential houses and orchards. Besides this gate, Karakul Gate of the same design still survives.

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Varakhsha Site

The site of ancient settlement Varakhsha dating from the 4th с BCE - 11th с BC is located at a distance of 40 km from Bukhara to the west. Varakhsha was the residence site of Bukharkhudat dynasty, which reigned before the Arab conquest. Varakhsha was approximately 100 hectares in area. It was a major trade center on the road between Bukhara and Khorezm, an important western military frontier post, and cultural and political center of Bukhara oasis. Varakhsha played a big part in the fight with the Arabs; the brave local population successfully resisted them in many battles.

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Paykend Site

Bukhara oasis is famous for its ancient historic sites. One of them is the ancient town Paykend (also spelled Paikent), which dates back to the 4th с BCE - 12th с BC. It is located at the lower course of the Zarafshan River, at a distance of 60km from Bukhara to the southwest. Paykend developed from a group of settlements in around the 4th - 2nd с BCE as a town with fortresses and other fortifications. It was 20 hectares in area. There stood a square citadel in the center, with a palace and administrative buildings inside and a residential area outside it. A strong defensive wall surrounded the town.

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Kagan Palace

The conquest of Central Asia by the Russian Empire brought about another significant stage in the development of the local architecture. Among the first notable structures of the new type was the palace of the emir Sayyid Abd-al-Ahad in the city of Kagan. The Russian Empire tried to quickly connect its new lands with its center with modern trade roads. Building railroads was the best way to carry out this task at the time. Kagan was initially planned to be a village for railway employees, named New Bukhara. It was built as a service center of Zakaspiyskaya Railroad in 1888 at a distance of 16 km from Bukhara.

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Kyz-Bibi Women’s Sufi Khanaka Convent

There is a unique architectural complex named Kyz-Bibi between the oases and the desert a 30-minute ride from Bukhara. It was built by order of the vizier Sadik-Khan in honor of a woman called Mastura-Khanym, also known as Kyz-Bibi. She was a Sufi, and once she just disappeared from her hujra cell. The locals believe that her spirit still lives in the convent and protects it. According to a legend, they wanted to marry her against her will but she hid in the desert to avoid such sad future and stayed there as a hermit. Soon she discovered a gift for healing and helped infertile women.

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Magoki-Attori Mosque

Magoki-Attori Mosque (‘a mosque in a pit’), located in the center of Bukhara, is one of the oldest city’s mosques. It dates back to 9th c. Early in the Common Era there was a fire temple with Lunar Bazaar where the mosque is now. They sold spices and herbs at the bazaar, and figurines of Zoroastrian fertility deities during the Persian New Year holiday Nowruz. When Islam came to region, they destroyed the temple and built a mosque at the site of it. During archaeological excavations in the 20th c they determined that the first mosque was built at the site in the 9th c.

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Faizabad Khanaka

At the end of the 16th с a khanaka mosque for wandering Sufi dervishes was built in Bukhara, near the place called Faizabad (khanaka - also spelled khanqah, khaniqah, khanqa, khaneqa, khanegah or khaneqah - is a Sufi hospice and monastery). The building was constructed by the famous Sufi Mavlono Poyanda-Muhammad Ahsi Faizobodi. It was originally named Shokhi Ahsi; later they renamed it in honor of its constructor. The building has a mosque part and a khanaka part with three floors of cells where dervishes could take a rest and stay for a while.

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Nugay Caravanserai

Among a great deal of sights, which decorate beautiful Bukhara, it is necessary to mention Nugay caravanserai in particular. This unique construction was founded in XVI century, when Muhammed Rakhimbiy Khan ruled here. Nugay, which is currently one of the most famous historical places in Bukhara, is located in the very heart of the old town. It stands near to the trade dome of Toki-Sarrafon and the House of Bukhara merchant. At those times building of caravanserais was an ordinary thing, and their meaning for single travelers and the whole caravans was really considerable.

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Golden-Embroidered Factory

During many centuries Bukhara was famous not only for its architectural monuments, sacred places, but was also a center of embroidery art and, in particular, its rare kind of golden embroidery. From ancient times masters worked just right here, decorating with patters of golden threads clothes, shoes, head dresses and interior design items, which later found their owners in governors and their entourage.

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