The Ark, Bukhara

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 30 September 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Ark is the Persian word for fortress, so this is the Ark of Bukhara.

The area in the foreground and out to the left is part of what was the Registan, an open area bustling with life and functioning as a market place, public square and execution ground.

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We have nine images of the outside walls.  The first six are taken with a Fuji 10-24mm lens (equivalent to 15-36mm in full frame) and they show perspective distortion.  Say you take a photograph of someone holding their fist out to the camera, you are very close to the fist and everything is in focus.  The fist would appear huge and the rest of the person very small.  So that is perspective distortion and it’s what we logically see, though our brain processes it to make more sense.  The the last three images are taken with a 12mm Samyang fisheye lens, so they go beyond that to also have fisheye distortion, though the last two are partially corrected.

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There has been a town here since maybe 500BC, though people were here before then and not much is known about that.  At that time it was part of the Persian Empire and was taken by Alexander the Great in 329BC. Over the years there was a succession of different invaders, often with devastating results for Bukhara.  It was part of the (Greek) Selucid Empire, the Kushan Empire, then the (Mongol) Hephalite Empire.  From 650 to 750AD, the Arabs slowly and intermittently took control, displacing Zoroastrianism and other religions with the Islam.  

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Then the Samanids took power in Bukhara in 892 and brought a restoration of Persian culture and language.  During the tenth century Bukhara was the capital of their empire, that at its peak (in modern terms) included Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and north-east Iran.  It also during that period became a world centre of learning, far surpassing anywhere in the decadent post-Roman West.  

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After that was a period of decline.  Bukhara fell to the Karakhanids in 999, the Karakhitai in 1141 and Koresemshah in 1206.  Genghis Khan took and razed the city in 1220, declaring himself the Scourge of God.  “If you had not committed great sins, God would have not sent a punishment like me.”

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In 1500, an Uzbek Shaybanid dynasty took over.  The Timurids had a brief comeback under Babur in 1511 but he was defeated in 1512 and left, instead to conquer India.  The Shaybanids for a while brought a new period of prosperity and artistic accomplishment.  The Ark has been created and destroyed many times over the years but the present for dates from the Shaybanids and the buildings are all from within the last three centureies.  An Astakhanid dynasty took over in 1552 and slowly Bukhara declined from a major force to a regional power.

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In 1840, most of the brickwork in the walls you see here did not exist.  There was instead an artificial hill with a much smaller wall at the top.  The brickwork was added later in the nineteenth century.  In 1868, Russia defeated Bukhara and it became a Russian protectorate, though the Emir retained arbitrary and absolute power within the city of Bukhara.

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In 1918, a Bolshevik army from Samarkand arrived to take the city but the locals preferred to stay with the Devil they knew (or Islamic Emir as the case might be) and the army was defeated.  So Bukhara remained as a relic Mediæval enclave for a couple of years.

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In 1920, a more competent Soviet army appeared at the city gates, the city was taken and in the fighting the wooden buildings inside the Ark were destroyed by bombing and fire.  Most of what lay within the walls of the Ark remains destroyed.  From 1920 to 1924 there was the Bukharan People’s Soviet Republic and then it became part of Uzbekistan (which itself became independent in 1991).

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So here we are at the gate to the Ark.

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I think this is the former living quarters of the Emir’s kushbegi (Prime Minister), now housing an archaeological museum.

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An ancient petrograph from the museum.  Perhaps a leopard and a pair of ibex.  The label only said it came from Uchtut, which is a location about 150 kilometres south east of Bukhara.  They are probably from something like 3,000 to 4,000 BC.

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The Reception and Coronation Court, a large open-air iwan, where the Emir could meet or address people en masse.

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And here he is, the Emir, terror of the population, from a nineteenth century photograph using a digital camera smuggled in by a European.

In 1838, Colonel Charles Stoddart arrived in Bukhara, seeking to reassure the Emir about British troop movements beyond the border.  However, he was not acquainted with local custom and rode into the Ark rather than leaving his horse behind and later prostrating himself before the Emir.  He was cast into a caged hole that he shared with rats.  When the British occupied Kabul and might later have had designs on Bukhara,  he was taken out to the custody of the Chief of Police and allowed proper food and clothing.  Then when the British were defeated in Afghanistan, he was cast beck in the hole again.  In 1840, Captain Arthur Connelly turned up to try to persuade the Emire of the benefits of closer association with Britain and after a while he was thrown in the hole as well.  In 1842 they were executed.

Nineteenth century Bukhara was a somewhat polygot city including Jews, Afghans, Armenians, Russians, Persians, Chinese and Hindus.  It was also a health disaster, with fetid water for long periods producing epidemics and reshta, a vile parasitic worm.  It was also cruelly despotic and a strange mixture between licentious depravity and ruthless enforcement of minor religious norms.

Ah, that’s right, I remember now.  I actually took that photograph.  It’s not from the nineteenth century.  The boy’s father paid a small amount for him to dress up and pose on the throne.  Unaccompanied in nineteenth century Bukhara though, the boy would have been in severe danger from the Emir.

Nowadays though, Bukhara and Uzbekistan generally is very friendly and welcoming.

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A tourist being led around the Ark on a camel ride, in a faint echo of a now distant past.

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We are now inside the Bolo-Khauz Mosque, part of the few surviving structures on the Registan.  It was built in 1712 by the Emir’s wife.  I do not seem to have photographed the outside.

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This is the main prayer hall.

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This time, with the fisheye lens.

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This is the Chasma-Ayub Mausoleum.  I don’t seem to have photographed inside so perhaps it was closed or photography not permitted.  It has four domes from different periods and with different architecture.  The earliest, the conical one, is from the time of Timur in 1380.

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This is the Israel Samani Mausoleum.  It dates from the tenth century, the period of the great cultural flowering of Bukhara and is named after the founder of the Samanid Dynasty.  It incorporates elements of earlier Sogdian and Sassanian/ Zoroastrian architecture.  It escaped the depredations of Genghis Khan because it had become buried under sand and earth and was rediscovered in 1934 by a Soviet archæologist.  The tombs were then removed by the Soviets.  This Samanid mausoleum was a model for many of the fourteenth to seventeenth century mausolea of India.

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A view of the symmetrical interior.

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Looking up at the dome (with some fisheye distortion)…

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… and a closer (rectilinear) view.

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I’m not sure what structure this is; I presume it was visible from the rooftop restaurant we attended that night.

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And this is the top of the Kalan Minaret from a distance.  we saw it more close-up in daylight in the previous post.

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Kalan Mosque, Bukhara

Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 30 September 2018.

(Click on any image to see it in a larger size.)

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

You are looking at the Poi-Kalyan Ensemble.  Kalan Mosque is on the right, Kalan Minaret in the centre, Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah behind the minaret to the left, and a wall of the Miri-Arab Madrasah at far left.

Only a generation ago this was the site of a cotton bazaar, including huge piles of cotton atop swaying camels.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

The Kok Gumbaz (or Blue Dome) of the Kalan Mosque.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking through at the main entrance-way to the interior of the Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, with a lone student framed by the lattice-work.

The madrasah was built in 1535 and remains the foremost centre of religious education in Bukhara.  It still operates as a madrasah, with around 180 students and is consequently closed to tourists.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Going into the Kalan Mosque.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Under one of the 288 domes of the mosque.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Earthquakes are not unknown in Uzbekistan.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

In the great rectangle of the mosque, looking west. 

The Kalan Mosque is one of the oldest in Central Asia and also the second largest.  It was intended to house the whole population of the city and the rectangle can hold 10,000 to 12,000 people.  The original was built in 795, collapsed twice in the early tenth century, burned to the ground in 1068 and was destroyed by the Mongols under Genghis Khan in 1219.  The current mosque was finished in 1541.

The recess in the huge rectangular structure is the mihrab and that structure is the qibla wall so together they indicate the quibla, or the direction to face in order to pray towards Mecca.

The small octagonal structure dates from the nineteenth century and is probably where a second Imam would echo the words of the first.  Alternatively, it may be the site of an ancient well or a shelter for the Emir on his weekly visit.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking south.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking east.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Near the west end of the rectangle, still with a wide angle lens but not as wide an angle as the previous image.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up at the main portal of the west end of the mosque rectangle.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

A couple of views looking back through that portal.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan .

Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Looking up at the dome.  The writing around the dome reads “Immortality belongs to God”.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

There’s always a need for washing….

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Down a long corridor, probably on the south side.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Another dome.

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan .

Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Walking back out to the portal behind the tree….

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Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah, Architecture, Bukhara, Ceramics, History, Kalan Minaret, Kalan Mosque, Landscape, Photography, Poi-Kalyan Ensemble, Street photography, Travel, Uzbekistan

Back outside the mosque to the Poi-Kalyan Ensemble.  So the Amir-Allimkhan Madrasah is on the left, showing in this image only one of its two domes.

The minaret is 48 metres high (155 feet) and there has been a minaret here since 919.  The original one was destroyed in an earthquake in 1068 and a replacement collapsed a few years later.  This one dates from 1127 and Ghengis Khan was so impressed with it that he ordered it to be exempt from the razing of the city.

The small Miri-Arab Madrasah behind and to the left of the minaret was also a bath house.

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