Showing posts with label Bukhara. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bukhara. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Mongolia | Ulaanbaatar | Camel Statues

The other day my pal Saka and I went shopping. As we were sitting in a line of traffic backed behind the traffic light at the intersection of Chingis Khan Avenue and the Zaisan Tolgoi road I noticed looming above the tops of cars in front of us a statue of a camel that had recently been installed in a traffic island in middle of the avenue. From our angle only the head of what I thought was one of two camels was visible.

“Did you see the statues of the two camels?” I asked Saka. “That’s a great idea. I wonder who is responsible for them?” 
“There is only one camel, replied Saka.
“No,” I replied, “there are two camels. You just can’t see the other one from here. I hope they install a whole string of them.” 
“I just drove by there on my way to your apartment, and there is only one camel there,” she insisted.
“There are two,” said I, “do you want to bet on it? 
“I don’t bet, but you are wrong; there is only one.” 
“No sorry, you are wrong.”

The light changed and we drove by the traffic island. There was only one camel. Saka almost peed her pants laughing (she’s easily amused). “And you wanted to bet! Hahahaha (or khikhikhikhi, as Mongolians write it). I should have bet you a hundred dollars! I could buy a new handbag!”

I was completely flummoxed. The bus I take to town goes right by this traffic island and I had noticed when they had installed the first camel. I said to myself, “wouldn’t it be a great idea to install a whole string of camels.” Then about a week ago I took a bus to town and we got struck in line of cars right in front of the traffic island. I could not help but notice that another statue had been installed. Now there were two of them. We sat there for at least five minutes in the traffic jam and I stared at the two camels the whole time. The image of two camels was indelibly imprinted in my mind.  I also thought, “Since there are now two camels maybe they are going to install a whole string of them. I certainly hope so.” Now, inexplicably, there was only one camel. Had I hallucinated the second camel? It seemed unlikely.

Five days later I took the bus to town again. Now there was indeed a string of camel statues on the traffic island; in fact, five of them. Instead of going straight into town I got out at the nearest bus stop and took photos of all five camel statues before any of them could disappear.
Three of the string of five camel statues (click on photos for enlargements)
One of the camel statues
I don’t know who is responsible for the camel statues, but they should be heaped knee deep in laurels to this wonderful tribute to the Most Noble Of All Four-Legged Animals. The statues serve to remind not only residents of the city but visitors who will drive right by them when arriving from the airport that Ulaanbaatar was once the nexus of numerous caravan routes running south to Beijing and Lhasa and other cities in China; west to Urumqi in Xinjiang Province, China; from hence to Samarkand, Bukhara, Tabriz, and other great cites of the Silk Road; and north to Irkutsk in Siberia, which was once the northern terminus of the Tea Road between China and Russia. Camels were the main mode of transportation on all of these routes.
As I stood by the camel statues I could not help but think of the great Buryat lama Agvan Dorzhiev, who made the fastest recorded trip from Ulaanbaatar (then called Ikh Khüree [Их Хүрээ] = “Great Settlement”, or Örgöö [Өргөө] = “Palace”) to Lhasa by camel. Leaving the city on December 5, 1900 on an urgent diplomatic mission to the 13th Dalai Lama, Dorzhiev and his party had traveled day and night and arrived in Lhasa seventy-two days later. Normal caravans took four or five months. What I wouldn’t give to have been on that trip!
Agvan Dorzhiev (1854–1938)
I was also reminded of a ensemble of camel statues I had seen on Lyab-i-Haus square in Bukhara, Uzbekistan. The Bukhara Ensemble also honors the caravan men who accompanied the camels. Shouldn’t the caravan men be likewise honored in Ulaanbaatar?
Camel Ensemble in Bukhara
 Camel in Bukhara
Camel Man in Bukhara
Anyhow, I stick by my claim that there were at one time two camels standing alone on the traffic island in Ulaanbaatar. I think one was installed, then the second one, but for some reason this second one was temporarily removed—maybe it had been damaged. Then it and three more statues were installed for a total of five. Either that, or while I was sitting in the bus that day in a traffic jam in front of the statues I entered a time warp into a future where there were two camels, but then returned to the mundane time-space continuum where my friend Saka and I later saw only camel. Those are the only two possible explanations.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Kosh Madrassas

The Kosh Madrassas (kosh = twin, pair, double, etc.) are not identical, but they do face each other across a square.
Ubdullah Khan Madrassa, left center, and Modari Madrassa, right center (click on photos for enlargements)
Both were built by Abdullah Khan II, the last Shaybanid Dynasty Khan of Bukhara (r. 1583–1598)
Abdullah Khan II 
The Modari  (mother,  in Persian) Madrassa was built in 1566 in honor of Abdullah Khan’s mother.
 Another view of the Modari Madrassa
Interior of the Modari Madrassa
The  Abdullah Khan Madrassa, facing the Modari Madrassa, was built by Abdullah Khan in the years 1588-90.
 Abdullah Khan Madrassa
 Courtyard of  Abdullah Khan Madrassa
 Ceiling of Abdullah Khan Madrassa

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Kalon Mosque

Kalon Mosque, right (click on photos for enlargements), with the facade of Mir-i-Arab Madrassa on the left
 Entrance to Kalon Mosque
  Entrance to Kalon Mosque
 Courtyard of Kalon Mosque
  Courtyard of Kalon Mosque
Interior gallery of Kalon Mosque

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Uzbekistan | Tashkent | Bukhara

I had pretty much wrapped up My Spice Buying Expedition in Istanbul, but while I was in the neighborhood I thought I better wander by Bukhara, in Uzbekistan. There is a red-eye special leaving from Istanbul for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, at 11:55. pm. I arrived in Tashkent at 7:30 the next morning amidst a major snowstorm. The plane for Bukhara was not scheduled to leave until 3:35 pm, so I spent the rest of the day sitting in the domestic terminal rereading Barthold’s Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, the absolute bible for the history of Inner Asia up until the time of the Mongol irruption. I had rather unwisely left Mongolia without a copy—I have copies of three different editions in my Scriptorium—but having decided I was coming to Bukhara I had fedex a copy to my hotel room in Istanbul. It left Amazon’s warehouse in the U.S. at 4:57 pm on a Tuesday and I signed off for it at my hotel at 12.51 pm on Friday, just in time for my Uzbekistan trip. The domestic terminal in Tashkent is unheated—it was 5 degrees Fº outside and not much warmer inside—and there is no restaurant or even a place to get a cup of tea or coffee. I would have given my left nut for a Starbucks. Anyhow, besides Barthold I had my Kindle with 138 books downloaded on it and another 684 in the Cloud, so I did not lack for reading material. Amazingly the domestic airport did have free internet in the departure area—albeit very slow, but still internet—so I could have downloaded from the Cloud or bought some new titles if I needed a quick book fix. 

By 2:00 pm at least six inches of snow had fallen in Tashkent. Several domestic flights, including one to Termez, were canceled because of the weather, but finally the flight to Bukhara as announced. But then they had to spent an hour and a half de-icing the plane, so we did not get off until five. You would think Uzbekistan Air would use a small plane for the one-hour flight to Bukhara, but no, they use a wide-body Boeing 767 and it was just about full. 

It was 8 degrees above zero Fº in Bukhara when we arrived. Although this is definitely not the tourist season in Bukhara I was not the only tourist on the plane. There  was a group of at least 12 people from China who were met by the agent of a tourist company in Bukhara. They had come prepared: some of them had on expedition-grade down parkas and pants. They looked like they were ready to start out on a trek to the North Pole. 

It was 6:30 by the time I got my bag and exited the terminal. Waiting for me was my old pal from Komil’s Guesthouse
My pal from Komil’s Guesthouse (click on photo for enlargement) 
He does not speak English, but we caught up on the news in Russian while driving to the guesthouse. I am of course the only guest here. These old mansions which have been converted to guesthouses do not have central heating, but there was an electric space heater in my room and it was quite toasty. I had sent an email to Komil’s earlier ordering plov for dinner and it was ready soon after I arrived. I realized that I had not eaten for thirty-six hours—I had fallen asleep on the Istanbul-Tashkent flight before the meal was served—so the plov—classic Bukhara plov by the way—carrots only, no onions—was quite welcome. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Old Town | Dish Girls

This time of the year in Bukhara the sun rises about 7:00. Every morning fifteen minutes or so before sunrise I leave my guesthouse and wander around the city. There is hardly anyone on the streets at this hour and I pretty much have the place to myself. One morning the city was dusted with fresh snow. I walked through the First Trade Dome and past the old Magok-i Attari Mosque to the Second Trade Dome. The old codger who looks after the tomb of Ahmed I Paran, located inside the trade dome, was there, as he always is come rain, snow, or shine. He studiously ignores all foreigners and I do not bother greeting him
 Trade Dome #1 with fresh snow (click on photos for enlargements)
Trade Dome #2 with fresh snow
Abdullah Khan Tim
 Snow of the domes of Abdullah Khan Tim
From the Second Trade Dome I walked north past the Abdullah Khan Tim and through the Third Trade Dome into the so-called Old Town, located on slightly higher ground just east of the Ark, or Citadel. This is the very oldest part of Bukhara. Archeological findings here date back almost 2500 years. When Chingis Khan invested Bukhara in 1220 most of today’s old town was known as the Shahristan, or Inner City, and was surrounded by a wall. This inner wall was probably destroyed in the sack of the city and the fire which followed, and it is not clear if it was ever rebuilt. The outer wall, around the rabat, or outer city, was rebuilt or repaired, only to the damaged or destroyed again several times until the final version of the Outer Wall, sections of which still remain to this day, was built. 
Street in the Old Town
Wandering down one narrow street I pass by a man who looked to be in his sixties sweeping the snow off his steps with a twig broom. He greeted me in Russian and asked what country I was from. I said I was from America (I am an American citizen although I have not actually lived there in many years). Switching to English he said, “Come in and have tea.” I have never turned down a bowl of tea in my life. He welcomed me into his house and after I had taken off my shoes ushered me into a room furnished with nothing but carpets, a thin pad on the floor, and a low table. Actually, it pretty much like the tea room of my hovel in Ulaanbaatar and I felt very much at home. “Would you like black or green tea,” he asked. Since it was still early morning I said black. “Wait one minute, my daughter will bring you tea.” After a minute or two the door opened and in strode a young woman with a tea tray. Much to my surprise, it was one the “Dish Girls” I had met on my previous trip. She was momentarily startled to see me sitting in her home, but quickly recovered. Her sister, who also sells dishes and who I had also met, came and in and sat down. Both young women of course sat on their knees with their shins tucked under them. I find it almost impossible to sit this way and assumed a half-lotus position instead. A full lotus hardly seemed appropriate for morning tea with two young ladies. “Well, this is really a coincidence that I should meet you again,” I offered. “Bukhara is a very small place. It is not strange that we should meet again,” said the first young woman. We then chatted for half an hour about tea (the women allowed that they themselves never drank black tea), carpets (the carpet on the floor  was remarkably like the machine-made wool carpets produced in Ulaanbaatar), the dish business (already a lot more tourists in town this month as compared to this month last year), and of host of other ephemeral topics.

The women said that I must stop by the street where they sell dishes and visit them again. I did not say that I had been avoiding this street. Last time I was in town I had promised them day after day I would buy something and then finally sneaked out of town without getting anything. I had planned to stop by just to say hello near the end of my trip, when they would have little time to cajole me into buying anything, but now I said I would stop by today. 

I continued my peregrinations and at about ten o’clock wandered down the street where the girls sold their wares. This year their dishes were set out right by the side of the Mir Arabi Madrassa. They saw me coming two hundred feet away and started shouting “Don! Don! Come here, Don!” As I approached one woman with hair dyed a curious shade of orange ran up to me with arms outspread and gushed, “My darling, you are back!” This jest elicited gales of laughter from the other girls, since an old goat like me could hardly be anyone’s darling. The girls get bored standing out here all day, especially on cold and blustery days like this when they see very few tourists, and are eager for any diversions. I guess I qualify as a diversion. They had lots of news. The Queen Bee of the group had gotten married and was quick to show me a photo of her husband on her iPhone. To my amazement her husband was the co-owner and salesman of the Abdullah Khan Tim Carpet Store who I had talked to the day before. I had met him several years earlier when he was working at the different store. Small world! One of her friends pointed out that she was already pregnant, although she had only been married since last November. “Not wasting any time, are you?” I offered. She smiled demurely. Although I talked to the Dish Girls for at least thirty minutes, oddly enough not one of them said a word about buying any dishes. Apparently they had already decided that as a customer I was pretty much of a bust. 
Dishes for Sale
Dish Girl whose father invited me in for tea. 
Dish Girl married to the co-owner of the Abdullah Khan Tim Carpet Store on the right, and friend.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Interior of Magoki-i Attari

After completing the appropriate orisons at Magok-i Attari I wandered through some other districts of Bukhara before heading back to my guesthouse for lunch. Passing once again by Magok-i Attari I noticed that the carpet museum which the building houses was now open so I wandered in. 
In the northeast corner of the building is an archeological digging which has been keep open for public display. Shown here are parts of the ancient walls of building. The lowest level of this excavation dates back to at least a thousand years ago. 
Staircase leading to the eastern portal, which opens onto  the current street level some twelve feet or so above the floor of the structure. 

The eastern portal on the right, with the southern portal on the bottom. The eastern portal was built in 1546-7 by the Ashtrakhanid ruler Abdul Aziz Khan to accommodate for the rise of the surrounding terrain.
The Carpet Museum which now occupies Magok-i Attari
The interior looking upward towards one of the two domes
One the two domes
A typical kilim on display in the museum

Friday, March 8, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Magok-i Attari | Perigee of the Moon

As you are no doubt aware the Perigee of Moon, the moment when the moon got the closest to the Earth during the current lunar cycle, occurred at 4:21 a.m on Wednesday, March 6. This month the moon was 229,878 miles from earth at the Perigee. What better place to observe this month’s Perigee of the Moon than at the foundations of the old Moon Temple in Bukhara, Uzbekistan? I won’t bore you with the details of how I got from Zaisan Tolgoi in Mongolia to Uzbekistan; suffice it to say I  winged off from the Ulaanbaatar airport at 11:50 Monday evening and arrived in Bukhara at 8:55 a.m. on Wednesday morning. After quickly stashing my portmanteau at Komil’s Guesthouse I headed for the former Magoki-Attari Mosque, which apparently stands on or near the foundations of the old Moon Temple. 
Entrance to Komil’s Guesthouse (click on photos for enlargements)
I arrived 9:20 a.m., almost three hours after the Perigee, but no doubt early enough to catch the effects of the afterglow. The old Magok-i Attari Mosque is now a carpet museum, but the tourist season had not yet really begun yet in Bukhara and it was locked up tight.
As can be seen, Magoki-Attari now sits in a depression ten to twenty five lower than street level. The lower level is reached by staircases.
We first learn about this temple in Narshakhi’s The History of Bukhara, written in the 940s during the Samanid era (892 a.d.–999 a.d.), with addendum later added by another author. Although Narskhakhi‘s History is an invaluable source for the early history of the Bukhara Oasis, his accounts are at times less than concise and even muddled. Thus we have to tread quite carefully through his account of the temple that now serves as carpet museum. He speaks first of the market that existed on the site of the temple or grew up around a temple already located on the site. Twice a year, we are told, a fair was held in this market at which idols were sold. He does not specifically say what kind of idols these were but apparently they were dedicated to a moon God named Makh or Mokh. Anyhow, people would come and buy idols to replace ones that had become broken or gotten lost. In just one day of the fair 50,000 dirhams, an enormous amount of money at the time, were spent on these idols. “Everyone bought an idol for himself and brought it home,” Narshakhi tells us. Unfortunately he gives no description of these idols nor does he say how they used by their owners after they acquired them. “Later this place,” he adds, become a fire-temple.” By fire temple he probably meant a Zoroastrian temple, although this point has been disputed. Zoroastrianism was present in Bukhara in the pre-Islamic days of the Sogdians, whose contacts from one end of the Silk Road to the other had also brought them in contact with Buddhism, Christianity, and probably Judaism.
Southern side of Magok-i Attari
The sale of the idols—which we are still assuming belong to some lunar cult—continued after the Zoroastrian temple came into use. “On the day of the fair [where lunar idols were sold], when the people gathered, all went into the fire-temple and worshipped fire”, according to Narshakhi. “The fire-temple existed to the time of Islam [early eighth century] when the Muslims seized power and built a mosque on that place. Today [in the mid-tenth century] it is one of the most esteemed mosques in Bukhara”, according to Narshakhi. 

Amazing enough, the fair at which lunar idols were sold continued on even into Islamic times. Narshakhi tells of one important local Muslim personage who “was very astonished that this should be allowed. He asked the elders and sheiks the reason for this. They said that the inhabitants of Bukhara in olden times had been idol-worshippers. They were permitted to have this fair, and from that time on they had sold idols in it. It has remained thus today.” Thus tradition and custom seemed to override the strict prohibitions against idol worship found in Islam. It is not clear exactly when the sale of idols did stop.

Other sources, some of them admittedly ephemeral, suggest that the temple known as the Mokh (moon) Temple which apparently stood on the site of the later Zoroastrian temple may have served as a cult center for a Moon God originally worshipped in ancient Assyria and Babylonia. This god was known as Sin (or Suen) in the Akkadian language and Nanna in the Sumerian language. The chief centers of the cult were the Sumerian city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, which dates to a least 5800 years ago, and Harran in northern Mesopotamia. The moon God Nanna was considered the tutelary deity of Ur. The Ziggurat of Ur, which contained the shrine of the moon god Nanna, was built in the 21st century b.c. and its partially restored ruins still stand today. Gradually this cult seeped eastward across the Iranian Plateau and eventually northeastward across the Amu Darya River into Transoxiania, eventually seeding itself in Bukhara. The exact connections between the moon god of Mesopotamia and the moon god apparently worshipped at the Mokh Temple must, however, remain a matter of speculation. In any case, Islamic orthodoxy at some point reasserted itself and the moon cult was stamped out, and by the middle of the tenth-century it was, as Narshakhi noted, one of the most important mosques in Bukhara. 

According to archeological sources, the building stands at the core of the ancient Sogdian city of Bukhara dating back some 2500 years. By the fifth century a.d. the site was occupied by a Zoroastrian Temple and still later by a Buddhist temple, an detail which Narshakhi fails to note. In any case, by the eleventh century the mosque and attendant market was located just south of the Shahristan, or Inner City, Wall, one of two walls around the city of Bukhara proper. Narshakhi mentions that a river ran along one side of the bazaar. This may refer to an old water course now occupied by the Shah Rud Canal, which currently runs along the south side of the mosque complex. 

The name by which the mosque became known is subject to dispute. Some maintain Magok-i Attari means “mosque in the pit” or “the scented pit. The former name refers to the fact that the surrounding area, has been filled in and elevated with the passage of time, leaving the mosque in a depression now from ten to twenty feet lower. The level of the mosque is now reached by flights of stairs from the nearby streets. The name “the scented pit” supposedly refers to the nearby market which by Islamic times specialized in aromatic herbs.

The mosque, especially its southern portal, underwent extensive repairs during the reign of the Qarakhanids in the twelfth century. More restoration and construction was carried out in 1546-7 by the Ashtrakhanid ruler Abdul Aziz Khan. Indeed, most of the present building, with the exception of the southern portal, dates to this time. Additions included the eastern portal, built at street level to allow access to the mosque which by that time was over ten feet lower than the surrounding neighborhood. 
Southern Portal of Magok-i Attari
The ruins of the old bazaar in front of Magok-i Attari. This is presumably the market where the moon idols were sold and later aromatic herbs and other goods. 
 The ruins of the old bazaar in front of Magok-i Attari
 The ruins of the old bazaar in front of Magok-i Attari
The ruins of the old bazaar in front of Magok-i Attari

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Uzbekistan | Chingis Khan Rides West | Otrar to Bukhara

While the Siege of Otrār was in progress Chingis Khan and his youngest son Tolui led the main Mongol army southwest to Bukhara. With them were Turkish auxiliaries who by then had sided with Chingis. “These fearless Turks,” according to the Persian historian Juvaini, “knew not clean from unclean [i.e., were not Muslims], and considered the bowl of war to be a basin of rich soup, and a held a mouthful of sword to be a beaker of wine.” No mention is made in any of the sources about crossing the Syr Darya, usually a intimidating operation, which leads the Russian Orientalist Barthold to opine that the river was frozen over by the time the Mongol army reached it and that they crossed over on the ice. This could have occurred no earlier than late November or early December. The first major town the Mongols encountered south of the Syr Darya was Zarnuq. “When the king of planets raised his banner on the eastern horizon [at sunrise, to the more prosaic-minded],” Chingis and his army appeared before the city walls, according to Juvaini. The inhabitants retired into the Citadel, closed the gates, and at first were determined to resist the Mongol attack. A man named Danishmand (danishman means “consultant”), either a commander of one of the Turkish auxiliary units or a Khorezmian trader who had attached himself Chingis’s army, was sent into the city to talk some sense into the local panjandrums. After they threatened him with bodily harm, he shouted at them:
 I am . . . a Moslem and a son of a Moslem. Seeking God’s pleasure I am come on an embassy to you, at the inflexible command of Chingiz-Khan, to draw you out of the whirlpool of of destruction and the trough of blood . . . If you are incited to resist in any way, in an hour’s time your citadel will be level ground and the plain a sea of blood. But if you listen to advice and exhortation with the ear of intelligence and consideration and become submissive and obedient to his command, your lives and property will remain in the stronghold of security.
After this verbal onslaught the local dignitaries thought it wise to surrender . . . Continued.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Bolo Haus Mosque

Bolo-Hauz (Children’s Reservoir?) Mosque was reportedly built in 1712 by the Ashtarkhanid ruler Abul Fayud Khan (1711-47) for his mother, Bibi Khanum. Later it was apparently frequented by the emirs of Bukhara who lived in the nearby Ark.
Bolo Haus Mosque (click on photos for enlargements)
Bolo Haus Mosque
This short minaret was added to the complex in 1917 by Shirin Muradov, a famous Bukhara craftsmen.
 Bolo Haus Mosque
The entryway, or iwan, is a fairly recent construction, added to the mosque's eastern facade 1914-17 by the last Mangit ruler Sayyid Alim Khan (1910-20)
Detail of entrance to Bolo Haus Mosque
The porch in front of the Bolo Haus Mosque. The twenty columns are made from poplar, walnut, and elm wood. 
Porch of Bolo Haus Mosque
Detail of wooden columns of Bolo Haus Mosqueue
Detail of wooden columns of Bolo Haus Mosque
Detail of wooden columns of Bolo Haus Mosque