Our next stop was Ark Fortress. This citadel was at this place from 4th century B.C. It was built many times, and in this manner a 20 meter high artificial hill was created. The gate itself is massive and has two storeyed towers on both the sides.
As soon as you enter the gate, you see some dark prison cells on both the sides. When you enter you see many beautiful buildings. In one of the chamber a hand written and decorated copy of the Holy Quran is kept.
Then you see a marble “takht” (court). It is a place, where the Khan used to see his people and foreign guests. It is huge in size but still very modest.
The wooden canopy, resting on marble pillars is beautifully under painted. It dates back to year 1669.
There is a museum there. Uzbekistan was existing right from stone age, and you do see evidence of that.
The jewellery dates back to 1st century B.C. The beads have been carved out of jade like stones. I was most impressed by the metal mirror.
Other interesting displays were silver coins, copperwares, samovar and gold embroidered horse saddle.
This fortress has a large open space and a stable too. You can keep a watch on the surrounding area, easily.
Outside the fortress, there was a camel for rides. When I was clicking it, these two young ladies also had the same idea. But when they saw me, they offered to step aside. So sweet of them.
We went to Hotel Old Bukhara for lunch. The food was tasty and service was good too.
There was no need and time to rest. Our next stop was Miri-Arab madrassa. This was constructed in the 16th Century. Though it was restored, it is still has the same classic beauty. It is the spiritual centre of the city. This complex is related to Sheikh Abdallah Yamani (from Yemen). The year of construction is estimated to be around 1530 A.D.
It is still acting institution, where future Imams receive their education. In the centre of the complex, there is shrine of Ubaydulla, Emir of Bukhara.
The décor consists of exquisite mosaics, with geometric, floral patterns and calligraphic writings.
The colourful mausoleum is stunningly beautiful. ( I regret, I could not capture the outstanding beauty on camera.). This was the only spiritual educational establishment in the former U.S.S.R.
I saw a shop selling beautiful handmade khanjars (Knives). The shopkeeper showed me a knife, which could even cut metal. Then there were some beautifully designed Kaichee (Yes, the same word of Hindi, meaning pair of scissors.)
Actually each and every building on that street is exquisite and we should be thankful to people of Uzbekistan, for preserving and maintaining these architectural marvels.
The carpets on display by modern showrooms were too beautiful. (Later we visited a carpet factory, in Samarkand.)
I also met an artist, who was working on brass plates. This entire work is done by hand. This person had come to India for an exhibition. He explained me the entire procedure. The plates were reasonably priced. I would even say, they were under-priced compared to the efforts involved. I purchased three, and wish could buy many more !
Then we came to the centre of town. This place is called Lyabi-Khauz (meaning “at reservoir). There is still a well-constructed reservoir. There are three large monumental buildings around the three sides of it. Kukeldash Madrasah on the North. Khanaka on the West side and Divan-begi on the East side. This complex dates back to 1620 A.D. There used to a tea bazar in ancient time here.
Of the three, Divan-begi has decorations, which unlike other buildings, shows patterns which involves The Sun, imaginary birds etc.
And yes, how can I forget Kalyan minaret ? This 48 meters tall minaret is standing there since 1127 A.D. This was used for ajan purposes. This is both engineering and architectural marvel. It is entirely made with baked bricks. The body has narrow ornamental brick strings, arranged in a chessboard fashion, either straight or diagonally. It is topped by a rotunda with 16 arched fenestrations. (Apart from religions purpose, it also served purpose of watch tower, at times of war.)
We came back, after dark, just to capture the lit up minaret after dark !
To be continued.