Uzbekistan – Samarkand (Part 2 of 3)

The area of Registan ensemble is very large and many international cultural events are held there. From there we can walk towards Bibi Khanyam mosque. The road towards this mosque has many shops on both the sides. We had ice cream in one of those shops.

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There is an Art gallery on the way. The building is actually modern, but seems very much from history.

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From a distance you start noticing the ribbed dome of Bibi-khanyam mosque. Amir wanted to build the largest mosque for his wife (Bibi) from the enormous wealth he brought from India. The construction took 5 years to complete and it was completed in year 1404.

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The rumor has that while Amir was away on another mission, during the construction period. Bibi and the engineer of this massive project, had fallen in love. When Amir came to know about this, both of them were killed.

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The construction was too big for the technology of that era and soon started collapsing within few months of the construction. The site has some photographs showing the very bad condition it was found to be. However, what we see now is the carefully recreated version. The walls and domes are beautifully decorated now.

 

Just outside of this mosque, there is a large bazar. Fruits, vegetables and dry fruits are sold there, among other things.

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From that place, distant snow clad mountains could be seen.

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We returned to Hotel Orient Star.

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The next day we visited Mausoleum of Imam al-Bukhari. (This is about 25 kms from Samarkand). This complex has great religious significance and is considered as mini-Haj (with other places in Uzbekistan).

Abu Abdullah Muhammed inb Ismail al-Bukhari was great Theologian and hadith collector. His work “Al-Jomiy al-Saheeh” is considered a Holy Book, only next to the Holy Quran.

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He was born in 810 and had visited many Islamic countries. However his mausoleum was neglected during the Soviet era. It was only is 1954, when Indonesian President visited U.S.S.R., and wanted to visit this place, it was “discovered” again.

At present, It is marvelous complex. The actual marble mausoleum is piece of art.

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The 786 square meters prayer hall is very peaceful and soothing. Here we met a very kind mullah, who actually made me sit next to him and prayed for me.

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This complex also has specially printed, crafted copies of the Holy Quran, which were presented by various countries. It also has kisva presented by The King of Saudi Arabia.

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Another incident happened there. When I came from the hall, and wore my shoes, a young lady tapped on my shoulder and said something. I did not understand, what she said, so I checked with my guide. He told, me that, she had said, my trouser were soiled. ( I had sat on the steps). What a kind gesture. ! I could not even thank her. This is how people of Uzbekistan are.  Hopelessly friendly and caring. Frankly, I myself would not have bothered to do this for anybody, even after I had noticed it.

 

Then we visited the Observatory of Ulugbek.  Ulugbek was more of an astronomer than a ruler. He had a huge observatory constructed on a hill. As written by Babur, it was a three storied building (estimated dimensions 46 meters diameter and 30 meters height). It also had a giant goniometer vertical circle of radius, estimated to be 40.212 meters. They were able to document the positions of more than 1000 stars and their calculation of Solar year is almost equal to that calculated today, with modern instruments.

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Unfortunately, after the death of Ulugbek, this complex was destroyed. Much later, only in year 1908 archaeologist Vyatkin found first document regarding the location of this observatory. What remained was only the underground portion of goniometer.

Nevertheless, there is a very well maintained museum at that place now. They have not built the observatory but it’s model is kept in the museum and so are, some of the instruments.

We then visited a unique place where silk paper, (yes, paper not cloth) is made. This process is carried out using ancient technique which has not changed over centuries.

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The leaves of mulberry tree are used to feed the silk worms and the inner bark of this tree, are used to make this “Silk Paper”. The sticks are scrapped to remove the outer bark. The inner silky bark is boiled for several hours and then pounded using ancient technique. The pulp is washed and dyed using natural colours. Then it is pressed and dried. The resultant paper is hand polished, using stones or sea shells. The resultant paper is very strong and durable. It can not only be used for printing but also can be made into money purses, jacket etc.

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It can withstand modern printing also and surprisingly it is more soothing for the eyes.

To be continued.

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