Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bukhara. Po-i-Kalyan Complex.


As keen as I was to get going after lunch, a full belly and warm temperatures made me want to take a nap instead.  But....I didn't come all the way to Uzbekistan to snooze so onward march!

From the teahouse near Bolo Hauz, we crossed the main road back to the Ark.


The unique, corrugated design of the brick wall of the Ark.

We made our way around one side of the Ark and within easy sight was the turquoise colored dome of Kalyan Mosque and standing nearby, its minaret.  I could also see the entrance portal of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah, facing the mosque.  Oh....I finally get to see these landmarks in person!!  Just ask me how excited I was at that thought :-)


We walked with Suhkrob down a narrow street flanked with shops selling mainly souvenirs.  All the while, that wonderful turquoise dome kept getting larger and larger as we neared the entrance to the Po-i-Kalyan Mosque Complex.



But before we got to see the mosque, Suhkrob asked if we wanted to see the gold market.  Oh, why the heck not?  So, we took a bit of a detour on the street.  Behind the row of shops, that we had just passed by was another narrow street.  On one side, there were small shops.  On the other side, there was long covered space, underneath which were rows of tables manned mainly by women.  Actually, I don't recall seeing any men doing the selling.  It's a weekday so there were more sellers than buyers but obviously, this is a popular place otherwise, the women wouldn't be selling.


Glancing down at the tables, I just saw a lot of jewelry for sale.  It was mainly costume jewelry and I did see some gold colored pieces but who knows if it was real gold or not.  I don't wear jewelry often so none of this stuff appealed to me.  It was more interesting watching the women interact with each other.  Some were knitting, others were simply chatting.  Everyone looked like they were enjoying themselves.



We barely spent 10 minutes at the gold market. On our way out, I smelled the scent of something being deep fried.  My nose led me to this woman who was frying flattened pieces of dough some of which were filled with cheese.  Yum!  Suhkrob asked if we wanted to try any and I was so stuffed, I turned down the offer.  I did want to take the woman's photo.  Suhkrob said something that made her smile and I captured the instant.  He said that she told him that she's appeared in many a tourist's photos :-)  I have to say, she's very photogenic.


As I turned around to continue walking, I spotted the rack of sheepskin hats.  For some reason, seeing them always makes me smile - I don't know why.  The fluffy hats on the far right are Turkmen hats and the two pointy ones, sitting on the ground, are Kazakh hats.  I know my Central Asian headgear :-)


We followed Suhkrob towards Po-i-Kalyan Complex.  I thought he was taking us to see the Madrasah first as he was walking towards it but....


....it looked like he saw Pat walking towards the mosque so he turned to follow her.  So I followed the two of them.


Suhkrob patiently waited for me to catch up :-)

Had to take a photo of the Turkmen hats :-)

We started our visit with the minaret.  So far, we've not taken a close up look at any minaret.  Of course, no other mosque had held such a prominent position in its city's history.


The minaret, designed by Bako, was built by the Qarakhanid ruler Mohammad Arslan Khan in 1127 to not only to call Muslims to prayer, but to also symbolize the authority and power of its spiritual leaders.  In the 16th century, the Kaylan mosque and Mir-i Arab Madrasah were built around it, and the minaret is now the center piece of the Po-i-Kalyan Complex.

Each band of bricks is of a different design.

The Kalyan Minaret is circular brick tower that stands 45.6 meters (149.61 ft) tall.  It is 9 meters (29.53 ft) in diameter at the base and tapers to 6 meters (19.69 ft) at the top. The body of the minaret is topped by a rotunda with 16 arched fenestrations, from which the muezzins summoned Muslims to prayer.  Inside, there is a brick spiral staircase that twists up to the rotunda.  It is believed that at one time, the minaret had another round section above the rotunda, but now only the cone-shaped top remains.

Near the base of the minaret, one of the bands is inscribed.

In its history, the minaret has been used as an observatory, and, during times of war, it served as a lookout to watch for invading armies. Its most famous, and startlingly recent use was for public execution, earning the minaret its nickname - *Tower of Death*.  Those condemned to die were thrown from the rotunda at the top to the stone courtyard below thereby. The last known execution took place as late as 1920, during the Russian Revolution.

Front entrance of Kalyan Mosque.

We entered the mosque through the entrance portal.




On the other side was a very large courtyard, that was barren except for a small tree planted in the center and between it an the mosque, a small ablution fountain.  On the other side stood the mosque. 



We made our way around, walking in a clockwise direction.  I stopped every now and again to take a photo.  Here are a few.



Looking back at the entrance, on the left.  Kalyan Minaret looms over the courtyard.




The ablution fountain in the foreground, the entry portal behind it and in the
background, the dome of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

Located in a room, nearby the historic mosque, was a small working mosque.  We could hear the prayers going on. We talked in a whisper as we walked by.

We arrived here just as the call to prayer was sounded.  The shoes, except for one, are all neatly lined up - someone was
in a rush to get inside.

I love the Bukharan style of using colorful tile and intricate brick patterns. There's an understated elegance to it. And, the colors represent sky (blue) and earth (brown).




The beautifully decorated dome of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

The entrance portal of the mosque.

Detail of the brick, tile and majolica of the entrance portal.

The dome of the mosque.

Kalyan Minaret.

We left after making our way to the mosque and back.

Looking through the entrance to Kalyan Mosque at Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.


On to Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

Another view of the beautifully decorated dome of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah.

The madrasah's namesake, Mir-i-Arab, was a 16th-century Naqshbandi sheikh from Yemen. He had a powerful influence on the Shaybanid ruler, Ubaidullah Khan and it was he who financed the building of Kalyan Mosque and the madrasah that bears his name.

The madrasah has been a functioning seminary since it was built in the 16th century until it was closed in 1920. It was reponed by Stalin in 1944 in an effort to gain Muslim favor for his war effort. 

The portal of the madrasah is suppose to be on the same level as the portal of the mosque but because of a difference in elevation, the portal of the madrasah was built on a platform.



The madrasah is off limits to tourists so all we can appreciate is its beautiful exterior.  I had to take a peek though.  It was empty of people but there was ping pong table!


Next, we went to the madrasah's mosque.  We entered into a very small entry hall.  To one side was the prayer hall.  Service was still taking place so we had to be quiet.  Suhkrob was saying something about the place (about the brick design of the ceiling??) but there were just enough people talking around me and I was just a tad to far away from him to hear what he was saying. When I get hom, I'm going to see if I can found what what's so unique about the mosque.





Standing on the platform of Mir-i-Arab Madrasah, I snapped one last photo of Kalyan Mosque.  There's an understated elegance about the mosque that I can now appreciate.


We continued our visit in the old city.