Friday, April 10, 2015

Bukhara. Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace.

Inside one of the ornately decorated rooms at Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace.
Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace which translates from Tajik as *Palace of Moon-like Stars* is the palace of the Emir of Bukhara.

In the mid-XIX century, the Emir of Bukhara - Nasr-Allah bin Haydar Tora (aka Nasrullah Khan), who ruled Bukhara from 1827 to 1860, decided to build a summer palace for himself. To choose the coolest place not to suffer from summer heat, the architects applied a tried and true method - dressed sheep were put on the potential sites of construction.

The site, where the meat spoiled the last, was chosen as the spot for where the palace would be built. The palace was constructed but unfortunately it was destroyed.

Subsequently, the next Emir - Muzaffar al-Din bin Nasr-Allah (aka Muzaffar Khan), who ruled from 1860–1886 initiated construction of a new palace on the same grounds as the first once stood. A legend has it that the Emir dedicated the palace to his wife Sitora, after her death. Even though the second palace was also destroyed, its name was carried over to the third and last palace that was built.


The current palace was built in 1912-1918, by order of the last Emir of Bukhara - Mir Sayyd Muhammad Alim Khan. It is now a museum.

We went to visit the palace after spending time at the Memorial Complex of Naqshbandi.

Shavkat dropped us off and while Suhkrob bought our entry tickets, I admired the carved wood door.  They sure don't make them like this anymore!



Passing through the wooden entry doors, we were welcomed into a small courtyard.  I don't know what this place originally was intended for but today, it houses souvenir shops.  Peacocks roam freely on the palace grounds and there was a male and female here.  She was minding her own business, picking up bits of edible things from the ground.  He was trying, desperately, to get her attention.  It's mating season, after all.  The tourists were all captivated by what was going on.  He was not at all distracted by our presence.

Hello??

Look at me!!



Okay, maybe you prefer my profile view?

Or maybe a back shot is better.  I have a nice booty.

HELLOOOO???

Leaving the desperate peacock and the peahen of his lusting eye behind, we made our way to the palace building.   The Emir had an eye and love for Russian architecture so that was the style that inspired the exterior of the building as well as some parts of the interior.


The covered portico is still undergoing restoration work.  I'm sure it will be stunning when it's completed.



A pair of carved stone lions flank the entry door.


We entered into a waiting room.  This was our first taste of the decorating style of the palace - a fusion of European and Central Asian.  The chairs, table and chandelier were classic European design.  The wall....pure Central Asian - from the colors to the patterns!  I have to say, I love the combination - nothing like lively Central Asian design to bring a spark to the sedate (is that the right word?) feel of the furniture.


Immediately to our right was the room called the White Hall and it was obvious why.  Other than a few pops of red, it was white walls and ceiling. At first glance, it looks like a room you would find in a European palace. This was the Emir's formal greeting room where he would welcome dignitaries to the palace.


It's not until you look closer that you see the oriental elements like the marquanas that decorate the arched niches displaying the Chinese vases and the intricately carved plaster and wooden screens that decorate the far wall.



All in all, I thought it was a very elegant room.

From here, the palace was laid out as I've seen in so many European palaces - a row of connected rooms.  In these rooms, well, bring on the bling!  Every room was decorated like a luxury jewel box. Thanks to mirrors and colored metal, there was a lot of shine everywhere!  Very luxe, very grand, very Central Asian elegant.



Since the palace is a museum, display cases held day to day items used by the Emir, his family and staff.    There was even a glass box that Suhkrob described as a refrigerator - a very fancy version of an icebox.  As I said to Pat, it's good to be the Emir!




In one of the rooms, there was an unusual mirror where if you stood and looked at yourself, you could see 20 images of yourself on either side.  Suhkrob was amused by it and insisted we give it a try.  It felt like standing in one of those distortion mirrors you see when you go to the carnival.  I don't know what it was used for back in the palace days.  The Emir's dressing mirror?

At the far end of the palace was the conservatory.  Today, it houses some of the palace's pottery collection.



Back outside, we headed towards the Harem, passing under the shade of an arbor and trees.  The garden was a bit unkempt but if you tidy them up a bit, this would be a very lovely place for a stroll.

Along the way, we crossed paths with more of the magnificent peacocks that call the palace grounds home.  Their bright colors and showy appearance befits the style of the palace!


What's a Central Asian palace without a mosque?  This one looked more like a fantastical treehouse than a mosque - it was the minaret that finally clued us in.  Today, it houses....you guessed it....a souvenir shop.


Across from the mosque was the home of the harem.  Compared to, say, the Harem in Topkapı Palace in Istanbul, this building was teeny weeny.  I guess the Emir didn't have a big harem.  Next door to the harem is a pool, now abandoned, for the harem.


Today, the harem building houses a Suzani workshop.  Examples of Uzbek suzani are also on display.  I was surprised to see that the walls were remarkably plain.  I don't know if this was how it was back in palace days or whether they were made this way, when the palace was renovated, so as to be better to show off the suzani.



We ended our visit to the Harem by stepping inside a small building that was used for public functions.  No plain white walls here!  Like the main palace building, the glory of Uzbek interior design was on full display here - the room was as ornately decorated as a room, befitting royalty, could ever be!  It was over the top bling!

Display niches are common element in Central Asian rooms.


Niches were used to display more items from the palace's pottery collection.


Here, they also displayed robes worn by the Emir and his family.



The Harem was the last place we visited on the palace grounds. It was back to Shavkat and the car. We had one last place to go on our sightseeing itinerary. Off to the necropolis!