Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bukhara. Two Mausoleums and a Mosque.

Bolo Hauz

Last night was the perfect storm of conditions for a good night's sleep - just the right room temperature, just the right amount of hardness for the mattress, just the right thickness for the pillow and blanket that was not too thin and not too thick. I woke up well rested and ready to face the day.


We started with breakfast in the hotel restaurant.  We arrived at the tail end of service and there must have been a large tour group before us - the staff were busy cleaning up as we helped ourselves to food.  It was the usual not so exciting tourist breakfast pickings.  The dining room was nice though - the slightly over the top wall decorations looked just like those in our room.


After breakfast, we left our laundry at the front desk and then killed a few minutes before our guide showed up.  Of course, we had no idea who would show up so we were on the look out for someone who looked like they were a guide.

A few minutes before 9a, a man walks in, backpack slung over one shoulder.  He looked at us, we looked at him.  We tentatively approached each other and he spoke my name.....with a question mark at the end of the sentence.  I replied back that I was indeed that person and we all sighed a small breath of relief.  We had found each other!!  He knew my name so Pat told him her's.  Then, he told us his.  Sook....something or other.  We asked him to repeat.  He said it again and again, all my ears heard was Sook something or other.

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Update:  April 10, 2015.   Pat had our guide write out his name.  It's Sukhrob.  So I have corrected the following text to use his correct name.  Doesn't seem right to be referring to someone as *Sook* throughout the posting :-)
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We followed Sukhrob outside and waited for Shavkat to pull up.  After he stopped the car, he got out to open the doors for us.  He's such a gentleman.  He greeted us with a big smile on his face.  No doubt he enjoyed his first night back home!

It was a short drive to our next destination, also located in the old part of the city.  Shavkat dropped us off at a place that looked like a city park.  In the distance, I could see a small building that I recognized from my pre-trip readings but I couldn't remember its name.  This is when a guide comes in handy.  Sukhrob reminded me that this is the Mausoleum of Ismail Samani.  Then it clicked for me and I recalled the history I had read.  As we watched a group of local pilgrims exiting the building to pose for a photo, Sukhrob proceeded with telling us more about the building.  Turns out he is working on getting his PhD in archeology so I was thrilled we had an expert guiding us.

Mausoleum of Ismail Samani.


This is a royal mausoleum that was built in the 10th century and houses the tombs of Ismail Samani, founder of the Samanid Dynasty, as well as his father and grandson. 


Although the mausoleum is one of Bukhara's oldest monuments, its delicate terracotta brickwork disguises thick walls (2 meters, 6.5 feet) that are so well built that the mausoleum has never needed significant repair in the 1100 years that it has stood here.  Pretty amazing!  I have to admit, it's vastly different in look than the mausoleums we visited in the Shah-i-Zinda Ensemble in Samarkand which were decorated with intricate patterns rendered on colorful tile and majolica.


We let everyone come out before we entered.  Inside, it was a small room but because of the dome, it felt very spacious.  The entire interior was decorated with the intricate brickwork.  It was a very elegant look.  Sukhrob also told us about how the architectural design involved in placing a round dome atop a square building.  Yes, it involves squinches....we know this by now.



In the center of the room was the simple tomb of Ismail Samani.


A city park has indeed sprung up around the mausoleum.  We passed some small carnival type rides, for children, on our way to our next destination - a small row of artisan shops.  He wanted to introduce us to a man who is a master at etching brass.  I'm sure Suhkrob was hoping we would buy some pieces but for some reason, metalwork has never interested me.


We watched an apprentice transfer the pattern to the brass plate.


And then the master came over to show us how it's done....using a small hammer and chisel to engrave the pattern.  It was obvious, from his steady hands and the ease with which he was using his tools, that he had many years of experience under his belt.


While I had no interest in buy a brass plate, an Uzbke skullcap did catch my eye.  I don't know if it's an antique or not but it is handmade.  The reddish orange color was not something I had typically seen so I thought this cap was unusual.   I ended up buying it even thought it's much too small to fit my head, not to mention the fact that I don't wear hats!  My first souvenir from Bukhara!

Chashma-i-Ayub Mausoleum.

With my skullcap safely placed inside my backpack, we walked over to another one of Bukhara's landmarks - Chashma-i-Ayub Mausoleum is located, in the middle of a small ancient cemetery, near Ismail Samani Mausoleum. The name of the mausoleum translates into English as *Jacob's Well* after the legend that the Christian prophet, Jacob (Ayub), visited here and upon seeing that the people were suffering from water shortage, made a well by striking the ground with his staff. The spring water of this well is still pure and is considered healing. The mausoleum was built atop the spring.

The mausoleum was first constructed in 1208-1209 AD and subsequent to that, was repeatedly reconstructed. The current building was buillt during the reign of Timur and is covered with domes.

The conical dome which is uncommon in Bukhara, marks the spot above the spring.


Today, the mausoleum houses the Museum of the History of Water Supply of Bukhara.  Bukhara is an oasis city so a good water supply is of paramount importance.

Inside was a small room, part of which had been sectioned off for the museum.  In the back of the room was a brick tomb covered with two pieces of embroidered cloth.  I still don't know who, if anyone is buried here.  Perhaps the tomb is just a symbolic tomb??


In front of the tomb was the well with water from the spring.  As you can see from the photo below, there are spigots that draw the water up from the well to enable people to fill up their containers with water that has healing properties.


On the museum side, we did learn more about the centuries long efforts of the people of the region to obtain and store water.



Suhkrob made a point to tell us about sardobas.  The moment I read the description, a light bulb went off in my head.  This was what Shavkat was asking us if we wanted to see when we were at Rabat-i-Malik Caravanserai yesterday - there's a sardoba located stone's throw from the caravanaserai.  The location near the caravanserai makes sense.


I had no idea what was next on our sightseeing agenda.  It was a beautiful day for a walk, albeit a bit on the warm side.  I just wanted to soak in my surroundings.  As I get older, my memory slips more and so I think that subconsciously, I'm making more effort to concentrate on what's around me.  It's almost as if I have to look at something a little longer to give my eyes time to take in all the details and then for my brain to register it.  Getting old sucks.

We rounded a corner and I saw the slim, carved wooden columns.  I knew exactly where we were - the mosque known as Bolo Hauz.  As Suhkrob told Pat about the mosque, I quietly snuck off to take photos of the iwan.


Bolo Hauz Mosque is a beautiful mosque that was built in the 18th century as the Emir of Bukhara’s official place of worship. It is notable for the intricately decorated ceiling and wooden pillars and is the only surviving building in Bukhara's Registan Square.  Today, it serves as a Fridah mosque.  In front of the building is a reflecting pool.

The mosque's minaret.

I LOVE the wooden columns here.  They look like slim chopsticks and I'm amazed they are strong enough to support the roof.  I didn't give it much thought until Suhkrob pointed out that a) it's hard to find trees that grow straight enough and tall enough to be used for the columns and b) you don't find wood in this part Uzbekistan - it has to be brought in from areas.  The good thing about the dry weather in Bukhara is that the wood can be used outside.





By now, I would expect nothing less than an intricately carved and decorated ceiling at an Uzbek mosque and the one at Bolo Hauz does not disappoint!




Outside the front door, men were working on fixing the floor.


I had to take a photo of their tea cups.  Since I have been in Central Asia, I have not seen a single paper or styrofoam cup.  Even on a *construction* site, they use a real pot and cup to serve tea.  It's no wonder there is not a lot of trash here.


After Suhkhrob finished explaining things to Pat, we took off our shoes and went inside.


The interior was surprisingly simple.


I had expected an extravagant interior as I had seen in the mosques in Samarkand but the decoration here was much more restrained.


Of course, there was something gold.


But the ceiling was comparatively plain in design and color.


Even the majolica and tiles were less elaborate compared to what I had seen in Samarkand.  I am learning to recalibrate my expections on the art and architecture here - not as over the top as Samarkand but very tasteful in its own way.





Back outside, Suhkrob told us that Bolo Hauz is also named the 40 Column Mosque.  I could see the grin on Suhkrob's face as I counted them.  There were 20.  So, he asked if we knew where the other 20 were.  Of course, we had no clue.  So, he led us to the answer.  As we stood on the other side of the pool, I could see the reflection of the 20 columns on the water.  That was the answer!  Suhkrob smiled at my response.  I wanted to tell him that I'm smarter than I look :-)


From here, we crossed the street to the Ark!