Suitcase and World: Termez. The Islamic Side.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Termez. The Islamic Side.

At the Architectural Complex of Al Hakim at-Termizi.
Pat, posing for a photo with the two young people who requested she be in it.

We spent the morning exploring Termez's ancient Buddhist sights. Now it was time to delve into Termez's Islamic history at the Architectural Complex of Al Hakim at-Termizi, Kirk Kiz, Kokildor-Ota Khanaka, and the Saodat Ensemble.

A short drive from Fayaz Tepe, we stopped for a few minutes to take a look at a reconstructed fortress wall.

I saw this young man taking a photo of his friends who were looking down at him from the top of the wall.

After he snapped the photo, it was my turn.  I waved to the guys and when they acknowledged my presence, I snapped the shutter.  Everyone is very friendly here!

Shavkat dropped us off at the parking lot of the Architectural Complex of Al Hakim at-Termizi, the main holy site for Muslims in Termez.  Hakim at-Termizi, a famous Sufi theologian who is considered to be the patron saint of the country, is buried here.

If the crowds in the parking lot are any indication, this is a very popular place to be.  

Sergey getting our entry tickets.

On the main path leading through the complex.  The place was very well manicured and spotlessly clean!

We made our way inside the complex but we didn't get very far before we got approached by some curious young people.  They wanted to know wanted to know where we were from - asking Sergey the question.  When I replied to tell them that he is from Termez, they giggled in embarrassment.  Of course, I had asked him to speak Uzbek to prove it to them :-)  Sergey told us that young people often approach foreigners in hopes that they can practice their English.  Sergey encouraged them to ask us questions in English and we gladly replied.  It was nice to have a short chat with them.

Then, as we expected, they wanted us to be in a photo with them.  I always try to stand aside and just let Pat be in the photo unless I get dragged in as well.

There were a lot of local Uzbeks out enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the complex.  Looking at it another way, it's a very nice park.  On our way to the mausoleum, we saw these two lovely girls strolling ahead of us.   Both Pat and I were enamored with their dress.  We asked Sergey to stop them and ask if we could take their photo.  Uzbeks love colorful clothing - ikat and velvet are common textiles and if they can bling it up with sequins and crystals, all the better!

The Mausoleum of Mausoleum of Al-Hakim at-Termiz.

We left our shoes at the entrance to the museum.  Pat's are on the left and mine on the right.

Everyone else's shoes :-)

The Mausoleum of Al-Hakim at-Termizi was built between the 10th and 14th centuries AD. If I remember correctly, the room we entered into was the khanaka.   The room looked very new and somewhere I had read that the government had fully restored it but that some felt the reconstruction work was not appropriate so parts are being stripped off to reveal the original walls.

To the side of the main room is a small memorial mosque.

There, on a raised platform, stood the memorial tomb of Hakim at-Termizi.  The real tomb is housed in the complex's museum.  This one is just for people to stand before to give their respect and to pray.


After our brief visit to the mausoleum, we followed Sergey to an area covered by a canopy.  A set of brick steps led down to a cave room.  I can't remember what the cave was all about.  Didn't really interest me..... I let Pat go down to check it out.  She came back to report that it was just and empty cave room.  I don't recall her saying there were any paintings on the wall or anything memorable about the room.  I'll have to do some research on the web to see if I can find out more about this space.

Next, we quick stroll around the gardens behind the mausoleum.  I don't know what the orange colored flowers were but they definitely were perennials and provided a vibrant pop of color to the landscape. 

As we stood facing the mausoleum, the remains of the original fortress wall were behind us.  Excavation work is still taking place so there was a wired fence preventing us from going any further than the path we were on.

Pat looking at a map of Old Termez.

Next, it was on to the complex's museum.

The museum.

We entered the museum which contained mainly artifacts recovered from the region as well as the original tomb of Al Hakim at-Termizi.  The exhibits were all on one floor - not a big museum.  Photography was not allowed inside so it took me less time than usual to make my way around.  I think I was in the place all of 10 minutes.  I am truly not a museum person.

After the museum, we were done with our visit to the complex. Before getting back into the car, we made a quick stop at the gift shop to buy some ice cream.  It was a hot day and already past our normal lunch time - I needed some sugar to keep me going.  It was also a good time for Sergey to get in a quick smoke.

Back to Shavkat and our car.  Next, we headed to Kirk Kiz. 

At the entrance to Kirk Kiz. 
Shavkat and Sergey chatting with the man who watches over the sight.

"Kirk Kiz" means "forty girls”.  The structure, which was built between the 9th and 11th centuries,  has long attracted the attention of researchers who have debated over exactly what the purpose of the structure was.  Some have considered it to be a palace.  In fact, that's what the entry sign labels it at.  Other historians have described it as a nunnery, a caravansarai, or just simply a civil construction.  Local tradition connects it with the well-known national legend in which the princess Gulaim and her forty girls bravely struggled against raiding nomads and emerged victorious.

Entering the ruins at Kirk Kiz, it was hard to imagine the structure of a place which was a square of about 54 meters on each side.  The corners of the building were protected by large towers.  The entire building was constructed of raw brick.

One of the unique features of Kirk Kiz is the symmetry of its layout.  Each arched doorway or hallway has its counterpart on the opposite side. The large structure was divided into quadrants that were separated by wide hallways.  Each quadrant held at least 12 rooms.  In the middle of the square was a small courtyard which according to some scholars was domed while others believe it was open to the sky.

According to Sergey, people still come to this one spot to tie a small bit of ribbon to this small wishing tree.

Looking up at some of the original brickwork.  You can see the newer bricks as well.

Shavkat joined us on our walk.  He'd never been here before.

Original brickwork.

An original archway supported by new bricks.

Original windows.  I think this was my favorite part of the entire structure. 
It's got character.

Section of the exterior wall.

A reconstructed tower.

There was a spot from which we could climb up to the floor above.  There wasn't much to see except for a bit of a view of the nearby neighborhood.

Next, it was back to something more well structured, Kokildor-Ota Khanaka. Shavkat parked the car alongside a row of trees.  They just happened to be almond trees.  While spring was just arriving into Tajikistan, it had already left Termez.  Almond flowers had already given way to green fruit.  It would be at least another month or more before the seed would grow to be the nut we know.  I love almonds!

I don't know much of anything about Islamic architecture in Uzbekistan so to my untrained eye, Kokildor-Ota looked like a mausoleum but the many rooms within indicate it is a khanaka.  However, Kokildor-Ota, a Sufi saint, is entombed here so there is a mausoleum as well.

Apparently, the architecture is unusual and its layout unique.  Built in the 16th century, the entire exterior facade of the structure is finished with brick, not tile.  

Inside, is a large hall with a dome. On either side of the hall are rooms and hallways.  In an inner room are the tombstones, the largest of which belongs to Kokildor-Ota.

All we got to see was the large hall.  Not much of anything really.

Back outside, we were walking back to the car when we crossed paths with a very friendly but inquisitive older lady.  Turned out the trees that we had been admiring belonged to her.  In additon to the almond trees, she also had apricot trees. Through Sergey, she invited us to come back later in the year to pick the fruit.  So kind of her i thought.  I'm sure she knew we wouldn't be back but it was such a thoughtful gesture.

When I watched her speaking, I couldn't help but notice that her entire upper row of teeth was sheathed in gold. Every tooth was gold. They glistened in the sun.  I had to take her photo.  She must have been self conscious about her teeth because she closed her mouth and smiled for the camera. It struck me just how *Asian* she looked.  She could be one of my relatives :-)

I then asked Pat to take a photo of me and her.  We're the same height.  She really could be related to me!

The last place we visited today was the Sultan Saodat Complex.

The complex which was formed between the 11th and 17th centuries AD,  has the graves of the influential Sayyid dynasty of Termez. Termez Sayyids, according to legends, are direct descendants of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad.

The Sultan Saodat complex is comprised of mausoleums, mosques, and khanakas - 143 structures spread across 4 hectares (nearly 10 acres).  We walked towards the very end of the path to the largest and most colorful of the mausoleums, passing by a few of the mausoleums. Unfortunately, not all of the mausoleums are signed so there is no way to know who is buried there.

Islamic tombs are simple rectangular, unmarked structures.  Not much to look at and admire.

Looking around, I didn't see any other tourists other than Pat and I.  The place was dead.  Nice to be able to wander around in peace!

We took our shoes off and entered the room.  Inside were several tombs of varying sizes - both adults and children were buried here.  I walked around the room a bit, careful to not step on a tomb.....that might not be an auspicious thing to do, especially if there was a disgruntled spirit living here.

Here, Sergey explained to us how a circular dome is placed on to of a square base.  They don't use pendentives as they do in the mosques in Turkey.

He told us to look up.  Atop the square base was a hexagonal structure.  Atop that sat the dome. According to Sergey, this architectural design is something we would see in other similar structures throughout Uzbekistan.

The bricks were set in a decorative pattern.

Chamomile flowers.

As we arrived back at the car, I noticed an Uzbek man approaching on his bicycle.  He looked so dapper in his ivory colored robe and classic black and white Uzbek skullcap (tubeteika) on his head.

Through Sergey, I asked the gentleman if he would pose for a photograph.  He graciously obliged.  He never smiled at me, not even when I showed him the photos I had taken of him.  Hopefully, he didn't think I was being rude.  I love the two photos I took - especially the portrait below.  I'm working on improving my people photography skills :-)

It was just around 2p when we wrapped up our visit to the Sultan Saodat Complex.  My stomach had long been growling - it was time for lunch!