Today Uzbekistan with its numerous ancient monuments, rich nature, and today’s rapid progress attracts the whole world’s attention. For centuries the country was at the intersection of the Great Silk Road routes along which merchants, geographers, missionaries, and later tourists travelled. It is striking how the history, traditions and cultures of the nationalities populating the present-day Uzbekistan have been entangled with the history of Great Silk Road.
Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, and Shakhrisabz, where cultural and spiritual values had been long since concentrated, outstanding scientific centres and schools were established, architecture, craftsmanship, and applied art were flourishing, played the role of main urban centres. Creative work and various scientific achievements of the local scientists, thinkers, and poets have proved to be a valuable contribution to the development of the world civilization. Abu Ali ibn Sino, al-Khorezmiy, Mirzo Ulugbek, Bakhouddin Nakshband, al-Bukhoriy, at-Termeziy, Abu Raikhon Beruniy, Alisher Navoiy – this is but a short list of names of prominent figures of Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan, where monuments of ancient cultures of different ages are concentrated, is rightly called a treasury of history. The Ichan-Kala complex in Khiva, and the historical centres of Bukhara, Shakhrisabz and Samarkand are included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. Many unique monuments and architectural constructions in these towns have remained in a good state up to the present day and are of great historical importance.
The monuments of Samarkand are majestic and wonderful. In this town one can feel the breath of history itself. It can be traced in the ancient ruins as well as in the madrassahs, mausoleums, and minarets, which have long been decorating the city. In 1370 Amir Timur (Tamerlan) designated Samarkand as the capital of his great state that spread from Mongolia and Siberia to Syria and India. From his campaigns he brought many skillful architects and craftsmen whose works of art have outlasted the ages. The legendary Samarkand square of Registan has up to now been considered to be one of the main architectural sights of Central Asia.
Since old times Bukhara has been the centre of a densely populated oasis. Archeologists noted that the city was constantly growing, both in width and in height. Ruins of dwellings, public buildings, defence structures dating back to different periods of the city’s history have been found in the earth stratum 20 metres underground. There are more than 140 monuments of ancient architecture in Bukhara altogether. Minaret Kalyan, the striking symbol of the city, towers over it. Everyone who has seen this “Great Minaret” built in 1127 will keep long in their memory the impression of its greatness and original beauty.
Having once visited Bukhara, memories of the Ark fortress and many other monuments of antiquity, which surround you almost everywhere will stay long in your mind. Craftsmen will reproduce ancient patterns on copper and silver right before your eyes, jewellers will make replicas of unique adornments, which the beauties used to wear thousands of years ago. Involuntarily you ask yourself: how many centuries has this town numbered? How many pieces of the past material cultures are buried in it?
Khiva is the only town of the period of the Great Silk Road, which has remained fully undamaged till now. Time seems to go centuries back here. That is why the town has rightly gained the name of “the museum in the open”. In Khiva with its narrow alleys where legends of old times seem to have been reflected in stone and wood, you can easily imagine the life of former generations which will not repeat itself but has left us old traditions, legends, and precepts.
Most of architectural monuments of the Ichan-Kala complex in Khiva date back to the late 18th – first half of the 19th centuries. But the excavations on its territory revealed much more ancient layers dating back to the 3rd and even earlier centuries B.C. Ichan-Kala is surrounded by a thick wall which is 2100 metres long and has several gates. The silhouette of the huge Islam-Khodzha minaret stands out over the town.
Shakhrisabz is the birthplace of Amir Temur where everything, one way or another, is connected with his name. Having established the Movarrounnakhr empire, and having become an absolute ruler – emir, Timur designated Samarkand as his capital. But he always remembered and took care of his hometown. In fact, Shakhrisabz was the second capital of the empire. The best architects, construction workers, and masters of architectural decoration were sent here by the emir’s orders. Alongside the local masters they built majestic constructions thus realizing the experience and traditions of different countries.
Tashkent, the capital of present-day Uzbekistan, is one of the biggest cities of Central Asia and is called the “Star of the Orient” and “Messenger of Peace” reflecting the very essence of the city. Tashkent is rich in archeological monuments. None of the Central Asian towns has been studied so thoroughly by scientists as the capital of Uzbekistan. Only ten years ago there were 39 known archeological monuments on the territory of the city, whereas today there have been excavated more than 240 monuments. In the past Tashkent had different names: Yuni, Chach, Shash, Binkent. Its present name was first introduced in the 11th century works by Beruniy and Makhmud Kashgariy.
The architectural look of old Tashkent has been developing for centuries, both under the influence of many-sided Oriental culture and due to natural factors. The need for ways to protection from hot climate and earthquakes gave rise to peculiar know-hows in construction. There appeared interesting types of dwellings with covered yards, sliding shutters “keshgarcha”. Residential areas with a maze of narrow alleys formed the environment for standing out mosques, madrassahs, and mazars (cemeteries).
Today Tashkent is a large industrial center with about 300 companies producing almost everything which contemporary person needs: from aircraft and tractors to TV sets and toys for children. Here the images of old times join the modern skyscrapers made of glass and metal, multilevel overbridges, parks, museums, fountains. Tashkent is rapidly becoming a modern developed international megapolis.
Many-sidedness of the history of Uzbekistan is brightly reflected in its geographical location. Termez, located in the very south of the country can serve a good example of this. It came into being at the end of 19th century and had the appearance of a typical semi- Asian semi-European town. It was a one-storied town, with public buildings made of baked bricks and dwellings made of adobe, with flat roofs in Oriental style and windows facing the street in Western mode, in greenery of gardens, with customary acacias, elms and planes along the pavements. Today Termez is a modern town, the center of Surkhandarya Viloyat (Province).
Many years of scientific study have revealed that this peaceful and quiet town has a long and eventful history. It was in Surkhandarya region that the most famous Central Asian sites of primitive man were found. The territory of Surkhandarya region was a part of many states: the empire of Alexander the Great, Bactria, the empire of Chenghiz-Khan and Amir Temur, sharing with each its fate. Archeologists use to find the unique traces of their might and power. Founded on the right bank of the Jeyhun River (the Amudrya River) at a convenient crossing place, at a crossroads of caravan routes of the Great Silk Road, 5 km north-west from the present-day Termez, Old Termez had in centuries time become one of the leading towns. Later it was destroyed by hostile raids and internal wars.
The name “Pearl of Central Asia” has been positively attributed to rich and picturesque Fergana Valley, which always played a significant role in the history and culture of Central Asia. Fergana Valley is truly a unique part of the Orient. In ancient times the valley was the center of various civilizations, which is proved by evidence of antic settlements and monuments of the Middle Ages.
Today Fergana Valley is the most flourishing region of the country. The astonishing nature enchants with a variety of colors. The Sirdarya River, formed by the Karadarya and the Naryn River, flows along the northern border of the valley. These rivers feed main canals: the Big Canal, the Northern Canal and Southern Canal, which appeared on the map of the region as a result of national construction projects of the 20th century.
Fergana Valley, the big and flourishing oasis with the most fertile land in Central Asia, where the towns of Fergana, Kokand, Andizhan, Namangan are situated, is rightly called “Golden Valley”.
Uzbekistan comprises an autonomous republic Karakalpakstan most part of which is the territory of the Kizyl-Kum desert, plateau Usturt, the delta of the Amudarya River and the southern part of the Aral Sea. The most ancient settlements here date back to the Stone Age.
The Karakalpaks belong to the Central Asian ethnic groups with bold Mongoloid features. Earlier they led semi-nomadic life, practiced agriculture, cattle breeding and fishing. For the most part they lived in yurtas (nomadic temporary houses). In spite of the fact that today the native customs are being kept only by the old generation, the signs of ancient traditions can be traced in the house interiors, clothing, food, peculiar applied art.
Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan, is a beautiful modern town, the center of economic and cultural life of the republic. Everyone who is visiting Nukus should certainly see Karakalpakistan State Museum of Art named after its founder, the famous artist Igor Savitskiy. The museum displays not only works of painters but also a wide variety of local artifacts found in the region, which attest to continuity of cultures.
Karakalpakistan truly proves to be a vivid example of times correlation. Beautiful and tempting, promising surprising meetings and discoveries, it is ready to impart its mysteries and share its legends.
Uzbeksitan today is the country where thousands-old antiquity exists in harmony with modern civilization. Harmonious correlation of times is seen everywhere. Ancient monuments, Old Town houses made of adobe bricks stand next to many-storied sky scraping buildings constructed in accordance with the unique designs worked out by architects of the 20th century. The traditions of the people are being carefully preserved.
Arts and crafts have been developing here throughout the centuries; their secrets have been passed from generation to generation as great treasure. The unique works of unknown masters strike you dumb by the flight of fancy. In the present-day Uzbekistan traditional cultural values are being treated with great care, the state supports revival of the arts and crafts, contributing to their further development. Uzbek ceramics, embossing, wood carving, golden embroidery, carpets, varnished miniature, jewelry are well known far outside our country.
Non-material heritage is not less unique and has been acknowledged by UNESCO. For example, the folklore singing of Baysun district, Surkhandarya Province, Uzbekistan, is included as a cultural object in UNESCO list to be protected by the international community. Melodiousness and oriental rhythms of ritual songs and musical compositions sung and played in other regions of the country are amazing too.
The institution of family remains firm in Uzbekistan. It is considered one of the most important values of life. Uzbekistan is notable for the world’s lowest divorce rate. As a rule, Uzbek families have many children, especially in the rural areas, where women are mostly housewives. They combine housework with arts and crafts such as hand-spinning, embroidery, carpet weaving. Their works are common in any local house, which Uzbek women usually decorate with great love. The settled way of life made people look after their houses very carefully. Inner yards and even the streets next to houses are kept very clean.
Nowadays, along with the clothing of European style the Uzbeks wear national clothing, especially on holidays. Men usually wear striped quilted robe, belted with a beautiful sash, and a skullcap to cover their heads. Women wear loose bright dresses made of traditional fabrics: khan-atlas, bekasam, kalami.
The dishes of National Uzbek cuisine are notable not only for their practicability but for certain skills required for their cooking. Unique Uzbek pilaf, aromatic transparent shurpa (soup), juicy manti made of dough bags and meat, shashlyk with its smack of smoke and spices are famous all over the world. It would be unthinkable to have a dastarkhan (table-cloth) without greens, vegetables, fruit, sun-fed melons and bunches of grapes. Melting on the tongue sweets, nuts and almonds cooked by grandmother’s recipes complement the dastarkhan. Green tea is a favorite drink of the Uzbeks. It quenches thirst on a sultry day.
Uzbekistan is truly an amazing land with original national culture where the heritage of ancient times is being carefully preserved and a society with modern economy and developed science and art is being simultaneously built.
In the present-day Uzbekistan a lot is being done so as to restore the unique monuments – witnesses of the country’s past; owing to these programmes of restoration and preservation work many of these monuments have been given second birth. Sairam Tourism, the leading tourist company of Uzbekistan acknowledged worldwide, provides travelers with the opportunity of visiting these places and touching the pulse of history.
In 1997 on UNESCO decision, the whole cultural world celebrated its 2500 jubilee. The legend connects appearance of the city with the name of one of the deity of Zoroastrian pantheon – Siyavush. The most ancient part of Bukhara is its citadel – Ark, where archaeologists excavated the finds dating back to the 3rd century B.C. This is a twenty meters high artificial mound, where the emir`s palace, his harem, treasury, arsenal and casemates for criminals were located. The palace housed throne hall, in the center of which there was a marble throne of the emir. In the upper gallery there was a music pavilion where the court musicians used to play makoms twenty-four hours a day.
In immediate proximity to the Ark there was a palace mosque Jami and the picturesque complex of the Bolo-Hauz mosque with a luxurious polystyle aiwan that together with the minaret reflected in the waters of the pool.
The whole territory of Bukhara including Ark was surrounded with an impressive outer wall that had eleven gates that have been partly preserved to our times. The minarets, portals and domes of the mosques, madrassahs, crests of caravan-sarays and trade buildings towered over the flat gray roofs of one and two storied houses. And today, the city boasts more than one hundred and forty buildings of medieval architecture attracting people from all over the world. There were more than one hundred madrassahs alone, and figure of the student boy hurrying to his classes, most likely was the most typical in the streets of the city.
One of the oldest monuments of Bukhara is Ismail Samani mausoleum built at the beginning of the 10th century by the founder of the Samanid dynasty. The mausoleum is a perfect brick cube covered with the hemisphere cupola. The Samanids mausoleum is the first building in Central Asian architecture built of fired bricks; moreover, brick is used both as a construction and a decorative element. The building is made of the figure bricks, which cover the walls with a peculiar ornament.
During the day the shifting daylight changes the pattern of decoration. None of the architectural monuments of the world uses such a technique of decor. The architectural forms of Ismail Samani mausoleum – the first known mausoleum in the Islamic world – have their symbolic explanations: the cube symbolizes the earth, its dome is a symbol of the heavens, and their harmonic unity represents the universe.
The main vertical line of the city is the Kalon Minaret built in 1127. This is a perfect architectural construction, a colossus, 47 meters towering over the city. Slightly narrowing to the top, the round tower of this tallest in Uzbekistan minaret from below to the top is trimmed with a relief design of the colored bricks. The ornamented bands ringing the minaret emphasize its size and upward direction. At the same time, the diversity and the rhythm of ornamental motives enrich a rather simple and clear architectural form. They say that architect, Bako by name, having put a foundation of the tower on ganch and camel milk, left the city for two years in order to escape the premature start of the construction works. However that may be, for almost one thousand years the minaret has not contracted a millimetre.
The peculiarity of the medieval Bukhara architecture became a creation of ensembles consisting of two monumental buildings separated with a street or a square and facing each other. On the basis of this principle, the central ensemble of the city – Poi Kalon square – “At the foot of the Great” – was built. Vaulted gallery connects the minaret with a grandiose Friday mosque Masjidi-Kalyan. Opposite the mosque, at the beginning of the 16th century there was built Miri-Arab madrassah, which is still functioning. The courtyard portals of the building are well proportioned and are beautifully decorated with mosaics. The dome structure with its openings to let the daylight in, gives the interior a particular artistic expressiveness.
One of the main places of interest of Bukhara is undoubtedly the Ulugbek’s madrassah. Ulugbek was Temur’s grandson and a prominent scientist of his time. His credo “It is the sacred duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek after knowledge” is written with an Arabic script above the entrance to the madrassah.
The madrassah in Bukhara, the first of the three madrassahs built by Ulugbek, fascinates visitors with its forms and elegance of so-called “star” ornament – girikh.
Opposite to it there is Abdulaziz-khan madrassah which impresses with richness of decor. Similar ensemble is formed by kos-madrassahs of Modari-khan and Abdullah-khan, both madrassahs being built one opposite the other in the narrow street.
During its history the city was reconstructed many times. The buildings that have survived after numerous wars and upheavals impress a lot. Here is a Magoki-Attari mosque, which is located on the site of the earlier Zoroastrian temple. And in the 12th century there was built a mosque here and people used to come to this mosque to celebrate main Muslim holidays – Kurban-hait and Ramazan.
Chasma-Ayub mazar also dates back to the 12th century. According to the legend, biblical prophet Ayub was once passing this waterless part of Bukhara, stabbed the ground with his stick and instantly there appeared a source with clear healing water. In the 15th century Khorezmian masters brought by Temur after his military campaigns to Khorezm built over a well a building with a conical dome on the high drum – a typical form for Khoremian architecture. In comparison with this construction Chor-Minor madrassah is a relatively new building since it was built in the 17th century. The building has four squat minarets and blue glazed domes, which bring the madrassah a peculiar silhouette.
It is typical of the East to use artificial pools – hauzes – not only for practical application but also to decorate the city. In Bukhara there functioned more than eighty comfortable pools like this. The most famous one is Lyabi-Hauz. This unique complex consists of a big pool trimmed with slabs. It is surrounded with several buildings: Kukeldash madrassah – the biggest madrassah in Central Asia, khanaka (old house for dervishes) and Nodir Divan Begi madrassah. For centuries the Lyabi Haus provided the city with drinking water from Shakhrud canal, and today Lyabi Haus is one of the favorite places where local people as well as numerous tourists like to relax in the shade of age-old trees.
Having been a big capital city, Bukhara was famous not only for its mosques and madrassahs, mausoleums and mazars but also for its caravan-sarays, baths and multidomed market buildings. There have been preserved and are still used as shopping malls Taki-Zargaron (“the Dome of Jewelers”), Telpak-Furushon (“The dome of Hat sellers”) and Taki-Saraffon (“Money exchangers bazaar”). The names themselves testify to the initial usage of these buildings.
At the beginning of the 20th century in the suburbs of the city for emir himself there was built a summer palace Sitorai-Mohi-Hosa. One of its buildings, so-called Old Palace, was built on the project of Khodji Khafiz architect. The hall for ceremonies where the throne of emir was once located impresses a lot. But of most interest is the New Palace. Its White hall and the foyer are decorated with paintings and the intricate ganch-carving made by local masters from Bukhara Usto Shirin Muradov and Rasim Khaitov.
In the Middle Ages Bukhara was a holy city for all the Muslims of Central Asia not only from the religious point of view but also from the aesthetical esteem. Bukhara was considered to be a place of glory; it nurtured the famous people of that period of time. The author of the second most important Islamic book after Koran- the book of authentic khadiths “Al-jami as sahih” was Imam Al-Bukhari. Abu Ali Ibn Sino (Avicenna) was born in a small village near Bukhara and started his career in the holy city. The respected in the Islamic world sheikh Bahauddin Nakshbandi, the founder of the sufi order used to work as chaser in Bukhara. A pilgrimage to the holy tomb of the sheikh gave the same status as Hajii to Mecca. Even nowadays Mausoleum of Nakshbandi is revered as the main holy place of the city.
Bukhara gave the world such eminent people as historian Narshakhi, poets Rudaki and Dakiki: Even the favorite personage of the local folklore Khodja Nasreddin was also from Bukhara. His wise jokes are countless.
The centuries-old activity of Muslim scientists, thinkers, architects, poets endowed the city with such titles as “Dome of faith”, “Noble Bukhara”, “Blessed city”. It seems that Bukhara really deserves all these names.
Sightseeing places of interest in Bukhara
– The Samanids Mausoleum
– Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum
– Kalyan Mosque
– Kalyan Minaret
– Miri-Arab Madrassah
– Chor-Minor Madrassah
– Modari-khan Madrassah
– Abdullakhan Madrassah
– Ulugbek Madrassah
– Abdulazizkhan Madrassah
– Lyabi-Hauz Architectural Complex
– Chor-Bakr Necropolis
– Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa Palace
– Magoki-Attori Mosque
– Bolo-Khauz Mosque
– Bakhouddin Nakhsbandi Complex
– The Ark Fortress
– Monumental Shopping Arcades
– Abdullakhan Tim
– Abu Ali ibn Sino Museum
– The sixteenth century bathhouses
– Ancient Settlement of Paykend
Khiva is one of the few cities in the world, where the historical building up has actually been preserved; as a matter of fact it is a whole city in the open air. At various times travelers gave the description of the city. The medieval geographer Al-Makdisi wrote: “Khiva is a vast city on the edge of desert; it is on the canal that comes from the river; there is a wonderful congregational mosque in the city”. The congregational mosque is mentioned here not accidentally. Our predecessors believed that the best should be given to God and one could judge about the power and prosperity of the city itself by the beauty and magnificence of the main mosque.
More detailed information is given by the traveler D.McGahan in his book “Military actions on the Oxus and the fall of Khiva”, published in 1875. “The external view of Khiva from some parts is rather peculiar. High serrated walls with towers; covered gates on both sides flanked with heavy towers; domes of mosques and minarets rise out of the city walls; if to see all this with the sun setting down at the horizon, the picture is beautiful…”. But even a hundred years later Khiva had a no less picturesque view. Moreover, new buildings decorated the city because architecturally the city was taking shape right up to the beginning of the 20th century.
If you take a birds eye view of Khiva, you will see the domes of mosques and minarets among which Islam Khodja minaret stands out. Its slim tower trimmed with decorative belts of white blue ceramics rises at the height of 45 metres and dominates the city silhouette. The minaret is clearly seen from any part of Khiva, so it is very difficult to get lost there.
Kalta-Minor minaret could be a competitor to it as it was supposed to be the tallest in Central Asia, but Mukhammed Amin-khan who had started this construction was killed in a battle and the works stopped when the minaret was 26 meters high. Each historical architectural monument has its own legend though. They say that having heard about the future huge minaret emir of Bukhara secretly made a deal with the architect on construction of the same type of giant minaret in Bukhara. When the khan of Khiva learnt about that he ordered to throw the architect off the minaret and therefore the minaret was left unfinished.
But before proceeding our story on Khiva, we should bring to mind the fact that inner city of Ichan-Kala with its dozens of huge buildings, mostly mosques and madrassahs, tightly embracing Tash-Hauli Palace and Kunya-Ark fortress, was rebuilt within less than two centuries.
Monumental architecture of Khiva of the end of the 18th – mid-19th centuries formed this newly built city and the energy with which the city grew up in the course of only two-three generations of masters fascinates us until now. What could be ruinous for the urban settlement in different circumstances, namely casual constructions on little spots of land alongside with rather high congestion of population, became a source of unusual diversity of architectural forms. Ichan-Kala in particular, this most densely populated part of Khiva, became as the fate willed an architectural museum whose buildings represent the best masterpieces of ancient architects.
Traditionally, the spiritual centre was a congregational or Friday mosque. Juma mosque in the Ichan-Kala was also rebuilt at the end of the 18th century; however it preserved the features of classical buildings of the East. This peculiar one-storied building without portals arches and domes has a big hall with a flat roof resting on 213 wooden carved columns. It is just these columns, varied in shape and form that are of special value in this mosque. The scientists believe that all these particulars bring it closer to the old mosques of Arabia.
The biggest madrassah is Mukhammad Amin-khan madrassah. Its double khujras are just fantastic. The facades are trimmed with coloured bricks designs and majolica tiled bands of vegetable ornament. The doors and pandjara are decorated with a wonderful carving.
It is difficult to imagine a medieval city without external walls and towers, without a citadel inside. Khiva is not an exception. Since olden times Ichah-Kala was surrounded with the massive outer walls. And in the middle of the 19th century a new wall with ten gates was built around Khiva. Since that time the big ring of the city started to be called Dishan-Kala or the “external fortress”.
And inside Ichan-Kala there was Kunya-Ark – “the old citadel”. Built at the end of the 18th century, it included an arsenal, a gunpowder factory, the palace, the court, the chancellery, the mint, a mosque and a drill square for military training. Kunya-Ark also housed a harem – two-storied building with the inner courtyard and the pool, with many chambers and living quarters. The most important building here is the Kurinish khan Palace, which was used for official receptions. In addition to throne halls, the palace housed the treasury and manuscripts depository.
The big ensemble of civil and religious buildings was formed in the 19th century next to Palvan-darvoza gates. The leading place among these buildings is given to the main palace of Khiva khans – Tash-Hauli, which was built in the middle of the 19th century. The facade of the palace and the surface of the walls surrounding inner courtyard are trimmed with ornamental majolica where blue and ultramarine colors dominant. The ancient masters knew the secret of making coloured ceramic glaze called “ishkor”, the dyes of which keep their original colors for centuries.
The ensemble combines into one various premises – reception halls, harem, and household premises. What really impresses in decoration of the palace is the unique ornamental carving on the columns that support coverings of the high aiwans facing the inner courtyard.
The medieval people while keeping and preserving mausoleums and temples did not pay enough attention to the civil buildings. There have been preserved in Khiva about 20 madrassahs, whereas only few palaces managed to remain intact.
In the spiritual life of Khiva a special attention was given to the holy places – mazars and mausoleums. Thus one of the most respected places is a memorial complex of Pakhlavan Makhmud, a furrier by profession, a hero, a philosopher and a poet. After his death his was canonized as pir – a holy patron of Khiva. Gradually, around the burial place of Pakhlavan Makhmud there grew up a cemetery of the representatives of khan family, while in later period there came into existence the ensemble of the adjoining buildings including winter and summer mosques, commemoration premises and a room for Koran reading.
Not very far from Kunya-Ark citadel there is one of the most ancient buildings of Khiva – mausoleum of Seiid Allauddin, built in the 16th century. According to the historians, initially it was a modest burial vault with a small portal. But later, a spacious domed building for commemoration was attached to it. Inside the mausoleum there have been preserved a monumental tombstone decorated with splendid relief tiles.
A few architectural buildings have been preserved in the Dishan Kala or External fortress. The most remarkable among them is Nurullabai palace. The construction was completed in 1912. Not only masters of Khiva took part in the construction of the palace, but also German and Russian specialists who brought elements of European modern in the architecture of the palace. The decor of the palace is famous for its brickwork of glazed bricks, stone and wood carving, while interiors are remarkable for their ornamental paintings.
Though Khiva is mostly rich for its spiritual and religious buildings, it also has a plenty of civil buildings that is the buildings that any big trade city requires in order to function properly. Thus the ensemble of Palvan Darvoza alongside with Allakulikhan madrassah included multi-domed gallery that housed trade rows, baths and a vast caravan saray. The living quarters of Khiva as specimens of mass popular architecture are also of great interest. The houses were built of clay blocks, often supported with a wooden frame, and this material easy to work with and rather pliant, though not very firm, was used as construction material for centuries. In case of building’s collapse, it was possible to rebuild it, as there was always enough clay nearby.
Khiva has always been a city of craftsmen and traders. And even now in the narrow streets of Khiva, behind the carved doors of cozy workshops, the craftsmen will engrave a wonderful design on the copper sides of kumgan or carve the ornaments on the slim wooden columns just in your presence.
In the Middle Ages Khiva was also a city of scientists. There existed big scientific centres – astronomy, mathematics, and medicine. There lived and worked great scientists such as Abu Al Khorezmi, Abu Raikhan Beruni, Abu Ali Ibn Sina. At the court of Abbul Ibn Mammun thee got together the eminent medieval scientists who formed the “Academy of Mamuna”. The great scientists of the East were Shermukhammad Munis and Agakhi. Not without reason the city got the name “The Pearl of Khorezm Oasis”.
At the times of its prosperity Khorezm was the biggest center of international trade, the key point on the Great Silk Road. The merchants from Volga region, India, Iran came here; from here the trading caravans started their way to Middle East, Eastern Turkestan and China. From Khiva, the roads led to Mongolia and via the Polovetscky steppes to Saksin, a trade place in the mouth of the Volga and further to Russia and Europe. Archaeologists found new routes of the ancient caravan roads and in particular from Khorezm to Mangishlak and from there by sea to Nizhni Povolzhe proving that Khiva merchants controlled considerable part of trade of Central Asian states with Eastern Europe.
When evening comes and the moon – patron of the believers – is lighting the tops of the minarets, domes of mosques and portals of madrassahs, you seem to find yourself in the fabulous city. Khiva indeed is a city from fairy tales.
Sightseeing places of interest in Khiva
– Kunya-Ark Citadel
– Akshi-Bobo Bastion and Kurnysh-Khan’s Palace
– Walls and Gates of Khiva
– Tash-Hauli Palace Complex
– Muhammad Rakhimkhan Madrassah
– Muhammad Aminkhan Madrassah
– Kutlug Murad Inak Madrassah
– Islam Hojja Minaret
– Kalta-Minor Minaret
– Pahlavan Mahmud Complex
– Seyyid Allauddin’s Mausoleum
– Juma Mosque and its Minaret
– Kibla Tozabog – Khiva Khan’s summer residence
– Nurullabay’s Palace
In different centuries Uzbekistan’s ancient cities played the main role on the Great Silk Road – this ancient transcontinental road. But the title “the Heart of Great Silk Road” is indeed obtained by Samarkand. The city is included into “The World Heritage” list of UNESCO – so great the significance of material and spiritual values concentrated here. The unique buildings of ancient architecture, heritage of scientific and art schools, centers of national handicrafts available in ancient city are famous today all over the world
Samarkand is one of the ancient cities in the world, contemporary of Rome, Athens, Babylon – stepped over its 2500 years anniversary. “The Radiate Point of Globe”, “The Jewel of Islam”, “The Mirror of the World” was named it in the East from the earliest times. During its centuries-old history the ancient city went through the times of rising and decline, suffered the devastating raids of foreign invaders, revived to the new life becoming more beautiful. A special flourishing and rising was reached by the city in the period of Amir Temur and Temurids. Exactly Samarkand was chosen by Sahibkiran as a capital of his powerful state Movarounnahr.
The boundless gardens are seen already at the entry to the city. The history of their creation became a thing of the past. Amir Timur in XIV century ordered to create a green belt around the capital of his empire. The architectural-organized gardens with plantations of fruit and decorative trees, flower gardens, irrigation system and pools were magnificent and splendid. “A traveler who approaches the city sees only a mountainous height of trees and the houses embowered among them remain invisible” wrote Spanish envoy Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo who visited Samarkand in 1404. “Bogi Zagon”, “Bogi Shamol”, “Bogi Maidon”, “Bogi Baland”, “Bogi Dilkush”: – all names of gardens are kept till nowadays. And at present time Samarkand is one of the greenest cites of Uzbekistan.
Amir Timur made his great contribution into the formation of state system, progress of science and culture. The vast program of town-planning was carried out during his rule and especially – in the capital of state – Samarkand. Huge funds were assigned for the erection of monumental buildings, in fact grandiose architectural buildings were to serve as an indicator of grandeur of empire and its sovereign. Temur gathered skillful architects, builders, masters of architectural decor. We can admire splendid works at the present time. The city charms as personified in real life fairy tales of Shaherezada.
Start your tour visiting Gur Emir building – a mausoleum of Amir Temur. From a distance Gur Emir looks like a blue tulip, folded tightly its turquoise petals. The remains of great sovereign, his two sons and two grandsons, one of them is a prominent scientist and thinker of the East – Mirzo Ulugbek are rested on here.
Having inspected richly decorated gravestones, made of onyx with superfine ligature of dedicatory inscriptions, lighted precious semi-columns, unusual wall-paintings, cupola, which are opened for the observation of tourists, ask to show a burial place itself. And the keeper for a reasonable price will lead you into the low crypt where under the flat cupola you can see the ancient graves.
Next in turn is the legendary Registan square which by right is the main architectural sight in whole Central Asia. Since ancient time this square was trade and public center of Samarkand. The proud mass of three madrassahs of Ulug Bek, Shir Dor, Tillya Kari dominate here. Ulugbek as his grandfather paid a great attention to monumental building and during his rule the ensemble of magnificent buildings was completed.
While admiring the elegance of precious mosaics of Ulugbek madrassah, the ribbed turquoise cupolas and majestic minarets of Shir Dor, the golden paintings of pattern walls of Tillya Kari, do not keep your emotions in – the echo responds to your exalted exclamations as a voice from old time:”I am Registan, the heart of Samarkand …”
Here possibly is the most beautiful place to take pictures for memory. At Shir Dor madrassah the professional photographers usually try to catch the moment when the sun touches top of minaret. Be patient – you can take a unique picture as well.
The outstanding monument of ancient architecture is a lofty congregational Bibi Khanum Mosque. By the way, at parking place near the mosque you can see a donkey with cart next to a fashionable car, on which farmers from nearby villages bring sweet melons and watermelons for magnificent Samarkand Bazaar.
The grandiose building of congregational Bibi Khanum mosque towers above the city as a giant silhouette and the blue dome is a match for vault of heaven. By basic idea sparkling walls, tall minarets, wide portal of mosque, designed by white marble had to glorify the name of Timur and his lovely wife for ages. The construction of mosque was started in 1399 and huge funds were assigned for this purpose. Even elephants imported by Temur from India were used for construction works. In 1404 the magnificent building was close to complete. The yard of mosque was surrounded by precious galleries, which arches rested on more than three hundred marble columns, and four slim minarets arose above in every corner. Public worships were held here. But after the death of Sahibkiran in 1405 the construction was not finished.
Nearby, behind walls of Bibi Khanum mosque, the colourful eastern bazaar seethes with many-voiced chorus. It is the sight of the city too and one should get to know it. It will certainly excite your appetite. It’s simple to satisfy your appetite: local cooks invite repeatedly to taste a number of different eastern dishes.
Nowadays, a special program offered to guests of ancient city – is an acquaintance with local folk crafts, applied arts. Wares of Samarkand masters were famous all over the world since olden days. Along the branches of Great Silk Road unsurpassed beautiful fabrics – crimson velvet, brocade, silk, carpets, goods of metal and leather, jewelry, famous Samarkand paper and other goods were delivered from here to various countries. Marvelous wares of Samarkand masters one can here today- do walk along the famous Tashkent street with handicraft shops and trade rows, watch skilled craftsmen creating their wonderful works before your eyes.
May be you want to make a closer acquaintance with locals ? To find out more about their traditions, life, customs? Visit an Uzbek house. It is not necessary to pre-arrange meeting for that. Go along the University Boulevard and at the end of it turn to the left, to Mukimi Street. Then you will find a shady street full of vineyards. Here it is called “Domla Guzar” – the street of University teachers. Knock at any door – you are a welcomed guest. You will be given bunch of grapes, a cup of fragrant tea to drink, hot pesty – somsa and eastern sweet.
During your sightseeing tour visit the ensemble Shah-i-Zinda on the slope of the ancient Afrosiab. As a blue necklace, a chain of monuments are stretched out here. Sparkling by glitter of colorful glaze the mausoleums in which Temur and his heirs buried their relatives from both sides surround the way which leads to the main sacred place of complex – situated on the top of the hill, to mazar (burial place) of Kussam-ibn-Abbas, a cousin of the Prophet Mohammed. He arrived in Samarkand in VII century, preached Islam and was killed suffering for belief.
The legend says that Kussam-ibn-Abbas continues to live. From here, follows the name of complex – Shah-i-Zinda which means “the Living King”. The first burial-vaults appeared in XII century near his esteemed grave. Most part of the construction works were carried out in XIV-XV centuries under rule of Amir Timur. Among these constructions – splendid mausoleums of two emirs – Burunduk and Emir Zade. But burial-vaults of women from Sahibkiran clan are prevailed. All mausoleums are marked by a single compositional finding – this is a square domical buildings, the entrance in which is emphasized by portico. The great architectural decor of buildings in which glazed bricks, majolica slabs, carved mosaic are used strikes imagination.
This complex of monuments of ancient architecture has its own peculiarity, attracting not only tourists but locals too. From the entrance arc, steep and long staircase leads to the mountain. Carefully count steps on the way to the top. Do not forget to count steps when you will go downstairs. It is spoken, if number coincides you are sinless.
The burial place of Kussam-ibn-Abbas attracts to Samarkand many followers of religious and spiritual tourism. In fact in middle ages the pilgrimage to the grave of “Living King” was equal to Hadji to Mecca. Another sacred place of Samarkand – Mazar Khodja Doniyor (Tomb of Saint Daniel) is honored not only by Moslems, but Christians and Jews as well. It is situated near the site of ancient settlement Afrosiab on the bank of river Siab. According to legend the water of spring which spouted near the tomb has a healing power.
In Samarkand which was the center where the scientist schools were formed, you can see the first astronomical observatory built in the world. It was built by the grandson of Temur – Ulugbek which went down to history as the “scientist on throne”, the patron of science and enlightenment. Being the greatest astronomer he compiled star tables “Zidji Gurgani” with his companions which contains the exact positions of more than thousand stars. The tables preserve their scientific significance till nowadays.
To touch more extreme antiquity go to the ancient site of Afrosiab. The guides will tell you about city originated 500 years BC about underground palace, designed by precious Sogdian frescos…
Leaving the city, according to tradition, take the best in the world Samarkand round bread . They come useful during your travel along the Great Silk Road.
Sightseeing places of interest in Samarkand
– Registan Square
– Guri-Amir Mausoleum
– Bibi-Khanum Mosque
– Shahi-Zinda Necropolis
– Ulugbek’s Observatory and Museum
– The Ancient Settlement of Afrosiab
– The Relic of Three Religions
– Rukhabad Shrine
– The Hazrat-Hyzr Mosque
– The Maturidiy Shrine
– Imam Al-Bukhari Complex
– Tashkent Street
– The Siab Bazaar
– University Boulevard
Tashkent was first mentioned in “Avesta” and in ancient Chinese manuscripts. The city arose in the Chirchik river valley, on the border of the oasis and steppe as the place, where farmers and cattle – breeders, settled population and nomads used to meet for joint trading. And this place proved to be a happy choice, because the city managed to survive in spite of all trials – wars, sieges and invasions. In the ancient chronicles the city was known under such names as Yuni, Chach, Shash… Judging from the accounts made by Beruni and Makhmud Kashgari, the name “Tashkent” first appeared in the Turkic sources of the 9th – 12th centuries. The city has always served as kind of a link between the countries in the East and the West, in the North and the South. The advantageous geographical location and favorable climate made Tashkent one of the main points on the trade routes of the Great Silk Road.
Quite often Tashkent’s destiny was really dramatic. More powerful neighbors constantly hankered after this rich trade city. And it was very rare, that Tashkent belonged to itself. In the 7th century Tashkent was the “summer” capital of Eastern Turkic kaganate, in the 8th century it was destroyed by the Arabs, but managed to rise again anyway, whereas at the beginning of 13th century the city was captured by Khorezm – shah Mukhammad who then ceded it to khan Kuchlik. In the 14th century Tashkent was a part of the empire of Temur, who then handed it down to his grandson Ulugbek. In the 16th century the city belonged to Sheibanids and one century later it was captured by Imam Kuli – khan from Bukhara, who delegated his power to his governor-general. At the beginning of the 19th century Tashkent became the colonial possession of Kokand ruler Alim – khan. Same century the city was annexed to the Russian empire and became the administrative and political center of Turkestan region. At, at last, in the 20th century Tashkent outlived the Soviet power and became the capital of Uzbekistan – the sovereign and independent state.
Ultimately, Tashkent was born under the lucky star. The city lives and grows, constantly extending its borders. In the middle of the 19th century there were less than 100 thousand inhabitants, but at the beginning of the 21st century the population of Tashkent numbers more than 2 million people.
Tashkent is rich in archeological monuments. The scientists have investigated the capital of Uzbekistan as no other city of Central Asia. Ten years ago there were registered only 39 archeological monuments, but at present this number has increased up to 240.
The site of ancient settlement Shoshtepa, situated in the capital’s outskirts, is called the progenitress of Tashkent. There was discovered the initial settlement here, which sprang up in the 4th – 5th centuries B.C. and in later period gave rise to the urban formation. People lived in mud-huts there and busied themselves with cattle – breeding and agriculture. They could make the molded ceramic dishes, had a knowledge of weaving and melting of bronze and iron. A rather notable discovery made on the territory of Tashkent was monumental pise-building, which most likely was a citadel.
Some imported things, found on the site of ancient settlement, in particular a riton with the picture of the Parthian ruler, testify to the brisk trade and wide cultural links with the antic world.
In the 9th century the city was ringed about with an imposing wall having a watch-tower and 12 gates from which there ran the trade roads. Time did not spare this fortification construction; there have been preserved only the names of ancient streets which once were the continuation of caravan’s ways inside the city – Samarkand-darbaza (Gates of Samarkand), Chigatay-darbaza… The city was divided into 4 districts – dakha, which for its turn consisted of dozens of blocks-makhallyas. Each dakha, as well as makhallya, had its local government – Council of Elders. As a rule, the makhallya’s name reflected the professional belonging of its inhabitants. Thus, in the makhallya Dargez there lived foundry workers, Takachi makhallya was inhabited by blacksmiths, whereas in Igarchi makhallya there lived mostly saddle-makers.
In Navoi avenue, opposite the many-storeyed hotel “Chor-su”, there is a well-preserved monumental building of Kukeldash maddrasah; behind it one can see the domes of the main mosque of Tashkent Djuma-mosque, associated with the name of its builder – the most outstanding religious figure of Temurid’s epoch Khodja Akhrar, the native of Tashkent.
In the city’s historical part called Khastimom, a beautiful monument – mazar Kaffal Shashi – is situated. A high dome crowns this simple brick construction with fragments of majolica decoration. The remains of the one of the first Islam preachers in Tashkent Abu Bakra ibn Ismail Kaffal Shashi, who lived in the 10th century, are buried here. The mausoleum was constructed over his grave in the 16th century and became the place for worshipping.
To the south from the mausoleum, there is one of the best monuments of the Middle Asian architecture of the 14th century – Barak-khana complex, which includes one madrassah and two mausoleums, one of which was raised over the burial place of Suyudji-khan, the first ruler of Tashkent from Uzbek dynasty of Sheibanids. Being a grandson of Ulugbek and an educated ruler, he engaged to his court many scientists and poets. He also invited the famous poet from Herat Zainaddin Vasifi as a tutor for his son. The poet wrote about Tashkent: “Anyone visiting this city just once, will never want to leave it and will stop to dream about paradise blessings”. Today the Religious Administration of Moslems of Uzbekistan is situated in Barak-khana complex.
In one of the ancient districts of the city – Shaikhantaur, there are two more monuments of the medieval architecture: the 14th century mausoleum of Yunus-khan and the 15th century mausoleum of Shaikhantaur, both being considered as Moslem sacred places.
After Tashkent had been annexed to the Russian empire, the so-called, “new” city sprang up here. It was located next to the old city, and was separated from it by Anchor canal. The territory of the former fortress of Kokand governor-general from Urda became the part of this “new” city. Very soon the city assumed new forms. Along Shaikhantaur street (now it is Navoi avenue), connecting the “old” and “new” cities, the horse-drawn tram begun to run, and in 1912 the first automatic tram-line started to function. In this district in 1884 year there was opened the first Russian – native school, which initiated the secular education in Turkestan. There was also built a railway branch leading to Tashkent. The brick buildings of banks, factories, hotels and restaurants, shopping malls and cinemas were constructed in the city. One of the most remarkable constructions of that period of time still adorns the center of the capital. This is the former palace of the Grand Duke Nikolay Konstantinovich who got in disgrace and was finally exiled to Turkestan. Nowadays this beautiful construction houses the Reception House of the Ministry of International Affairs.
In the middle of the 20th century, one of the central squares of Tashkent – Teatralnaya Square was formed. Today one of the ten city theatres – the State Academic Bolshoi Theatre of opera and ballet – is situated here. It was built in accordance with the project of academician Shusev in cooperation with the Uzbek masters Usto Shirin Muradov and Tashpulat Arslankulov and is decorated with marble carving.
The interior of the theatre is decorated with intricate ganch fretwork made in compliance with ornamental traditions of Bukhara, Khiva, Samarkand and Tashkent. The frescos, imaging the story lines of Alisher Navoi’s works, were made by the founder of the monumental painting of Uzbekistan Chingiz Akhmarov. In the repertoire of the theatre there are the operas and ballets of Verdi, Bizet, Chaikovsky, as well as the works of modern Uzbek composers.
The rich cultural and spiritual heritage is reflected in the expositions of Tashkent museums. Among them we can point out the Museum of History of Uzbekistan with its unique numismatic collection, archeological finds and ethnographical relics. In the museum of the Temurids there has been displayed a rich collection of exhibits testifying to the formation in the Middle ages of a statehood on the territory of Uzbekistan, as well as evidencing the development of science, culture and art relating to the epoch of Amir Temur and his heirs. The richest collection of traditional folk art articles is presented in the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts.
Tashkent Underground is a unique engineering construction built in the area of high seismic activity. Its three lines connect the residential districts and industrial regions with the city’s centers and each of its 29 stations, dressed in marble and granite, is decorated by the best painters and designers of Uzbekistan.
In the 20th century the city experienced two crucial events. The first was the destructive earthquake of 1966. The monument “Courage”, constructed in the epicentre of the earthquake, reminds about this nature disaster, which put an end to the old one-storied Tashkent. Only “islands” of the old residential sites remained. The ruinous, but none the less unsubdued city immediately busied itself with frame and panel construction work , which gave the citizens a new level of comfort.
Another event, which changed the appearance of both the capital and the country itself, was the declaration of independence of Uzbekistan in 1991. The tall buildings made of glass and metal, many-level highway junctions, new parks, museums, fountains, in a short time made Tashkent a modern developed international megalopolis.
The capital has got a new architectural exterior. Keeping the national traditions of the architecture, there have been raised the new buildings which are not inferior to the world standards of town planning.
Within the last ten years a number of modern sport complexes, tennis courts, swimming pools have been opened. The townspeople may spend their weekend in the Golf club on the “Rokhat” lake; they can enjoy a fabulous time in the “Aqua park”, or to have a rest in one of the comfortable hotels, situated in the picturesque Chimgan foothills or on the bank of the Charvak reservoir.
Today, the townspeople have the opportunity to satisfy the most refined tastes of theirs and to do shopping in the supermarkets and boutiques, where they are offered the fashionable garments and footwear from such famous fashion-houses as “Hugo Boss”, “Armani” or “Valentino”. Yet those who like exotics and inexpensive entertainment can visit the city center – Tashkent “Broadway” occupying Sailgoh mall. There are a lot of cafes and bistros, souvenir shops, stands with toys and bijouterie, funny ceramic figures, embroidery and varnished miniatures.
Those who like to relax after the strained day, in the evenings can go to the restaurants and night-clubs, where they can try the delicate dishes, listen to good music, watch fascinating shows. It is also possible to ascend to the viewing platform of the “Koinot” restaurant, situated at the height of one hundred metres above the ground on one of the layers of Tashkent TV tower, the highest one in Central Asia, and to watch the unforgettable panorama of the huge city with its avenues and parks, smooth water surface of the canals and artificial lakes, shining blue domes of the parliament – Oliy Majlis and City Khokimiyat, mirror-like windows of new high-rise residential constructions and office blocks, tall buildings of the hotels “Intercontinental”, “Sheraton”, “Radisson SAS”, of the National and Central banks, of International business center.
The contemporaries call the Uzbek capital “Star of the East” and “Ambassador of Peace”. These names remarkably harmonize with the very essence of the city, which for more than 20 centuries has been symbolically illuminating the life of its citizens as well as of those on the way.
Sightseeing places of interest in Tashkent
– Khazrat Imam Complex
– Barak-Khan Madrassah
– Kukeldash Madrassah
– Sheikhantahur Complex
– Abdulkasim Madrassah
– Shash-Tepa Ancient Settlement
– Courage Memorial
– Independence Square
– The Alisher Navoi Opera and Ballet Theatre
– Tashkent TV Tower
– Museum of Applied Arts
– Chorsu Bazaar
– The Tashkent Metro
Old Termez was formed on the right side of the Djaikhun – Amu-Darya in a place convenient to cross the river, at the intersection of Great Silk Road routes, five kilometres to the northwest from the city of Termez. Over centuries it was developing as one of the leading city of Bactria and then Kushan Empire.
The long-term scientific research and archeological excavations have proved that this peaceable placid town has a long and rich history. For thousands of years Surkhandarya area and its main town Termez were part of and shared the destiny of many ancient empires – empires formed by Alexander the Great, Chingis khan, Amir Temur.
Modern Termez sprang up at the end of the 19th century and looked like a typical semi-Asian, semi-European town: with exclusively single-storey buildings, with public offices built from the baked bricks, with dwelling houses built from the adobe, with oriental flat roofs and western-like disposition of windows, that is overlooking the streets, with verdure of the gardens surrounding the houses, with customary acacias, elms and plane trees along side walks. Today Termez is a modern town, the center of Surkhandarya region of Uzbekistan.
The site of ancient settlement of Old Termez, located on the area of about 500 hectares, consists of a citadel – kala, two shakhristans and suburban part – rabad. The settlement dates back to the 4th century B.C, which means that Termez is more 2500 years old. In the 3rd century B.C. there was formed here the urban settlement-fortress named Demetria.
In the epoch of the ancient Kushan Empire, formed in the 1st century A.D., the city got the name Termit and became a large administrative and religious center of Northern Bactria. The Kushan’s domain stretched from Darband in the north of Surkhandarya region where massive border fortification walls were constructed, up to the territory of modern Pakistan. Kushan empire reached its highest might during the reign of Kanishka I . Kishan kings adhered to religious toleration, and alongside with Zoroastrism, Hinduism and other religions Buddha worship was prospering here. It is from here that many missionaries used to leave for Sogdiana in the north, for Margiana in the west, for China and Tibet, where they propagated Buddha’s teaching.
The discovery of site of ancient settlement of Dalverzintepa, which was situated in 60 kilometers from Termez, not far from Shurchi town, was the notable event in the history of the world culture. Dalverzintepa is a splendid archeological monument of Kushan Empire. The 10-metre thick defense wall with the towers, inside of which the casemates and galleries were situated, surrounded the site of ancient settlement; on the crests of the walls there were the areas for the missile weapons and slingers. The central part of the town was occupied by the residential quarters of rich citizens, with many-roomed houses and household yards. In the southern part of the city the craftsman’s workshops were situated. Numerous archeological finds representing articles of Buddhist and Hellenic culture are the evidence of the fact, that Dalverzintepa was situated on one of the most ancient branches of the Great Silk Road, which went from Termita along the Surkhan valley. Further caravan routes led to the Stone Tower, presumably situated in the region of modern Tashkent and mentioned in “Geography” by Claudius Ptolemy, who described the way from Syria to China.
In the suburban area of Dalverzintepa the archeologists discovered the ruins of Buddhist sanctuary, built up here approximately in the 1st century A.D., judging from the coins found at the site. There was the stupa, the room for praying and so called, “king’s hall”, richly decorated with the sculptures representing religious and secular Buddhist and Hellenic images. One of the most wonderful sculptural images is the head of a Kushan’s ruler in the pointed headdress. The elements of Greek – Bactrian culture are presented in the architectural details – in the Attic bases of the columns, in the acanthus leaves and in the garment folds of the sculptural figures.
Also, there was found the second Buddhist complex with Buddha and Bodkhisatva statues, as well as a Bactrian temple with the wall paintings, which pictured priests and infants. The vivid monument of the epoch is the “golden” treasure, weighing 36 kilograms, which was found on the excavations in Dalverzintepa and consisted of the articles and trappings made of gold, silver and precious stones.
The remains of Buddhist monuments are being found up to the present day. During the last ten years Uzbek and Japanese scientists have been carrying out the joint investigations on the site of ancient settlement Koratepa. Recently, there have been found the dwellings of Buddhist monks. The stone steps, which are more than two thousand years old, lead down under the earthen cupola 5 meters in diameter. Nearby, there have been found simple things, with the help of which the monks maintained their modest life, the sculptural images of a dragon and a winged lion. The Buddhist monastery with well-preserved stupa has been discovered not far from there.
On the Surkhandarya territory the archeologists excavated several sites of ancient settlement, such as Khalchayan, Zartepa, Fayaztepa, Airtam, which are the evidence of the rich material and spiritual culture of people inhabiting this land.
The town reached its heyday in the Middle Ages, when it had turned into the largest commercial and artisan center of Tokharistan. The famous historian of the 10th century Istakhri wrote: “Termez is situated on the Djeikhun bank. The buildings are constructed from clay, but majority of urban quarters and trading sections – bazaars are made from baked bricks”. The architectural monuments, which have been preserved on the territory of Old Termez and its suburbs, attest to the town’s glorious times.
One of the highly worshipped monuments of Moslem world is the burial-vault of Khakim at-Termezi, the spiritual patron of the town, the scientist-theologian, the founder of the dervish order “Khakimi” His thousandth anniversary was celebrated in 1990 year in accordance with the decision of UNESCO. The architectural complex was being built from early 9th century and during several subsequent centuries. It consisted of a mausoleum, an aivan mosque and khanaka – the house for pilgrimaging dervishes. Originally, the mausoleum consisted of a dome construction with simple and ascetic decoration, but later the building interior was decorated by a rather rich ornament. In the late 14th century a new burial – vault with the grand carved marble tombstone was erected next to the mausoleum’s facade. The instructive description of the saint’s life with the final apophthegm about human life caducity was inscribed on the walls in Arabian characters.
Somewhat below the site of ancient settlement of Old Termez there lies the Paigambar island which has become the nature-reserve. In its southern part, among the tugai thickets, there towers the mausoleum of the legendary prophet Zul-Kifl. According to the legend, the prophet ordered to let his dead body go in the boat and to burry him at the place where the boat would pull in to the shore. The boat stopped in the middle of the river, not far from Termez. At this spot there quickly rose an island where the deceased was buried thereafter. The architectural complex, constructed in the 11th-12th centuries, consists of the mosque with the adjoining premises: a burial vault and two commemoration rooms.
In about 3 kilometres from Old Termez, surrounded by the verdure of the gardens, one of the suburban historical monuments is situated – the castle of the 9th century with the romantic name Kirk-Kiz, or Forty Girls. According to the legend, it was in this very castle that the queen Gulayim with her companions-in-arms from the “Kirk-Kiz” epos repulsed the siege of foreign invaders. The historical information indicates that this fortified castle with the massive towers at the corners used to be the patrimony of the well-known Samanid’s dynasty.
Among architectural monuments Sultan-Saodat complex is the most remarkable one. This compound ensemble was being built within 5 centuries, from the 9th century to the 14th century, and is a kind of peculiar museum of the medieval architecture. Khasan al Emir, the founder of Seyid’s clan in Termez, is buried in the northern mausoleum. The huge dome crowns the walls separated by three vaulted niches, decorated with rich ornaments, while the figured brickwork of flat twin bricks gives the building a bulk effect and delicate austerity.
The historical investigations and archeological excavations prove that since the 9th century Termez grew into a large trade and handicraft center, connected with China, India, Byzantium, Parphia, Egypt, Rome, Afghanistan, Black Sea coast. A large number of goods including wheat, cotton, silk and wool, tufted carpets and palases (pileless carpets) were brought in the city as well as were exported.
The potter’s, blacksmith’s and glass-blower’s workshops functioned in Termez and its suburbs. Weaving, namely the production of cotton fabric, prospered here too. The discovery of the mineral deposit favored the development of the ancient metallurgy. Blacksmiths produced various tools, military equipment and household utensils. During the excavation work there were discovered different metal things – cauldrons, table wear, candle-sticks, jugs. The splendid articles manufactured by potters and glass-blowers from Surkhandarya region were known outside the country.
Like many Asian towns, Termez suffered from the destructive Chingis Khan invasion in 1220. But in contrast to, let us say, Merv, for which this event was fatal, Termez managed to revive as a trade town, out of which a great number of goods were exported to other countries. At that time, Termez was used as a reference point for calculating distances between the points of destination along the caravan’s routes of the Great Silk Road.
Wars and internecine strife were narrowing the town’s vital space. By the second half of the 18th century it was completely destroyed; only two kishlaks remained in the suburb. In one of them, viz Pattakesar, at the end of the 19th century Russia built the frontier point called “Termez Tract”.
During the Soviet period Termez was practically closed for the foreigners. Today, on the contrary, the town on the Amudarya is visited by ever increasing number of tourists, who wish to touch the mystery and the beauty of the past epochs. Each hill here keeps something unknown, each monument is a legend. Modern Termez still functions as the outpost of independent Uzbekistan, the connecting-link with the neighboring states.
Sightseeing places of interest in Termez
– Hakim at-Termezi Architectural Complex
– Kyrk-Kyz Hanaka
– Sultan-Saodat Memorial
– Buddhist Cult Centers Koratepa and Fayaztepa
– Buddhist Stupa
– The Ancient Settlement of Old Termez
– Dalverzintepa Site
– Khalchayan Site
– Zartepa Site
– Airtam Site
About Uzbekistan Airways
Uzbekistan Airways is the state airline of Uzbekistan, which provides aviation needs for the national economy. Uzbekistan Airways National Air Company (NAC) was founded on January 28, 1992 in accordance with a Resolution of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov.
Soon after the airline’s establishment the development of the state civil aviation program has begun. The program included complete reconstruction of new airport terminal complexes, re-equipping of airports in accordance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requirements and establishment of a base for training professional staff. Today Uzbekistan Airways is the leading carrier in the Central Asian region.
Uzbekistan Airways keeps a sound position on the international market and provides high quality competitive services. During the years of operation Uzbekistan Airways has been awarded the International fund for Aviation Safety Diploma and a Certificate from Airports International Association and “Euromarket-2000”.
Operating scheduled flights to more than forty cities of the world including America, Europe, Middle East, Southeast, Central Asia and the CIS. Uzbekistan Airways continues to establish long-term and reliable business contacts, to increase the number of countries where its aircraft flies to and to improve its services. It makes our company one of the world’s dynamic airlines.
Uzbekistan Airways Fleet:
– Boeing 757-200
– Boeing 767-300-ER
– A 310-300
– A 320
– IL114 -100
– IL 76-TD
Highbridge House | 581 Bath Road | Longford | UB7 0EW | Company registration 4939093