Fast facts: The population of Bokhara today is 280,000. Bokhara is the oldest city and predates the others at 2750 years old. Just for comparison, Samarkand’s population is 500,000 and Tashkent’s is 3 million.
The land is flat, considered steppe and not desert (a desert designation is devoid of vegetation, and steppe has some visible vegetation if sparse–you know, kinda like the Bay Area).
Photos, from top, left to right:
1. Nodir Devon Begi Madrassah 1623. This is one of the later buildings dedicated not to the king but a lower ranking official. By the time the buildings were dedicated to others the central govt was already in decline. The phoenix birds show Indian or Chinese influence. The face at the top was not banned at the time in artwork and different interpretations are made as to whether images are acceptable or not. The use of multicolored tile and yellow is also a late development, compared with the earlier cobalt and turquoise monochromatic schemes.
2. trading market designed and as covered market at crossroads to two streets. There were 5 built-in the city but they didn’t work so well. The earlier strip markets developed organically around neighborhoods. These did not take into account where people lived and needed the services. These trading markets are now mainly tourist attractions after they were designated for specialized trades such as metalwork or arts and crafts. Open cross ventilation makes this a very cool and sustainable place in the summer though!
3.wood door detail inside trading center
4. the water system was crucial to survival of the cities. Bokhara was considered an oasis along the trade routes and served as the seat of many governments who conquered and ruled this strategic location. Water came from the river that separates Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, but is now piped from the mountains in Tajikestan.
5. the minaret, made of bricks, shows how creative their brick craftsmen were in designing and pushing the height of these lighthouses.
6. contemporary building using wood columns and doors decoratively.
7. The earliest building in Bokhara was built below grade and preceded the Mongol invasion around the 12th c. Most buildings, particularly Islamic structures were built on top of the sites of former sacred sites, so it is likely that an earlier building preceded this one. This building is devoid of tile decoration but shows how use of brick for both structural purposes and textured walls was used very successfully, prior to the introduction of tile.
8.Detail of brick work.