Last Updated on December 15, 2022 by Helen E. White
Best Things To Do In Bukhara: Bukhara is an ancient city in Central Asia, attracting the attention of tourists from all over the world. Its middle name is a city museum, as it contains more than 140 architectural monuments that have survived to this day.
Almost all belong to the period of the Middle Ages. In addition, Bukhara is one of the largest trade centers that make up the Silk Road.
- 1 17 Best Things To Do In Bukhara
- 1.1 Ark of Bukhara
- 1.2 Mausoleum of the Samanids
- 1.3 Necropolis Chor-Bakr
- 1.4 Magoki Attari Mosque
- 1.5 House-Museum of Fayzulla Khodjaev
- 1.6 Spring of Saint Job
- 1.7 Museum-workshop of Blacksmithing
- 1.8 Mausoleum of Bahauddin Nakshbandi
- 1.9 Water Tower
- 1.10 Minaret Kalyan
- 1.11 Trade Domes
- 1.12 Mosque Bolo-Khauz
- 1.13 Museum of Arts Named After Kamoliddin Behzod
- 1.14 Ecocenter “Jeyran”
- 1.15 Monument Ancient and Eternal Bukhara
- 1.16 Mosque Kurgan
- 1.17 Architectural complex Khoja-Gaukushon
- 2 What Else to See in Bukhara?
17 Best Things To Do In Bukhara
Ark of Bukhara
One of the main attractions of Bukhara is located northwest of the city. According to legend, the Ark was built by the young man Siyavush for his beloved, whom his father did not want to give away for him.
The young man was given a condition – to build a castle from the skin of a bull. The young man showed ingenuity, took the skin and cut it into a large number of thin strips, connected it on the perimeter, as a result of which Ark appeared.
History says that the fortress was destroyed and built countless times. The ruler of Bidun Bukhar restored the building many times before he received advice that it should huddle on 7 pillars, located like stars in the constellation Ursa Major.
At the beginning of the 13th century, the army of Genghis Khan entered the fortress by deceit, killed the defenders who were hiding there, and destroyed the building. Further, the Bolsheviks under the command of Mikhail Frunze also tried to destroy the ancient building. The fortress also suffered from popular uprisings. But there were bright times – periods when poets, philosophers and scientists lived in Ark.
Today it houses the Bukhara State Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve, consisting of 5 departments: a history from ancient times to the 20th century, numismatics and epigraphy, nature of the Bukhara region, modern history and ethnography and an exhibition of written monuments of the 9th-20th centuries.
Mausoleum of the Samanids
This is a family tomb and one of the ancient architectural masterpieces of Bukhara. It was built at the turn of the 9th-10th centuries, and it is considered the pearl of world architecture. Bukhara builders managed to achieve harmonious architectonics and create magnificent decorations from brick patterns.
The Samanid dynasty achieved independence from Baghdad and began to rule over the territory of Central Asia in the second half of the 9th century. The dynasty reached its greatest power during the reign of Ismail Samani – it was on his orders that the construction of the mausoleum began in 829, which lasted until 943.
Inside the mausoleum, 3 burials have been preserved. According to legend, the mausoleum has been underground since the time of Genghis Khan – the locals were afraid that the conqueror would destroy the shrine, so they covered it with sand to the very top. It was possible to discover the mausoleum only in the 20th century.
The tomb stands in the green park of the Samanids, laid out on the territory of an ancient Muslim cemetery. There are ponds, attractions, mass holidays and festivals, which is why the place is popular among residents and tourists.
The mausoleum was built in the form of a cube and covered with a hemispherical dome. These forms were determined by the canons of Islam. A gallery with small lancet windows is laid along the top of the building, and its corners are framed by three-quarter columns. The thickness of the walls is up to 2 meters, which allowed the mausoleum to survive dozens of centuries.
Outside and inside the tomb is covered with openwork masonry of vertically and horizontally standing burnt bricks, which imitate the motif of “wickerwork”. The frieze of the building is surrounded by rings of bricks arranged in a chain. They are reminiscent of the decoration of Arab palaces or “Sassanian” pearls, preserved in Central Asia and Iran.
In the village of Sumitan (5 km southwest of Bukhara), there is a necropolis, which began to be built in the 16th century. Chor-Bakr is translated as “Four brothers”, and in the world, this place is called the “City of the Dead”.
The emergence of the necropolis dates back to the era of the Samanids. The first burial, from which the formation of the necropolis began, is the grave of the descendant of the Prophet Muhammad – Abu-Bakr Sa’ad – the founder of the Djuybar dynasty. Over the years, the necropolis turned into their family tomb.
By the end of the 16th century, a madrasah, a mosque and a khanaka were erected in the center of the Necropolis as a gift for the dynasty – three buildings delimit the central square, forming a courtyard. The facades of the khanaka and the mosque are decorated with portals with spacious vaults in the form of arches. The walls located on the sides of these buildings are made in the form of two-tier loggias. At the beginning of the 20th century, a minaret was erected on the open side of the courtyard, completely copying the Kalyan minaret.
In the northern part of Chor-Bakr, there is the Chor-bog garden, planted on all sides with ornamental and fruit trees, vineyards and flower beds with roses. Two ditches almost 5 km long go to it from the city gates.
Over time, the rules of burial changed, and in the 19th century, all members of the dynasty, including women, were buried in Chor-Bakr. There is a belief that if you make a wish and visit all four tombs, then it will surely come true.
Magoki Attari Mosque
Before the Arab conquest, this place was a market selling idols, medicinal potions and attoron spices. There was also a temple of the moon. A little later, a mosque was built here. The first part of its name – “Magok” – means “pit”, because even during the construction period it was already hidden by rapidly growing cultural layers.
In 1940, under the guidance of the scientist V. Shishkin, excavations were carried out, which showed that the first mosque was built in the 9th century. It was four-pillared and decorated with a carved stem and paintings. In 937, it was destroyed by fire. In the 12th century, according to the same plan, a new building was erected, from which a portal with a unique monochrome decor has been preserved. It collapsed in the 15th century.
The revival of the mosque took place in 1546, judging by the records on the new eastern portal leading to the semi-underground sixteen-pillared hall. The mosque for 800 years disappeared for several meters, as a result of which, the restorers had to dig it out.
The building is the epitome of antiquity. Its portals are a masterpiece of architectural decoration. They are decorated in various ways – alibaster carving, polished brickwork, glazed majolica and carved terracotta.
House-Museum of Fayzulla Khodjaev
Fayzulla Khodzhaev is an outstanding political figure, philanthropist, and fighter for equal rights and democracy, repressed in 1938. He was the leader of the Jadids-Young Bukharians, whom he joined in 1913.
In 1916-1920. he was the leader of the Young Bukhara Party, which opposed the inhumane activities of the Emir of Bukhara. Khodzhaev organized a demonstration demanding the adoption of a constitution and reforms aimed at improving the life of the Bukhara emirate.
When Central Asia became part of the USSR, Khodzhaev participated in the administration of the region, but during the mass repressions of 1937-1938, he was executed.
In Bukhara, even today, the memory of Khodjaev is honored. This is evidenced by the presence of a house museum located in the famous Goziyon quarter of Bukhara. Palace nobility, jewelers, rich merchants and merchants have always lived here.
The house museum is distinguished by the fact that the interior decoration of the rooms is striking in its luxury and sophistication – all of them are decorated with elements of wood carving and ganch. All the utensils that previously belonged to the family of Faizulla Khodjaev remained in the house.
The house has an inner (female part of the house) and an outer (male part of the house) yard. There are also stables, gardens and other outbuildings. There is a network of tunnels under the house, but their purpose remains unknown. Perhaps they were built in order to hide from the khan’s wrath, or maybe they were created even before the construction of the house itself.
To date, the house museum is open to the public. It presents various collections of dishes, oriental furniture and other attributes of the life of the Bukharians of the 19th century. You can also get acquainted with the biography of Khodjaev and his activities until the moment of death.
The museum is located at the address: A. Tukay street, 70.
Opening hours: every day except Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm.
Spring of Saint Job
The source of St. Job is part of the complex of the Chashma-Ayub Mausoleum – a religious building in the center of Bukhara, which includes, in addition to the source, also a mausoleum.
The main part of the complex was erected in 1383. Currently, the Museum of Water is located here. The source is a sacred well (chashma) with fresh water, which is considered curative.
The mausoleum was built by order of the Karakhanid rulers in the 12th century. It was repeatedly completed during the 14th-19th centuries. This building is in the form of a rectangle, above which, a dome with various silhouettes looms. The interior decoration is ganch lampshades with growing rows of stalactites.
The complex is located on the way to the mausoleum of the Samanids. The structure is formed by 4 rooms located on the East-West axis, each of which is crowned with a dome. The oldest room was built as a burial tower and has a high conical dome. All other volumes were added later.
The holy spring, according to legend, is associated with the prophet Job, who allegedly traveled through the Bukhara lands as a preacher. There was a drought and the local people, dying from the heat, asked him for a drink. Job struck the ground with his staff and a source of healing water appeared.
Today this complex is considered one of the most revered in Bukhara. Coming here, people collect water and by all means perform a ritual detour around the tomb of the prophet.
Museum-workshop of Blacksmithing
The museum is located in the Kuluta caravanserai, located on the territory of the Tak-i-Telpak Furushon trading dome. The museum belongs to the Bukhara State Architectural and Art Museum-Reserve.
The main purpose of the creation and operation of the Museum of Blacksmithing is the revival and support of traditional Bukhara crafts, including blacksmithing. It was opened in 1992.
This is a living museum where you can get acquainted with the history of ancient blacksmithing, and become a direct participant in the manufacture of blacksmiths’ products. The senior researcher of the museum is a hereditary master blacksmith. The exposition presents knives, swords, arrowheads, and craftsmen’s tools. The most interesting exhibits are the Charter of blacksmiths of the 19th century, chain mail of the 17th century, and warrior equipment and bellows of the 17th century.
The museum is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm. The entrance is free.
Mausoleum of Bahauddin Nakshbandi
It is located 12 km from Bukhara and is one of the most important religious places. Once there was a village of Kasri Arifon, famous for its pagan customs and holidays. Now this place is the mausoleum of the famous Sufi philosopher of the East.
Bahauddin Nakshbandi is the founder of the order, which was later named after him. Even today, his teaching remains relevant, and his philosophy is life-affirming for many figures of the East. If to describe his philosophy in brief, then “the heart is with God, and the hands are in work.” Even the symbol of the order is a heart with the word “Allah” inscribed in it.
Bahauddin died in 1389, and in 1544, Khan Abdal-Aziz built a crypt over his grave and surrounding buildings – a small minaret, an ascetic dome of the mausoleum, and so on.
This place is not very popular with tourists, as it is more intended for rituals and prayers among pilgrims. But if someone nevertheless visited here, then later he speaks of peace of mind and serenity.
The openwork building, built in the late 1920s, is located in the center of a small square. The full name is the water tower of engineer Shukhov. For several decades, the tower worked properly, until the wooden fragments of the structure burned down as a result of a fire, and the water tank was warped. It happened in 1975.
For about 25 years, the tower stood without repair, but in the new millennium, a decision was made to reconstruct it. At the top of the building, they made a restaurant and an observation deck, which could be reached by elevator. However, the elevator broke down and the tower has been empty ever since.
This building looks quite original among the buildings of Bukhara. Although it is now impossible to climb to the top to look at the city, travelers are happy to walk at the base of the tower.
The Big Bukhara Minaret was built during the reign of Arslan Khan. This is the tallest building in the city (46.5 m). The date of construction – 1127 – is partially preserved on one of the terracotta belts.
This is a round massive pillar built of burnt bricks on a strong alabaster mortar. Inside it is empty and has a spiral staircase, slightly narrowed towards the top and crowned with a cylindrical lantern-rotunda with 16 arched openings.
The minaret served as a place of the call to prayer – on Fridays, 4 muezzins rose from the tower of the neighboring mosque along the stone bridge connected with the minaret, which proclaimed the azan, after which local azanchi called to prayer from the towers of other mosques. Also, the minaret served as an observation post, as evidenced by the guardroom that has survived to this day.
Later, the minaret was called the Tower of Death – this is due to the fact that during the reign of the Mangyts, condemned to death were thrown down from it onto a stone platform.
In the silhouette of Bukhara, the minaret plays the role of a city dominant. In the patterned masonry of its body, there are elements of folk ornament. The blue belt of the lantern represents the masonry of the 16th century. The old frieze consisted of glazed slabs (12th century) of light blue color (fragments of the frieze can be viewed in the branch of the Bukhara Local History Museum in Magas).
To date, the minaret has been freed from layers of soil near the foundation, the depth of which is 10 meters. The lower part of the building has been restored – it is a decahedron on which the minaret body stands.
In the 16th century, the Sheibanid dynasty began to rule in Central Asia, which captured Bukhara and made it the capital. From that moment on, the city began a period of prosperity and rapid development. The built domes of covered bazaars, the so-called “taki”, became the symbol of Bukhara and a reflection of its significance on the Great Silk Road. To date, only 4 domes have survived:
1. Taki Sarrafon is located at the intersection of two streets connecting the central square with the outskirts of the medieval city. This is one of the ancient eastern “currency exchanges”. Various extensions diverge from the main dome, and it rests on 4 massive arches. Today, oriental souvenirs are sold here.
2. Telpak Furushon is a six-sided complex, the center of which is crowned with a spherical dome with openings cut into it. Previously, books were sold here, later – hats.
3. Tim Abdullah Khan. The main feature of the domed building, erected in 1577, is the lighting that streams inward from small openings and windows. It’s always cold here. For many years, fabrics and carpets were sold here, which can still be bought today.
4. Taki-Zagaron is the northernmost and largest trading dome of jewelers. It was erected in 1569-1570s. and became the first trading dome since Bukhara received the status of the capital. The peculiarity of Taki-Zagaron is the elongated shape of the dome and vertically protruding ribs. There were 36 craft workshops and jewelry shops here, where traditional jewelry was made and sold.
In the East, any large city is distinguished by its central square – the Registan. Bukhara was located near the Ark fortress. There were once palaces, mosques, chambers of commerce and even a hospital here. Now only the Bolo-Hauz complex remains from all this.
Bolo-Khauz consists of three parts – a mosque, a minaret and a pond. The mosque was built in the 18th century, and it is rightfully considered one of the most luxurious in Bukhara. These are 20 high wooden columns on which a carved ceiling covered with bright colors rests. It was popularly called the “mosque with 40 columns” because of the reflection of these columns in the pond. In addition, for some time the mosque was considered the main city, and every Friday the Emir of Bukhara himself came to pray here – this is how he showed his closeness to the people.
Museum of Arts Named After Kamoliddin Behzod
The museum is located in a building built in 1912 by local craftsmen under the guidance of engineers. On the ground floor, there was Savva Morozov’s company store, while the top floor was occupied by a branch of the Azov-Don Bank. In the period from 1920 to 1982, a branch of the State Bank and other organizations was located here.
Since 1982, the building has been occupied by the Museum of Fine Arts, which presents the following expositions:
- “Painting and drawings of artists of Bukhara” were created on the basis of a collection of paintings, drawings and sculptures collected in the museum-reserve. Here is the work of Russian artists who were in Central Asia in the period from the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century – P. Benkov, M. Kurzin, and V.E. Vilkovir. The works of the well-known minituarist of Bukhara Ahmad Donish are also exhibited here.
- “Ancient jewelry art of Bukhara”. Here are unique products of ancient jewelers – a gold plaquette with the image of a goddess and gold earrings (1st century BC – 2nd century AD), silver amulets, jewelry, silver and gilding palace dishes inlaid with precious stones.
The Museum has a scientific center for the study of oriental Arabic graphic manuscripts. The Center was established in 1990 to study and systematize the written heritage of Central Asia.
The museum is located at the address: Nakshbandi street, 41. Working hours: from Monday to Sunday from 9:00 to 18:00.
This is a state research and production organization, founded in May 1977 with the aim of breeding rare species of animals. It is located in the South-Western part of the Kyzylkum desert, 42 km from Bukhara.
During its history, viable populations of goitered gazelle, kulan, Przewalski’s horse, and small mountain sheep were created. On the territory, you can see saxaul groves, tugai thickets, and unique plants of solonchaks and takyrs. The Ecocenter is of great importance for the conservation of birds – in 2008 it was awarded the international status of the Most Important Bird Areas.
Separate excursions are organized here for children and youth – they can not only look at rare animals but also take part in feeding young animals under the supervision of employees. There are all conditions for a comfortable stay and a guest house. In the evening you can walk to the lake complex, consisting of 4 small reservoirs, which differ from each other in salinity and depth.
Monument Ancient and Eternal Bukhara
In the early 2000s, a huge park was laid out in the northern part of Bukhara. In terms of its area, it is equal to the entire historical center. The main object is an 18-meter two-tiered monument with historical figures of Uzbekistan, opened on the eve of Independence Day in 2010. The monument complex includes a musical drama theater and an amphitheater.
This is a historical monument of architecture, about which little is known today – there is no date of construction, names of architects, or data on repairs and restructuring. As a result of historical and architectural work, it was possible to find out that the Kurgan mosque was originally built with two iwans (a room that is walled on 3 sides and opens on the fourth side) – East and North. But they have not survived to this day. We also managed to find out that earlier the mosque was part of the complex along with the lost bathhouse, haz, and guard-khana.
The architectural monument today is in a deplorable state. Its walls, made of baked square bricks, have great destruction in the lower parts. It is known that the ceilings of the iwans were flat, beamed and rested on wooden columns, as well as on the walls of the winter room. They have a spherical dome shape.
The mosque also had a beautiful decorative design – a semi-octahedral niche with lancet cones, a stalactite vault, an original painting with a geometric ornament on the entrance wall. Traces of paintings have been preserved on the outer walls in the upper half.
Architectural complex Khoja-Gaukushon
This is one of the largest complexes of religious buildings, created in the very center of the pious city of Bukhara, in which in the Middle Ages there were 360 mosques and 80 madrasahs.
The complex was built during the reign of Abdullah Khan II, a representative of the Sheibanid dynasty, on the initiative and at the expense of the noble sheikh. The complex consists of a madrasah, a mosque and a minaret, created in different years of the 16th century. It is located on the central square of the city, where once there was a huge trading square with a slaughterhouse, which explains its name because “gaukushon” is translated as “killing bulls”.
The building of madrasah was built in 1570 near the Poi-Kalyan complex. It has an unusual trapezoidal shape, which is explained by its location at a fork in the streets and the need to maintain a smooth transition to the landscape of the city. This spiritual educational institution was located in a two-story building with domed cells, built in the traditional oriental style.
After 28 years, the Dzhuybar sheikh built a mosque named after him. This includes the main building of the mosque in front of the mihrab and a courtyard surrounded by domed galleries on brick pillars. A brick minaret was erected between the buildings, only slightly inferior in height to the Kalyan minaret. This complex is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What Else to See in Bukhara?
Bukhara is different in that you can come here even for a month and still not have time to see all the historical places and sights. Therefore, if you plan to visit here for only a few days, then pay attention also to these sights:
1.Architectural ensemble “Poi Kalon”. For many, it is the heart of the old part of the city. This ensemble has become a place of study for many political and religious leaders.
2. Lyabi Khovuz architectural ensemble. Here you can see khonako and madrasah Nodira Devon-begi, as well as the madrasah Kukaldosh, which is considered the largest in Central Asia.
3. The residence of the Emir of Bukhara Sitorai Mokhi-Khosa. It is located on the outskirts of the city on the north side and is great for relaxing in the summer. The residence was built in the European style but finished in an oriental way. Now it houses the Museum of Decorative and Applied Arts.
4. The central food market is located near the park. Ismail Samony. This is a real oriental bazaar, where everyone can taste the selected fruits and sweets of sunny Bukhara.
5. Palace of Bukhara emirs in Kagan. This building is from the beginning of the 20th century. The building contains elements of Art Nouveau, Moorish and pseudo-Russian styles, and local motifs.
Once in Bukhara, you will plunge into the ancient eastern world, you will be able to get to know Muslim architecture and religion better. Given the fairly large number of places to visit, you should prepare a travel route in advance.