The 5 M's of Bukhara: Mosques, Madrasas, Minarets, Museums and Mausoleums

I have spent the day touring the old city which is huge as was the one in Khiva, But this seems to be even larger. There are seven mosques in the old city, ranging from the 9th century to the 15th. The amount of tile work and the number of colors in which the tiles are painted increases as the centuries unfold. The first color used was a turquoise. Then the blue was added. Eventually there were many colors in the tiles. Ther madrasas were schools where student boys were educated. Most of the madrasas are directly across the street from the mosques. Conntrary to the American impression of Madrasas as the place where terrorists are trained, Madrasas were originally simply schools where young boys are educated. Today there is a single Madrasas for girls.

Last night, Erev Yom Kippur, we were able to slip into the oldest synagogue, a Sephardic one, in Uzbekistan. It was a house converted into a house of prayer. The house had two sides--one for prayers, one for school. In the front were the torahs as is usual. A podium was placed in the middle of the room from which the rabbi recited the prayers. The men who sat in chairs at desks rather than pews, repeated as the rabbi intoned the prayers. Jews have been in Bukhara since the 10th century, long before the Inquisition. They too apparently followed the silk road. Of course we were unable to slip into the side of the building in which the service was going on. A balcony above was set aside for women. We did not go.

I have found that the whole area that we have visited is tolerant.The area was first settled by Persians,then the Zoroastrians, the Romans, the Mongols and then the Russians, first the tsarists and then the Soviets.The city is a combination of Russians and Uzbeks with a sprinkling of all of the other ethnic groups that have traversed the Silk Road.The buildings we see are built on top of older buildings that are built on top of others. The Mongols destroyed almost everything before them, then the Russians tore down everything,then the Soviets began to restore what had been torn down and now with the help of UNESCO a major effort has been underway to restore the antiquity of the area.

My lungs are filled with dust; it is very dry here. I am looking forward to moistening my lips with the vodka that our group has been having before we go to dinner so I will sign off. Tomorrow I will try to find time to write more about this fantastic city.

Filed under: Uzbekistan

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